The Brave new world of smartphones

I have to say, I’m not one of these people who has to have the newest and shiniest phone on the market. Having a phone, for me, is just a practical way of keeping in touch with people. One I could easily lose, without feeling  too bereft.

But somehow I’ve ended up with an i-Phone. And I do have to say I’m impressed. I’ve been playing with a couple of apps, to see if any of them are good for walking.

So, I was pretty decided about what I wanted. Or more to the point, what I didn’t want. I don’t really want to measure calories consumed, or record my blood pressure, or keep tabs on my changing body mass index as I’m walking along. I do have one weakness though. I’m a bit of a map geek.

What I wanted was something that would measure distance, GPS-ificate my current position, and give me a grid reference so I could note certain points on the map.

And I wanted it free, if possible!

The trouble here was finding a free app which uses OS grid references – for the Irish grid. But eventually I found what I was looking for: GPS2OS. A light little app that will just give me my current GR. It also gives a couple of other things – altitude, for example – but I know better than to rely too much on the altitude reading of any GPS.

The main thing here is the accuracy: I’ve checked it in a few different awkward places – indoors, in narrow streets, in the woods – and it is pretty damn near spot on, whatever I throw at it.

There’s another app with a lot more bells and whistles: I Map My Run. This gives a neat and accurate route on Google Maps, allows you to tweet progress, calculates speed and distance, report your progress on Twitter or Facebook… But I don’t need most of this. GPS2OS is handy, though, just to get a quick and reliable grid-ref check.

So, not bad, in all. GPS tends to drain the life out of a phone, so it’s not something I’ll ever use a lot. I think it’ll have its uses as another string to the bow, alongside a map and compass (and possibly another GPS unit more tailor-made for the job).

So, the i-Phone controls can be a nuisance, but I’m convinced that not all apps are just toys. Now if they could work a bit more on battery life, they’d have it all sussed!

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