DZ, today's guest author, is a former Action Guy turned private investigator and bounty hunter who isn't nearly as cool as he used to be.
Part 1 of this series may be found here.
Compass: There's not much to most compass apps. Some may be prettier than others, and maybe you prefer that or maybe you want something a little more stripped-down for simplicity of use. Keep in mind that a lot of other apps use the compass in the phone, so depending on what you want to use it for, you may not even want a dedicated compass app. Also keep in mind that you should still have a real compass and use it to calibrate the electronic one from time to time. I, for one, would not trust an electronic compass, tiny and surrounded by metal as it is, to remain calibrated under rough use.
GPS: There's not really anything that you'd call a GPS app, just apps that use the GPS function. All that are applicable are covered in their respective sections.
Step counter: If you're using one of these for fitness reasons (Fitness is certainly important for preparedness, but I'm going to treat it for now as a separate issue) then you may have a preference for an app that keeps track differently or allows you to share your results with other apps or social media... whatever. But for grid-down navigation, all it needs to do is count steps, and they all do that. (Be sure to get your pace count and know how to use it, so that the app can help you concentrate on other things instead of counting.) Pretty much any step counting app will do, but if you don't have one, this one looks pretty lightweight and simple:
Maps: Google Maps, the most common default map app, allows you to cache maps temporarily, but you don't control the data and the app only saves them for 30 days.. The choices of mapping apps that save maps for online use is huge, but most of them are oriented to street maps. I just switched from an iPhone to an Android phone a few weeks ago, so while I've downloaded a lot of offline mapping apps, most of them aren't the same ones as I had before and I haven't had the chance to try them much. But that said, here are a few that seem pretty decent:
- Outdoor Navigation
- US Topo Maps Free
- Trimble Outdoors Navigator
- My Topo Maps
- Outdoor Atlas
- GPS Essentials
- And here's one that's a paid app, that I haven't tried yet, but it's just too cool not to mention: Starstruck Navigation uses the stars to navigate for you. You'll need a sextant to get angle and direction, but the app does the rest. That one will work even if the satellites don't.
Camera: Certainly your device came with a camera app already installed. I promise you that's good enough for most things you'd ever want to use it for. But if you must try others, just look around. Here are a couple of the most popular:
Music/Movies: The sky is the limit here. Purchase or download as many movies or songs as you like and save them to MicroSD cards for later perusal. (How to torrent.)
Games: Monopoly - OK, this ones isn't free normally, but it was for a limited time on the Amazon app store, and I jumped on it. But Solitaire, Chess, and Checkers are all free, and here are some other games that will keep working after the grid goes down. Go find some you like and install them. They'll help keep you sane after SHTF.
Books: Every Kindle book can be downloaded to your phone or tablet. Many preparedness-oriented books, manuals,and pamphlets are also available as PDF files that can also be saved and read offline later by the Kindle app or others such as Kingsoft Office. Beware! Keep your Kindle app updated. Otherwise, if they release an update just before SHTF and you don't have it, your app may stop working.
Barometer: Barometer falling = bad weather ahead. It's pretty damn near that simple. Take your pick.
A note on battery life: yes, you'll need to have a way to charge your phone, be it solar or manual (or off a generator if you have one), but the vast majority of the battery usage is in the various radios in a smartphone or tablet. Put it on airplane mode and it'll last much longer.