Offline Maps for International Travel?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by clubvulgar, Aug 8, 2009.

  1. clubvulgar macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2008
    I am looking for an Offline Maps App to be used while I do some international traveling, to avoid AT&T's outrageous data roaming fees.

    In particular, I am looking for map coverage of Lisbon, Portugal. There are a few apps that claim to have offline map support, but they turn out only to be a small JPEG with poor resolution when you pinch-zoom in.

    I am looking for a map that has equal detail to the normal iPhone maps app when you zoom into street level. I basically just want to use this to help navigate, as opposed to buying a paper map.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jmann macrumors 604


    Dec 8, 2007
    bump on a log in a hole in the bottom of the sea
    If you are jailbroken you can download maps for offline use. MR's anjinhamarota lives there maybe she can give you some navigation tips. ;)
  3. clubvulgar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2008

    where would i find these maps?
  4. clubvulgar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2008
  5. ebika macrumors 6502

    Nov 17, 2008
    I use OffMaps. The UI is a little quirky but usable. I'd really prefer the double tap with one finger/double tap with two fingers for zooming in and out as opposed to the double tap with a single finger zoom in, also trigger HUD hiding/showing, and pinching for zooming out. The developer seems pretty active, so hopefully the app will keep improving.
  6. defender110 macrumors newbie

    Aug 20, 2009
  7. fredf macrumors 6502

    Oct 31, 2008
    The reviews of this product on the Canadian iTunes store aren't very good.
    And almost all reviewers agree it can not route very effectively.

    Roadee gets even worse reviews with almost all 1 star.

    So what is so good about these two apps that reviewers are missing?
  8. dehory macrumors regular


    Sep 17, 2008
    An Overview of Offline Maps Options

    Just returned from a long Spanish roadtrip with my iPhone as the sole navigation device and thought I'd share my experiences.

    First, the iPhone is PERFECT as a maps browsing device when travelling because it is so discreet and flexible. No signalling "HEY! LOOK PICKPOCKETS! I'M A TOURIST!" with a clunky fold-up paper map. No need to squint at tiny street names. No problems navigating in the dark. It's such a killer use of the iPhone that I'm surprised there doesn't seem to be more interest in this subject, and that there is to date no single best option for offline maps browsing abroad.

    As an aside, it'd be great if some enterprising hacker could somehow enable GPS reception in airplane mode. I kept the phone in airplane mode because I didn't want any roaming calls (and had read conflicting reports on the way calls forwarded to voicemail are charged while you're abroad). However, it seems to me that there's no reason why location services can't be enabled independently (much like WiFi post-OS 2.0).

    Onto the apps...

    Although OffMaps is great for the big cities (e.g. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia) and highways, I found OpenStreetMap (the source of its map tiles) to be mediocre at best, and usually more or less unusable, in smaller places. Even in a well-frequented and populated city like Seville, OSM is missing entire streets and street names (or even worse, is simply incorrect). The iffy quality of wiki map data also means that OffMaps's search function is very bad at recognising street names/addresses (much less POIs). It also cannot search street names at all offline, a real disadvantage that ultimately means it's not much more than a glorified image browser.

    It's worth noting that OffMaps has a beautifully implemented bookmark/waypoint function that even could learn from -- albeit one that's hampered by its poor address searching capabilities. I ended up having to create a Google map of restaurants, hotels, etc. and then manually adding the locations into OffMaps. It'd be amazing to have a way of integrating Google My Maps into the iPhone in an offline setting.

    The main benefit of xGPS (only available if you have jailbroken your phone) is that it sources its maps from Google. However, it has no real bookmarking function, is similarly handicapped with offline searches as OffMaps, and its maps download manager is both more complicated and less powerful than OffMaps's. Nonetheless, a good backup option for OffMaps.

    Navigon MobileNavigator may be a really good GPS navigation program, but for offline maps functionality, it is terrible. Really ugly map UI and incomprehensibly messy 2D maps. However, its database of POIs (handy when you're stuck somewhere without WiFi) was better than anything else I tried.

    I also took a quick look at CoPilot and Sygic on friends' phones for their 2D map browsing functionality, but they seemed no better, or perhaps even worse, than Navigon.

