Breaking Free From Google Maps

Over the holidays I did about 22 hours of driving altogether and finally hit my breaking point with Google Maps.

We had carefully planned a route in Google Maps through an area we weren’t super familiar with to try and avoid the worst of the winter weather. At some point during our navigation Google Maps without notifying us did a major reroute which undid the route we had planned. This ended up adding a couple hours to our trip by getting us stuck in some mountains during a sudden winter storm. At least we made it out alright.

Later when planning for the next leg of our trip, Google Maps really wanted us to take a route through some more mountains and just wouldn’t show any alternatives. I’d had it and started looking for other Android navigation apps (though I think all of these are also available for iOS).

Organic Maps

I had used Organic Maps for driving navigation before. It’s free and open source, information dense, and easy to use. My only complaint is that, even though you can use it for driving navigation, it isn’t super well suited for it. The audio directions for example I found to be really basic and undescriptive.

Organic Maps website


If Organic Maps is a Swiss army knife, OsmAnd+ is the entire toolbox. It’s very much a “read the manual” sort of app but it’s extremely powerful.

One of my complaints with Google Maps is shared by OsmAnd+. It doesn’t surface alternate routes without some prodding.

OsmAnd website
OsmAnd+ on F-Droid

Magic Earth

This is the app I ended up settling on. It’s not open source like the others, but it does pull data from Open Street Maps and is really easy to use. It probably is missing some of the features of Google Maps like transit and detailed business info but I found it perfect for navigating during long trips.

It does great at showing different route options and by default won’t reroute you by surprise, but there’s even an option to change that behavior. The audio directions are also pretty good for a Google Maps alternative. It’s also got some really unique features like a dashcam.

Magic Earth website

Back to Google Maps?

I used to rely on Google Maps as a necessary evil, disabling it when I wasn’t using it to make sure it wasn’t up to anything funny in the background. I’ve completely uninstalled it for now to see how Magic Earth performs for city navigation. Depending on how that goes I’ll either stick with Magic Earth or go back to what I was doing before. But no matter what, I’m done with Google Maps for road trips and will be using Magic Earth instead.


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