Guide app testing in the Southern Cape

A couple of weeks ago I took our new Tracks4Africa Guide app out for some field testing.  I was driving back from George in the Southern Cape and decided to ditch the national highway in favour of some back roads.  I specifically wanted to drive in an area that I do not know very well and I also did not want to use the normal GPS for the task of finding my way.

Moordkuil River,one of many river crossings on the trip
Moordkuil River,one of many river crossings on the trip.

The general idea was to drive gravel roads from just outside George across the Langeberg Mountains to Barrydale and then from there along the R62 back home.

An overview of the trip as seen on the iPad Mini
An overview of the trip as seen on the iPad mini.

Apart from the normal technical testing I wanted to establish if the app can be used for basic navigation.  When you use your normal GPS for navigation it will calculate the fastest or shortest route from George to Barrydale.  That would have meant a trip down the N2 highway, crossing the Langeberg mountain range via the Tradouws Pass, which in itself is a beautiful drive.

Gouritz River, view from the pass.
Gouritz River, view from the pass.

In contract to the GPS, using a paper map you would be able to trace a route of your own via the back roads making sure you take in as many passes as possible.  The problem with the paper map though is that you cannot zoom in and out and on top of this orientating your current position on the map can take some time and you can get it wrong quite easily.

The guide app has the same, familiar cartography as a paper map, but it currently supports nine zoom levels making it easy to get an overview or zoom into the detail.  It also displays your current position on the map, so orientation is taken care of.

Here is an example of being able to zoom in.

Taking a closer look at my route.
Taking a closer look at my route.

Now zoom out and see where you need to go after the passes.

An overview of the passes I was planning on driving.
An overview of the passes I was planning on driving.

All you need to do, is decide where you want to go and when there is a turnoff approaching, glance over to the map and see if that is indeed the route you wanted to follow.

Knowing where to turn is easy with your GPS position shown on the map.
Knowing where to turn is easy with your GPS position shown on the map.

As you expected I would say, the app does a wonderful job at providing this information and if you are looking for a coffee shop you hit the point of interest buttons to show places around you.  But I am being brutally honest, the fact that you can see where you are and the map has a familiar look and feel makes it really easy to set a course and you always know where you are.

This, in my opinion, is taking us back to the ‘old’ way of navigation.  The days when we only had paper maps we were forced to keep our mental map intact.  With the GPS we became spoiled by Sally giving us instructions where to turn.  But as they say, magic comes at a price.  The price for this magic is that your mental map is not kept up to date and you do not actively take part in the navigation process.  For city navigation a GPS is truly convenient, but then I recall the evening I had to drive from O.R. Thambo airport to Sandton in a rental.  The GPS took me straight through Alexandria late at night and I felt really uncomfortable with this choice that I did not make. But it was my own mistake for not taking part in the navigation process.

For this reason I am very optimistic about our new guide app.  It brings back the familiar feel of a paper map combined with the technology that makes it easy to know where you are.  It combines this with very comprehensive travel information in the form of points of interest and to top it all, everything is available without the need for an internet connection.

To read more about the app have a look at some of our other blogs as well as the product page.  Basically the app is a free download which then offers you in-app purchases.

We are constantly adding functionality to the app and we still have to develop it for the Android platform.  We will keep you updated on this progress throughout.

8 thoughts on “Guide app testing in the Southern Cape”

  1. Hi Johann, I bought the guide app RSA and Namibia and used the Namibia map extensively over the last month in Koakaland and really enjoyed seeing where I was and getting a “bigger” picture in terms of upcoming turnoffs and roads.
    I used a Garmin Montana in conjunction with the guide app and see that they compliment each other although there are two things I would like to see implemeted, the ability to orientate the map in a “track up ” mode and a scale or distances – some form of method to guage distance. otherwise a great app.

    I believe this combonation of Guide app and GPS is better than the navigation App.

    Regards Peter

    1. Hi Peter, thanks for letting us know about the app. Glad you like it! Yes, the scale bar is easy to implement and already on our development backlog. Other clients have also asked about travel times on the roads and it is something we can incorporate into the map itself, similar to our paper maps. Maybe in a map update…

      But the big push would be to offer the ability to calculate a route on the app. This requirement is high on my personal wish list but also a significant amount of work, so we are still investigating how to go about this. Once this is in place one could possibly have very little need for the GPS.

      Track-up mode is there but I find that the map still does not behave the way I would like, but we are working on some options. Tap on the little crosshair to toggle between track-up and north-up. Give it a while and it will zoom to the lowest zoom level – this is the part that needs some work.

      Kind Regards

  2. Johann you mention you have to develop it for the Android platform. I read that it has already been developed. Am I correct?

    1. Hi Ben, we also have the Tracks4Aftica Navigator for Android, but that is our pure navigation app and not the guide app which I was testing here.

  3. I read your blog as I am forever taking the back roads, this looks like a must have app to compliment your new RSA paper map.

    1. Hi Les, yes now that I have the pre-release of the SA paper map I will do another road test over the weekend and report back on the app and paper map and hopefully the flowers of Namakwaland…

Let us know about your experience