Addicted to Google maps vs paper

I have not seen a post on how to navigate around. A city such as Rome without Google maps. Is there on offline app that is workable when wandering around a new city? I am so used to Google's blue dot showing me exactly where I am (especially when I have made a wrong turn) that the idea of a simple paper map--and l have a good one--is a bit disconcerting. Any alternatives?

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

The thing is to learn how to read a real map. I never rely on online navigation systems, whether walking or driving. In Florence our daughter's GPS gave us the worst walking directions, following busy traffic-choked streets instead of pedestrian-friendly ones. Map and compass have saved my life here in the mountains at home. I will always stick to real maps for Europe travel as well. Google satellite view is great for an overall view, and street view is nice for picking neighborhoods. But for picking a route from A to B, give me a real map.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

(wiping tears) Oh, Karen, I l.o.v.e. you!!! The 'Ed' icon is wearing a Speedo, correct?!? And a 'Get Me There Quickly!' feature that shows him knocking down women and children, a la CDG? ;-) Sorry, SuzieeQQ, I mostly use paper maps, or offline maps - no gps.

Posted by Brent
Tucson, AZ, US
25 posts

I was in Tokyo last month and was always lost. It was very frustrating. I did a ton of reserach when I got back so that I wouldn't have the same problem when I travelled to Italy in 2 weeks. I ended up downloading an app called mapswithme. Using this app I downloaded an offline map of all of Italy. So even though I won't have phone service while I travel, I will still be able to view this map and I won't be dependent on a data connection. Now it is my understanding that even though I won't have phone service, the GPS on my phone will still work. So I should be able to see myself on the map. But I won't know until I try it out for the first time. The map does not give directions, but it does allow you to save bookmarks, and show you where you are, so I can figure it out from there. I'll report back on how it worked when I return.

Posted by SuzieeQQ
San Diego, CA
119 posts

Map with me sounds very good. I appreciate the referralsomething that does not rely on wi-fi as I roam the streets of Rome or Venice. My map wil help me with my INTENTIONS but goodness knows, I'll end up in some little alley somewhere or turned around and although part of the fun of traveling is the adventure, I don't want to get frustrated if I'm trying to get somewhere in time to make a reserved spot in a tour, etc.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

I can tell you how well it works right now. I just flipped it on in the house and walked out to the road. The movement and relative position were visible and appeared accurate. In Scotland in showed that I was in an area for which there was no detail on the map (I was in the middle of some fields), but the nearby small roads were accurately depicted. In London it showed exactly where I was, but some very minor streets were not labeled. It doesn't have a compass per se, but you can toggle between map up and north up. It has a search function that is sketchy. You can choose among catergories or type something in. I tried Winn-Dixie (grocery chain). It showed the closest at nineteen miles, when, in fact, there's one within five. It found all the local streets I tried, but did not respond to a house number. It won't plot a route (so can't give turn-by-turns) but you can drp pin anywhere and find your way to it. You can drp a pin by typing (if it can find what you type) or by tapping the map display. My Apple products use a hierarchial antenna system; in ascending order it's celular data, wifi (for system-known hotspots), and gps. I've never tried switching wifi on and off in urban areas to see if there is accuracy degradation. My understanding is that Apple wifi-only tablets don't have a gps antenna - - neither of ours are that type. A more specialized app is TopoMaps. It's about what the name implies: contour maps. The gps works fine, but streets are depicted and not named, etc. It does have a compass. It's probably the best for use out in the deep sticks. Related is the idea of compasses. I don't remember if any come pre-installed, but I ditched the first few I tried before I found one I like. Being a geographer, I'm picky and use a couple, but probably a basic one would do fine.

Posted by SuzieeQQ
San Diego, CA
119 posts

Ed, . Can you tell me how to turn off whatever it is on my iphone 4 that will cost me a lot of money if I use it so that I am relying only on the GPS? And how to turn the wi-fi back on for when I'm in my apt which is wi-fi enabled( so I can look up something on the internet). I'm a dunce when it comes to technology (I guess that is obvious) but I can follow directions!! SuzieeQQ
San Diego California US