    Overall, TomTom was my choice for an offline maps app when outside big cities. Maps were not pretty, but more than serviceable. The ability to quickly plug in a street address, figure out exactly where you are, and then get walking navigation directions to another street address saved me A LOT of grief. As you use the app, though, it's pretty obvious that it wasn't designed for this purpose, and you have to go through several tedious menu steps to get it to work as a simple map browser.

    Any important app missing from this list? I noticed WikiMap, but it seems no better than OffMaps since it's also based on OSM data. Any thoughts on Magellan, Ndrive and G-Map as offline map browsers?
  9. dr34mc4st3r macrumors regular


    Aug 18, 2009
    im using offmaps, and for all its limitations and purposes, i still find it extremely useful. the key is to preplan what you want to do at a city first. the routing sucks lol. YMMV
  10. dehory macrumors regular


    Sep 17, 2008
    Yeah, OffMaps is definitely very useful. The key, like you say, is preplanning and checking that the map is adequate before you set out. At first, I assumed that OSM's data was as good as Google's. It was an unpleasant surprise to zoom in on a location only to discover that the street didn't exist in the database or was apparently named "FIX ME"... :D

    As for routing, I'd stick with navigation programs like TomTom, etc. for that. Neither xGPS and OffMaps worked for me.
  11. fredf macrumors 6502

    Oct 31, 2008
    I went on a cycling and then walking trip to Italy in October. I used MotionX GPS which uses OpenStreet maps.

    I guess I can't complain for $3. It did help me out a couple of times but honestly, the maps were pretty bad. The times I used it it was mainly to roughly position myself in a the general neighbourhood and which direction to walk in.

    The maps of Venice were almost useless, smaller towns even worse.

    One poster here said you just have to plan ahead. But that is easier said than done. If you want offline maps, you have to download all the possible maps you think you may need ahead of time. This is both arduous and a real guessing game.

    I wouldn't use anything other than a proper GPS program in the future. I'm just trying to decide which one. But OpenStreet aren't terribly good.
    And I don't think any of these programs allow searching for an address.

    Why not just get My Maps before you head out for $1.99 or spend the big bucks on a real program.
  12. hoylen macrumors newbie

    Dec 3, 2009
    Lonely Planet Travel Guides or OffMaps

    If you are just going to one city, Lisbon, then try the Lonely Planet iPhone City Guides. In addition to maps, it is also a travel guide. Test it out by first getting the Lonely Planet Travel Guides app for about US$0.99 (which currently comes with the San Francisco guide and a Mexican Spanish phrase book) and if you think the maps in the SF guide are what you want then buy the Lisbon guide as an in-app purchase.

    OffMaps is good too. Most people don't like it because of the variable quality in the maps, which is user generated (like Wikipedia). Have a look at to see what the coverage of Lisbon is like. The suburbs is not as well covered as the main city streets, but that might be more than sufficient for the places you will actually be visiting. It is not going to give you turn-by-turn navigation, but it is more than sufficient for giving you an idea of where you are so you won't get lost.

    One thing to be aware of: after moving a long distance, the iPhone GPS somehow needs a combination of GPS/GSM/3G/WiFi before it can locate itself. Strangely enough, GPS alone does not work. I had this problem recently with my iPhone 3GS (running 3.1.2) when travelling to several different countries. So don't be too surprised when you land and the iPhone cannot work out where it is: try switching on and off 3G, I find that sometimes works (but unfortunately not all the time). I think it depends on the local carrier you are connected to.
  13. dr34mc4st3r macrumors regular


    Aug 18, 2009
    true, i would say if i were to use offmaps for times when im going to random towns, i will probably say its not very useful. only preplanned and popular areas are more beneficial as the OSM data is more populated for those places.

    for me to be honest, i just need to set the pin at where's my hostel and where's the POIs manually before i set off and know which road am i now during the trip. as long i don't get lost, its a major plus :D POIs on the OSM itself is sparse though. but for usd2.99, it has given me a lot of utility and saved my ass a few times
  14. Gokunama macrumors 6502a


    Sep 13, 2008
    [app]World Map[/app] caches Google Maps offline, and you can get as much detail as you could with the Maps application. It can take a little time to load, and there aren't any bookmarks, so you'd have to zoom in everytime. Worked well enough ony trip though.

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