Nicholas Skinner

Freelance website and web application developer

Archive for August, 2009

iPhone Application Review: ‘Trails’ versus ‘Every Trail’

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Trails Map Graph

I have recently been testing out the iPhone applications “Trails“, and “Every Trail” for recording bike trips, along with geo-tagged photos.

View Trail Recorded With:

Every Trail Features:

  • Uses Google Maps (requires an Internet connection to show your position on a map).
  • Shows current position only on map (not a track log) and shows where photos have been taken.
  • Allows you to take a photo while recording the trip (however requires unlocking / relocking the application each time).
  • Features seamless integration with the Every Trail website, with uploading of geo-tagged photos directly from the phone.
  • Shows basic trip information.

Trails Features:

Trails Trip Info

  • Uses maps from Open Street Map (does not require an Internet connection – maps can be pre downloaded for specified areas / zoom levels over WiFi before you leave).
  • Shows current position overlaid on map along with a track log showing where you have been.
  • Can change map type to “Terrain + Cycle” to show some cycle trails depending on your location.
  • Has handy default settings to choose from depending on if you are “Jogging”, “Hiking”, “Biking” or “Driving”.
  • Allows you to take a photo while recording the trip (without unlocking / relocking the application each time – this significantly streamlines the process of taking photos).
  • Can upload trips directly to the Every Trail website however does not upload geo tagged photos (photos must be manually uploaded).
  • Allows basic editing for tracks directly on the phone (along with removal of inaccurate GPS readings, and labelling of waypoints).
  • Has the ability to import GPX files (however the file I tried to import did not seem to work properly).
  • Shows comprehensive trip information including speed/altitude graphs when you turn the phone sideways.

Trails Altitude Speed Graph

The ability of Trails to download maps on e.g. a fast WiFi signal before starting is a major advantage, and made navigation much quicker. With Every Trail you could otherwise be left with either no map in the case that there is no GSM signal, or having to constantly wait around for maps to be downloaded over slow GPRS (if you are in a remote location with no 3G). This is likely due to its use of less license restrictive Open Street Map mapping data. Use of Open Street Map also means some cycle trails are also available in Trails, and if it happens to show the route you are taking, then navigating it with your iPhone becomes a whole degree of magnitude more straight forward.

Every Trail Map

A major disadvantage with Trails however is that it is not very geo tag friendly – photos do not have any EXIF taken date, or EXIF latitude / longitude information saved to them. It is worth noting that photos taken with Every Trail also seemed to be similarly lacking in either an EXIF taken date or latitude / longitude however Every Trail appear to have somehow got around this issue in a way that Trails has not because it does not have the ability to upload photos directly from the phone. Every Trails handling of photos on the phone itself however is less than ideal. It shows an icon on the map of where you took the photo but I found this unnecessary, it also seems to slow down response time when viewing / moving the map. If I had taken any more photos this would have likely become more of an issue.

I thought the geo tagging issue with Trails may have been due to not having something configured correctly, however after checking the developers site he has a tutorial on how to geo tag photos using software on your PC or Mac. I am therefore assuming the application just does not support geo tagging. I used the “Geosetter” application recommended on the site, and the only way I could get photos taken on the iPhone to show up correctly was to set the photo taken datetime to the file creation datetime manually for every photo (photos taken using a Sony DSC W5 did not have this problem), a somewhat tedious and time consuming process, and then photos still had to be uploaded manually to the Every Trail website.

Every Trail Trip Info

Both applications resulted in the battery draining much faster than it otherwise would however this was to be expected. Admittedly I did not follow the recommended advice of turning off WiFi and 3G, and turning down the backlight (may not be very feasible on a sunny day anyway) however if you are going to use either application for longer than 4 hours and need to make calls and still need to use the phone normally afterwards then you may need to look into an external battery pack or plug in battery booster.

Overall if your main goal is showing a trip with geo tagged photos taken with the iPhone, you can put up with the slightly longer winded approach to taking photos (unlock/relock phone each time) and you are not really going to be relying on the phone for navigation, the Every Trail iPhone application is the simpler, more straight forward approach.

If however you are looking for a much more polished, and feature complete application that can show you in real time a range of statistics, you will be using the iPhone for navigation, and either not taking photos, or using a separate digital camera (which you will correctly set the time in before departing) Trails is the better application.