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When you look back, can you remember the last time you actually used a real, physical compass? It’s likely that you don’t actually remember using it, only seeing it on a screen. With the technology advancing at the rate it is, a simple compass might seem outdated. With the rise of smartwatches, GPS devices, and compasses integrated into smartphones, it’s easier than ever to rely on an electronic compass.
A compass, whether that be electronic or manual, has the ability to inform you of your position in relation to the world. For survivalists, hikers, and serious backpackers, it’s vital to have a reliable compass with them.
Keep on reading to find our eight picks for the best compass apps for iOS and Android smartphones. Further ahead, you’ll also find our buying guide and frequently asked questions section to further help you in your researching journey.
Do not forget to check out our other reviews for great outdoor products such as the best compact binoculars
Best Compass Apps Reviews 2020
- Best Compass Apps Reviews 2020
- iOS Only Availability
- Android Only Availability
- iOS and Android Availability
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Compass Apps
- Compass App Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
These are in no specific order, but they are categorized based on the device that they support.
iOS Only Availability
1. Smart Compass (Best Basic Compass for iOS)
If you’re in the market for a compass that is easy to use, then the Smart Compass by Tien Nguyen might be the best option for you. It combines a fair number of features that other, more powerful compasses on this list possess. However, it’s all condensed to provide you with an easier to use and simplified format.
It performs the basic function of an electronic compass, which is to turn your smartphone into an accurate compass. In addition to that, it also enables you to see the exact bearings to the location you point it at. Like other compasses, this Smart Compass allows you to see your speed, coordinates, bearing information. It also has the capabilities of doing screen captures. If you choose to purchase the full version, you can get the ability to share your information and receive an integrated metal detector.
The app supports Google Maps, which allows you to see exactly what’s in the direction that’s being pointed at or gives you directions to said location. The Smart Compass app also features some other modes, which includes a digital compass, night mode, and telescope mode – which helps to make this a good allrounder.
2. Commander Compass (Best Full-Featured Compass)
This Commander Compass by Pavel Ahafonau offers you so much that it can be a bit hard to swallow. It does offer you with the standard compass that has the ability to be used with various map backgrounds to help you get a better sense of the direction you’re heading in. Users can navigate by entering points manually or saving them for future uses.
The app enables saving and seeing directions for multiple points simultaneously, which is great for proximity purposes. For every point you place, you will see the speed, time of arrival, elevation, azimuth, direction, and distance. So, this is by no means a ‘simple’ app, but once you figure out how to use all the functions – it can be very helpful.
The Commander Compass app shows coordinates in various formats, including vertical speed, maximum speed, current speed, course, and altitude. It can use the sun, the moon, and the stars to help you navigate your way through its extensive star charts.
3. Compass 55 (Best GPS and Compass Combo)
There are very few times where the free version of an app offers you as much as in the Compass 55 app. The app attempts to be a fully-featured navigational application that features a speedometer, routes, maps, waypoints, navigation, direction, distance, GPS (multiple formats), and, of course, a compass.
It even includes a coordinate converter which allows you to easily switch between the three common coordinating system, including MGRS, UTM, and Lat/Long. There is even the functionality of sharing your files with your digital devices and has the ability to track walking distances through the pace counter.
It might sound surprising, but that is all in the basic version of the Compass 55 app. The pro version gets you native Google Maps, the ability to add your own map server and read routes from other devices. It also offers offline map support, and the ability to export and share your GPS tracks. Though it might take a while to get used to this app, when you master it, you’ll have everything you need in one convenient application.
Android Only Availability
4. Compass 360 Pro (Most Simple and Useful)
Though it might seem like a deceivingly simple app, the Compass 360 has the right amount of extra features to make it stand out. Sure, you might find other applications that have more or less, but no other app combines the functionality and ease of use that this one has.
Unlike other compasses that only work in one hemisphere, the Compass 360 Pro is a global application that can work all across the world. It enables you to see the overall bearing and degrees in decimal format, which makes it a powerful yet simple for those that have some navigational knowledge.
The ability for the Compass 360 Pro to show your bearings in magnetic north and true north makes it quite handy for use with a topographic map or just general navigation. As the compass swings, the movement and look are smooth, clean, classic, and professional.
5. Digital Compass (Best Simplistic Design)
The stylish black background of the Digital Compass app by Axiomatic Inc. helps this app to make our list. Unless you have a magnetic cover, this won’t cause you any problems in navigating your way. The app is useful and popular within the Android app world. The simple north direction indicators are not hindered by too many features.
This app cannot be used unless you have an integrated compass sensor in your phone, which most smartphones nowadays already have. The Digital Compass app also comes with an integrated metal detector option. On a simpler note, you can use this app as a full-screen map and get directions. It comes with a sensor status, slope level meter, magnetic strength, magnetic heading, true heading, address, longitude, and latitude.
6. Compass For Android (Best Basic Compass App for Android)
If you’re looking for an app that’s perfect for use in the United States, the Compass for Android – App Free is the best option. It’s truly a simple and basic compass that’s perfect for those that are not looking for an app that is filled to the brim with extra features. The on-screen degrees and directions are sized large enough for easy viewing.
