There are so many options when looking for offline GPS navigation on Andriod phones such as my Samsung Galaxy SII
. There are at least a dozen free navigation apps that use some form of the OpenStreetMap maps (OSM). I wanted to be able to use my phone as a GPS device without a data plan if I am travelling out of the country, I don't want to have to be restricted to having a data plan, and I definitely do not want to use roaming data which costs an arm and a leg. I also wanted to be sure I could find an app that had VOICE turn-by-turn navigation, in case I need to find my way somewhere while riding my motorcycle with a Bluetooth headset. I found a free app and free maps for my Andriod phone that seem to work not too badly. But sadly, my Nokia E71
with it's OVI software with free OVI maps is still way better than any free offline GPS system on Andriod, and my E71 properly communicates with my bluetooth headset too, not wasting batteries, AND OVI maps' voice navigation doesn't suck. But I'm writing this article anyways to let you know what Andriod has to offer even though I am displeased with Andriod's offline navigation. If you have a data connection and are ok using online navigation, Andriod is fine, it's got some good tools. Offline is a different story sadly for travelers.
I tried a lot of free apps on my Galaxy S2. I was hoping that "Navit" would work, but sadly, maps do not even display on the screen with that app on the S2 (at the time I write this). I tried Locus and the interface is bothersome to me, enough for me to uninstall it. Osmand is the app that I chose. It seems pretty reasonable, it's not as easy to use as I find my Garmin, and not as easy or as good as 6 year old Nokia free Ovi maps, but it's easy to learn to use and mostly works. The interface doesn't seem as crappy as most of the other free GPS software available at the time I write this for Andriod. Osmand's OFFLINE voice navigation prompts are horrible (at the time I write this), just as a warning. Online voice prompts are ok. You can download it from the Andriod Marketplace.
Osmand has free open source maps for it
hosted from Google's servers (very fast) from the OpenStreetMap project, that have been converted to Osmand's default map format which is .obf. Be sure to also download the .poi.odb files also. Some of the downloads end in .zip-1 and .zip-2 and sometimes .zip-3. These files have been split up and must be downloaded as a set because they are multiple parts of the same zip file.
To extract the .zip-1 and .zip2 files to get the .obf map out of them...
The thing that needs to happen is concatenate (join) the 1 and 2 zip files together into one big zip file, and then extract that zip file. On Windows there is a program called 7-Zip
that will do BOTH of these steps for you on the fly as long as you rename the zip files accordingly. So rename your .zip-1 to .zip.001 and rename your .zip-2 files to .zip.002 in Windows explorer. Then after installing 7-Zip
, right-click on the .zip.001 file that you renamed and select "Extract here..." and 7-Zip will extract BOTH .001 and .002 zip files into a SINGLE joined .obf file into the same directory for you.
Copy the .poi.odb and .obf files into your phone
If you have a large enough microSD card in your phone you can configure Osmand so that the default maps directory is on the SD card. However, by default Osmand's directory is going to be on the internal phone memory. So you need to copy the .poi.odb files into the osmand/POI/ folder, and .obf files into the osmand/ directory on the top level of your phone.
For the Samsung Galaxy S2...
You must connect the phone with the USB cable to your computer then enable USB Mass Storage Mode, here's how:
Settings > Applications > Development > Enable USB Debugging (checked)
Settings > Wireless and Network > USB Utilities > Turn on USB Storage (press)
Now using Windows, go to My Computer and find the USB drive that has all the files on your phone, and find the directory "osmand" and now copy all of your .poi and .obf files into the osmand/POI/ and osmand/ folders respectively.
When done copying, go back to the "USB Utilities" settings button and "Turn off USB Storage". You need to do this to make the phone work properly again.
Open up the Osmand app, and using the map button in the top right corner of the user interface, you can select your maps!
Bluetooth headset audio on Andriod with Samsung Galaxy S2 is difficult.
On my Nokia E71 there is no problem, when a Bluetooth headset is connected, audio plays in the bluetooth headset, only when audio is actually playing. Simple and obvious right?
Apparently not on Andriod at the time of writing this article. By default it does not work most of the time for most apps. You need to download apps like BTmono, but they stream to the headset continuously, wasting batteries, and also making it very troublesome when trying to communicate with the Cardo Systems Scala Rider headsets while talking on motorcycles... it basically won't let you talk to your buddy. On the Nokia it's ok, when the audio stops playing it cuts out the streaming, and you can talk to your buddy. Google, please fix this. I cannot believe such a simple and old feature from $50 phones 6 years ago had this but a $600 phone today doesn't. Absolutely disgraceful and makes me sometimes wonder why I have an Andriod phone quite frankly. Oh yeah, because I like to fix problems... sigh.
For long motorcycle trips with my Bluetooth headset, I'm going to bring my old Nokia E71 with Ovi maps just for voice navigation while travelling out of country. Nokia did it right.