Offline maps and GPS tracker app: review of Maps 3D


Update April 2018

The Instituto Geográfico Nacional of Spain does provide a navigation mobile app for its maps: Mapas de España.

Despite its horrific usability and ugly interface, the quality of the topographic maps and its features to import .gpx files and follow them are just great.

Maps3D is still unavailable in Android.

Original post February 2012

I looked for an offline topographic mapping and gps tracker app for a while. I intended to use it for hiking and cycling tours. I downloaded and tested the free versions of a couple of popular apps. GaiaGPS kept crashing on my iPhone although it had worked fine on an Android phone I used a while ago. CompeGPS’ TwoNav was interesting in that it uses the public and free Spanish Instituto Geográfico Nacional maps. However the app and the maps are expensive and the intereface looks clunky.

Eureka: Maps 3D

Then I found Maps 3D 2.5 of Moving World. It claims to be “the first company to combine NASA scans of the Earth’s topography with the outdoor map OSM“. OSM stands for OpenStreetMap, the crowdsourcing collaborative project. The OSM and NASA data blend beautifully and Maps 3D looks pretty awesome:
gps tracking app maps 3D screenshot
The NASA data it’s basically elevation. Usually it’s used for hill shading, but I guess you can build 3D models with it as well.

Unlimited OpenStreetMaps

I am attracted by the fact that I can dowload and store any number of OSM maps of virtually any size. They are all Cloudmade maps. The quality of OpenStreetMap’s in Europe is probably second to none. The selection of any size of maps is very easy. The downloading tool estimates a file size, for instance, 220 MB that then results in only 72 MB. This is because the app does not know in advance how big the tiles coming in will be. So it guesses the size based on density of streets on it. When downloading less dense areas, the tiles get smaller due to the PNG compression.

I downloaded several maps of more than 70 MB at different times of different days with no problems of speed. This is remarkable given the almost altruistic nature of these mapping projects.


Hosting maps like the OpenCycleMap is not cheap. The provider of OpenCycleMap is Andy Allan. He used to work for Cloudmade in London. Allan manages two private servers thanks to donations. Sometimes the website is slow, usually because map tiles have to rendered and are not cached yet. Only Google and its gigantic budget can pre-render all tiles in all zoom levels.

Backup and export of downloaded maps

On iTunes > Apps > Maps 3D > Documents you can only see the saved tracks, not the downloaded maps. Apple is not offering developers any way to backup huge maps. They are stored in a way that iCloud cannot save them. Until the iOS evolves in that direction, MovingWorld would need to find a workaround for this feature in future versions of the app.

Basic graphs

I do not need a graphing interface with all the bells and whistles. My wishlist of features on charts for future versions are:

  • estimations of calories or Joules consumed per track
  • comparisons of two tracks one on one on the same graph
screenshot of track graph of Maps 3D app


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.