Whichever phone you own, there’s a good chance that the pre-installed mapping application is of a decent standard. For the majority of people, it will be perfectly capable of getting you from A to B and back again. One benefit of Android as a platform in fact is the tight integration with Google’s own Maps app. If you require more advanced or specific functionality, you can always turn to Google Play and find a slew of apps that aid you in arriving at your destination.
Lacking in most maps applications, though, is any guidance once you get to your desired location. Cartogram is a mapping app that aims to solve this with its detailed layouts of buildings and searchable indoor maps. We’ve taken it for a spin to see how well it works.
When first opening Cartogram, you will be guided through the app and its functions with a tutorial. This gets you up to speed with the app quickly and gives you an understanding of its features and how it works.
Using Cartogram for navigating indoors is as simple as using other mapping applications for navigating outdoors. You are given the floor plan for the building you are in as well as points of interest. A great way to see how powerful Cartogram is using it at the mall. With support for multiple floors, the app can show you the mall layout across all floors with stores labelled for easy browsing. With search, you can type in the desired store, drop a pin and have the app provide walking turn-by-turn navigation to its location. The UI will most certainly feel familiar if you’ve used other apps for navigating, and that’s intentional.
With just this feature, Cartogram is really useful and means you don’t need to fumble around with paper maps or seek out a fixed map board showing you your current location.
Being on your internet-connected phone, Cartogram can (and does) go further, though. Not only can you search for stores, you can also search within them. After a particular product that is available in multiple locations? You can use Cartogram to teach for it and seek out the best price without needing to browse each store and compare for yourself. This is a very cool feature and was pretty accurate in the locations I tested in, and I would hope that prices, locations and offers were kept updated consistently. I don’t know about you, but the less time I can spend trailing around the mall, the better and I can imagine how much more efficient this could make my shopping trips.
Another useful feature of Cartogram is the ability to share your location with others — even if they do not have the app installed — making it easy for you to meet up. If they have the app installed, they can see your location within the app. If not, the app generates a link to the web that can be viewed on any browser with your location pinpointed on a Google map. Making it possible to share with people outside of the app is a great benefit as not everyone will have this app installed.
Cartogram’s features can be used without the need to create an account, but there are benefits to doing so, the main one being in-app chat and the ability to see each others’ location and arrange a meeting place without leaving the app. You can log in using your email address or Facebook account — I’d like to see Google account or Twitter added to that list, too.
The app operates smoothly and was pretty much bug free in my experience. In terms of design, Cartogram is fairly plain and uninspiring. It’s utilitarian in most respects — it does its job with little in the way of visual flourish. This focus on utility is representative of the app on the whole. Cartogram wants to be the most useful indoor mapping app, and doesn’t try to do things outside of that remit (which I prefer, personally).
Cartogram doesn’t have support for everywhere yet. It has 10,000+ maps — and the team is constantly adding more — but the app is US-only currently and of course covers only a small portion of the possible locations as of yet.
If you are looking for a solid indoor mapping app, definitely try out Cartogram. Its focused approach means it does one thing well and, while I feel it could do with a design refresh, I can see wide-ranging applications for Cartogram from shopping malls and events to sports venues, health resorts and more.