12 Best Compass App to Help You Stay Oriented

Mobile Apps

Technology has changed the way we use different tools, with some going obsolete due to their integration to smartphones. There’s practically an app now for everything, and that includes compasses. Back in the day, you had to rely on a physical compass when you find yourself lost in the woods. Now, though, you can just pull out your smartphone and open a compass app.

But, with so many options in the app store, how do you know which one to choose? Here’s exactly what you need to make the best choice!

 

Understanding How a Compass Works

how it works
© Photo by Phongsak Sangkhamane on Adobe Stock Photo

Simply put, a compass determines direction by detecting the Earth’s natural magnetic fields. It relies on the principle of opposites attract, so the southern pole of the needle points towards the Earth’s natural magnetic north pole. From that, you can make out which direction is north.

For the most part, compass apps have remained the same in the past decade or so. These apps make use of your device’s accelerometer to find direction. Some apps require calibration in order to work, while others malfunction in the presence of a magnetic case. In general, though, most compass apps work the same basic way.

 

How to Use a Compass App

The method of use highly depends on the compass app you’re using. Not all compass apps have the same functionalities, so you may need to tweak it here and there. Plus, as mentioned before, some apps need calibration first. In general, though, you only need to launch the compass app on your device and wait for it to point you in the right direction.

 

How Reliable Is a Compass App

You may wonder why a compass app is even necessary for this day and age when GPS navigation reigns supreme. With a GPS connection, you can just use a regular navigation app like Google Maps (which also has a Google Compass feature for better direction). The reality is, not everyone has access to a GPS connection all the time. For instance, outdoor enthusiasts who spend a lot of their time boating, hiking, or camping in the woods may have poor to zero GPS connectivity. While some of the GPS hiking apps or running apps claimed to help you navigate even in the worst conditions, a compass is still the most crucial.

Compass apps are generally reliable, though not all are made equal. Some compass apps don’t work as well as others, and using them might only drive you further into the woods than out of them. This is where this list comes in handy. Whether you’re an Android or iOS user, you can bet there’s a compass app out there for you.

 

12 Best Compass Apps

 

1. 3D Compass Plus

3D Compass Plus
© Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android and iOS

This compass app combines navigational capabilities with a social aspect. It makes use of augmented reality to show you different tools right from your camera’s view. It shows you a 3D compass, coordinates, a map, time, speed, and addresses on your screen. If you want to, you can even shoot a video of your course and send it to your contacts so they can follow along. Other than orienteering, this compass app is best used for learning. Plus, it’s free!

Pros

  • –  Lots of features
  • –  Great for teaching
  • –  Interactive AR mode
  • –  Fun
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Not very traditional
  • –  Features that can be distracting

Download on Google Play Store
Download on App Store

 

2. Altimeter GPS Pro

Altimeter GPS PRO
© Photo by App Store

 

Available for: Android and iOS

If you’re looking for a compass app that packs a whole lot of punch, then the Altimeter GPS Pro is your best bet. It does virtually everything you need it to and more. When you use its basic navigation mode, you have access to a variety of information. This includes direction, distance, speed, time traveled, and the total time elapsed. Apart from tracking your distance, speed, location, direction, and time, this compass app lets you share that data (including starting and ending points) with others via email. You can even just send it to yourself for future reference.

While its compass is definitely one of its selling points, the Altimeter GPS Pro also provides you with a selection of different maps. There are standard topo maps available as well as aerial photography maps and hybrid maps that fit your liking. This compass app offers up information on your altitude, too. Additionally, if you’re straying too far from the right course, this app can help by showing you your estimated GPS accuracy.

Pros

  • –  Accurate data
  • –  A plethora of helpful features
  • –  Tons of maps
  • –  Ability to track statistics
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Not suitable for beginners due to its complexity

Download on Google Play Store
Download on App Store

 

3. Commander Compass

Commander
© Photo by App Store

 

Available for: iOS

Commander Compass certainly measures up to expectations. This compass app offers a bevy of tools and features that it’s almost overwhelming to go through them all. Apart from working as a standard compass, this app allows you to save points so you can easily return to them at a later time. If you have never been to a particular point, you can just enter it manually and the app will guide you there. 

