UrbanCompass Tells You Where to Go (But Not Quite How to Get There)

Price: Free*    Score: 5/10     By Anna PapachristosUrbanCompass

Everyone, at some point or another, has needed directions.  Whether you’re traveling in unfamiliar territory or simply looking for something new and exciting in your own area, one can’t know where everything is at all times.  With UrbanCompass by The Good Life, users are supposed to be able to do just that – find directions.  However, these “directions made easy” may be a bit more misleading than promised.

UrbanCompass is designed to guide users to their destination with only a compass and a map (but only for iPhone 3GS users).  You can use the search function to enter what you’re looking for, including a specific address if you desire, or you can choose from the list of quick-search buttons: bar, restaurant, coffee, grocery store, bank, shopping, hotel and gas station.  (Simply tap on the ‘x’ on the compass to access this menu.)  When using the quick-search buttons, UrbanCompass sorts results by distance, allowing you to choose which nearby spot you’d prefer.

UrbanCompass will then provide a map labeling your current location, the location of your destination, the distance you must travel and a compass to set you off on your way.  Users can change the appearance of their map from Standard to Hybrid view a la Google Maps and vice versa under the ‘Settings’ menu by tapping on the icon in the bottom left corner of the screen.  This menu also allows users to auto center their location on the map and use UrbanCompass Connect.

UrbanCompass Connect allows you to send their your location to a friend so they can find you using the app as well.  As long as you are within range of 3G coverage, you can access UrbanCompass anywhere in the world.

However, claims that UrbanCompass provides “simple but useful navigation” that is “as intuitive as possible” and “easily accessible” have proven somewhat questionable when put to the test.  When searching for local restaurants, of which I already know the exact location, I found that UrbanCompass had failed to update their information recently because places that had changed names or closed were still listed as hot spots.  With users depending on this app as a supposedly useful tool, it would be a shame to see people being misdirected to non-existent places.

Another issue is simply finding your destination.  When using the map feature, I was unable to zoom in to see exactly which streets I should be using to reach my ending point.  Each time I would pinch or stretch the screen for a better view, the screen remained stuck for only a moment before it returned to its indistinguishable self.  Attempting this too often then made the map glitch and turn to grid form, which was only reversible by exiting the app and reloading it again.  I will acknowledge that the developers recently issued an update to fix a supposed bug, but it certainly was not to correct this particular problem.

Also, it seems UrbanCompass will only be of use if you are able to walk to your destination, for one must constantly be looking at the directional arrow of the compass and exactly which street to turn onto despite the tiny scale used on the map itself.  The last thing we need is another reason for drivers to be distracted in their cars!  The texting epidemic has been terrible enough, let alone an app that specifically requires you to keep your eyes on it (not the road) at all times.  Bring a companion if you really have the need to use this app so they can navigate for you.

*The price noted is a special release price, which ends March 20.

UrbanCompass requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with the iPhone 3GS.


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