Google Navigation for Android is one of the best map solutions you can get in the palm of your hand, but what if you don’t have a data connection? Whether you’re traveling abroad, using a Wi-Fi-only Android tablet, or just looking to use less data on your phone, you can use one of these map applications to see where you are and get navigation directions.
If you start digging through Google Play for offline GPS apps, you’ll find a lot of poor-quality free apps and high-quality apps that cost money. We’ve done the digging for you and found the best free options
Google Maps has built-in support for offline maps. This feature lets you download a map area to your Android, so you can view it without a data connection. This was previously a labs feature with a variety of bugs, but it’s now solid and stable.
However, there’s one significant limitation: Only map tiles are downloaded. You can’t search for points of interest or get navigation directions offline.
To download a map area for offline use, launch Google Maps, tap the menu button, and select Make available offline.
Zoom and pan around the map with your fingers until the map area you want to use offline is within the square. When it is, tap Done.
Google Maps will download the map area for offline use. You can view your offline maps by opening the My Places screen and swiping to the Offline category.
While offline, you can open Google Maps and use your GPS to see where you are, including a detailed map of nearby streets and some landmarks. While you can’t get directions while offline, you can ask for directions while you’re online and then go offline, using the directions to get where you’re going without a data connection.
OsmAnd is a full GPS application that offers turn-by-turn directions and an offline point-of-interest database. It also has other features that you might be accustomed to from GPS devices, including spoken directions.
OsmAnd uses OpenStreetMap data. You’ll need to download map files to your device when you first use the app. The free version allows you to download ten map files for free, which should be more than enough for most people.
OsmAnd allows you to navigate to locations by address or by searching a point-of-interest database. It will also speak turn-by-turn directions to you so you can follow them while driving, just as you could with a dedicated GPS unit. OsmAnd isn’t just for driving, but also offers walking, biking, and some public transit directions.
Navfree is another free offline GPS app that depends on OpenStreetMap data. Like OsmAnd, it offers turn-by-turn directions, offline point-of-interest search, and spoken directions.
Its main screen looks very similar to a dedicated GPS unit. Some of the features, like the Google Search feature, require a data connection, but the basic map-viewing, navigation and point-of-interest features don’t.
Both OsmAnd and Navfree are solid, well-put-together, and full-featured apps. They use the same map data, so which app you prefer will depend on which interface you like best.
The above options aren’t the only offline map apps for Android. If you’re looking for a simple offline map app that isn’t Google Maps, try MapDroyd. MapDroyd uses the same OpenStreetMap data as Navfree, but it doesn’t provide point-of-interest or turn-by-turn navigation features. It’s a small, simple application — it’ll show you a map and display your location on it.
MapDroyd’s strength is its small map data. It also lets you download smaller areas of map data instead of entire countries, saving space on your device’s storage. While point-of-interest search isn’t available, you will see some locations and landmarks if you zoom in far enough.
If you’re travelling — or you happen to live in a big city that’s supported — TripAdvisor’s travel guides are also excellent, free apps. They can be used entirely offline and include maps with GPS and the ability to display nearby useful landmarks, from subway stations and ATMs to restaurants and attractions. These apps even include reviews so you can read up on a restaurant before dining there, and full maps of subway lines in the area so you can easily find your away around — all offline.
Have you tried any of these apps, or do you know a better one? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
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