LAST UPDATED JUNE 13, 2017 AT 9:29 A.M.
GPS without data: an easy way to get around and save some cold hard cash
There are plenty of ways to get around using mobile data on your smartphone while using a GPS map.
Major cell phone providers like Verizon and AT&T insist that we all need a huge amount of data for everyday things like GPS.
Fortunately, people are wising up.
With the rise in low-cost smartphone plans like Republic Wireless, GPS apps with offline support are becoming more popular. The bottom line is people are saving a lot more money when they buy a high quality, unlocked smartphone.
For the uninitiated, this is easy.
Get yourself an unlocked smartphone. Something nice like a Moto G Plus or Moto X Pure Edition . Get $15 per month unlimited talk/text plan on a low-cost service. Need a little data? Fine. There’s a $20 per month plan for 1G of data, and unlimited talk and texting.
Even if you don’t want to pay full price for a new smartphones, there are other options out there. StraightTalk sells high-end smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S8 under a pay-per-month plan. Tello lets you build your own monthly plan from scratch, and even lets you use your smartphone (if it’s compatible) on their network.
Our review of offline options for GPS and map navigation apps will guide you through the land of zero sacrifices.
GPS with offline map support has been around for a while. But there have been a lot of improvements thanks open source apps and programs.
Best offline GPS apps for iPhone, Android smartphones
You can navigate through any city or town using GPS apps with offline map support. These maps work with your phone’s built-in GPS radio, which doesn’t require data usage.
A couple of the best GPS apps below use OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-source alternative to Google Maps. It’s updated daily by millions of users so it has a lot to offer in terms of detailed points of interest.
You should also check out the offline options offered by Google Maps to see if that will work for you.
Before you delve into our list of alternative maps, Android users should set their storage preferences to the SD card. If you are using an iPhone, be sure to have some space to save maps to your smartphone. Many of the apps mentioned below will require you to download a map or an area where you plan to drive. This will replace your typical data-burning GPS app.
MapFactor GPS Navigation Maps (Android)
You don’t need data or an Internet connection while you’re driving around using MapFactor GPS. It functions as a turn-by-turn GPS navigation app, using 1.8 million postcodes and OpenStreetMap.
You can plan your route door-to-door much like data-consuming GPS apps. MapFactor has features that will be familiar to users of Google Maps and Waze.
You get a heads up with upcoming maneuvers when you drive. There are both 2D and 3D modes and day and night modes that give you a realistic layout.
And you won’t have to give up the voice navigation that you like.
Maps are updated free every month.
MapFactor GPS is free at the Amazon app store or Google Play Store.
Navmii (Android, iPhone, Windows phone, Blackberry)
Navmii uses OpenStreetMap. Its maps are stored on your device so you won’t need to burn any data.
Android users can download a “world” version of the app, or one just for the US. iPhone users will be required to pick from 20 regional options. Navmii has high definition maps, and automatic re-routing to get you back on track if you miss a turn. You can switch to walking mode when on foot.
You can search for destinations by address or point of interest. Navimii’s display is very clean looking when driving in offline mode with an appearance that’s similar to Google Maps.
Navmii is ad-supported, but the advertisements go away if you spend $2.
It’s a very easy app to use. If you do happen to use it with data or over WiFi, Navmii crowdsources information from other drivers like Waze. So you may get info on road hazards and possible speed traps. You can also download celebrity voice navigation and have familiar voices like Snoop Dogg help guide you around.
Some map packs will cost you depending on the device you are using. But don’t sweat it. Map packs are generally under $5. Most of app (and map packs) is actually free. Much cheaper than a data plan.
Navmii is available for free at Google Play Store and Apple Store.
Using OSM data, you’ll get turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation. Osmand works both online and offline and gives you a choice of driving, pedestrian and cycling modes. You can align the display according to your GPS compass or your direction of motion.
Osmand will tell you an estimated time of arrival, display street names and points of interest. Like Navmii, you will be automatically re-routed if you get off course. You can also search by address or by type of place (e.g. hotel, restaurant, or museum).
People who are into how the navigation voice sounds have a choice of recorded or synthesized voices.
Osmand is available at Amazon app store, or Google Play Store.
HERE WeGo – Offline Maps & GPS (Android, iPhone)
This app will show you all ways you can get to a particular destination. HereWeGo also shows you the cost of public transportation and taxi fares.
The offline maps included in the app include the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and about 100 other countries around the globe. You will also get roughly 1,300 detailed maps for major U.S. and European cities. Here WeGo draws on information gleaned from a number of partners like TripAdvisor, Expedia and Wikipedia.
If you’re riding a bike, you’ll get a heads up showing how hilly or flat the terrain will be on your route. Here WeGo has turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation when you’re behind the wheel.
Here WeGo is at the Amazon app store and Google Play Store.
MAPS.ME (Android, iPhone)
Fast and detailed maps are on MAPS.ME, which are entirely offline. No internet is required for using MAPS.ME and all features on it are free. This app has points of interest like hiking trails that you won’t find on other maps. Everything is kept up to date by millions of OpenStreetMap contributors every day.
This app is handy if you’re traveling around your city or town, or heading abroad to Paris or London.
You can use this app when walking or biking. MAPS.ME will also tell you whether your path ahead is uphill or downhill.
MAPS.ME is available at the Amazon app store, Google Play or Apple Store.
Using offline GPS without data on a low-cost Android, iPhone
Adjusting to a minimal data plan is no big deal. For about two years now, I have been paying about $45 per month, for 5G of data and unlimited talk and text. I’ve been closely watching what I actually use vs what I spend.
Is it enough data?
It’s actually way more data than I need. So I’ll be scaling back again, and keeping even more of my money. Having a WiFi connection in your home accommodates most of my needs. But I’ve been also surprised to see that when I stream music during a three or four mile run or walk, I’m not burning as much data as I thought while listening to music. It’s still amazing to me that my cell phone bill used to be about $80 to $100 per month. Buying an unlocked cell phone and trying carriers like Republic Wireless has saved me hundreds of dollars a year.
In case you haven’t read my review of Republic Wireless, there’s a major perk to owning your own unlocked smartphone that’s worth repeating here. When you’re using smaller carriers like Republic, you’re not tied into a contract. If you don’t like the service, just go elsewhere. An unlocked smartphone gives you that freedom. I’ll never go back to a big name cell phone provider again.
Here’s a few unlocked smartphones I recommend if you’re interested in what I’m doing.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble