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Apple, Google: Battle of the Cloud Maps 179

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-open-street-maps? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google has sent invitations for a June 6 event in which it will apparently unveil 'The Next Dimension of Google Maps.' Meanwhile, rumor suggests Apple is preparing its own mapping service for iOS devices. The escalating battle over maps demonstrates the importance of cloud apps to tech companies' larger strategies." I only wish my phone would hold by default the X-million data points that my outmoded (but cheap and functional) dedicated GPS device does, without quite so much cloud-centric bottlenecking, and leave all expensive data use for optional overlays and current conditions.
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Apple, Google: Battle of the Cloud Maps

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  • Google Maps Gripes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EvanED (569694) <evaned&gmail,com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:55PM (#40190653)

    I just wish that Google would learn some lessons about 2D cartography. Like how to mark toll roads and stuff.

    It's kind of frustrating because Google maps is really good at local stuff (zoom in to see individual business names and stuff, and of course street view) but other services are a lot better once you're looking at a range beyond a few blocks.

    • by afidel (530433) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:00PM (#40190701)
      Err, what? The turn by turn directions will tell you what section are tolls and even allows you to avoid toll roads. This even works with google maps mobile. The two features I wish GMM had are cache along route (caching the tileset around a specific point is a start but it needs to be able to do it along an entire route). and route override (ie drag and drop route placement, sometimes I know a certain part of a route won't work and the only way to do this with GMM is to pre-plan the route on the PC and save it).
      • by EvanED (569694) <evaned&gmail,com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:16PM (#40190821)

        I'm not talking about the turn-by-turn directions, I'm talking about the maps. Quick, where are the toll roads [wisc.edu]? How 'bout now [wisc.edu]? Or now [wisc.edu]?

        I guess if you just enter in a start and end into Google maps and blindly follow whatever comes out it works fine, but if you want to scan around for alternate routes (hint: Google doesn't pick the best route for going through Chicago from east-to-west or vice versa) or just want to look around at maps, that's not good enough.

        • by arose (644256)
          Lacking a legend I can honestly say that it's not clear in any of the cases what is what.
        • So you route around tolls?
          Interesting. I don't worry about it. One solitary trip down a tollroad isn't going to bankrupt me, and if I do it repeatedly (like a daily commute) then I learn to avoid that road. Of course oftentimes the tollroad is the cheapest route..... I recall a friend of mine was trying to avoid the Baltimore Tunnel Toll drove *all the way around* the city on 695 beltway.

          He probably spent more on gas then if he'd just paid the $1 toll. --- As I became more familiar with the city, I

          • by EvanED (569694)

            I do look, though I'll admit that it usually doesn't pan out in terms of being worth it.

            For instance, taking the Chicago case, if you're traveling west-to-east from Rockford (or, as is probably clear from the urls I linked, Madison) to points East, if I-88 wasn't a toll road it'd probably be worth it to use that route. It's a bit longer, but you'd save several dollars on tolls and it's a bit better driving than I-90 is.

            Or once I asked for advice on how late it's reasonable to hit Chicago before afternoon ru

          • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @01:15AM (#40191525)

            In some cities the toll for tunnels is >$10, people do all sorts of weird things to avoid it.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          so the avoid toll roads option doesn't work for you?

      • by Excelsior (164338) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:20PM (#40190845)

        Caching the route does work. At least it does on every Android phone I've owned. When you drive through parts of the southwest United States, you often travel for hundreds of miles with no cell coverage at all. Google Maps keeps chugging along, as long as I don't end navigation on my current route.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          Google Maps keeps chugging along, as long as I don't end navigation on my current route.

          That's still retarded. It's like when you turn off the stereo it burns all your CDs.

          Is there no way to permanently (at least until you make a positive decision to remove it) store the data locally?

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by EdIII (1114411)

            That's still retarded. It's like when you turn off the stereo it burns all your CDs.

            I think Sony has something like that in the works right now....

