04 February 2011

Mapping your Way on a Holiday with The Cartographer iPhone App

Before starting a trip I always make a custom map in ‘the My Maps’ section of Google Maps containing the locations of all the sights I want to see. It helps me to visualize which locations are close to each other, and which place is nearby when I am walking around. After inputting all the locations I had to make printouts of all relevant regions of the map. I used these maps while travelling.
An iPhone app called ‘The Cartographer’ changed all that for me.

The app gives me access to all my locations pinned in a ‘Google My Map’ (the software syncs with Google Maps). You can even pin locations on your iPhone and sync them back to Google Maps.

The most important feature for me is offline maps. The Cartographer can download maps from the OpenStreetMap database for offline usage (at the time of writing Google Maps are only available with an online Internet connection). On a recent trip I downloaded the maps of Seoul and Tokyo beforehand into my iPhone. This way I could navigate around without paying expensive charges for Internet access from a foreign country.

Downloading the maps is easy. In the app you can trace an outline of the area you wish to download for offline viewing. Next step is to select a zoom level. The app will tell you how many kilobytes/megabytes of data must be downloaded for a certain zoom level. You can then instruct the app to download the offline map. Please note the download can take 1-2 hours or more when you select a detailed zoom level.

The Cartographer worked flawlessly while travelling in Seoul and Tokyo. I could walk around in Tokyo, see where I was on an offline map (no Internet access needed!) and walk straight through my destination, thanks to the built in GPS support. I also placed pins on interesting spots on the map so I could find back home where I was exactly.
Here are some screenshots:

cartographer tokyo
Tokyo Map

The black ‘lollypop’ drops a pin in the center of the screen. You can use this for later reference to see where you were. The ‘crosshairs’ repositions the map so that your current position is in the center of the screen.
The yellow tabs are all the sights I pinned down into a Google ‘My Map’. The blue dot on the right hand side shows my position – in the Narita Express heading for Tokyo.
cartographer seoul
The Cartographer showing my position on the South Korean Island Jeju-do.

cartographer tokyo new ui
Near Harajuku station in Tokyo

During my stay in Tokyo version 1.2 of the Cartographer was released. In this version you can adjust the ‘vintage effect’ of the map. Here the ‘vintage effect’ is removed leaving a ‘clear map’ in ‘Google style’  While I like the ‘vintage effect’, I used the ‘clear map’ more often because it shows more information with less clutter on the screen.

I liked The Cartographer a lot and I will certainly use it on my next trips. No need to printout all your Google Maps, just keep them in your iPhone. The developer is also very responsive and answered all my questions I had when I started using version 1.0. You can seem many more screen shots and demos at http://cartographer-app.com/ 
Highly recommended!

1 comment:

  1. THANK YOU!! FINALLLY! I've been searching the net trying to figure out a way to map my holiday and how I could use my iphone without having huge roaming fees! Life safer, omg I'm so happy! thanks again!

    Talia - New Zealand.