Gaia - iPhone GPS App Review

Gaia is an accidental winner for me. The primary focus of the app - "GPS", does not hold attraction beyond curiosity for me. The killer feature of this application is the ability to download and store maps for offline use. I have been in several situations where access to maps offline would have come in handy.  Google maps is awesome but is useless without a data plan/wifi access. Gaia is the (partial) answer to my prayers.The maps provider Gaia uses pales in comparison to Google maps in detail, especially for international users. This is the biggest downside of Gaia.

When you open the app, it will will try to acquire your location through GPS. This can happen instantaneously or can take several minutes. On acquiring a GPS signal, you will be presented with  a busy screen and it can be intimidating :). The (i) button, below the lock icon, will explain the functions of each button. The primary function of this screen is to save a track. Upon pressing the (+) button, you will be asked to name the track, completing which the recording of the track begins. The recording can be paused/resumed and waypoints can be attached to the track  using the "flag" button.The saved tracks can be viewed later. You can also lock the screen using the lock button if you want to avoid accidental inputs.

The circle in the center, shows the map. Since I was not in a big city, the maps Gaia uses had just the major roads marked and hence the lack of detail in the map shown. Fear not, it is not always like that. On the right  you can see a pretty detailed map of Chennai India.

The app doesn't come with pre-loaded maps. You need to download the maps you need individually. So you will need a data connection/wifi to view the maps you haven't downloaded and to download them. Upon pressing the download button, you will be presented with the screen above sans the selection.  switching on "High Detail" will make the app download tiles at every available detail. With it switched off, the app will download only minimal tiles and you won't be able to zoom much. Selection is easy and requires the use of just one finger. You can also expand the viewing area by hiding the bottom and top menu bars. The space thus saved is substantial considering the iPhone's small screen size.

Overall, Gaia is a decent app if you require offline maps and advanced GPS  functions like tracks, speeds etc. Since the maps are clearly inferior to Google Maps and dedicated navigation apps like TomTom Gaia cannot be the sole navigation app. But for those people who live in areas where the Gaia map coverage is good and need offline maps, this is a good buy.

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