High Order Blog

Building a company from the bottom up.

Introducing GPS Tracks: Background Location Tracking for iPhone

with 22 comments

Today we’re excited to announce our latest iPhone app, GPS Tracks. Here’s the elevator pitch: it turns your iPhone into a full featured GPS tracking device. It records your location in real-time, taking advantage of multitasking in iOS 4 to continue recording even when you’re making a call or using other apps. Record as many track logs as you’d like, add waypoints as you travel, and export your data as universal GPX files when you’re done.

For only $1.99, your iPhone can completely replace a $100 dedicated GPS unit. Get it now on the iPhone App Store.

Here are some screenshots, or you can check out the website.

Live Track Log

Live Track Log

Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hike in Rocky Mountain

Saved Track Logs

Saved Track Logs

As with all of the software we’ve released so far, we made GPS Tracks because we wanted to use it ourselves. For example, I love geotagging my photos and seeing them overlaid on a map later, especially on the iPad. Unfortunately, just about the entire process of geotagging photos is incredibly clumsy. From carrying around a handheld GPS tracking device to the cumbersome task of post processing on the computer, it leaves a lot to be desired.

GPS Tracks helps make that process suck less. It completely replaces the need for a dedicated handheld GPS device, which is one less thing to carry around and keep track of. If you’ve got your phone in your pocket, you’re good to go. Better yet, GPS Tracks exports your data via email as GPX files, so it completely eliminates the cumbersome step of plugging the GPS device into the computer with a USB cable and sucking down the track information with a tool like GPSBabel.

This is my primary use for GPS Tracks, but yours might be completely different. For example, it can be used to track runs or bike rides. I live in Colorado and do a lot of hiking, and it’s great for recording my trip. I’ve used it to track the length of my morning runs, and to track my bike ride downtown. This winter I’ll be using it to track my days on the ski slopes. Since it’s a general purpose app that provides the same functionality as a handheld GPS device, it can replace one in just about every situation.

Add waypoints along the way, track elevation gain as well as distance, configure the accuracy of your GPS recording so you can find the right balance between accuracy and battery life, and lots more.

Read the full feature list and download it on the App Store now!

Written by John

July 1st, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Products

Tagged with , ,

  • http://twitter.com/pkruithof Peter Kruithof

    Great app, but for travelling I would like to see offline features: not needing a 3G or WiFi connection to determine my GPS position. Also, to preserve battery life it would be great if you could set the time interval for tracking my location. This is handy especially while travelling abroad, when data usage is extremely expensive, and when a connection is not always possible.

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the feedback! These are great suggestions and we'll definitely consider them for inclusion into future versions.


  • http://theredwing.blogspot.com/ Redwing 137

    I have to say that I love this app! It's (almost) exactly what I have been looking for for tracking my day-sailing trips. Here is my sailing blog http://theredwing.blogspot.com/. You can see that I have used it twice for sailing this year, Sail #8 and Sail #10. FOr sail #6 I used iNavX, a program I thought I was going to love, but didn't.

    But back to GPS Tracks. For some reason the app did not track my return voyage all the way back. It seemed to stop partway through. I did receive a long text message, but I didn't open the text until well after my sail. Have you heard of it shutting off? I don't think I was even running it in the background this time.

    And second, on your website you say that I can “add a custom waypoint” but it's not clear how I do that.

    And a great feature to add would be to enable us to import waypoints so we can create tracks or routes.


  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay


    Thanks for taking the time to give your feedback on GPS Tracks.

    With respect to the app not recording your trip back, there is no reason why the app would decide to “stop recording.” It's possible the app crashed on you, or that the operating system decided to kill it to free up memory, which it can do at any time and provides no warning.

    To eliminate the possibility that it crashed on you, you should check that you've updated to the latest version of GPS Tracks. To find out what version you have installed, tap Settings, then scroll down to GPS Tracks. You'll see the version number on that screen; it should be 1.0.1. There was a bug in how the track log was drawn in 1.0 that could cause a crash. There are no known crashes in 1.0.1.

    Again, it's also possible the operating system just decided to kill the app. This is always a risk with any iPhone app running in the background and there's nothing that can be done about it. I've never seen this happen in practice, however.

    If you're running 1.0.1 and still having problems, please let me know. I'm happy to help you work through them.

