Geocaching with the iPhone

Nice little app, if rather expensive for an iTunes app at £5.99. First pages is a little disclaimer screen – be advised that Geocaching can be dangerous. Shame that this is displayed each time you start the app. I think it’s there whilst the device searches for the satellites, but can’t be sure. Personally I prefer to see a little graphic showing when each satellite has been detected. It’s just a bit more fun.

The first working screen is the ‘find caches’. You can enter a post code, address or geocache code GCxxxx. Or you can search for caches around your current location. This is very neat.

The app has been through several updates which have improved it. One of these is the ability to view, or not view, caches that you’ve already found. This certainly saves on screen real-estate. Having seen the list you tap to select a cache.

The screen is like a mini-version of the website. You see the name, the co-ordinates, difficulty, terrain, size and direction from current position along with distance. The way these measurements are displayed can be changed through the settings button at bottom right – so you can choose the format for your co-ordinates, miles versus kilometers and basically tailor the display to suit yourself.

You can save a cache to view later. This saves you from going through the search procedure each time you want to choose a cache, however I did find some problems with it. I chose my cache whilst at home and saved it. I then looked up the saved version when near the cache site but the device couldn’t seem to pick up the GPS direction. It was almost as if it was fixed at my home location. Anyway, I went back to the search function and it worked fine.

You can bring up the description and recent logs, all of which are useful. There is also a button to “post a field note”. This has caused some confusion on the Geocaching forums with people being unable to find their notes. They are not added to the cache logs – they appear connected with your Geocacher ID and then you have to move them to the log if you want to use them. This is helpful for people who log multiple caches in a single day and may lost track.

Map brings up Google maps to show your position. Trouble with this is that it exits the Geocaching app so to go back and look for the cache you have to restart the app. This is a feature of the iPhone and not caused by the app but it can be irritating.

Clicking Navigate (the remaining button on the screen) pulls up a lovely compass which points towards the cache location. It gives you your heading, current location and distance to the cache. Nice little display and quite quick to react.

The accuracy reading can be a bit offputting, but this has been raised in the Geocaching forums where it was pointed out that it is actually the full diameter of a circle with you at its centre. So if you see an accuracy of 24ft, what this actually means is 12ft in any one direction.

The application took me directly to the cache with no problems. I was very impressed. I have bought a silicone sleeve for it, just for when I go Geocaching. The rest of the time it has a nice leather cover – but when Geocaching in gloves, or with cold fingers, I’d really recomment something rubbery to ensure grip. It would be heartbreaking to drop it in the mud.

I’d recomment it. There are other GPS applications that you can also use if doing multi-caches. I have MotionX GPS which is really nice, but that will be the subject of a different post.

by Gill Clough

About Gill

Having worked as a Research Fellow with the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University, I have now semi-retired but retained my association with the OU as an Honorary Associate.
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