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As mentioned earlier in this chapter, with the iPhone 3GS and later, Apple included a built-in digital compass. This compass is what allows the iPhone to, among other things, show you which way you're currently facing in the Maps app but it also powers the included Compass app. As you can see, the Compass app is designed to look and act like a real compass, and it acts like a real compass because it is a real compass running off a real magnetometer. So as you rotate the iPhone around, the compass continues to point North while also displaying the current heading as well as the current longitude and latitude position.
Now if you're familiar with using compasses you know there's a difference between True north and Magnetic North. Magnetic North is where traditional compasses point towards, which happens to be about 11 degrees shy of True North, which is where the most northern point of the Earth axis lies. If you have a strong preference one way or the other, tap the Info button and choose either True or Magnetic North, then tap Done. Really though, I doubt most iPhone users are using the Compass app for much other than showing off this cool feature of their phone. I don't know many people who even know how to navigate with a compass anymore.
But if you do know how to use a compass, this can be an incredibly useful app to have. Where the compass really comes in handy for most people is when it's used in conjunction with Maps, which you can access directly from the Compass app by tapping the Locate button. That opens the Maps app and in here I tap the Locate button twice and just like that the Map rotates to reflect the direction I'm currently facing, which can be a great help in a strange city where tall buildings can otherwise make it impossible to figure out which way you're facing. Now a quick note here, because the iPhone's digital compass is essentially a magnetic field sensor, it can be thrown off if you're trying to use it in your large mass of metal like a car or anything magnetic like a large set of PA speakers.
In those cases, you may see a message pop up in either the Compass app or in Maps telling you that the compass is experiencing interference and to wave the iPhone in a figure-eight motion. This helps the iPhone get a better idea of exactly where it is. And if you can try to move away from the source of the interference, which can be kind of hard to do if you're in a car, but you can move the iPhone away from your doors and car speakers, which could help with the interference.
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