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Sure. What you don't want to do, ever, is mess with the stupid Airplane Mode switch. Leave that sucker the way it comes: OFF. Go to Settings, General, Cellular, and turn Cellular Data OFF. I do this at the departure gate and generally don't mess with it until I've cleared immigration on the way home. Turning cellular data off also automatically kills data roaming so you don't have to mess with that. If you screw with airplane mode, you've got to go through additional steps to get wifi back on. The couple of times I've had to use cellular data briefly (none of our stuff is on international data plans, our phones stay on international voice since we travel so much) the cost was inconsequential. The tablet menu is a bit different. As soon as you open Settings, the Cellular Data option is right there. Turn it off. The logic and consequences are identical, but obviously a phone is not involved. Skype and Facetime are wifi, so you don't have to do anything special to use them. Doing it my way leaves you an operating phone and wifi the whole time. My last solo trip was a couple of weeks long. I never turned cellular data on. I talked to my wife every day. Herself just came off of Antarctica yesterday so I'd had blissful silence for a week since she was out of cell range. I was getting all the butt-chewing I could stand by written communique, however. I've no reason to suspect that she ever used cellular data. Edit: We switched to ATT when we got iphones and pads, so there's neither implied knowledge or merit advantage to other plans.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

So the ipad has a GPS that doesn't depend on cellular data? I guess that would explain why I got a little blue dot on my map last weekend when we were in California, even tho' my ipad does not have 3G, it only works on wifi. I was very puzzled when I saw the little blue dot tracking our progress on the map I was looking at to give directions to my husband while he drove (so it wasn't on wifi). I am still learning how to use the thing and probably have explored about 2% of the capabilities.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You've got me. My pad is 3g/wifi. Hers is newer and something else /wifi. It's not exactly where I can put my paws on it. Both of our gps's work with cellular data off. What I'm guesssing is that your wifi-only is a newer version than what I fiddled with a while back and this newer version may well have a gps chip. I'm at the limit of my geek knowledge here.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

The newest app out is called Maps with Ed. It follows Ed around on his travels. There's a little "Ed" icon. The premium version ($12.99) will give you his recommendations for a cheap lunch and beer wherever you are. You'd recoup that cost within a week, from the sound of it. Even in your own hometown. Next year look for the Ed Cam version. If that's successful there will be a reality show. (I've signed on to be an extra.)

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Thanks, Ed. It is the newest one, or what was newest two months ago when I got it. They don't come with users' manuals so i'm still learning. But it did surprise me when that little blinking blue dot showed up unannounced! I guess I'll ask my geek son.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

What youse guys don't know is that the app is just a come-on for a sub-app ($5 monthly subscription that goes to the grandkids' college funds). It consists of out-takes from the beta version GourdCam. It's in the AppStore under the title 'Watch-The-Jackass-Screw-Up-Everything-All-Over-The-World-And-Not-Fess-Up-To-It'. We're working on an index/seach feature so that you can go back and see things such as that the stupid, ever-to-be-regretted speedo post refered to a metro or train station and not an airport.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

Wifi "GPS" has been been around for a few years, it works well on my iPod touch. It works best in big cities with lots of hotspots. You don't need to manually connect to any of the signals, the device does all the work in the background. The catch is that since you're technically not connected to the Internet, you have to have per-loaded maps like the "city maps to go" app. Also when you arrive in a new city you'll need to make a connect to the Internet for a couple minutes so that the device can download a database of hotspot locations for the city; it's done automatically in the background. I've been in Budapest for the past couple days and the wifi GPS has worked flawlessly!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

Hey, Ed, 'that post' had to start at CDG ;-) Oh, and I already subscribe to that index/search feature: Q: "We are arriving at CDG airport and need to get to the Gare St-Lazare train station. What would you suggest? We will be somewhat short of time to catch the 10:10 train to Normandy" A (after several previous posts): "Hell, I'll come right out and say it since I've been mucking around that town since way before CDG and the RER were even thunk of: I couldn't do it wearing sneakers and a speedo with a fistfull of euros and leaving wailing women and children in my wake. You, on the other hand, don't have a prayer." What gets put on the Internet...lives forever. And that is unfortunate, for the most part. Sorta like mental images of men in Speedos running, be it through airports or metro stations LOL. Sorry, SuzieeQQ, for having a little fun at your thread's expense ;-)

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Thanks, Michael. Are you saying that my ipad was spontaneously finding wifi hotspots as we drove along the freeway? I loaded up the destination area map before we left Point A, when we had wifi, but I never saw it ask to connect to anything after that. I suppose there could have been a lot of hotspots, whough, as we were driving from the Stanford campus to Cupertino, just up the street from Apple headquarters. If that is the case, then I probably can't count on that to work everywhere, can I?