  • http://theredwing.blogspot.com/ Redwing 137

    Great! Thanks for the reply. It turns out that I did have the merely spectacular 1.0. And I just DLed the newest version, which I expect to be even more spectacular. I'll let you know how it goes; I'm psyched.

    Now about those waypoints?

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Right, forgot about the waypoints. While you're recording a track log, just tap the “+” button in the lower right hand corner. It will drop on your current location. You can then tap the pin on the map and drill in to view details, rename it, or delete it.

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Sorry, I meant to clarify something: the app will record your GPS position without a 3G or WiFi connection. It won't have the benefit of “assisted GPS,” where the phone uses its data connection to find an approximate location quickly before the GPS antenna is powered up and communicating with the satellites, but it will work eventually. If it's not working for you, please let us know.

    There are no offline maps, however. To view maps, you do need a data connection.

  • Rmdo02

    Used the app today and it works great. Just wondering how to change from metric to english…? Also, how do I reach other settings?

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    The settings for GPS Tracks are in the built-in Settings app. From the iPhone home screen, tap Settings, then scroll down to GPS Tracks. You can access the app's settings there, including changing the units from metric to English.

  • Redwing137

    I just sent a post on twitter and included #gpstracks, but I'm not sure you'd see it (since I am barely twit-literate (twiterate?)), so I'm putting a message here. Soon I will write a love letter to gpstracks on my blog, but until then, here's a post with an image from our 14 mile sail: http://theredwing.blogspot.com/2010/07/12-14-mi

    great app!

  • Tom Maynor

    Just got the app and tried it our to tag photos in Arapaho National Forest. The file imported to Aperture easily. Only issue was the time stamping. It seems to be one hour off. Camera and phone times are in sync. Is this a Daylight savings issue? Where does the app get its time info? Phone? or Sat?

  • Anonymous

    can i get the sample source code for it….

  • http://www.drivengps.com/ handheld gps


    I liked GPS Tracks and Background Location Tracking for iPhone

  • http://www.gpscardvd.com gps dvd

    GPS is used by nearly a billion people worldwide for everything from farming and aviation to public safety.

  • http://twitter.com/brokenground brokenground

    Hi – have just downloaded your app. It is potentially exactly what I was looking for. I am about to head off on vacation in vietnam for 12 days and I was hoping to set your app running and basically forget about it until I returned. The sample rate appears to be 1/sec? I presume there would be no problems with a sample set of ~1,000,000 (60x60x24x12 days)? Are there any limitations on what other apps I can run (ie will a cpu intensive app like Google Earth cause problems with GPS Tracks running in background?). If the app encounters a problem, is any previously recorded data lost or is it all written to the flash drive on the fly? Thanks in advance for any advice, Craig

  • brokenground

    Hi – update. I have tried using your app. I start a track, go back to home screen, then lock the iphone. When I unlocked 30min later noticed the gps icon was off. Went back to GPS tracks and had following message ‘Tracking Failed’ ‘The operation couldn’t be completed. (kCLErrorDomain error 0.)’

    regards, Craig

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Hi Craig,

    The iPhone manages which apps it will allow to run in the background. If you’re running a memory-intensive app like Google Earth, the iPhone OS might start killing apps that are running in the background if it needs to free more memory. The OS doesn’t give other apps any opportunity to stop itself from being killed and doesn’t receive a notification that it will be killed. This isn’t typically a problem under normal use, though.

    If it does happen though the app will save all data that was recorded up until it was terminated.

    Please let me know if there are any other questions I can help you with. Also feel free to email me at contact@highorderbit.com.

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Strange. Did you happen into an area where you might have lost GPS coverage? As I mentioned in my other comment, feel free to email me at contact@highorderbit.com if you’d like to discuss further.

  • Kitchdt

    I am looking for a GPS tracking program for use on an ATV. I want to track and log a trail and then be able to following the logged trail again later. This of course will be off road trails. Will this program work for that? Thanks.

  • Khh008

    Does this app allow me to set the sample rate by myself? I mean I want to record my track several ways like every hour or every minute or so.

  • http://highorderbit.com John A. Debay

    Unfortunately it does not, though that’s a feature we’d like to include in a future version.

  • Kent

    Hey there, I have your GPS tracks software and really love how it works for tracking my runs. However the past two times I have gone for a run it hasn’t saved my Track to the Saved Tracks list. Could you let me know why this is happening? I only have 8 tracks saved, but every time I try it now it doesn’t save my tracks. This is very frustrating. Any tips would be great!