"What's that peak? Wait, don't tell me..."
"What's that peak? Wait, don't tell me..."

Peak 2.0 software identifies mountains with your iPhone

If you're a mountain lover like us, you've probably looked toward a mountain-studded horizon and wished you could know the names of all the peaks instantly. Now you can, sort of: Software developer Augmented Outdoors just released Peaks 2.0 for iPhone.

The premise is simple. You hold your phone up to the view, and the software coordinates GPS and compass readings with a peak database to determine the prominent peaks you're looking at. It lists name, altitude, and distance to the summit in a gray pop-up box that appears just above the peak. Users can then take a pic or instantly Twitter that photo to make poor sods stuck in offices jealous.

It lists name, altitude, and distance to the summit in a gray pop-up box that appears just above the peak. Users can then take a pic or instantly Twitter that photo to make poor sods stuck in offices jealous.

(Note: Of course you can usually figure this out with orienteering skills and a topo, but that takes forever when you just want to know the name of a peak. Plus, it's a major pain in the ass in a moving car.)

So here's the big question: Does it work? Mostly. While testing on known ranges, prominent peaks get identified pretty reliably, and accuracy as to location is good. The whiz-bang factor of whipping out your iPhone and figuring out what a mountain is on the spot is a unique pleasure tailor-made for an iPhone.

That's not to say it's perfect. The sensitive compass requires regular re-calibration (accomplished with an awkward figure-8 movement of the phone), and when you pan across the view, mountain labels jump around and take a second to reorient. Also, in places where multiple mountains crowd a horizon, labels can overlap and obscure each other. Depending on your viewpoint, labels sometimes block a peak rather than hover above it, which can be annoying.

At $2.99, though, these are all quibbles. It's not really of much technical use in the backcountry (iPhone battery life ensures that), but as a casual tool, it's tons of fun. Plus, the next time some tourist at a mountain overlook wonders aloud what the mountains are called, you can be that annoying guy/gal who tells 'em each and every one.

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