I'm using a very old version of Google Maps app as my map/routing app on LineageOS 15.1/Oreo (which still work!), but would like to consider my Maps app choice from scratch, and get a recommendation for what to use instead - whether a newer version or a different app.

Because UI preferences, usage and overlay requirements are quite individual, I've tried to give as much info as I can on my use and preferences. So the following is a but long - but hopefully gives a good idea!

My phone and GApps

I'm running LineageOS 15.1 without Gapps or Google Play Services, but with the Google Maps API (maps.XML and maps.jar) manually installed into the system. The phone has 4gb RAM and a fast CPU so resources aren't a limitation.

My current app, and how I use it

Until now I've used Google Maps v5.7.0. There was some article at the time which said this was the last version which handled everything I needed including download of offline map data, without doing something-or-other which I didn't like/want (Google login/account?), so I stuck with that version. It worked and really, it still does work, even on Oreo without Gapps, and even if I don't install the Google Maps API files. It also doesn't require you to log in or be using a Google Account (which I don't on my phone). Pretty amazing, all things considered.

Unfortunately the point-to-point feature in 5.7 doesn't display distance properly under Los 15.1. It's minor but makes me think I ought to look again, and not assume what I'm using is still best for me. But I don't know enough about the current apps, especially those that may be highly configurable and would do what I want perfectly, if I only knew it!

As it's been years since I looked at my map app choices, I want to check alternatives more generally, to see what functionality I'm missing and if any are now better for me. I'm completely open so I'm happy to consider later versions of Google Maps, as well as apps that use or don't use Google Maps as a map provider.

This is what I use in Google Maps, and my requirements/preferences/priorities:

  • I use most of the Google Maps 5.7.0 features - overlays such as traffic, public transit (train lines/stations), bus stops, satellite view; distance between touched points, "find near" style of search functionality ("supermarkets near ADDRESS"), routing and navigation directions (foot/road), linking to Street View app, finding phone/postcode/zip code/website/contact details for items tapped on the map, and downloadable caching of map areas. I also like how fast and responsive it is, and how precise/detailed the maps, traffic, and routing results are. Maybe there are other features I'd use if I had them (altitude/contours?), but these are features I want.

  • I also like the ease with which multiple layers are selected/usable in the Google app v5.7, and can be used in any combination, and kept permanently displayed between uses. The newer versions of Google Maps (website version) automatically hide/turn off some layers when you try to select others. For example, on the web version of Google Maps, you can't easily tell it to permanently show traffic and public transit/rail line overlays together and also any current search results or driving route directions simultaneously - which is a very useful combination of overlays if you have flexibility in your travel and want to make your own choices and see where a route goes, in relation to current traffic or train stations.

    Instead, it kind of assumes that when you choose one of these layers or tools, some other layers will stop being relevant to you (and it autohides them), which to me is not the case. It also overrides my choice of zoom and rezooms the map "by itself" at annoying times. Basically the modern version of web based Google Maps tries to be too clever and anticipate too much, and just ends up undermining my use. I don't know if the android app does the same, but I don't like that aspect of the web version.

  • I don't mind paid as well as free, if that helps, although I prefer free and I prefer FOSS, but this app is important enough I'll take whatever works best for me, not necessarily what's cheapest.

  • If relevant I should also say that most of the time, location is switched off (and when it's on, which is rare, it's only ever device-only/GPS, for privacy reasons).

  • I also almost never (or incredibly rarely) use step-by-step navigation. I tend to use the app before travelling, to explore the area or destination, plan the route and see the suggested routes + expected travel time, but once travelling, I normally navigate from road signs and memory instead, and ignore the map app. If location is switched on, while driving, it's usually so I can spot check traffic or "where I've got to", if I need to, and not in order to get actual step-by-step directions.

What I've tried in the past

I tried a number of other mapping apps years back - openstreetmap, osmand, mapquest - but not in the last few years. I was drawn to them by the promise that they could do all Google's app did, but without tracking/reporting back to Google, but they really didn't please me at the time. I either couldn't get all the overlays I needed, or the information was lower quality/more limited, or the search/routing less precise/intelligent, ... I can't exactly remember. Maybe they have changed or there are other providers now, or they are more sophisticated or can be configured to use additional sources of information to enhance their functionality. I don't know.

I did try microG about 6 months ago, but didn't understand it enough to get it working and use its alternative API/backend/services, so I gave up on that. If I need it to get an ideal mapping app working on my phone, I guess I could try again though.

That's really the problem I guess - I'd love an app that could show the overlays I need and the displays I use, and the quality I'm used to, but by its very nature, the fact that one can configure those overlays + sources via app config of custom source URIs+settings, might not be obvious to someone like me who doesn't know the app very well. That was why OSM didn't work for me when I first tried it - I just couldn't find the sources and overlays I needed, although I was convinced they did exist.

What I'm after

So I would like to check for a recommendation what mapping app to use in 2018.

  • It has to be able to work without Gapps or Google login/account.
  • It has to have the layers/overlays I'm using, and the other features I use.
  • My main focus is Great Britain (I'm in the UK), but I do occasionally use it to look up places and routes in other countries, and I use it on holiday overseas, so it needs worldwide coverage.
  • Slightly or.occasionally out of date data isn't an issue, but very out of date/very patchy/inconsistent/unreliable, is.
  • I don't mind if I have to manually select multiple providers or layers, provided I can in fact select those I need, or choose better versions of them from other providers (eg this layer from Google but that layer from OSM data would be a nice functionality).
  • I think I once saw an app that acted as a front end to numerous map providers - Google, Bing, OSM and others - and if so that sounds really interesting, but I can't remember what it was called.

I don't mind a shortlist rather than a single specific app, but I'm not sure what apps I ought to consider these days, because I have a bad memory of trying to figure which apps could display what, and how helpfully, if sources/layers/back ends/whatever else was configures for it.

Recommendations from anyone who knows the current generation of map apps, much appreciated!

  • 1
    Too long to read #D I use the OsmAnd app which covers most (if not all) your requirements, which I'm very happy with. And you probably forgot the name of Locus Maps :) More candidates in my corresponding app listing :D
    – Izzy
    Dec 17 '18 at 18:53

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