Mobiles & Tablets

Free GPS maps turn Android smartphones into open-air guides

DPA Berlin | Updated on August 20, 2014

Dedicated GPS devices are facing extinction for good reason, as smartphones and tablets now offer capable GPS with turn—by—turn navigation for drivers, hikers and mountain—bikers alike, even offline.

It is now possible to download free, detailed topographical maps for virtually every region on Earth, the German internet magazine AndroidWelt reports. The user’s position can be shown using active GPS.

Contour lines offer the advantage of showing inclines and terrain so as to better plan a route if you hike.

Vector technology allows map sections to be downloaded to a smartphone in any size without loss of quality. As vector maps are not particularly large, they are perfectly suited for use offline.

Websites such as offer free maps that can be viewed using free Android apps such as OruxMaps or Locus Map Free. combines the map data from OpenStreetMaps with contour lines from Viewfinder Panorama, with special themes available depending on whether the user needs the system for cycling, hiking or sightseeing.

The map data can be viewed using OruxMaps, but it first has to be copied using a USB cable from a laptop to the OruxMaps/mapfiles folder on the user’s smartphone. The Themes data is stored in a folder called Mapstyles, which the user first has to create in OruxMaps.

With Locus Map Free, the folder for map data is Locus/mapsVector and for Themes Locus/mapsVector/themes.

Unlike with OruxMaps, the contents of the zipped Themes file have to be first unzipped before each individual file is copied to the target folder.

However, users should remember that a smartphone battery is unlikely to last the day, never mind a multi—day tour, if active GPS is being used.

Experts note that water damage or dropping the phone can quickly put the GPS system out of action, so they recommend you also take a waterproof cover, an external battery ... and a traditional paper map.

Published on August 20, 2014

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