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

SuzieeQQ, It sounds like Ed has the perfect answer for you if you insist on having GPS tell you where you are at any given moment. But unless you are one of those people who is directionally challenged, you should rarely find yourself in any situation where you seriously don't know where you are, even after a few moments of cross-checking a real map. I prefer to keep things "old school" and just have good maps on hand and a constant feel for where I am generally. Then the question becomes; what map to use. Since you are familiar with Google Maps already, you can just take an almost infinite number of screen shots of whatever maps your hear desires (on apple products that's power button and home button at the same time) in whatever scale your heart desires. All of these images are then stored in your photos app and you don't need wifi to view them. You never need physical maps anymore unless you are going off-road somewhere or you just like being REALLY old school.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

Let those grandkids go to a really good school-Add an app called "The Real Story" with commentary from your wife.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

I guess I need to back up. I was trying to explain the 'how' and the capabilities. I agree with Randy completely. If I'm in a stange town I use the throw-away TI maps. In a city, if I need one, I use the ones on the bus or subway station billboards. I flipped it on that one time in London because I was bored, cooling my heels, and wanted to fiddle with something. I've used screen shots of remote places because I've had inadequate maps and only needed a quick peek to orient myself. I've used in only once in earnest and that was because I'd loaned out the car gps, left my map in the hostel, gotten completely turned around in the far beyonds of nowhere, and was scurring to find a pile of rocks before it got dark. I couldn't imagine walking around looking at the darn thing, even every once in a while. One major drawback I've found is that there's no way to plug in lat/lon in advance - - you either have to get there and bump the screen or take a wild guess and dr*p a pin. Even then, you can't recover lat/lon. Which means lugging the little portable which has no maps. If anybody comes across such an app, I sure would like to know about it.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Since the thread has gone down hill in a hand-basket at SuzieeQQ's expense and is bound to be deleted by the Webmaster as soon as he snoops around: The wife app already exists, it's called Scar-Display. I might as well fess up to the worst screw-up ever. Please bear in mind that I have a masters in geography, have flown a lot of the world, sailed across whole oceans single-handedly, speak multiple languages, and am generally a real cool dude. Couple the above with the fact that I've mentioned in passing that I once had a really glorious month pedaling around Tajistan alone on a bike. Couple all of the above with the fact that I'd read a NatGeo article on Kazakhstan a few months before departure and that it seemed like a dandy place to go the next time I was let off the leash. Couple all of the above that with the fact that the names Astana and Dushanbe aren't words that roll off the tip of my tongue. Couple all of the above with the fact that I've been dorking with aiport identifiers for more than fifty years, but RRP and TSE aren't ones that I've ever plugged into a flight plan. You can see where this is going without the Real Story app ...........it seems that I'd boughten tickets to the wrong place and didn't know it till I got there. The only saving grace was that somehow in a mental haze I'd gotten a visa for the place at which I'd arrived. This one better not come back to bite my butt like the speedo deal keeps doing.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
633 posts

I'm surprised to hear Ed rave about GPS after all this time touting paper maps, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! The reality of GPS on foot in large European cities....it's not to great. Tall buildings degrade the accuracy and it takes a good half block to pick up which direction you are traveling. Combine that with winding Medieval streets and the GPS on your phone isn't all it's cracked up to be. A paper map and a small compass to get your bearings is far more useful in my humble experience. Now driving around in the countryside, I wouldn't get in a car without the GPS of some sort as I am a big believer in them. I just found it to be more trouble than it was worth trying to navigate on foot. Get a decent map and mark the highlights for easy reference. The RS maps (which are not to scale) are very useful as well for finding his recomendations.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

I don't rave, I just answer questions. Half of the time I don't even take the car gps. When I do take it, it usually stays in the trunk unless I think I'm going to do a lot of solo runs in the dark in the far beyonds. I don't use an automotive gps in the cities because the talking box is a distraction and it blocks my view - - plus the stinking thing lies. I've already mentioned the only time I've turned on an i-something in a city. Now, the little hand-held, no-mapper that will take lat/lon, that's a horse of a differnt color. If only the old sucker didn't eat batteries. I just looked up at my map/atlas shelf. Maybe fourteen feet long and stuffed tighter than a tick. Big ones are sideways on another shelf.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

So the game is not so much "Where's Ed?" but "Does Ed Know Where He Is?"