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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > ViewRanger GPS Application > Test Report by Erin Foudy

ViewRanger App
Test Series By Erin Foudy
Initial Report October 01, 2012
Long-Term Report January 22, 2013



Tester Info:
Name:  Erin Foudy
Age:  31
Gender:  Female
Height:  5'11'' (1.8 m)
Weight:  150 lbs (68 kg)
Email address:  erinfoudyATyahooDOTcom
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA


Backpacking Background:
I started backpacking while working for the National Park service ten years ago.  I have been a backcountry ranger/law enforcement ranger and served on search and rescue crews.  I typically take two or more camping trips a month, year round.  I appreciate light weight, but am not obsessed by it.  I often carry a 30 lb (14 kg) pack and stay out from three to nine days at a time.  I also enjoy day trips with only water on my back.  I take trips to Colorado and Montana in the summertime and enjoy the outdoors there as well.



Initial Report

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer:  Augmentra Ltd
URL:   http://www.viewranger.com
Version: 3.3.0
Size: 5.0 MB
Languages: English, French, German, Spanish
Language Tested: English
Requirements: iPhone, Android, Symbian devices
Mobile Device Tested: iPhone 4
MSRP:  $14.99 US





Description:

The ViewRanger App (hereafter referred to as ViewRanger, or the app) is a mobile app designed to turn certain smartphones or tablets into an affordable fully featured Outdoors GPS navigator.  The app is compatible with most phones and tablets that use either Apple, Android, or Symbian operating systems and is accompanied by the ViewRanger website which is full of additional information and resources.  ViewRanger, once installed on a smartphone, allows users to see their mapped location as well as track their path while hiking, running, cycling, boating, climbing, or flying.  Not only does ViewRanger claim to track the user's path but also to record stats such as speed, distance, time, elevation, pace, and ETA.  The app works both on-line and off-line, off-line meaning there is no mobile coverage.  To use ViewRanger off-line the website instructs users to store maps on their smartphone so that the map may be viewed even when their phone does not have service.  In addition to displaying the mapped location of the user, ViewRanger claims that users can access GPS enabled guided trails from outdoors book publishers Menasha Ridge & Wilderness Press, as well as create their own routes to save or share with the ViewRanger online community.  If users are hiking with others who also have the app, or would like friends, family, or members of the ViewRanger community to be able to view their current location online, ViewRanger has what it calls, the "Buddy Beacon."  The "Buddy Beacon" can be enabled to allow hiking partners to monitor each other's progress if separated, can be used more privately to allow only chosen individuals the location of the user with the use of a specific pin, or can be shared openly for the ViewRanger online community to view.      



Initial Impressions:


My first impression upon downloading the ViewRanger App was, what a fantastic idea!  I have never owned a GPS unit primarily because of the high cost of such products.  The app turns my iPhone 4, which I already take with me on all hiking and backpacking trips, into a very affordable GPS.  Upon further investigation into the features of the app I became a bit frustrated as the app does not come with much in the way of an orientation to the features of the ViewRanger.  Not being familiar with all of the capabilities of a GPS and how to operate one, the ViewRanger proved to be quite the challenge.  For assistance I turned to the ViewRanger website for help.  The website turned out to be just as involved, hard to navigate, and not user friendly as the app itself.  After logging in I was instructed to create my ViewRanger profile.  I tried several times to enter all of the required information and to upload a picture, unfortunately I kept getting the message that my email was "not unique."  I was never able to get the website to save my information and profile picture or accept any email address I tried.  Even without a profile I was able to peruse other user profiles and even search for routes others had shared on the website.  There were only three routes shared in the Tucson area and all of them were by the same individual.  I was hoping to find several routes of varying distances and difficulty levels from several local users.  I really like exploring hiking websites where I can learn about hikes in my area I may not have tried yet or hikes in other regions I am not as familiar with.  Websites where hikers and backpackers can share their own pictures, knowledge of resources, such as water and fuel, and their personal experiences have been a fantastic tool for me in planning future trips.  If this app were to become more widely used I could see this function becoming extremely useful for me, however, as of now it isn't quite what I had hoped for. 

