Best Free Offline Maps Application for Android

I wanted to use my Android device for GPS offline mapping to avoid paying excessive roaming fees abroad. It turned out that is not only difficult to filter the appropriate maps app out of dozens which are available on the Android Market (an overview is given here), but also that there are only few usable solutions. Usable means: simple, fast and bug-free. Here is what I recommend.

As far as I know, there is only a single free app which you can just install and go: MapDroyd. After installing you select the regions for which you want offline maps. The program then downloads them automatically. The app uses its own format for Maps (MicroMap Format) optimized for mobile devices. Since it uses vectorized data the maps are not large. However, the program only shows the map – no navigation nor POIs. If you are willing to pay a few dollars, there is a version supporting navigation called NavDroyd.

If you want both for free, you should opt for OsmAnd. It provides navigation, search for addresses and POIs. The latter can be downloaded from within the program. The drawback is that you have to create the maps manually and load them on your android device beforehand (HowTo). You can use the free tool MobileAtlasCreator to do so. Also download this Java Library and store it in the same directory as the Creator. The program lets you select the area which you want the maps for as well as the source of the mapping data (OSM Mapnik recommended). Since it uses tiled images which have to be created for different zoom levels, maps tend to be much larger than for vectorized data.  I used zoom levels 0 to 16. Note that the size of zoom level 16 images is bigger than 0 to 15 together and that OsmAnd interpolates +2 zoomlevels from a smaller one. Do not forget to press Add Selection in the MobileAtlasCreator and to select Big Planet Tracks SQLite Format Рit will save you huge amounts of effective space  on the SD card. Warning: Map download and creation will probably take up to some hours, depending on the map size.

There is one free App that can do above using vectorized maps, Navit, but it is not available on the market yet and must be inconveniently installed by hand (german instructions here).

Note: I will update this post after having used both tools abroad.

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