Which is better Google Maps or OsmAnd

Open Street Map - What good is the Google Maps alternative?

Andreas Hitzig

The map service Open Street Map is developing into an interesting alternative in the shadow of Google Maps. Not only can you use it to plan your routes, but you can also actively participate in improving the map material.

EnlargeOpen Street Map looks a bit more detailed than Google Maps.

The Open Street Map project has existed for more than ten years. Together with numerous volunteers, a very extensive map material has been created since then. The current statistics from Open Street Map (OSM) show a good two million active volunteers who have uploaded around 4.6 billion GPS points to the platform to date. This has resulted in a total of over 2.82 billion local nodes, 282.8 million routes and around 3.3 million relationships.

These form the basis for the map material, the results of which you can use free of charge. The geodata is made available by the Open Street Map Foundation on the basis of the Open Database License.

Navigation with free hiking maps

Use of the map service

The first point of contact for using the map service is the project page. You can search for a specific address directly from here. In the first step, the result is displayed in the standard map level - a topographical view.

You can switch between the different views on the right-hand side of the window:

  • In addition to the public roads, the cyclist map shows additional routes that can be used specifically for cyclists.

  • The traffic map filters the roads available for cars and motorcycles.

  • In the "MapQuest Open" view, the geodata determined by the users are enriched with map material from Map Quest.

  • "Humanitarian" focuses on mapping humanitarian aid areas. In the recent past, for example, Ebola areas in the Congo have been marked.

The symbols and colors can be explained in more detail by showing the legend.

Regardless of the view, OSM also offers route finding from A to B. To do this, enter your start and end point and also select the means of travel - in addition to the car, also the bike and the hike on foot. For each travel variant there are two services that take over the route finding and display the result on the OSM map material.

EnlargePublic transport: On the German Open Street Map you will also find maps of the public transport network and its connecting routes.

Further detailed information

On the Germany page of OSM you will find further views which contain additional local data. All local OSM groups are included in the standard view of Germany. These give you an indication of where there are people who meet regularly to revise the OSM map material together. The view of the public transport cards is particularly interesting for users of public transport. In this you will find the routes of many public transports drawn. After entering a location, you can easily find out where the nearest bus, S-Bahn or U-Bahn stop is. As a rule, you are even shown the exact lines that pass the desired location.

Another very interesting addition for planning the next shopping weekend are the opening times of various shops and restaurants. The OSM24 service offers you the right views for this. You can see all of the maintained locations on the map, including the associated opening times. There is also a corresponding color history so that you do not have to click on all the bars one after the other in the late evening until you have found one that is still open. This shows the states open ("open"), "closes soon" ("last hour") and closed ("closed") in color. The information is particularly reliable for large German cities.

Indoor navigation in a practical test

OSM on Android devices

The map material also forms the basis for numerous navigation apps on different platforms. At this point we have selected Osmand Maps & Navigation for the Android platform, which is available on Google Play in a free and an extended paid version.

EnlargeOpen Street Map on Android: There are numerous apps for Android devices, such as Osmand, that use the map material.

At the beginning you download the necessary map material, which you will need for the later navigation. The free version of the app allows you to manage up to ten cards. If you want to use additional maps, you need the full version for just under five euros. After you have downloaded the required maps to your device, you can start navigating. The "Where am I?" Function activates your GPS and determines your exact position. You activate the route determination via the "Navigation". Enter the destination and the means of transport. Osmand will do the rest for you and get you to your destination as quickly as possible.

In the settings you can activate numerous additional functions such as a speed camera detector or extended voice announcements. Especially when you are traveling abroad or have a tablet without a UMTS module, Osmand offers an interesting alternative to a classic navigation device.

Actively map yourself

OSM relies on the help of its users so that new streets and changes in street layouts can be mapped. The prerequisite for recording routes is a suitable GPS device with which you are able to collect maps. In the OSM wiki you will find a list of devices that are currently recommended for this. The "OpenStreetMap Tutorial for Beginners" in the Wiki also describes very precisely which steps are necessary to transfer a recorded route to Open Street Map and edit it further. The German-language instructions also offer OSM newbies a good start in using the platform and the associated tools.