Similar to the other apps, you need to have a phone that has a compass sensor in order for this app to work. All you need to do is to keep the phone parallel to the ground and turn the phone towards the red around. Just like other applications, you’ll have to keep the Compass for Android – App Free away from places with high magnetic fields, machinery, and metal objects to avoid false results.
iOS and Android Availability
7. Altimeter GPS Pro (Best Overall Compass)
There are very few apps that can stand on their own against Altimeter GPS Pro. It can do almost anything that you could ever want or need in a navigation app. In the basic navigation mode, you get information regarding speed, total elapsed time, time traveling, direction, and distance. If you’re just looking for a simple app, then the Altimeter GPS Pro is probably too much for your needs.
One of the most useful features that this compass has is the variety of maps that are available to you in conjunction with the compass. The maps include hybrid maps, aerial photography maps, and standard topo maps. It can even show the estimated GPS accuracy so you’ll know if you veer off course.
The app can also track your direction, location, time, distance, and speed. It also allows you to share your data via email. It’s a full-featured tool that can save you if you ever get stuck somewhere.
8. 3D Compass Max (Best Educational Compass)
Not all compasses are designed to be for practical purposes. Some, like the 3D Compass Max, though can be used as a real compass, is better as a teaching tool. This app is also quite fun as it uses augmented reality view through the phone’s camera to show time, speed, address, coordinates, map, and 3D compass on one screen.
The app easily allows you to point the camera at an object to get a bearing. You can also take a video and share it with your friends. The geocaching adds in an extra flavor that is great for orienteering. The best use of the 3D Compass Max is the ability for it to be used for educational purposes. It’s great for helping teach compass navigation, as well as travel and bearings.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Compass Apps
If you have a compass app on your phone, tablet, computer, or any other electronic device, you are able to have some confidence in knowing where you’re going. Though electronic compasses don’t compare to a real compass, it’s convenient and practical enough that they are worthwhile to download.
Before we can get into the buying guide, we first have to go through the advantages and disadvantages of compass applications.
- Compass applications rely on a lit up phone, which means that you have the ability to use it in the dark.
- Compass apps range from being minimalistic or simplistic to have extra features, such as GPS, barometer, or altimeter.
- Compass apps are usually free or of little cost. Higher end traditional compasses generally end up saving you a bit more work.
- Compass apps are more convenient for many individuals who go on outdoor adventures often already have their phones with them. They simply have to download the app and they’re good to go.
- They generally do not have all the functions of GPS devices.
- Compass apps may be less accurate than a traditional compass.
- Traditional compasses are easier with a trail or topographic map.
- Your phone battery is likely to run out quite fast while using this app.
Accelerometer: Measures acceleration – typically spacecraft, aircraft, shop, or automobile.
Altimeter: Measures the altitude.
Azimuth: the direction of a celestial object from the observer’s point of view. The horizontal direction of the compass’s bearing.
Barometer: Measures the atmospheric pressure (determining altitude and forecasting the weather)
Gyrocompass: Nonmagnetic compass where the true north is parallel to the earth’s axis of rotation.
Magnetic Heading: angle between the compass north and true north.
Magnetometer: Measures the magnetic forces (especially earth’s magnetism)
Pedometer: Tracks the number of steps taken to estimates distance traveled.
Slope Level Meter: measured the angle of slope (depression, elevation, or tilt).
Speedometer: Indicates the speed that is being traveled at.
True North Heading: Also referred to as the Geodetic North. It is the direction along earth’s surface towards the North Pole (geographically).
Compass App Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Are Compass Apps The Same As A Physical Compass?
A. For the most part, electronic compass applications functional the same as a real compass. However, most of them will have extra features. Even the simplest of apps will have some features that are not available on a traditional compass.
Q. Can An Electronic Compass Replace A Physical, Traditional Compass?
A. The simple answer is no. With a physical compass, you won’t have to worry about the battery. As you can see with the ‘con’ section of many compasses, you’ll find that they drain quite a bit of battery. So, even though it’s great to have a compass app, in dire situations you should try to ensure that you have a real compass.
Q. What Phones Are Compatible With Most Compass Apps?
A. Most modern smartphones have magnetic field detectors which are how compass apps work. You should check the user guide that came with your phone to ensure that it is present. Some apps might also use the phones GPS receiver and gyroscope, so check if those apps are available as well.
Q. How Does A Compass App Differ From A Simple GPS Application?
A. You might find that some compass apps also integrate with a GPS app. The main difference though is that compass apps use a magnetic field for directional purposes, while GPS applications use satellite information. Theoretically, compass applications are likelier to show a more accurate direction than GPS applications.
Q. What Is The Accuracy Rate Of Compass App?
A. The GPS of your phone might have some issues, but on generally, they are fairly accurate – at least to the point that most people need. If calibrated properly, compass apps are accurate within a few degrees. Please note, this might depend on the hardware of your phone.
With everything that we’ve outlined above, from the products to the buying guide/FAQ’s, you’re sure to have everything that you need to purchase the perfect compass for your needs. As most of these apps start off have a free, basic version – you won’t need to even spend any money. Unlike physical compasses which can become quite costly.