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All Things Appy: 5 Best Geo-Oriented Tracking Apps for iOS

All Things Appy: 5 Best Geo-Oriented Tracking Apps for iOS

The ubiquity of GPS technology is enabling a world of possibilities for keeping track of your kids, your workout, your daily travels and more. This week we look at the best apps to help you do that on Apple's iOS platform. Our favorites? Nike+ Running, Phone Tracker for iPhones, Waze Social GPS, Google Maps and Google Earth

By Patrick Nelson
10/04/13 5:00 AM PT

This week's All Things Appy takes a look at the five best, free geo-oriented apps for the iOS platform.

To keep your costs down, we're concentrating on those tracking apps that don't require additional hardware, like sensors.

Not all mobile Apple hardware products have GPS satellite location, which many of these apps require for best results. The iPod is one of those.

Also, be aware that GPS chips use an enormous amount of battery power, so expect to see degraded battery life the longer you run these apps.

GPS signals require a view of the sky. They don't work as well in dense cities or woodland.

About the iOS Platform: Apple's apps are available in the iTunes store. Browse to the store from your device's home screen and search for the app you need.

No. 1: Nike+ Running

Nike+ Running is rated 4 1/2 stars out of a possible 5 for all versions based on 37,206 ratings, and 5 stars out of 5 for the current version based on 9,944 ratings in the iTunes App Store.

This is the most popular iOS running and jogging app. It uses the phone's GPS along with accelerometer to track workouts. Distance, pace and time are included along with Facebook and other social network sharing.

Nike Plus

Added app benefits include inline listening to music plus it has background cheering. Challenges, meanwhile, are available for extra motivation. No additional hardware is required.

No. 2: Phone Tracker for iPhones

JLC Mobile's Phone Tracker for iPhones is rated 4 1/2 stars out of a possible 5 for all versions based on 528 ratings, and 4 1/2 stars out of 5 for the current version based on 434 ratings in the iTunes App Store.

Here's a way to keep track of people when they're out and about. The free version lets your track one phone and see its movements on a map for a 4-hour period.

Use it for tracking the tykes on their way home from school or for tracking a dispatched employee and optimizing their work day. It requires permission from the tracked phone.

No. 3: Waze Social GPS

Waze Social GPS, Maps and Traffic is rated 4 1/2 stars out of a possible five for all versions based on 128,475 ratings, and 4 1/2 stars out of five for the current version based on 12,298 ratings in the iTunes App Store.

Recently purchased by Google, Waze lets you see and contribute to crowdsourced traffic and navigation. Live routing is provided from user reports on real-time traffic and roads. Fifty million claimed users provides plenty of data.

Added features include voice guidance, automatic re-routing based on a change in conditions and the inevitable Facebook add-in, which in this case lets you see friends driving in the same area.

No. 4: Google Maps

Google Maps is rated 4 1/2 stars out of a possible 5 for all versions based on 58,353 ratings, and 4 1/2 stars out of 5 for the current version based on 29,835 ratings in the iTunes App Store.

This Apple Maps competitor includes offline functionality and free, highly regarded turn-by-turn directions. It's a must-have, if only to check iPhone map results.

The only reason we've placed it in a runner's-up position is that much of the functionality is duplicated by Apple's default product. However, you should try robust Google Maps if you haven't already.

No. 5: Google Earth

Google Earth is rated 3 1/2 stars out of a possible 5 for all versions based on 443,098 ratings, and 3 1/2 stars out of 5 for the current version based on 691 ratings in the iTunes App Store.

Spectacular graphics let you explore the globe, zooming in on locations like a bird in flight.

A useful daily driver for planning activities, too, because the three-dimensional mapping aspects give you a feel for what to expect. The included virtual tours are also good for discovery.

Want to Suggest an Apps Collection?

Is there a batch of apps you'd like to suggest for review? Remember, they must all be for the same platform, and they must all be geared toward the same general purpose. Please send the names of five or more apps to me, and I'll consider them for a future All Things Appy column.

Don't forget to use the Talkback feature below to add your comments.


Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.


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