I was able to plan a trip shortly after downloading the app to see how the ViewRanger performed in the field.  I was pleased to see that I was able to insert the longitude and latitude of the trailhead and the app immediately located the precise location on the map.  Once I arrived at the trailhead I was able to navigate through the app to begin recording the route.  As I hiked I was able to easily view how far I had hiked, how long I had been hiking, and view my exact location on a map.  I really really enjoyed having this information readily available on my phone.  It did have an effect on my phone's battery.  I still need to learn more about ViewRanger and how I can better use the app while conserving the life of my battery.  A couple of days after the hike I initially used the ViewRanger on I downloaded an update of the app that claimed to provide new GPS controls, including power saving options.  I look forward to learning more about how to use the app fully with a greater understanding of all its functions.  Due to my lack of prior knowledge about how to use GPS units I fear I may have more of a learning curve then others who have experience in this area.    




Summary:
The ViewRanger App is a mobile app that enables my smartphone to be used as an Outdoors GPS navigator.  ViewRanger has many helpful features including tracking, route saving, route sharing, and the ability to record stats at a very affordable price.  For me this app was not the most user friendly as I am not that familiar with the use of GPS navigators.  I also found the ViewRanger website not very easy to navigate and somewhat problematic.  I am hopeful that with more time and use in the field that I will feel more comfortable using the app and will find it a valuable addition to my hiking kit.

Pros:
1. Affordable
2. Helpful tools and maps
3. Ability to share routes
4. Ability to allow others to view location if you choose
5. Ability to download routes

Cons:
1. Not user friendly for those unfamiliar with GPS
2. Website seemed buggy to me and is hard to navigate
3. Drains the battery on my phone




Long-Term Report
I used the VewRanger app on both back country and day hike trips, the shortest of which was 6 miles (10 km.)

Overall, I have to report that I found the ViewRanger app to be beyond complicated and a major drain on my iPhone 4 battery.  I really wanted to like this app, as I stated in my previous report.  I have never owned a GPS and the idea of being able to turn my phone into one by downloading an app seemed ingenious.  Unfortunately, I just never could get the hang of all the bells and whistles the View Ranger has to offer.  I was never able to download a full map successfully, I never was able to get the Buddy Beacon to work, and I was never able to fully track one of my trips because the battery always died before I was done.  I always made sure I had a full battery and no other applications running in the background, but if the app was left on for a few hours, the battery was near gone.  To View Ranger's credit they did come out with several updates for the app, and even one that provided more of an orientation on how to use the main features of the app, but the directions they provided felt like studying for a sience test.  There was just way too much information provided to make anything seem easy or convienent to me.  It is hard to articulate why this app was so hard to use aside from the fact that it is just very feature rich and the menus given to navigate through all of the different functions were just, for me, not intuitive.  I basically felt lost trying to navigate and could have used a teacher, or maybe a teenager to show me how the thing worked. 

The biggest issue I have had with View Ranger has been the problem of my phone's battery life quickly dissipating while using the app.  I mostly used ViewRanger as a way to track my location, speed, distance, and time.  However, just using it in this limited capacity the app always killed my phone before the trip was over.  In order to conserve the battery life of my phone ViewRanger gives me the option of using the app offline, meaning that I can use the app without it being in cell range and as a way to conserve the energy of my phone battery.  Of course, I just can't seem to figure out how to work the app offline.  For assistance, I tried turning to the ViewRanger website for help.  ViewRanger has a support section on their website with Wiki pages on how to use the app.  Once more, I found the Wikis to be very involved and complicated in trying to instruct me on how to fully use the app.  I felt like I should be taking my own abbreviated notes to use in the field, there is just so much the app can do that each function takes multiple steps within the app to achieve the desired effect.


Summary:
The ViewRanger app is an app that turns my iPhone 4 into a GPS Navigator.  Unfortunately, I was never able to successfully use this app throughout an entire trip either due to battery failure on my phone from running the app, or just because of my own inability to figure out how to use the app.  I often opted to just give up and enjoy my hike.  Maybe electronic devises are not something I like while in the woods and away from society.

Pros:
1.  ViewRanger comes out with updates regularly.
2.  If you have the patience and ability to wade through the overload of information available, the ViewRanger website has a wealth of information on how to properly use the app.

Cons:
1.  The app drains the battery life on my phone every time I use it.
2.  The app is feature rich yet I can't figure out how to use these features.
I would like to thank Augmentra Ltd and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to participate in this test!  Please check back in January for my Long-Term Report.


This concludes my test of the ViewRanger App.  Many thanks to both Augmentra Ltd. and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.


Read more reviews of ViewRanger gear
Read more gear reviews by Erin Foudy

Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > ViewRanger GPS Application > Test Report by Erin Foudy



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