A few iPhone Offline Maps Apps

A few iPhone Offline Maps Apps

Do you know where you are?

Editor: This review has been updated and many more apps added to this list. You can find updated reviews HERE along with my new choice for Editor’s Pick.

Often when I travel I find myself without cellphone coverage, for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes I am so remote there is just is no coverage. Sometimes there is coverage but I don’t have a local sim and I don’t want to spend the bucks on roaming. Then there are times like this next trip to Ladakh. In Ladakh the government, for reasons of security, have permitted only local sims to work in the region and has created so many hoops that getting a local sim is next to impossible . When this happens I relax and enjoy my solitude. But wait! What if I want to use the nifty GPS on my iPhone? After all, I am so remote I might get lost. OK, maybe not lost, but I might want to see how far the next town is from my current location. With no cell or data coverage I would need offline maps for my GPS to use.

In prepping for my yearly Lumen Dei Workshop with David duChemin, I ran across a few handy little iPhone app that handle offline map caching and navigation. In lieu of anything significant to blog about, I thought I would pass these little gems on to you. I have used one or two of them and found them useful and I thought you might find them helpful and handy.

The first application is called “City Maps 2Go“. I looked at quite a few offline map resources and applications and most of them do nothing more than cache maps in your iPhone’s memory. Sometimes this works, other times it’s frustrating, as you can easily lose the cached data or there is a time limit for how long the application keeps the cache. I prefer to actually have the map files in my phone. What’s nice about this application is you don’t have to worry about loosing the maps. The maps are actual files and come with all the detail you need. City Maps 2Go has some 2000 cities at all levels of detail ready to be downloaded. The files have been optimized and packaged in a way that they are quick and easy to download. For this trip I downloaded all of the greater Delhi area and even the city of Leh, Ladakh in just a few minutes. There is a option on their website where you can request cities to be added. I requested the city of Srinagar, Kashmir and the obscure area of Tso Moriri, a lake way out in the middle of nowhere. They wrote back within a few hours saying the would try to get them to me before Sunday. Impressive! The one downside to this app is that it uses OpenStreetMaps. These are what I would call, “ok” maps. They are not to the detail that you will find in Google maps. But, hey! you can download thousands of cities for just $1.99. Not a bad deal.

Galileo is another offline app that is not quite as slick as City Maps 2Go. But, unlike City Maps 2Go, they give you the  ability to download maps for anywhere in the world and you can determine the amount of detail. It is a very simple application that gives you options for online or offline viewing and marks you location, but that is about it. Nothing fancy. It creates the maps by using of another application called Mobile Atlas Creator. Mobile Atlas Creator allows you to make maps that the Galileo application can read. The maps can be at any level of detail, to any size as long as you have the time to generate them and the space on your iPhone to store them. It also uses OpenStreetMaps, but here is the thing that sets it apart, it also uses Google maps. How they get permission to use Google maps, I’m not sure. But they do…and I did. I generated a fairly detailed map of Southern Sumatra and use it on this last trip. It came in handy several times. One of the downsides to all this, is that the Mobile Atlas creator takes forever to make a map. Given that the application has no routing ability or even the simple ability to drop a pin on a given location, it is pretty limited. So, using it for anything other than telling you where you are is useless. But, if you want an offline map that shows details in the countryside or on some small forgotten road this is the application for it.

Currently I’m playing with another offline map application called simply, OpenMaps. This one has a lot of promise, it allows you to drop a pin anywhere, create routes, even shows POIs and of course download maps for viewing offline. I’ve just downloaded the application and I’m trying to download detailed maps of the areas where we’ll be traveling. I must say, unlike City Maps 2Go, the downloads take forever.  I’m not sure why, when they’re the same size as the maps for City Maps 2Go. Plus the download operation is not very intuitive and can be a bit confusing. The true test will be in the field.

I hope this little look into offline navigation was helpful. If you have a favorite offline map application leave a comment below and tell us about it.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Matea Michelangeli

    Thanks for the heads up. I was expecting much coverage in Ladakh, now I know it’s zero!
    I always find myself needing maps when there is no coverage, so these are good apps.
    See you in a couple of days!

  2. Jim

    I use Motion-x GPS. It supports downloading Openmaps at user specified zoom levels so you can have specific areas that zoom to street level, and other areas which just zoom to a larger area. It has compass, tracks, photos, and a lot of other cool stuff. Also supports Bing and Google maps when you have a cell signal.

    In the US, I also use Accuterra which let’s you buy topo maps for national parks, states,etc.

    Jim Cureton

  3. iphone developers

    Thanks. Your review was really helpful for me. I’ve never used the Galileo application but it seems to be an interesting one. Mostly I use Google Maps so that’ll be interesting to compare with it.

  4. Andy Wilson

    Though these kind of things are currently not on my radar (no iphone!) it is interesting to hear what is being developed. Enjoy LD2010, Matt

  5. Jack

    Great info thanks. I just downloaded CityMaps2Go.


  6. Sinbecks

    Two to try for the UK.
    UK Maps that gives detail to 1:10,000. Ideal for hill walking. You can also change the shade settings to show gradients on hills.
    Also by the same author 3D Lakes which shows the lake district of the UK in 3D. Both worthy of a look if you are visiting the UK.

  7. Yury Melnichek

    Thanks for the nice review, Matt.
    You might want as well to try MapsWithMe.
    Unlike the other apps you’ve mentioned, it caches vector data instead of images, and thus can store offline a map of a whole country or even of a whole world.

  8. Guest from the West..

     OffMaps seems really good… works well too..
    Worth a look!

  9. Guy

    Exactly How much detail did u get for this map of southern Sumatra? I’m always cruising around down there but have given up trying to get a decent offline map for my phone

    • Matt

      None of it was over the top detailed. But it was enough to not get lost.

  10. Riva

    I can clarify some things about apps and apps / downloads speeds from the article.

    Galileo – “How they get permission to use Google maps, I’m not sure. But they do…”
    They actually didn’t. And that’s the reason why you have to use another tool (Atlas Creator) on your computer to make the maps. It just ‘steals’ the map data from Google and saves them to disc against theyr EULA. (It night give a hint about why its so slow – Google possibly tryest to block this.) Then you load them, illegaly again, into iPhone and use.

    OpenMaps – “I must say, unlike City Maps 2Go, the downloads take forever. I’m not sure why..”
    OpenMaps is one of (payd) apps that parasite on community funded OpenStreeMaps (OST) project. Again, agains the project rules.
    Since there’s a lot of apps like that and some very popular, they ‘leech’ a serious bandwidth and ‘overload’ theyr servers (while not sharin any profit etc).
    OpenStreeMaps fight back by trying to identify these apps and turn theyr access to servers to minimum or off. Its a matter of survival for them actually.

    City Maps 2 toGo – “.. I’m not sure why, when they’re the same size as the maps for City Maps 2Go.”
    There in fact is little similar between OpenMaps and City Maps 2 toGo.
    CM2G 1. uses vector maps, which are very small = download MUCH faster and 2. the CM2G provider makes theyr own ‘packages’ and you download them from theyr servers instead of abusing OST ones. Hence no dl speed throttling etc.
    They still probably use free OST data, but this approach is afaik considered a fair use.

    I’ll leave it up to you who to support 😉



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