          • I wish. Haven't seen that option since the days of Street Atlas with the DeLorme GPS package connected to a laptop...
          • by swillden (191260)

            Google Maps keeps chugging along, as long as I don't end navigation on my current route.

            That's still retarded. It's like when you turn off the stereo it burns all your CDs.

            Is there no way to permanently (at least until you make a positive decision to remove it) store the data locally?

            Not along a route, but you can cache any number of 10 mile-side squares (up to storage limits -- and most phones have a lot of storage). Go into Settings, then Labs, then enable the pre-cache feature. Then long-tap on the centerpoint of the area you want to pre-cache. Tap the bubble that pops up, and then tap "pre-cache" at the bottom of the dialog. It'll take a minute to download that square, but then you'll have cached map data (map only; no satellite, etc.)

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Not along a route, but you can cache any number of 10 mile-side squares (up to storage limits -- and most phones have a lot of storage).

              and for a maximum of 30 days, at which point anything you've cached silently expires and deletes itself (well, maps deletes it.)

              • by swillden (191260)

                Not along a route, but you can cache any number of 10 mile-side squares (up to storage limits -- and most phones have a lot of storage).

                and for a maximum of 30 days, at which point anything you've cached silently expires and deletes itself (well, maps deletes it.)

                Interesting. I discovered this feature less than 30 days ago, so I haven't seen that yet.

        • I have found sygic is much better for offline use. Just download around 1-2 GB per country and you don't need any data connection. and it renders much faster and with 3D view its easier to make out things
    • And identify toll bridges and tunnels, which it apparently doesn't even recognize as toll routes currently.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Avoid toll roads option.

        • It doesn't recognize (most?) toll bridges/tunnels as toll roads. It will happily take you across toll bridges/tunnels without telling you there are tolls involved, even if you use the "avoid toll roads" option.

          • That must be a localized issue, it's known about every toll bridge/tunnel I've been across, on the east and west coasts and lots of different states and cities in between. It can even get you from mainland New York to Long Island and back without paying the ridiculous NYC bridge tolls (the least-convenient bridges don't have a toll but even if you look it up ahead of time it can be difficult to figure out where to go).

            • Well, specifically, it took me across the GW Bridge when I told it to avoid tolls, and I was not happy to find out it's a $12 toll. It also tried to take me across the Tappan Zee bridge without indicating it's a toll.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      you mean google maps isn't even good for driving? i'm in nyc, and only the major streets are labeled unless you zoom in to near-uselessness. even if the gps can't figure out that i'm moving at 2mph, you'd think they'd have and default to a pedestrian-mode in manhattan.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yeah, I wonder how the GPS reception is in downtown NYC.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          wish i could tell you, but i have nothing to compare it to. in my experience, it's between one and six blocks off, with the median at two.

        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          Yyeah, GPS 'reception' is awful in any high-rise city. (I say 'reception', because the reception itself in terms of signal strength is usually fine - the issue is rather that the signal is getting bounced off buildings and thus longer to get to you, which obviously means your position calculated from those signals will be off).

          Phone or stand-alone GPS doesn't seem to matter that much ... I get the same problems on my iPhone as I do with my regular car Garmin GPS when I drive into central Sydney. You basical

          • by adolf (21054)

            Yes, sort of.

            Last time I was in Chicago, my Droid (which did do an excellent job of triangulating my location, and was accurate within a couple dozen feet even inside of a hotel as long as there was sufficient visible WiFi) failed miserably at getting me back to Ohio.

            But it kept insisting I turn right from Lakeshore Drive where turning right was impossible due to physical barriers, while pretending to know where I was: It thought I was on a parallel road just to the south, and I wasn't.

            Meanwhile, my cheap

        • It's always seemed to work fine for me in NYC, either driving or as a pedestrian, with my Nexus One. But you do need to have more situational awareness there than you do in more spread-out places, though of course that applies no matter how you're navigating there. You can't rely on following voice instructions like you (usually) can elsewhere because sometimes the signals bouncing off the buildings will confuse it - but you can glance at what street it wants you to turn on next and look for it yourself, an

  • I have a feeling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rat7307 (218353) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:55PM (#40190657) Homepage

    ...it will be a battle in name only.

    apple are highly unlikely to put out an API for other to use as they wish like Google did.

