Thursday, July 16, 2009

OffMaps for iPhone review

On my recent trip to Amsterdam for the OpenStreetMap State of the Map conference, I made extensive use of the OffMaps mapping application for the iPhone - which incidentally uses OpenStreetMap data. The big advantage of OffMaps compared to the standard Google Maps application is that it can run offline, which is really important if you are going abroad, as data usage charges make it prohibitively expensive to use an online mapping application (you quickly get into hundreds of dollars worth of data charges!). The functionality is fairly simple - currently it's basically map display, without routing or search for points of interest (though these things are planned for the future, I heard from Felix Lamouroux, the main developer, who I met at the conference). But it makes good use of the GPS and the compass in the iPhone 3GS, which make it very intuitive and easy to use when walking around. Performance is very good since all the data is local. There is a simple interface for choosing the data to download and store locally (which you want to do ahead of time when you're at home, or connected via WiFi). You can run it in an online mode too, where it will dynamically fetch data over the network if it isn't already stored locally.

The OpenStreetMap maps for Amsterdam were very good quality and nice looking. This application illustrates one of the key advantages of OpenStreetMap over Google Maps and other commercial solutions, which is that Google licensing prohibits you from using the data offline. This fact, plus the availability of the Cloudmade iPhone Maps Library, is making OpenStreetMap data a popular option for mapping applications on the iPhone - just today, Dopplr announced a new iPhone application which also uses OpenStreetMap data (though strangely it uses different rendering from the other applications I've tried, and none of the freeways in Denver show up, though they do in the other applications - but I'm sure that will be fixed shortly).

So I would strongly recommend OffMaps, especially if you're going on an overseas trip - I am currently downloading data for Vancouver in preparation for my upcoming trip to GeoWeb, so if you're there and want to check it out please ask me and I'll show you!

1 comment:

Poul Wittig said...

OffMaps is great especially combined with the compass feature in the new iPhone 3GS!