ViewRanger outdoor GPS app combines mapping, social networking and trail guidebooks
By C.C. Weiss
January 24, 2012
Imagine the power of a US$500 outdoor GPS built into a $5 app available on iOS and Android devices. In a nutshell, that's ViewRanger. The advanced mapping GPS app has been around for years in Europe and just launched in the United States.
When we first heard about ViewRanger, we weren't particularly optimistic - there are, after all, plenty of other GPS apps. After speaking with CEO Craig Wareham and seeing the app in action, we're much more excited.
ViewRanger originally launched in 2006. It's been available in countries around the world, but has been absent from the U.S. market until just last week.
Wareham explains: "We felt that now was the right time to come to the American market. There were a number of things that we felt we needed to get right to offer a good, quality solution: high quality, high resolution maps; good trail partner content; and also having the Web and mobile content together."
ViewRanger is an app for outdoors folks that essentially simulates the features of an advanced mapping GPS unit, and leverages your phone's mobile connection for some additional features. The app provides access to a full set of U.S. topographic maps that you can view in either traditional USGS topo or shaded terrain topo views. Overlaid atop the maps are 250,000 miles (402,000 km) of trails to provide you even more detailed navigation. You can easily access the maps on the go or download them to the device for offline use. Like a standalone outdoor GPS, ViewRanger both tracks where you've been (so you can navigate back) and allows you to set up routes ahead of time.
ViewRanger also offers in-app trail guides. For its United States iteration, ViewRanger partnered with guidebook publishers Monasha Ridge Press and Wilderness Press. The trail guides are pinned on the map and are available for purchase. Wareham told us that they typically cost between US$0.70 and $1.00 per guide. The guides provide trail descriptions, directions and pictures straight out of the publishers' guidebooks.
In addition to the paid premium trail guide content, you can get less formal trail information through ViewRanger's online network at My.Viewranger.com. The website's tools allow users to build trail guides and offer them for free or for a paid download.
ViewRanger features an integrated sports computer that calculates statistics like trip time, speed, altitude gained and distance traveled. The app also has an integrated location-sharing feature called Buddy Beacon (internet required). This lets you share your location with friends and contacts, and displays the location of other users on your device. You can also connect your Twitter feed to the Buddy Beacon, so that you can share thoughts and pictures in addition to your location.
All that functionality is available for the somewhat staggering price of $4.99. The app easily syncs between devices and can be transferred to a new phone or tablet when you replace your current device.
ViewRanger is pretty comprehensive as it is, but it should gain even more functionality in the future. Wareham said that the company has development mapped out through 2020 with some interesting features to come. We couldn't pry specifics out of him, but he did let the term "augmented reality" slip - perhaps a feature where you can get trail information and points of interest using the phone's camera.
The video below provides a closer look at the app. You can also find more information at ViewRanger.com