Out of the bunch of free GPS and navigation apps that you can find on enormous Play Store, one stands higher than most others. OsmAnd Maps & Navigation is a (limited) free GPS app that has a nice interface, detailed maps, and solid navigation features. The limited free label means that you can have seven downloads (maps, navigation voices, etc.) before you have to buy paid version. If you need maps of only a couple of countries, OsmAnd can be a solid choice for a free navigation.
When you first start the app there will be a welcome screen greeting you, asking you to download the maps you need. Aside from the map of the country you need, you’ll have to download a world overlay map, which doesn’t count toward the seven free downloads. After the map is downloaded, you’ll be able to fully use the app offline. If you’re planning a vacation OsmAnd may not be the best choice, especially if your trip includes driving through more than a couple of countries, because of the seven free downloads limit.
Map overlay is detailed with the option of showing all POI (points of interest) on the map. We recommend using this only when you want to find a gas station or a restaurant since it swarms the screen with tons of POI, limiting the view and making navigation pretty hard. The interface is modern-looking but doesn’t offer very snappy performance; we saw apps that can work faster in the past.
Selecting a destination is simple; just hold your finger on the desired destination for a couple of seconds and the navigation menu pops up, giving you options of selecting the way of traveling (on foot, car, and on a bike), selecting the starting point, and choosing any road you want to avoid. An alternate route will be calculated only if you choose to avoid a road that’s a part of the original route. Not the fastest way of getting an alternate route, but at least it’s included in the free version.
The options menu is full of different settings. You can configure map, select which elements to appear on the map screen, manage general and navigation settings, and more. OsmAnd also supports different plugins including Trip recordings, OpenStreetMap monitoring (getting life road info from other users), ski and nautical map view, etc. Plugins can be helpful to hikers, or users who like to have a live road and traffic information. Just remember that some of the plugins are free, while some have to be bought (like Contour Lines plugin, providing a contour line and hillshade layer, handy for hikers and trekkers).
The navigation part is done quite well, routes are calculated very quickly, they are usually shortest available (the app can calculate a longer route, but you can select an alternate route in that case), just remember to disable POI overlay when taking a trip. The app updates your location regularly; you won’t find any lag while driving.
We didn’t like a couple of things. Firstly, the maps are slow to download. This can be especially frustrating when you first enter the app and have to wait for a dozen of minutes just to download a world layer map (which takes around 100 megabytes). Further, the interface could’ve been prettier. All POI have the same color (although different icons), which can be confusing when trying to find a particular place on the map. Also, seven downloads in free version can be spent in a minute if you’re planning a long trip, driving through lots of countries.
On the other hand, the navigation part is excellent. There’s no lag while driving, maps are accurate, with calculated routes almost every time being the actual best and shortest routes available. We also like the presence of alternate route option in the free version. There’s also a ton of settings. You can adjust the map and UI layers up to the smallest details, change the coordinate format, tweak units of length, choose for the app to calculate fastest, of a fuel-saving route, roads to avoid; you can even set the weight and height of your vehicle.
Overall, OsmAnd is one of the best free GPS and Navigation solutions on Android and iOS. There are better apps, but they are either expensive or don’t offer an (almost) complete package. Yes, there’s that seven downloads limit in the free version, but if you don’t plan on visiting lots of countries, and just want to drive around your country, OsmAnd Maps & Navigation is a very good choice. If wanting to buy a full version, you can do it for $6.42. OSM Live Subscription can be bought for $1.61 per month.