This is part 6 of a series of posts planned as a review of the Opencaching website. Readers are encouraged to contribute their thoughts. After over a year to develop the site, this is an attempt to see how they have progressed, including benefits and faults. If you want to see a previous post, you can start here.
I had some free time today and thought “How about I go find some caches?” Then I thought “Hey, there are some Opencaches here in Maryville. Let’s go find them AND use the Android App to do so.” As a result, today’s post is about using the official Opencaching Android App. In particular, finding and logging a cache using the app. I will do a second review that focuses on the other features of the app later this week.
Those of you with an iPhone will have to wait a bit. I’m trying to find someone willing to do a review of the iPhone version of the app but nobody has responded yet (anyone interested?). For all the Android readers out there, feel free to follow the link above and install the app. The free app I might add. Then you can follow along with this post.
- Find Cache is where I will start my search.
- Favorites allows me to view my…well…favorite caches
- Logbook accesses all of my prior logs and pending logs
- Hide Cache allows my to create a listing in the field
- Guide takes my to the mobile version of the site’s guide
- Settings controls some basic settings for the app
One interesting thing about this app is that at first glance, it practically takes away any need for using the website itself. Almost anything a cacher might need to do can be achieved without leaving the app. This could be particularly useful for who might consider themselves casual cachers.
Since I am looking to find a cache, I am going to select that option. Having previously looked at the Maryville, MO area on the website, I knew that there were a few caches in town. One benefit in today’s adventure is that due to my lack of full cell service, I got an opportunity to see the loading screen as well. Like the website itself, clicking on “Find Cache” will bring up a view of the map, like this:
On the left side you see a view of the loading screen, while the right side shows the map after it has been loaded. It seemed by default that the map would load zoomed out so I zoomed it into the area of Maryville before taking the screenshot. Those arrows were drawn by me to help identify the four icons at the top.
The Red Arrow is the loading icon. The map loads in patches and if loading, this spinning icon will be seen.
The Yellow Arrow will reposition the map on the user’s location. Obviously not needed in this view, but if I were to scroll the map around, this will recenter me.
The Green Arrow will load up a list of the nearby caches, complete with little Filter Wheels and arrows pointing out which direction each cache is located and how far away it is.
The Blue Arrow will pull up a screen that allows me to filter the map based on any of the four wheel ratings, cache type, and whether I have found it before or not.
As can be seen by the right-hand view, there are three caches in Maryville. Due to the import I previously performed, one of them has already registered as found. You can also note that none of the other Maryville finds I have made are showing up on the map, reaffirming that the import doesn’t create listing for caches.
The cache icon below the blue arrow that indicates my position is the one I went for first. When I click on the icon, a little bubble appears with some basic info such as name, code, a find date (if I have found it), a mini filter wheel and a star. I’ll come back to the star. Clicking on the bubble pulls up the listing. The cache is named “Flat any one?” by tawner. At the top of the listing is the name, owner, that little star again, and a button that tells the app to navigate to the cache. If I choose to “GO”, I will have the option to navigate by map, Navigate (using Google Maps Navigation), and compass.
The rest of the listing includes the standard information about the cache itself. The Map button shows you a map of the hide while the Log button is how you can log it once found. If scrolled down, I can choose to view the hint or see previous logs.
After hitting “Go”, I tried to navigate by compass first. I knew I wasn’t near the cache, yet I also knew roughly where it was based on the name. However, at first glance the compass seemed to struggle with which direction was North. So I decided to see how accurate the map would perform. Loading up the map, this was the view as I navigated to the cache.
My blue icon is connected via a green line to the cache itself. This view does not follow the roads. If it did, you would see the green arrow take a right, then another right, then another right, starting about where the Highway icon is next to the cache icon. I followed the road and got the cache.
But what about those icons at the top. The circle with the “i” will take me back to the listing itself. The pin shaped icon with the “+” sign will allow me to enter a waypoint. This could be particularly helpful with multi or puzzle caches. The radar sighting is the same as it was before, centering the map on my location. The compass icon at the far right will load up the compass view.
