It's something we don't think about much, but our high tech phones and tablets often don't include the most basic tools like a compass. 4D Compass is one of those apps that adds a few extra features no ordinary compass has. It even shows the position of the planets.
It's good to occasionally check out an app that doesn't try to do everything. This app concentrates on doing one or two things very well. 4D Compass may also be useful if you're a fan of geocaching. Not sure what that is? Well, neither am I, but there are enthusiasts of the activity who use compasses and GPS in leisure activities.
Before you start, there are a few things to consider. If your phone case has a magnet in it, that will disrupt the compass function, as will being close to large metallic objects. You may need to calibrate your devices magnetometer, the in-built device sensor that detects the earth's magnetic field. Most recent smart phones and tablets have a sensitive magnetometer.
This YouTube video Best Compass Calibration Method shows you how to do the calibration.
On the apps screen, there are buttons for camera, towns and settings. A tap of the camera button will overlay the compass onto what your camera sees. The magic happens when you tap the Towns button. You need to enable GPS on your device for this feature to work.
If you place your device on a flat surface, the display will be something like those big brass directional markers, usually found at a tourist lookout. They show the compass North and the direction and distance to cities or towns relative to where you are.
In the app settings, there are options to enable the device camera, or draw an artificial horizon for you when the camera is off. There's image quality settings and an advanced 'Use Image Stabilizer', but underneath it says 'Purely Useless', so that probably doesn't work.
Another setting you may want to enable is 'Use large database'. This increases the number of available locations that can be shown on the compass display. You can disable this if you have performance issues with it on your device.
Why would you want to install this app? Apart from the obvious direction finding, here are a few ideas. You could use it as an educational game for the kids. Ask them to point which way is London or New York, then put down your phone to find out who guessed the closest. Another reason to use the app is if you're out for a drive and have no idea where to go. Have a look at the compass display and pick a nearby town. Off you go!
You can set your distance units to miles or kilometers. The app settings allow you to set minimum and maximum town distances depending on what you want to do. I'll use km in these examples. If you want major world cities, you'd set a minimum of say 500 km and a maximum of 50,000 km. If you're out for an afternoon drive, you'd set something between zero and 50 or 500 km.
To find where the planets are, turn off the camera and the towns features. Rotate your phone around, up and down, even towards the ground. You'll see the current position of the Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter and the other planets. That's quite nifty and has a bit of wow factor. Once again, the kids will love it.
So, next time you're with your friends comparing phone apps, ask them about their compass. You can then say, that's nothing. Can yours do this? It can be a bit of fun, but 4D Compass can be quite useful.
4D Compass — Free Mobile App of the Week
Size: 3.2 MB (varies with device)
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