Back from the Blue Ridge, and my first order of business (after the usual first order of business) is to determine the best way to bookmark my current location on my iPhone.
The Google Maps app is great when you’re trying to find a place you can name, but not so great when you don’t have the address or when you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have a proper address. Our guides were able to provide backseat turn-by-turn directions, but since you can’t always rely on having the same people in the back of your car, I figured I should bookmark the locations as we got there. Small problem. The Google Maps app on the iPhone does not have a straightforward way to bookmark one’s current location. What to do?
First solution that popped in my head, which is the one I implemented, was to look near my current location on the map then map the intersection nearest that location. This worked perfectly for the first location, my wife’s aunt’s house, but not quite for her grandfather’s grave. Works for finding the cemetery (whose company address is the main office located elsewhere), but not the grave.
Second idea was, “I bet there’s an app for that.” Sure enough, there’s one that does the job called My Places, and as far as I have found, it’s the only one for the iPhone or any phone for that matter. With all the buzz surrounding location-based services, you’d think I’d be inundated with results on a search for “bookmark current location,” but I guess the need hadn’t really come up before.
Anyway, My Places is pretty straightforward. You enter a name, then tag it with your current location. This saves it to its own library, but you can view items in the map app and bookmark normally from there. There are also options to add a photo, which would have been very useful in my case, and to send the location via email. Both of these options sound useful for geocaching, or GPS-based treasure/scavenger hunting, too. Price is 99 cents.
The third option I figured out was to map directions to your current location from somewhere else, then tap on the flag at the destination (vice versa works too). It’s cumbersome compared to My Places, requiring a few more steps and the time required to get directions, but it doesn’t cost anything extra, so it’s useful for those isolated incidents when you might need it.
Personally, I’m happier dropping the dollar for the dedicated app. It’s quick, and I really like the idea of tying photos to the locations. I’d use this when I park my car in an unfamiliar parking structure to record both the location of the structure (via GPS) and my car’s spot within the garage (via photo) and to remember spots of interest or importance in the various roads and non-roads I travel (such as grave sites). Any other ideas for bookmarking your current location? How about on other devices?
Update (5/31/09 11:23AM): Further field testing with My Places reveals it may not be ready for prime time yet. Seems to grab the first location it can get, which is usually from a wifi hotspot or tower triangulation. A kludge is to switch to airplane mode to disable those options while grabbing a location. I’ll see if I can’t pester the developer for an update.
Update (6/1/09 7:50AM): Commenter Jonathan has the pointed out there is indeed a straightforward way to bookmark one’s current location. Just center the map on your location then tap the Drop Pin button in the options menu. Massive oversight on my part. However, it led me to My Places, which fills a need in my mobile blogging, and to meet another independent iPhone developer (that’s two I know) who was glad for the feedback and field testing. Update should be out shortly. Wish all my missteps turned out this well. Thanks again Jonathan.