    While GMaps might take a back-seat on iOS, it will still be by far the most dominant system out there unless Apple allow use outside of the iOSphere.

    At the end of the day if it's only available on iOS and Mac then it's essentially on a minority of devices on what is now a minority platform.

    Still, it no doubt will have Google scrambling to bring us more cool stuff, so it's win-win all round.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by catmistake (814204)

      At the end of the day if it's only available on iOS and Mac then it's essentially on a minority of devices on what is now a minority platform.

      Uh, you're kidding [businessinsider.com], right? Apple's inventory stock has been compared to restaurants, that must get rid of it because it's perishable. It's ridiculous how competitive Apple is right now against ALL of the Android phone manufacturers. I'm not sure their growth rate will last, but you're just silly to claim the iOS platform is merely a "minority platform." It's not like 2-5% marketshare, like the Mac used to be... they're neck and neck against EVERY OTHER phone manufacturer put together. Mac's marketshare is g

      • by swillden (191260)
        I think he was including more than just mobile. The clue is that he contrasted Google's offering against "iOS and Mac". So the total market under consideration includes not just phones and tablets but also laptops and desktops. And, clearly, a solution that is available on essentially all platforms (including iOS and OSX) has an advantage over one that's tied to iOS and OSX. Of course, that presumes that Apple won't make their mapping solution available on non-Apple platforms. I don't know if they will
        • An advantage in what way? What is it that the companies providing mapping want? Maps is not a symmetrical platform war.

          Google uses mapping to advertise. The more users they have on any platform the better for them.

          Apple just wants to sell more hardware. Maps is a good old fashioned feature. They will have a motivation to deny their maps to people without Apple hardware. Apple do have an advertising platform (iAd), but it's very much a sideline compared with the main business of selling hardware. And it's Ap

          • Apple's doing it's own maps because they can't rely any longer on the map service being supplied by one of their biggest competitors. They have no motivation to have the most users for them, other than because those people have bought Apple devices.

            Nicely said. This is precisely the reason. Google is intentionally dropping the ball, saving the best features for Android... and now they have competition on iOS, they're stepping up their game. Competition is a good thing.

  • Nokia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:58PM (#40190677) Journal

    I only wish my phone would hold by default the X-million data points that my outmoded (but cheap and functional) dedicated GPS device does, without quite so much cloud-centric bottlenecking, and leave all expensive data use for optional overlays and current conditions.

    You mean like any number of Nokia phones that support the free OVI Maps application?

    • Re:Nokia (Score:5, Informative)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:01PM (#40190705) Journal
      Or any of the non-free but still relatively cheap navigation apps for Android or iPhone, like TomTom or Navigon, to name a few?
      • There's a TomTom app for Android now?
      • by black3d (1648913)
        Navfree is a decent free offline GPS for the iphone. It's another which uses OpenStreetMap so it's not flawless, but personally I've had it find every address I've tried, every time. Avoids toll roads, etc.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Navigon is really not very cheap (considering the price of the alternatives, $0) and they don't offer lifetime maps. For the price of Navigon and a couple of years of maps you could buy a refurb'd Garmin GPS device. Indeed, I did.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:03PM (#40190719)

    I only wish my phone would hold by default the X-million data points that my outmoded (but cheap and functional) dedicated GPS device does, without quite so much cloud-centric bottlenecking, and leave all expensive data use for optional overlays and current conditions.

    There is an app for that, seriously there are multiple apps for that. Decent maps built-in. More detailed ones, including topo, available via free download.

    Not all functionality has to come from Apple, or whoever is doing the OS and built-in apps, some things can be left to third parties.

    • by Artifex (18308)

      There is an app for that, seriously there are multiple apps for that.

