Satmap killer?

I had been thinking about buying a Satmap, but held off because it’s quite expensive for a device that I would only use as a secondary navigation tool. Since I learned that the iPhone has a GPS, I have been on the look out for an app that does a similar job. Now it’s arrived: RoadTour Outdoors. For £12.99, I now have 1:50,000 maps for all the national parks. The coverage is quite generous as it extends a reasonable distance outside the boundaries. You also get a base map of 1:250k of the whole of Great Britain.

As the maps are stored on the iPhone, it is independent of a phone signal or internet connection. You can enter routes etc. It’s very impressive. I don’t know how accurate the iPhone GPS is, but I will test it when I can. I feel a bit sorry for Satmap as it’s a bit of a game breaker. Regional maps are available for a very reasonable £14.99 each. The national parks maps take up about 1gb of space, so entire coverage of GB would use quite a lot of space.

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16 thoughts on “Satmap killer?”

  1. Isn’t the iPhone Assisted GPS, rather than true GPS? Meaning it is dependant on its mobile data connection for GPS signal processing to calculate position.
    2ndly, the full set of 1:50k OS maps fits on a single SD card on a Satmap or Memory-Map device.
    Finally, how long does an iPhone battery last using this App? Satmap with a Li-on battery will run 20hrs.
    Looking forward to results of your real-world field tests in those national parks away from mobile phone masts….
    Oh, and don’t forget you’ll be wanting a waterproof case for your fruit phone too.

    1. My understanding is that it is true GPS: http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article4100250.ece . I don’t know how accurate it is or whether it is any good under thick cloud. Although Satmap looks really good and I’m sure is better than the iPhone as a GPS and route guide, I only want it as a supplement, not my main navigational aid (I’ll stick to paper maps and compass). Where I think it is useful is double checking where you are. That can be done with an ordinary GPS, but it’s a lot easier if you can see exactly where you are on the map and helps eliminate mistakes. On weatherproofing there are a number of sleeves you can buy or just stick it in a sealable plastic bag like the Aloksak. On battery life, I’m not intending to use it all the time and I have a simple battery extender, so I don’t think it’s an issue.

      For me a solution for a “want” rather than a “need” costing £12.99 is a result.

  2. Robin, I thought it was ‘pwoper’ GPS too. The assisted mode just helps the initial lock time.

    I use ViewRanger as my GPS on my Nokia E71. As a backup this works a treat. You can create your own maps so only choose the portions you want or you can download pre-defined ones like the national parks. They’re relatively well priced too, even the 1:25000 maps.

  3. I borrowed an early GPS (that ate 4xAAs in 8hrs) and that is all I used it for – a grid ref every hour or two. Moving map is certainly a much nicer, user friendly way of doing this!
    Acquire time was a problem with that usage tho – something the iPhone aGPS is designed to avoid as long as you are within coverage.
    It is Assisted GPS – see http://www.apple.com/uk/iphone/iphone-3g/maps-gps.html and note the mention of mobile phone masts. This can be implemented as stand-alone GPS plus assistance, or, to save onboard computing power (and hardware and cost…), pure assistance with all of the location calculations done via the cell mast and I haven’t seen a clear statement one way or ther other regarding the iPhone, just the kind of marketing speak in the two references – just a warning it might not be reliable out in the sticks, or it might just be slower to pick up sat lock.
    I’ll be interested to hear whether it works beyond mast range – I find it so frustrating when manufacturers give us incomplete information like this!

  4. memory map have announced that they will have an iPhone app soon too – if you already have memory map maps, it may be good value.

    their own 2800 gps is not very good though – i played with one a few weeks ago – unimpressed!

  5. I bought it the other week for my iPod Touch (initially it wouldn’t load on the iPod, but they changed it and after I re-downladed it, it worked fine) . It’s nice to have the NP maps available all the time, even though I can’t use it as a GPS. Useful at work, when you are thinking of the next trip and wish you had a map with you.
    It’ll be interesting to see if it works on Apples (alleged) new tablet device that they are going to announce on Wednesday. A portable big screen digital map would be very nice fo ruse off the hill, especially with a touch screen.

  6. Read – lots of people who don’t understand different aGPS modes and assume the ‘a’ is always a good thing like ‘digital’ or ‘HD’ (eg. see HD Radio). No links to a definitive source…
    Looks like we need to be sponsoring you to go out and collect empirical evidence – I’ll be real interested to hear how well your kit works out in the wilds with no data service – particularly acquisition.

  7. I use My iPhone for the odd Geocache using the app for it and found it just as accurate as my Geko 201. When I tried it for the first time I used both side by side just to compare accuracy.

  8. Hi, This topic has certainly got people thinking and comparing systems. From my own point of view i am on the same wavelength as yourself. I have a Garmin etrex H which is my secondary aid to navigation. I have considered upgrading but i think its way too expensive for my needs. BUT i would like to view a digital map showing my position on the fells.
    I am due a phone upgrade from Voafone in April and am going to get an iphone with the said app. Therefore i am looking forward to hearing what you think of the system out in the field. Probably like yourself i am not too fused that the accuracy is down to the odd metre but it is important to be able to get a signal at all times. Lets hope your results are good. Cheers!

    1. I really like the iPhone. If it can do GPS properly as well, it’s a real bonus. If it had a decent camera, it would be even better.

  9. I too came across Outdoors GB app from RoadTours yesterday. The reviews look quite good but I’ve held off buying for now as I expect there will be a number of similar offerings available shortly now that the OS are making their mapping data more accessible for commercial use. The app allows you to create routes but doesn’t appear to track your routes and route data(?). Great value at 12.99 or 1:50k maps of all the national parks and there is talk of 1:25k maps coming in the future.
    A-GPS uses the the mobile network only to reduce the location acquisition time, but the iphone does not need a phone signal for GPS or compass to operate (though I understand if you activate airplane mode to disable the phone’s wireless capability, it also turns off the GPS).
    There are a number of interesting mapping/compass related app’s now available for the iphone. Another I like is Theodolite, http://hunter.pairsite.com/theodolite/
    which gives a kind of ‘head-up’ or augmented reality type display, using the view from the camera and overlaying the display in real-time with compass bearing, attitude and inclination – great for taking a bearing on a distant landmark, or assessing the incline of that steep slope your ascending….(or you could use the iphone spirit-level app!!)
    I admit the iphone is never going to be as robust as a dedicated Garmin-type GPS device, but I can’t honestly see myself ever needing to buy another Garmin. Smart-phones are here to stay!

  10. I had never heard of theodolite before but it looks a very interesting bit of kit. Just followed your link to the site and i am impressed. Next stop, see if there are any reviews. Thanks for that Nigel.

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