Once I got close, I loaded up the compass. Yep, still a bit wonky but I used it to get close enough to search. The compass is pretty elaborate looking artistically, but simple in design. Showing the OC icon in the background, it points out the direction of the cache alongside the cardinal directions. Again, there are some icons at the top. Two of them we have seen and described. The third one, the one that looks like a little map, takes you back to the map view.
As many Android users will likely know, there is a “Menu” icon available while using most apps. It acts almost like a “File” menu for the app. On some Opencaching screens, this menu isn’t accessible. The compass view is one of them. Others provide some additional options, like the map view. If I am on the map view when I press this button, it provides me with the option to switch between “Streets” and “Satellite” views, to “Show” and “Hide” my track log, and to clear the track log. For those who like to track your travels, this is a useful feature.
Finding the cache took me a bit of time. The cache was hidden and camoed to blend in well enough that I missed it during my first pass. On my second pass I spotted it. I couldn’t help but take a photo after finding it.
Once found, I signed it and replaced the cache. Walking back to my car, I pulled up the listing again so I could log the cache. I hit the “Log” button and came to the logging screen. Once there, I was presented with the basic options and a preloaded comment. I can select “Found It”, “Did Not Find” and “Comment”. I can select which date I found it on, useful if you don’t automatically log your finds. I can select to rate the cache, and mark whether the cache needs maintenance. The Draft checkbox saves my log in the app, but doesn’t actually submit the log online. This way, if I want to make a few notes then come back later to refine my entry, I can. Then of course the ability to type in my comments.
If I choose to rate the cache, the app will not load up another screen. It will merely expand it a bit to display the four different rating options, alongside scroll bars for me to manipulate the ratings. As can be seen here, the app is nice enough to provide me with a changeable heading for each. As I scroll through the ratings, the heading changes, helping me to remember what the different values mean. For example, the green bar, which represents size, has the follow ranges:
- Nano = 1.0 – 1.5
- Micro = 1.6 – 2.5
- Small = 2.6 – 3.4
- Regular = 3.6 – 4.5
- Large = 4.6 – 5.0
Here you can see the ratings I gave. My log read “My first find using the Opencaching Android App. It took me two looks to notice this one as I approached it with the wrong idea in mind. Camo is starting to wear off. Thanks for the hide. It will be used in my review of the app.”
I unchecked the Draft box and clicked Save. My log was submitted and my profile updated online
Pro’s: I was quite surprised at how ease the app was to use. Nothing seemed too confusing and the buttons were nice and big. That would be nice for someone with a smaller screen or bigger fingers. The map seemed fairly accurate and I like how you can track your travels. I also liked how the ratings worked on the logging screen. Another PRO to the list is that you almost eliminate the need for the website unless you are a heavy user. Being kind of new to caching with a smartphone, I can sort of see why smartphone users tend to leave rather “BLEH” logs, but at the same time it only took me about a minute to type up my log. I do have a larger screen on my Galaxy Nexus phone, but taking a minute or two to type something more than TFTC didn’t seem to difficult. And this is where the Draft feature gets some credit. As a cache hider, this feature allows someone to put in a few notes then come back later and write a better log. I just hope people use the feature.
Con’s: The compass seemed wonky. By wonky I mean I could be told I was 20 feet away in one breadth, take two steps and then be told I was 70 feet away. The compass also struggled with determining which direction was North. Now this could definitely be a result of issues with my phone’s GPS chip. Yet the map had seemingly no problem properly following me. So this could be a combination of both the GPS chip itself, and how the app communicates with the chip. I also found a few minor complaints about the map itself. If I adjusted the map, moving it and/or adjusting the zoom, then I selected an icon to see the listing, THEN I hit the back button to return to the map, I would not be at the same position I was before. It would return me back to the spot on the map where I was located. This can be a bit cumbersome, but not a deal breaker.
Overall, the experience was rather nice. It seems some time has been spent making sure the app was thought out and fleshed out. This is noticeable by both the layout and ease of use. Frankly, I was a bit impressed considering the app is free.
I will be back later this week with an exploration of the rest of the app. Anyone else out there have anything to add about finding caches with this app?