You can view directions for and save numerous points at the same time, which allows you to gauge the proximity of one point to another. Each point gives you a ton of information, such as distance, direction, speed, and expected time of arrival. Other than that, it also shows you elevation and azimuth data. There are a lot of map backgrounds as well to help you visualize your destination and route. Interestingly, you can also use this compass app to navigate by the moon, the sun, or the stars. 

Pros

  • –  No shortage of features
  • –  Very useful
  • – Celestial navigation capabilities
  • – Free

 

Cons

  • –  Ad-supported
  • –  Overwhelming amount of features

Download on App Store

 

4. Compass 360 Pro

360 Pro
© Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

Compass 360 Pro blends functionality and simplicity all in one app. Perhaps the best thing about this compass app is that it works all around the globe. This is compared to some compass apps that only work in a single hemisphere.

With this app, you can view bearings in both magnetic north and true north. That means you’ll find this compass app useful whether you’re using it for general navigation or with a topographic map. The movement of the bearing is easy and smooth. You’ll find degrees in decimal format, too.

Pros

  • –  Very user-friendly
  • –  Good for beginners
  • –  Can be used as a traditional compass
  • –  Works anywhere around the world
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Ad-supported
  • –  Lacks features
  • –  Can drain your battery quicker

Download on Google Play Store

 

5. Compass 55

Compass 55
© Photo by App Store

 

Available for: iOS

Compass 55 is a powerful app that provides you with a multitude of features, even just with its basic version. Aside from a compass, this app comes with GPS in different formats, maps, navigation, distance, direction, routes, a speedometer, and waypoints. You can convert coordinates from and to various systems, including MGRS, latitude and longitude, and UTM. You can even track your walking distance with its built-in pace counter. If you wish, there’s also a sharing feature that allows you to send files to other devices.

The paid version includes all the features of the basic version plus a lot more. If you get the pro version, you can have access to native Google Maps and even add your own map server to the app. You can share or export GPS tracks and read routes using other GPS devices. It’s also one of the few offline compass apps in the market.

Pros

  • –  Packs a lot of features even in its free version
  • –  Very useful
  • –  Allows you to track course information
  • –  Compass and GPS capabilities

 

Cons

  • –  Too many features that make it complicated to navigate
  • –  Full version requiring payment

Download on App Store

 

6. Compass Steel 3D

compass app Steel 3D
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

If you want a compass app that combines functionality with style, get the Compass Steel 3D. This app comes with a variety of themes that you can use to customize the look and feel of your compass. It’s most compatible with those who engage in outdoor activities a lot, such as hiking and boating.

Many find it hard to calibrate compass apps, but Compass Steel 3D makes it easy with its self-calibration tool. However, don’t expect this tool to work 100 percent of the time. It mostly works, but there are some misses here and there. This compass app also has true and magnetic north, sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times, and both a sun and moon direction indicator. Perhaps the best part of this app is that it’s completely free and doesn’t come with any in-app purchases.

Pros

  • –  Customizable themes
  • –  Great for outdoor enthusiasts
  • –  Comes with self-calibration
  • –  Astro-navigation capabilities
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Has a few bugs
  • –  Not updated anymore



Download on Google Play Store

 

7. Digital Field Compass

Digital Field Compass app
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

Digital Field Compass is your best option if you’re looking for a powerful yet simple compass app. This app does what it advertises, which is to give you a good, working compass. It doesn’t have any added features like customizable themes or maps, though it does come with a night mode.

Additionally, this compass app consists of a manual declination setting, which informs you when there’s magnetic disruption anywhere. It’s perfect for both land and sea navigation, too. It’s a great digital orienteering compass, perhaps even the best for Android users. And, because it’s so simple, it doesn’t eat up a lot of your battery, too. This is perfect if you’re in the great outdoors.

Pros

  • –  Very user-friendly
  • –  Simple, uncomplicated features
  • –  Night mode
  • – Accurate compass
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Few features
  • –  Not for users who like a lot of fluff and extras



Download on Google Play Store

 

8. Fulmine Software Compass

Fulmine Software Compass app
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

Fulmine Software Compass is a compass app developed for Android operating systems. It’s a satisfactory app with decent capabilities. Along with the usual features of a compass app, this one can function even without a data or GPS connection. It comes with latitude and longitude coordinates, too. You also receive a continuous notification that shows you your true and magnetic heading. While there’s a free version that’s enough for most beginners, you need to pay $2.49 to get the full, unbridled version.

