Sunday, February 5, 2012

Offline mapping with Android - App Reviews - part 2

This is part two of my review of some Android Apps that have offline maps. Part 1.

Testing in the field or on the road sorts out what works and what doesn't. After the first pass I had three Android Apps to try:

    Google Maps

I gave all three a fair test, and versus the incumbent, the Nokia N73 plus Bluetooth GPS receiver.

First up, MapDroyd. Did the lack of detail control count it out? Well, it does not get off to a good start. Surely there are _some_ roads in the USA, Canada or Mexico?

and maybe one road that goes from LA to Las Vegas?

Zooming in, its the same problem. Here's an example where I've tried to get the amount of the city showing to be the same - you need to allow for different aspect ratios of course, so I've tried to fit the width.

and that, in a nutshell is MapDroyd's problem. If it had no competition, then you could use it, because its not a bad App in itself.

Second up, Google Maps. First the good news. When you are in a cached area, it works just like you are used to.

Detail is nice. The bad news is the caching. I was unable to tell when I was in a cached area, and when the cache would run out.

Third up, OSMand, and it really is a case of the best for last. Detail is good, and after trying all three for a day, it became the only App I used for the rest of the trip. I can't get the zoom quite the same for a fair visual / zoom comparison, but I don't need to - its just plain better.

A handy feature is that it records to GPSx track all the while its running which is useful if you want to geocode your photos for example. I'm not sure its a replacement for MyTracks - will need to test further.

It does have the idiosyncracy of the whole map disappearing at zoom level 6 with an error message that I was not able to use to fix.

And it doesn't really do routing either, just gives you a pointer for the direction you need to go. If you are flying, or trekking cross-country it might be all you need.

So the final scores:

Google Maps: 4
MapDroyd: 7
OSMand: 8.5

Sorry Google, the whole offline caching thing is just not working well. And its not a competition solely against other offline maps, its against the N73, and the N73 just works.

MapDroyd. If that was the only option, it would be useable, just not as good as the N73. I cannot see why it works this way, when on the new Android devices there is so much more screen area to play with.

OSMand: the clear winner, though some eccentricities keep it from scoring higher.


previouslysilent said...

no mention of copilot at all?

they sometimes have heavy discounts on it. it's a fair price for the USA maps US$10, but European ones about US$75, ouch!

Unknown said...

"no mention of copilot at all?"

Nope, because I'm comparing against something I already own and is therefore free.

So only free Apps were considered.