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iFootpath Expert: How to use less or no mobile data when following a walk with the iFootpath App

The iFootpath App gives you access to hundreds of detailed walking guides with GPS powered maps showing your location and the walking guide route.  More than 90,000 people use iFootpath walking guides but some potential users are put off by the perception that the App requires lots of data and an internet connection to operate. This article explains a little more about how the iFootpath App works and how a user can follow an iFootpath walking guide using little or no data.


What is the iFootpath App and why is it different to a website

First, let's just look at the basics of the iFootpath App. An App is downloaded to your smart device and is a stand-alone piece of software. It is operating system specific. - e.g. Android or iOS/Apple and can provide detailed information as well as carry out complex calculations and reporting. Most importantly an App can run on a device without a connection to the internet (or a mobile phone signal). In contrast, a traditional website, including those optimised for tablets and smartphones, does require a connection to the internet and requires additional software (a browser App such as Chrome) to run.

This means that following a walking guide using an App (like iFootpath) uses much less data than viewing a walking guide on a website. Indeed, once you are following a downloaded walk on the iFootpath App the only data usage is for refreshing the background map as you zoom or pan. An App, such as iFootpath can also utilise some of the built-in features of smartphones and tablets such as the GPS receiver and compass to provide the user with additional benefits such as plotting the user's location live on a map.


When do you need an internet connection to use iFootpath?

An internet connection is required for the following activities. All of which can be carried out before following a walk on the iFootpath App.

1 - Downloading the iFootpath App from an App store - Apple App Store, Google Play, Amazon, etc.

2 - Creating an iFootpath account and logging into iFootpath. This means connecting to the iFootpath IT infrastructure where all of the walk information is stored. The iFootpath App and your device cannot store all of the walks, they have to be downloaded to your device as the more than 1,200 walks would use up all your device's storage. You will also want to use the most up to date version of the walk (unlike a book of walks). See iFootpath Expert: Refresh for Success

3 - Searching for walks on the App by location, walk type, etc. When you search for a walk you connect to the iFootpath servers and search through the iFootpath database according to your search criteria. The high-level walk information is then sent to your device. To learn more about searching for walks try iFootpath Expert: Searching for Walks on the iFootpath App

4 - Downloading your chosen walk to your device. When you tap the Download button, all the latest information about that walk - narrative, pictures and route (GPX track) is downloaded to your device. This information is now stored on your account. The only information that is not stored is the background map tiles from Google or Apple - more about that later.

5 - Some other iFootpath features also require an internet connection including viewing Favourite and Completed walks, Refresh a walk, leaving walk Comments and uploading pictures to the Gallery.

You can find out more about using the iFootpath App from the iFootpath App User Guide and our Help Centre


But don't I need an internet (or mobile phone signal) to use the live location?

The GPS receiver installed in smartphones and tablets does not require you to be connected to the internet for it to work. GPS data is received by the device as long as it can 'see' the satellite. The confusion about this seems to lie in two areas. First, only iPads with a mobile/cellular connection have a built-in GPS receiver - this is simply because Apple only makes iPads with both cellular and GPS connectivity - you cannot buy one without the other. But you do not need a mobile signal for GPS to work. Second, the GPS feature is sometimes referred to as 'assisted GPS'. By assisted GPS, Apple means that the GPS receiver in the iPad can use nearby mobile phone towers to provide a faster position lock (what engineers call “time to first fix”). Instead of starting up cold and searching for satellites, which can take up to a few minutes in some cases, the iPad knows right where to look. With a hot start like this, your iPad can find its position in just seconds. You can find out more about GPS and how it works from iFootpath Expert: The Joy of GPS

Now here is the trick to making sure that you have all the information needed to follow an iFootpath walk on the App without using any data.

A - Download the walk to your device whilst connected to WiFi and have a look through - see 4 above. In particular, open the Map and take a look at the route. Zoom in and out and you will cache (temporary save) the map tiles to your device.

B - Do not close the App, this will clear the cached Map tiles. Just to say, also never log out of the iFootpath App - logging out deletes all the walk data that is stored on your device. You can use other Apps meanwhile as iFootpath will just sit in the background waiting.

C - Next go for your walk... just open that iFootpath App on the walk page when you arrive and you will see the walk directions and the cached map. Even if the Map has not fully cached you will see the Route and your location (blue dot) on a blank background - not perfect but you can see if you are off route and the direction you need to walk to get back on track.


How can I prevent iFootpath (or my device) from using data when I am out on a walk? 

If you have followed the procedure above you will have all the information on your device to follow and iFootpath walk, including map tiles. However, we do know that map tiles can sometimes reload as you change the view and some devices may also use an internet connection to enhance location services. You may also just want to prevent your device using any data full stop (perhaps if you are visiting from outside of the UK and do not have a data package for example). So here are a few tips.

Data screens
1 - Use a device with an inactive sim card. You do not need to have a live sim card in your device. Your device will probably not work if you remove your sim card but if you have a device that you no longer use (an old phone that you have put in the draw following an upgrade) or a device with a sim card that is not connected (e.g. tablet) you can still use the device to follow the walk without using data. Just install the iFootopath App, login and download the walk whilst connected to WiFi. Remember GPS will still work - but make sure that you have Location Services on.

2 - Turn off all mobile data on your device. Both Apple and Android operating systems allow you to switch all data off. This is a good way to save data - but of course, it means that all data services are off - some forms of text, social media, etc.will not work. Remember to turn it back on again. This does not affect data when connected to WiFi.
For Apple/iOS devices - launch the Settings App, tap Mobile Data (Cellular Data if outside of the UK), then toggle Mobile (Cellular) Data off.
For Android devices - swipe down starting at the top of the screen, and then tap Settings, select Data Usage and toggle this switch off.

3 - You can also just turn mobile data off for specific Apps. This can be a better solution if you want to limit data rather than turn it off altogether.
For iOS/Apple devices - launch Settings, tap Mobile Data and then scroll down to find the App that you want to data off for.
For Android devices (not all Apps and devices allow this)- swipe down starting at the top of the screen, and then tap Settings. Scroll down to view Apps, tap to open and then tap App Settings.


We hope that provides some insight into how data is used by the iFootpath App and how best to reduce your data usage should you need to. You can find more help on this subject and other aspects of ifootpath by visiting our Help Centre. 


Further reading:

Five Walking Guide App Myths….


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Sunday, 18 November 2018
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