Tale of the Tape: Tape Measure vs. Measuring Apps

Tale of the Tape: Tape Measure vs. Measuring Apps

Emily Stears
Sep 12, 2011

The old tape measure is a must have for any serial DIYer. Although it is our trusty friend, it can at times be an awkward little tool which bends uncontrollably, tangles and springs back into its case when you least want it too. So we're thinking it's time to update to a digital solution, available at the press of a button, without the hassles listed. But are they up to the task?

Dot Measure Free: Here's a useful app if you've ever wanted to get a measurement of a room or the distance from one end to another. Dot Measure Free measures the distance to the red dot displayed on the iPhone screen. It's fairly accurate in our testing in consistent and even lighting, but shadows and bright sunlight can sometimes affect measurements. But otherwise it's quite handy and a useful tool for figuring out square footage (renters and new home buyers might like this app).

We've found three services to replace the old tape measure and make your measuring, planning and designing much easier than before:

Smart Measure Pro: The first is a US$ 0.98 android app created by a developer called "Android Boy". It's Smart Measure Pro, a point and shoot measuring tool which is very accurate. You will need to calibrate your smartphone before using this app, by entering some information such as the height at which you hold it. This app will measure the distance and the height of an object by trigonometry. The effective distance is about 1-50m.

To measure the height of something, simply point your camera phone at the base of the object, take a picture and then point at the very top of the object and take another picture.

Smart Measure Lite (the free version): downloaded over 250,000 times and part of a range of "Smart Tools" apps, including Metal Detector, Sound Level Meter, and Smart Compass Lite.

Our second find was RulerPhone, currently available for the iPhone and iPod Touch for US$ 3.99. This app can measure the distance between any object and your iPhone, and it can save all your measurements to your photo library. To calibrate the app you will need to point your camera at a credit card or credit card-seized object and adjust the ruler to the limits of the card.

This app is available in Spanish, French, Dutch, Chinese, and German and supports imperial and metric measurements. If you just want to try it out, there is a free Lite version available for download which will allow you to measure anything up to 1.5 feet.

Multi Measures : a more complete app for all your DIY projects, available for $1.99; you get six tools and another iPhone app, developed by Skypaw. This app includes a Protractor, Ruler, Surface level, Spirit Level, Plumb Bob and a Seismometer. To operate this app, you just slide your finger around the screen and move the wheel round to the tool you require.

The Protractor measures any kind of angle, the Ruler measures lengths in cm and inch, the Surface Level measures the sloped surface of areas such as gardens and drive ways, while the Spirit Level tells you if the surface of items like bookshelves and tables are level. Another two tools in this app are the Plumb Bob which takes a vertical line from one point to another, and the Seismometer, a great tool which detects and displays visually any vibration. Great to see if you drive smoothly, or if your washing machine moves too much.

All the features are easy to use with the onscreen help, and have calibrate and lock screen buttons.

All the apps above need to be calibrated correctly to be accurate. Thus, we discovered even though these apps are extremely handy and helpful, you'll still probably want a good ole fashioned tape measure to check your readings.

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