      Heck, even Google Maps on Android will cache map data (no pictures or traffic). Enable the option in Labs, go back to the area you want to cache and long-press in the middle, then click the option to cache it, and you'll get a 10 mile square around that spot. Yes, you can do multiple squares, too: I did 6 somewhat overlapping squares tonight, and it says they take up 21MB.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        60 square miles = 21 MB
        1 GB / 21 MB = 48.76
        2,925.6 square miles = 1 GB on Android

        I hope the other Apps the GP referred to aren't as wasteful with storage space.
        For references: 3,794,083 square miles (the USA w/water) ~= 1GB on my GPS

        • by maglor_83 (856254)

          It's a 10mile 'radius' square. So each square is 20x20 = 400 square miles. 6 of them makes 2,400sqm. Now he said that they overlapped a bit, but then the 21MB includes other cached maps as well, not just the permanent ones, so lets call it even.

          3,794,083/2,400 = 1,581, so 33GB.

          Then take into account, that GP most likely saved map data in a city (higher density), which the vast majority of the USA is not, and it's likely comparable.

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          I hope the other Apps the GP referred to aren't as wasteful with storage space.

          The one I use allows you to choose the detail level on the downloaded maps.

    • by xded (1046894)

      Except that your smartphone with an always-on GPS-tracking app, recording a data point every 5 feet, will last at most 2 hours on a full battery.

      My Garmin handheld doing just that, with a better precision, will last 15 hours on a couple of AA batteries. And when they're over, I can just swap another pair in. And I can use it under the rain. With the gloves on.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I have a couple old Garmin GPS 12 devices for when I need a GPS for hiking etc. But any typical Garmin GPS device that the typical person will own today is a PDA running an app and getting 2-3 hours of battery life. (I have one of those too, since it serves a different need.)

      • Except that your smartphone with an always-on GPS-tracking app, recording a data point every 5 feet, will last at most 2 hours on a full battery.

        Actually I've experimented with my iPhone and it lasted about 5 hours while hiking. The app is targeting outdoor activities and may not sample as frequently as you suggest. Perhaps you are referring to an app that is oriented towards those driving around in a car.

        My Garmin handheld doing just that, with a better precision, will last 15 hours on a couple of AA batteries. And when they're over, I can just swap another pair in. And I can use it under the rain. With the gloves on.

        I've considered getting a Garmin on many occasions, especially when on sale at REI. However I generally navigate with paper (waterproof) topo map and mechanical compass. The iPhone is generally powered off and only turned on to take photos. And as

    • I only wish my phone would hold by default the X-million data points that my outmoded (but cheap and functional) dedicated GPS device does, without quite so much cloud-centric bottlenecking, and leave all expensive data use for optional overlays and current conditions.

      What's wrong with his phone? Does he have an iPhone?

      My Android phone allows me to cache as much google maps tiles as I want for off-line navigation. It's just one of the google labs option that needs to be enabled from the google maps application, that's all. As to the data points themselves, I save every address I run across into my address book, that way it comes up automatically as an auto-complete item when I enter a destination.

      But even then, I am glad I'm no longer using my standalone gps unit for its

      • by deesine (722173)

        Are you sure you can cache as many tiles as you want? I just tried and reached a limit of 10.

  • Caching (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:18PM (#40190835)

    I only wish my phone would hold by default the X-million data points that my outmoded (but cheap and functional) dedicated GPS device does, without quite so much cloud-centric bottlenecking, and leave all expensive data use for optional overlays and current conditions.

    No shit dude. I have a fucking 32GB phone of which I'm using about 3GB. The thing I use more than anything is Google Maps. If it's downloaded something, why does it ever delete it? I can cache apparently unlimited 10 mile squares (100 square miles?), but I can't say "Just fucking download the entire state of Iowa" (because, really, who would want to?).

    But I suppose they're getting there. Slowly.

    • Don't you get it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flatulus (260854) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:43PM (#40190999)

      The reason they don't make it easy to download an entire map has nothing to do with storage or bandwidth. It has to do with *tracking*.

