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Review: Offline Maps Applications

by on October 5th, 2010

As I briefly mentioned in my iPad travel recommendations a few weeks back, reducing your data usage while roaming can really help reduce costs on your trip. An offline maps application can really go a long way to do this.

One of the best offline maps app I’ve used to date is OffMaps by Felix Lamouroux. Like all offline maps applications, it’s powered by OpenStreetMap, and can tap into the iPads’s GPS to pinpoint your location on the map [for the 3G models]. What makes this app heads above tales compared to other free packages is its downloadable database of city guides and Wikipedia entries, as well as the different map styles you can choose from [I stuck to the traditional OpenStreetMap layout]. The app is well designed, and intuitive to use. If you choose to download maps for offline use, keep in mind that, generally speaking, map files can be pretty big, so give yourself plenty of time to download before you hit the road.

At $1.99, OffMaps is pretty good value. However, if you’re budget conscious, there are a number of free options available. Felix Lamouroux offers lite versions of his OffMaps app for free, catered to specific tourist destinations such as San Francisco, Paris and Berlin. If you need more flexibility in your app, though, there’s GeoMaps from Dirk Stichling. It offers much of the same capabilities as OffMaps like bookmarks and search, but includes a number of other map sources such as Microsoft Bing Maps, Cloudmade and NearMap. GeoMaps, however, is currently as an iPhone only application, but should still do the trick in a pinch.

Still not flexible enough? There’s one final solution. MultiPlans is a truly customizable offline maps app. With MultiPlans, you can import external maps from a wide range of sources, as well as even topographic maps when you’re really going off the grid. Also at $1.99, this app is definitely for the trekker and adventurer.

Compared to other maps, I find these three options to be of pretty good value. The $3.99 city specific guides tend to be overly pricey in comparison, and other “free” apps such as the Galileo Offline Maps feels somewhat bait-and-switch. Still, at the end of the day, do you often use a map application on the iPad? Or do you prefer the smartphone form factor when you need to get from Point A to Point B? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted under: App Store