Travel App Review – OsmAnd for Android/iOS
In my years of traveling across countries and various cultures, I have always relied on locally available information or published data to make my way around. However, in recent times, with the ever-changing landscapes, it sometimes gets difficult to get to places without being aided by an updated map or best, an updated navigation app. Having used a famous global app for past 5 years and being a true fan to that brand I have often even cursed my luck in a non-network area while staring at a blank map on my screen.
Enter OsmAnd, an offline navigation app built for the Android. I chanced upon this on the Play Store and gave it a very apprehensive trial. Today, I have not only downloaded most of the world on it (Some more famous apps do not allow offline maps for many regions), but have now also tweaked it to show cooler stuff like parking slots, speed camera points etc.
OsmAnd Online maps are an extensive addition to already comprehensive base of OpenStreetMap the application uses. With this plugin, you can add layers to your map, from those with general information from a different source, like satellite view, hiking routes view to quite specific data like fire hydrants’ locations. You can also change the main source of the map from vector tiles. Once you have all the data, the same will keep showing the navigation even when you are offline or in a bad/zero network zone (as long as your phone GPS is working fine). Despite the plugin being called ‘Online Maps’, you can use the maps without the internet, as well. You just have to save the parts of maps (often called tiles) to use them later.
To do that, download a specific Map Creator tool developed by the same guys. Select the area you need to download, click Preload area, then set the smallest and the largest zoom levels you want to have and download tiles. Copy them to your phone’s OsmAnd/tiles/*tile type* folder. You’ll also need to go to Configure map – Overlay map and choose OsmAnd online tiles. Online tiles can be helpful when you need just a small section of map or when you need a specific type of map to use in the limited area, but don’t want to download the whole region. They can come in handy in endless situations.
I tested this app on my Mi A1 phone with data switched off and with day mode on (OsmAnd gives the option of having the day mode on even at night). Unlike some more famous siblings, the GPS locked on to my exact location instead of dancing around all over the area. I had downloaded Mumbai zone with POI layers (point of interest) and it showed every point clearly and not surprising, being open source and crowd developed is continuously updated. For example, I have noticed that within 2-3 days of an establishment coming into existence it shows up on the maps. The turns were well indicated and if online, alternate routes are immediately suggested after computing traffic and blockages. Having a voice control feature, it even told me that a fast food joint had shut for the day (impressive). You can create a new route using the Navigation option of the app. This tool is designed to help you find an optimal route according to your vehicle, personal requirements, etc. You can choose a car, bicycle or pedestrian mode, choose to avoid certain types of roads, etc. As soon as the route is built, you’ll get a turn-by-turn voice guidance. If you’d like to save the track of your movement, just turn the Trip recording plugin on and start a new GPX track before you proceed. I could save my trip for referring to it again later and also download a GPX track to follow.
Overall a great app to have alongside the one we love the most. I have placed two phones with one iPhone 6S Plus running the older & famous brother with 4G data and the other, my MiA1 running OsmAnd without data. Both showed very similar routes and estimated times, but the trick to download your favorite zones, layer them up using the various plug-ins available to suit your requirements and have a worry-free drive, especially in crazily expensive European regions where using data on roaming is a very expensive affair. Developers can freely contribute to the app and get rewarded in Bitcoins!! I guess that’s a fair and welcome way to earn for those who believe in the crypto currency story.
This review is of a personal nature and there is no commercial consideration involving the app developers, this magazine as well as the author of this article.