Pros

  • –  Good basic compass functions
  • –  No need for data or GPS connectivity
  • –  Comes with a free version

 

Cons

  • –  Works better with GPS connectivity
  • –  Pay for full version

Download on Google Play Store

 

9. GPS Compass Navigator

GPS Compass Navigator
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

If you’re bad at directions, even if you’ve been to that place before, then the GPS Compass Navigator for Android is a great choice. Aside from the usual compass functionality, this app allows you to display tracking, share your location, view sunrise and sunset times, and view sun and moon positions. 

You can also save tracks and places, which is handy if you need to return to a saved point but lack the natural navigation skills. It displays various information, such as longitude and latitude, distance, speed, ETA, magnetic field strength, altitude, and current address. Other than that, it has excellent satellite imagery and comes with a simple interface for ease of use. If you need an offline compass app, this one works great as well.

Pros

  • –  Simple and easy to use
  • –  Lots of features
  • –  Works offline
  • –  Free

 

Cons

  • –  Has bugs
  • –  Requires a magnetometer sensor for use other than travel




Download on Google Play Store

 

10. Gyro Compass

Gyro
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android and iOS

If you’re craving for a little more authenticity, then the Gyro Compass app is the one for you. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to a real-world compass barring an actual physical compass. It comes with a slope indicator as well as a bezel that you can rotate, similar to a traditional compass. Furthermore, it works like a dream, is very user-friendly, and packs a whole lot of power, to boot. 

Just like a real compass, this app comes with no frills attached. It’s very simple and looks vintage, giving you that classic feel. There are no maps, no tracking, and no added features. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything with this compass app.

Using the Gyro Compass app, you can determine the magnetic north and true north, along with your compass bearing. You can even discern magnetic strength, which allows for a more accurate result. If you’ve got a flair for classic navigation, this is your best modern-day option. It works best on smartphones with a good magnetic sensor.

Pros

  • –  Simple and easy to use
  • –  Works just like a physical compass
  • –  Free

Cons

  • –  Kaby Lake-X not supported
  • –  Limited I/O with bandwidth sharing
  • –  Absence of temperature reporting for the voltage regulator
  • –  No support for 110mm M.2 cards

Download on Google Play Store
Download on App Store

 

11. Just a Compass

Just A Compass
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

As its name suggests, Just a Compass is simply that — just a compass. Don’t expect any fancy features or personalized themes with this compass app. However, you can expect it to work exactly as it says it should. With this compass app, you get the usual features like true north and magnetic north. You also have access to information like longitude and latitude as well as sunrise and sunset times. Perhaps the one feature that sets it apart is its support for UTM and EGM96 for geoid referencing.

 Pros

  • –  Simple and easy to use
  • –  Comes with necessary features
  • –  UTM support
  • –  EGM96 support
  • –  Free (no ads, no permissions)

 

Cons

  • –  Not enough features

Download on Google Play Store

 

12. Smart Compass

Smart Compass
Photo by Google Play Store

 

Available for: Android

If you like all the extra features but find yourself fumbling at how to use them, consider Smart Compass. It takes those fancy features and makes them easy to use, especially for beginners. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer up the basics, too.

With the Smart Compass, you can navigate using your smartphone. It offers up information on your bearings, speed, and coordinates. Using your camera, you can even view exact bearings to the place you point at. This compass app also has Google Maps support and comes with different modes, such as night mode and telescope mode. Although you can already do a lot using the free version of this compass app, if you pay for the bonus features, you’ll also receive the ability to share your data as well as a metal detector.

 Pros

  • –  Simple and easy to use
  • –  Supports Google Maps
  • –  Accurate navigation
  • –  Different modes
  • –  Good for orienteering
  •  – Free

 

Cons

  • –  Need to pay for additional features
  • –  Requires knowledge of navigation to use effectively

Download on Google Play Store

 

Choosing the Best Compass App

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which one of these is the best compass app in the market today. They all have their pros and cons, and it really comes down to user preference at some point. Of course, the first thing you must consider is your operating system. Not all of these work on both Android and iOS devices, so make sure you take that into account. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that a compass app, though its purpose remains the same, can’t replace real compasses. A real compass doesn’t require batteries to work, so it will always have that advantage over compass apps. After that, the decision is yours.

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