Add a compass to Android with Holo Compass

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 22, 2013
Updated • Jan 22, 2013
Apps, Google Android

A compass is a relic of the past in times where GPS seems to be all-present, right? Wrong. While you may use GPS for a lot of things, it requires that your phone, tablet or other type of electronic device is connected to a network to retrieve data about its position. If there is no network to get the data from, for instance if you just crashed with a plane in Antarctica or the Brazilian rain forest, you may need other means of orientation and a compass is one of them.

It is a navigational instrument that will tell you which direction you are currently facing, and direction in this case means north, east, south or west.

Most modern smartphones have so called magnetometers built into them for that purpose. They are not a new invention by any mean, with the first one being attributed to German mathematician and scientist Gauss in 1833.  Some compasses display directions in degrees with 0° referring to North, 90° to East, 180° to South and 270° to West.

Holo Compass is an application for Android that adds abilities to use the phone as a compass to the device. It may use a somewhat strange looking interpretation of a compass but it all makes sense once you look at its interface in detail.

The marking in degree that is showing up in the middle highlights the direction you are heading at that moment in time. The 69° for instance tells you that you are heading east more or less which is also indicated by the blue E icon at the bottom. If you would turn north, you'd notice that N and E become available and then finally only N indicating that you are now facing North. The black marker highlights the direction you are facing as well.

The app is compatible with all versions of Android from 2.2 on.


What I like about Holo Compass is that it does not require any rights to run on the phone. I checked up other compass applications for Android and all of them seem to require at least some rights to run. If there is anything I wish the app to include, it would be an option to lock a desired direction in to receive warnings if you wander astray.


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  1. rob said on January 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    not that i can tell, i’d uninstall it if i thought it did. i haven’t used it a lot but hope to be able to play with it more when i travel to london next month.

  2. DanTe said on January 22, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    As someone who went through a lot of compass watches with magnetometers, I would warn against putting your phones on top of or near radios, and any other such devices. I’ve ruined a lot of expensive watches this way when I just put them on a hotel table without realizing a radio is built into the desk.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 22, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Interesting, did not know that.

  3. rob said on January 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    it’s much more ‘busy’ but i use this one:

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Looks really nice, does it drain a lot of battery?

  4. Virtualguy said on January 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    “… plan in Antarctica…” should be “plane…”

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks corrected.

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