      Location Based Services -- Since we know where you are, we can suggest you turn right and have a pizza at the restaurant that pays us to steer customers their way. etc... etc... etc...

      Google has a talent for fooling people into thinking that they are offering all these great FREE services out of the goodness of their corporate heart. On the contrary, those services are very profitable, and the way they accomplish all that money making is by knowing a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT about YOU.

      Anyway, it's up to you folks. But don't bitch about not getting the whole free map thing - now that you understand why it is not in Google's or Apple's or Microsoft's (or fill-in-the-blank-megacorp-giving-away-services) to provide them.

      That's my $37.00 worth (I'm old and that's about what 2 cents used to be worth when I was a wee one)

      • by game kid (805301)

        That and the whole Don't Copy That Floppy(tm) thing. Someone with a big chunk of Google Maps=another website with a big chunk of Google Maps and its associated third-party imagery=(mad Google lawyers)+(higher license fees for Google to procure the imagery)=(mad Google lawyers)+(less Google shareholders thanks to lower "Profit!").

        Or something like that.

      • by Crash24 (808326)
        Caching and tracking aren't mutually exclusive. If anything, better caching will reduce Google's server/bandwidth load. Which, incidentally, frees up more resources to do important stuff like tracking you.
      • by MrHanky (141717)

        Does Google Maps actually push adverts through the turn-by-turn navigation in the U.S. now, or did you just confuse Google with some movie you saw? So far, it seems Google's success as an advertising business comes from being less obnoxious than the others. Pushing somewhat relevant ads might contribute to that.

    • by thaig (415462)

      You could get one of those appalling non-smartphones with that terrible OS Symbian on it and use their downloadable maps which offer both caching and the ability to pre-download maps for any country and have offered this for years.

    • by deesine (722173)

      You really get unlimited cached tiles? Have you tried going past 10? Wonder why I have a limit of 10...

  • by arose (644256) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:23PM (#40190867)
    Get an Android phone. Get OSMand [osmand.net]. News for posers who won't lift a finger? Stuff that has been solved for you if you just look?
    • by silanea (1241518)
      It is not that simple, I am afraid. I love Osmand, but it still has a long way to go. Searching for street names in cities that have been divided into districts - there are numerous examples in Germany (try Munich) and apparently Russia - is broken, offline routing fails more than it works. I enjoy the map display, and with an online routing service it is quite useful, but as a purely offline solution Osmand is not ready yet.
  • by darrylo (97569) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @12:08AM (#40191139)

    Regardless of any really cool/geeky features, the underlying map data can make or break the app. Google doesn't have a problem because, well, they're using the google maps data, which is pretty decent.

    On the other hand, Apple has a challenge: what maps data source do they use? Since Apple seems to be trying to avoid Google, I'm assuming that the google maps data is out. I really hope that Apple goes with a major commercial maps data source, and not openstreetmap. If Apple uses openstreetmap, I think Apple's map app is doomed, as I don't think any amount of lipstick is going to make openstreetmap look good.

    (OK, don't get me wrong -- I like openstreetmap, and I like the idea of it. However, it's missing 10+-year-old roads in my area. For the people who just started frothing at the mouth and want to scream at me to say that I can edit the maps, you're missing the point. The point is not that I can go in and fix the map data. The point is that, statistically speaking, if some of the map data is inaccurate in my area, it's likely inaccurate in many other places, and this raises severe reliability/trustability issues with me. Like it or not, the google maps data is a lot more accurate than openstreetmap, and thus is a lot more trustable.)

    • by Pecisk (688001)

      "Like it or not, the google maps data is a lot more accurate than openstreetmap, and thus is a lot more trustable."

      You have any data to backup your claim? And no, it's not "if there's lack of data in our neibourhood, then it must be rest of the world". Because when I see lack of data, I just map them and they are in database in 3 minutes after I have done survey, put data into system and have verified their statuses, routing, etc. Currently it is much better than Google Maps ever was in my region.

      OpenStreet

      • by swillden (191260)

        I'm guessing from your spelling choices that you're in the UK?

