The big day has arrived; we are launching our long awaited iPad Guide App today! Over the past two weeks we elaborated on the map features and the content available on the App. Today we’d like to give you in-depth background on why we built this travel App and why we think it will change the way people navigate.
If you are too curious to read further and want to see the App for yourself, you can go to the App website immediately or to iTunes to install it and start to play. The generic App is free and contains samples of the map and guide information. If you like what you see, simply go to in-app purchases and get the full app functionality for the country that you want. At this stage Namibia and Botswana are available.
Why we developed this App
The new Tracks4Africa Guide App is a natural extension of our existing range of products. Our flagship product has always been a very detailed Garmin compatible GPS Africa map used by most self-drive travellers. It represents the travel experience of thousands of travellers over the last 15 years and remains a very relevant product. However, there are now newer and better ways to access information.
We have in recent years taken our existing content and published it in paper map and guide book format as well. All of these products are specifically aimed at the needs of African self-drive travellers and answer the questions asked when planning or undertaking such a trip:
- Where do we sleep tonight?
- Where do we get fuel or other auto services?
- Where can we buy supplies or get something to eat?
- What can we see or do at a certain place?
- Where do we go in case of an emergency?
These cover just about every aspect of your trip and because our data comes from the travellers themselves, this is exactly the kind of content we maintain on our maps and guides.
Each medium, be it a GPS map, paper map, website or guide book plays a role in making content accessible. With the smartphone and more specifically the tablet, the technology used on the road by the modern day traveller has developed to such an extent that we had to rethink the way in which we make information accessible.
Tracks4Africa started utilising GPS technology in 1999 and the then absence of GPS maps was what created the opportunity for this company. More importantly, we were forced to use a GPS connected to a laptop to create a meaningful navigation system. On the laptop we had special software which could plot the GPS location on a scanned map – that was the only way to orientate yourself accurately on the map. There were several problems with this setup:
- Only technically minded people took the trouble of setting up a laptop and GPS connection with special software.
- The sometimes outdated paper maps we were obliged to use were built to a specific scale and weren’t suited to being used at other zoom levels.
- No point of interest data was available to search or provide additional information.
- The equipment was bulky and expensive so very few people were prepared to carry the technology or travel with these precious items.
New technology made it possible
The iPad and other tablets converge many different technologies into one device, offering capabilities that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Tablets bring you a big enough screen, a fast enough processor, an integrated GPS, a camera and communication capability.
Tracks4Africa had to rework its existing content to a suitable format that could be used on an iPad. The first thing we did was to design a good quality and visually appealing map, aimed at the needs of a self-drive traveller, which would be available offline. Mapbox allowed us to create a really compelling map experience which met all these criteria. You can read all about our map features in a previous article.
We have a lot of data on our maps and on a normal GPS it is sometimes difficult to access all of it. It is easy to search for a specific campsite but challenging to find out what facilities that campsite offers. Our developers came up with clever ways to enable you to easily discover this content on the App. You can read about this in a previous article.
Finally we combined your GPS location with the map so you can see where you are and orientate yourself on the map.
If you think back to the old ‘carputer’ you realise how astonishing the new technology is. You now have great maps, points of interest information with rich content and your GPS location displayed as you drive. All of this is available offline and running on a slick, easy-to-use iPad.
How does it work?
This is not a routing/navigation app, but even though it will not navigate you on a turn by turn basis to a destination, it automatically solves more than half of your navigation problems since it shows your location accurately on an excellent map, with good guide content, and it plots your intended destination with equal accuracy.
The generic trial app does not contain detailed maps or content, only sample content so you can try it out before you buy. The available complete guides are sold as in-app purchases. You buy and download what you need for your trip.
An offline map
The map works like a web map and you can zoom via several layers of detail down to an approximate scale of 1: 150 000. The map is completely offline and can be used in the middle of nowhere without an internet connection.
The guides are sold according to year e.g. Namibia 2015 edition. We will provide free updates for one year after it has been replaced by a new edition. In other words, if you buy the 2015 edition, you will receive updates throughout 2015 and 2016. You can obviously continue to use your existing guide for as long as you want. It does not expire.
We envisage developing new features for this brand new product over time. Remember, Africa was not travelled in one day.
We know that there are many Android users out there who would also like to have access to this App capability. We have every intention to bring out an Android version but it will only be released at a later stage.
Talk to us
We would sincerely like to hear what you think of the App, so please let us know of your experience with this product and what you would like to see in subsequent releases. You can contact us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Facebook page.