Free GPS apps are a dime a dozen in the iPhone app store, but, surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of free iPhone compass apps out there.
Perhaps people don’t use compasses any more, as orienteering is made easy with GPS capabilities, but it is still useful to have a compass if you are walking around in the woods.
My hope was to find at least one of the best iPhone compass apps that was as accurate as the real one in my pack.
They were a bit hard to find, as most of the apps I did find didn’t really work all that well on my iPhone 3G.
Apparently, the 3G does not have a built in compass, and this prevented a lot of apps from working. If there is a North arrow, it will always point up on the 3G. On the 3Gs, there is, indeed, a compass, so the North arrow will always point to true North.
But, fear not faithful readers! There are at least 5 good compass apps that work just as well as a scout’s compass.
The List of Best iPhone Compass Apps
City Compass is a really cool app that lets you know where the cities are around you and how many miles it takes to get there.
City Compass [iTunes link] is really sweet. Even if you have a simple 2G or 3G iPhone, it is still pretty handy. First, allow the app to use your location, then read the little ditty about the North arrow, and voilÃ ! cities just pop up all over the place!
I like it because it is really easy to use, and it shows all those tiny towns that are hard to see on Google map apps.
Compass for 3G
As with all compasses, Compass for 3G works best if you walk in a straight line.
This has a nice stop/start function, but it did take quite a while for it to update. It is a keeper because it has a nice Google map button, so you can see where you are on the map.
Compass for 3G [iTunes link] is nice and easy. The three buttons at the bottom help you keep time as you walk or drive, and by selecting “map” you are sent over to nice little map app that allows you to place a pin (or check the traffic!).
isn’t the best one on the list, but it is pretty cool nonetheless.
You can customize the face of the compass with a picture from your iPhone, or you can take a picture right there and use it. It is pretty basic, and it tells you your lat/long coordinates, but, sadly, there is no North button.
CompassApp [iTunes link] is pretty simple BUT you can customize the face of your compass using a picture taken on the spot (picture 1) or use one from your stash (picture 3).
Digital Compass Free
I love because it is both a compass and a GPS. I also love the digital nature of it, so it is easier to read than a standard compass. When I held it up to my regular compass, they were spot on identical.
Digital Compass Free [iTunes link] is refreshing because of its digital display. The map feature is also really handy!
Planets is one of the coolest apps out there if you are a sky freak. It shows the stars and planets, and identifies all the nearby constellations and star groupings.
It also shows you what you might be able to see in the night sky. My kids love playing with the different interface options like “infrared.”
While it won’t necessarily help you find your way out of the woods, it is definitely a lot of fun to use on a night hike!
Planets [iTunes link] is such a sweet application! The first screen shows which planets and stars are in your sky, and you can adjust your screen to show you what you most want to see. I love the spinning Earth option because it makes it really easy to explain orbits and night/day to kids!
The Bottom Line
If you love using your compass, don’t toss out the real deal quite yet. But, if used in conjunction with the iPhone apps listed here, you will learn a lot of great stuff about the area.
iPhones typically take a bit of time to update, and this is true in both compass and GPS apps, so you have to be a little patient when using these apps.
What compass apps do you recommend?
Image credit: Nullalux