For maps and Navigation, Google Maps has become the default choice for many people. Though, it has accurate information and best navigational routes, it still lacks certain features especially complete offline availability which is very much required when you have little or no network service.
Google did roll out a feature to download maps in November 2015. However, there were certain limitations with it – The downloaded Google maps are available only for 30 days and then will get automatically deleted. Also, downloading is not available for all regions because of Google’s contracts with third parties.
Google Maps also tracks your location and keeps a history of your movement. So it is not a good solution if you are concerned with your privacy.
As such, OpenSteetMap is the better alternative for offline maps. It is open source competitor to Google Maps and is run by a non-profit organization which aims to provide free editable maps for the entire world. Open Street Map is like Wikipedia for maps, where thousands of volunteers help in creating detailed maps.
Best App for Open Street Offline Maps
For Android and iOS, there are several apps which use open-source, collaborated data from OpenStreetMap. Out of these apps, we chose the best offline maps app for mobiles.
However, Maps.me is easy to use, offers better search results and overall experience. The offline navigation and location sharing are swift and its UI is better than OSMand. It is also available for Blackberry and other mobile platforms.
Once you download and open the app, you’ll be told to download a map of the state or country you’re residing in. Or else you just need to zoom in into any state or country, and it will ask you whether you want to download the map of that region with or without routes. Good thing, the size of the respective downloads are also mentioned.
How Maps.Me is better than OSMand and Google Maps?
- You don’t have any limitations of regions or countries to download as in Google Maps. You can download detailed world map if you want.
- You can save money on roaming charges as you don’t need an internet connection.
- Zoom in and out works quite smooth and fast, unlike you get blank grey squares in Google Maps.
- Offline navigation provides turn by turn directions to reach your destination. The map never freezes too.
- All points of interest are with a high level of detailed information, same as Google Maps.
- Detailed categories and autosuggestion when searching offline makes it easier in comparison with Google Maps which only supports traditional search.
- You can add any place to bookmarks and share your bookmarks with different apps. Also, you can even import bookmarks from other maps.
While the download for this app data is actually quite massive and may be slow on some connections, once you’ve downloaded it, it’s there for good. You can keep full GPS navigation capabilities, sans the internet connection, no matter where you are or how you’re getting around.
Some Limitations with Maps.Me or OpenStreetMap
Since OpenStreetMap relies on governments, community, and volunteers for creating maps, we may not have detailed information for under-developed countries. However, for developed countries, it has information at par with Google Maps.
Additionally, you may have to download more areas than required due to boundary limitations. For example, notice the large blank section of the map in the above screenshot. This is there because while I do live in Georgia, I actually live very close to the state border to Alabama. The map to Alabama is a separate download that I will have to do to keep full navigation in my area. Ultimately a minor downside, but still one worth noting.
For users without mobile service, or spotty reception, or who are getting ready to go on a vacation abroad, consider trying out Maps.Me. You will have full access to navigation capabilities even while you’re out and don’t have an Internet access. As long as you have a smartphone, you don’t need to invest in troublesome paper maps in this day. The power of good, old-fashioned offline applications hasn’t gone away just yet. You can download Maps.Me for your smartphone from here.
Note: While this application is used offline, it’s important to note that initial download and setup of the areas for which you want maps will require an internet connection.