Monday 2 May 2016

Review of Alcatel Pop D1 for navigation: 2. ViewRanger in use

Part 1 of this review is available here and outlines my budget setup.

I've been trialling ViewRanger for a few weeks now and have gradually refined its use on Android.  The ActiveGPS seems pivotal in keeping the GPS running during sleep. Aeroplane mode is worth activating to disable WiFi and 3G which both enhances battery life and removes interruptions from the outdoor experience.

As can be seen in the image recording of a track is as good as can be expected from a consumer 12 channel device. For most of the track the trace overlies the mapping whilst on other occasions it runs parallel within 50m or so. Note that the marked deviation from the Right of Way to the north of the 'Bird Sanctuary' accurately represents additional paths not shown on the map. The woods are mixed woodland and at this time of year the leaf cover is is slight so not an especially tough GPS environment. I have carried the phone in the front pocket of a rucsac so it is reasonable to assume the antenna is vertical, and thus probably sub-optimally orientated, but well exposed to the sky.

Track recording shown in red overlayed on OS 1:50000 
I've found this degree of accuracy consistently now and will monitor different areas (valleys, leaf coverage) to see how well it is maintained.

Route following is an important feature of ViewRanger and a leap beyond the limitation of 20 points on my old GPS12XL as there appears to be no limit to the number of waypoints on a route. I'm sure that there is a technical limit but it's considerable, not indicated in the product documentation and certainly exceeds anything likely to be needed. Online route planning is very easy with access to any premium maps that have been purchased. Route making on the small screen Android interface is possible but a little bit fiddly. If the phone is online it's an easy task to synchronise routes between the website and the phone or vice versa in a matter of moments.

The manner in which ViewRanger follows a route is quite complicated and only clear once the documentation is studied.  I don't think that I have the parameters optimised just yet for the arrival and arrived distances and certainly the cross track distance must be adjusted to suit likely GPS errors. If the cross track error is set too narrow the alarm sounds frequently and the software replays the route which might cause confusion. I discovered problems here before I installed ActiveGPS as the sleeping GPS generated off-track data when it was polled by ViewRanger.

The major problem so far is the limited brightness of the screen which makes it hard to read on sunny days. As I've only tested the setup during an English springtime to date it is possible that the device will be useless in Spanish sunshine.

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