ESRI have just launched their ArcGIS for iPhone Application. I have tested it out and thought I would share a my first impressions. I conducted the test on my iPhone 3GS running software version 4.0.1 and with 1 to 3 bars of 3G signal.
Overall I found the app to be very impressive. You are greeted with a world map that you can instantly interact with by panning and zooming in the usual way.
The map tiles loaded surprisingly quickly- it took approx 5 seconds to zoom from the above view to building level with only 1 bar of signal.
Users can search for places of interest…
…but this provided the only disappointment with the map appearing to lack the required data.
Zooming out a little resolved this problem, but I am not sure how many people would think to do this. I suspect the problem is relatively easily addressed and may well be in future updates. Offering standard maps is not particularly innovative and not what the app sets out to achieve. The real innovation is the ability to view layers available from the ArcGIS.com website. You can, for example, use OpenStreetMap as the base map
or overlay additional information, in this case the Gulf Oil Spill Forecast:
Navigation to layers is straightforward:
I especially like the fact that users can add their own servers and also bookmark their favourite layers. On top of these features users can measure distances and calculate areas.
I found these tools to be extremely intuitive and I expect they will become an integral part to many field based introductory GIS courses. In a recent talk I attended, Jack Dangermond said that GIS software in the past was made to be complicated. With this application ESRI have demonstrated that GIS can be made to be easy. I think all who use this app both from within and beyond GIS with be genuinely impressed.
**I have just discovered a more in depth review worth reading from James Fee’s GIS blog.**