        Based on your comment and various others, it appears to me that Google Maps data in the US is very good, which has led to relatively little interest in OSM, which has led to OSM data not being so great. In some other industrialized countries the reverse has been true. Since Google isn't very good, there's greater interest in OSM, which leads to OSM data being very good.

        Does that agree with your experience?

        • by Pecisk (688001)

          It easily could be that way, yes.

          Of course OSM data is not perfect, and it's even less perfect in regions when there are already some solid maps. However, this slowly, but surery changes. In my region it's easily best digital map available. It could be differently in other places.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @12:16AM (#40191187)
    Google is usually psycho-perfectionist about how their products perform. They still don't quite know where my business is and it's been there for 62 years. The "correction" we submitted now resulted in us being listed 3 times, once at the correct spot, all under slightly different names. I've had it claim it found something and my GPS disagrees and brings me to the correct spot several times as well. That's pretty major as far as problems go and they just can't seem to fix it. I'd focus on that more than anything if I were them.
  • In Australia, a set of new maps for most consumer GPS units is more than the cost of a (cheap) new unit. If you have a dash-mounted system, forget it.

    I don't know if that's a global issue or the 'Australia tax', but I'll support any system which is up to date and doesn't cost me a stupid amount of money to remain current.

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Huh? This varies by brand/model. Most TomTom units have free map updates. Garmin ones are $99, though you can buy a lifetime map updates package for not much more than this. Etc.

      Also, at least for Garmin (which I am most familiar with), map updates are managed through their website and appear to cost the same for users worldwide, so no issue of 'Australia tax' there.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @02:54AM (#40191991)

    As someone who almost daily uses Google Navigation on my phone and who has a 200MB data plan ... what expensive data use are we talking about?

    Also is it really necessary for someone to publish their opinion in the Slashdot summary after quoting and linking to a Slashdot opinion piece?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As someone who almost daily uses Google Navigation on my phone and who has a 200MB data plan ... what expensive data use are we talking about?

      In Europe, data plans are ridiculously expensive when crossing borders. You can be forced to pay in the range of $20 per MB data.
      Roaming across borders is a common scenario when on holiday and it's also when you're away from home you have the greatest need for a GPS.

      IN short, off-line caching of maps is critical for Europe.

      ps. I love waze but can't use it when Roami

  • Offline POI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peterburkimsher (1850056) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @03:21AM (#40192087) Homepage
    As a contract job for Galileo (the main offline map for iOS, http://galileo-app.com/ [galileo-app.com] I wrote a parser for the OpenStreetMap data. Those "X-million data points" fill 800 MB in txt.bz2 format, or 8 GB in plain text. That's why they're not provided by default. Anybody interested in parsing the 25 GB OSM planet database can contact me; I'd be happy to help. There are a few awk scripts I wrote that made it quite straightforward, and fast. You can then use BashServer (Cydia) and lighttpd on the phone, with bookmarks added to your home screen, to make an "app". The icon loads a local webpage (127.0.0.1/Scripts/poi.html), which runs Javascript to give a dialog "Enter search terms". Clicking OK triggers BashServer to run the associated shell script to generate a KML with the search results. The script then opens tells iFile to open the KML, which gives a popup asking which application to open it with. Choosing Galileo launches the "Import KML" feature, and your search results are in your offline map! Simple as that ;-).
  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @05:35AM (#40192645)

    "The escalating battle over maps demonstrates the importance of cloud apps to tech companies' larger strategies."

    Stupid me, for a moment I thought the battle demonstrates the importance of location-sensitive map applications and not of "cloud" apps in general. There is a technical reason for map applications to be client/server-based, since world-wide high-resolution map data is many terrabytes in size. There is no sound technical reason for server-side data storage in the vast majority of other "cloud" apps, except for the purpose of collecting user-date, of course.

  • Check out Scenic Map from GrangerFX. Totally offline 2D/3D maps. http://scenicmap.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    I use it for search & rescue where we're in the middle of stinking nowhere with no cellphone coverage.

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