How to Use the iPhone Compass

The Tech for a Trek

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Losing a sense of direction in an unfamiliar setting could be quite dangerous, especially if you are hiking in an area where you could encounter cliffs or where you might be tempted to keep moving in the wrong direction simply to remove yourself from a cold or windy peak. That's where the iPhone Compass can come in handy. 

The iPhone Compass is like a traditional compass, just on your iPhone. If you've got power and this handy tool, you're in luck.

Use the iPhone Compass App to Determine Direction

The iPhone digital compass app is located within the utility icon on your phone. Follow these steps to access and use the iPhone compass app:

  • Click on the utility icon to view the options.
  • Click on the compass icon to select the compass app.
  • Hold phone flat in the upwards-facing palm of your hand.
  • Extend your arm straight out in front of you, as you would when holding a magnetic compass.
  • Tilt the palm of your hand slightly upwards so that you can read the compass with your arm outstretched.
  • Turn your entire body with the compass in your palm until the display top reads 0° N.
  • At this moment, notice the red arrow pointing north, directly in front of you.
  • Determine other direction points by stretching your arms out directly from your sides in a T position, and think of your body as a compass with four parts of your body representing the four cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west.
  • Your right-hand fingertips will point east; your left-hand fingertips will point west; the front-side of your body will point north, and the backside of your body will point south.

Use the Compass to Determine Direction of Travel

A compass will give you information about direction, so you need to use it in addition to other tools and clues in order to determine your direction of travel.

If you have a map, you can use the compass to guide you in the direction of safety. But if you do not have a map, and you’ve maintained a sense of direction throughout a hike by looking frequently at the compass, you can decide to turn around and move in the opposite direction to return to a known location.

Other iPhone App Compass Features

The iPhone compass app also has a few other features that you can use as tools to help you in a survival situation. If you need to report your location to a rescue team, notice that your current location coordinates are written in the middle of the lower portion of the screen in a degrees, minutes, seconds format.

The arrow button on the lower left of the screen will connect with the phone’s maps app when you click on it to bring up a map marked with a blue dot to show your current location. If you click the arrow button twice, a cone of light will extend out of the blue dot to show what direction you’re facing.

The “i” icon on the lower right of the screen will give you the option of choosing “True North” or “Magnetic North” when you click on it. You can then select your choice. If you are unsure what to choose, take some time in advance to review the terms true north, magnetic north, and magnetic declination to help you understand more about how a compass works.

It’s important to know, for example, that a compass with a magnetic needle will point to the magnetic North Pole (magnetic north), whereas the geographic location of the North Pole is known as true north.

Knowing about the iPhone compass app will allow you to use this tool at a basic level. For more advanced navigation, such as navigation over a great distance or navigation when a 

slight variation of degrees would offset your course, a greater understanding of the compass is necessary. For further reading and skill development, check out www.compassdude.com.