Ditching Google entirely on our de-Googled phones, such as GrapheneOS, means that we need an alternative to Google Maps. While it is generally safe to use Google Maps within a browser on your phone, it leaves a little left to be desired when compared to the actual app on standard Android phones. Instead, let’s discuss some of the top Map Applications that offer realistic alternatives for quick and easy vehicle navigation, and even navigation on foot for hiking, hunting, climbing and other outdoor use.

  1. Magic Earth
  2. Organic Maps
  3. OsmAnd+
  4. All-In-One-Offline Maps
  5. WeGo HERE Maps

Magic Earth and Organic Maps are the two top ones that just work out of the box, so to speak. OsmAnd+ map application is excellent and very rich feature wise, but is a little trickier to setup to suit your needs. Let’s discuss in more detail what each one does for us, and my own personal opinion of them based on both my own testing, as well as community discussion.


1. Magic Earth

To get Magic Earth, use Aurora Store. (Once Aurora Store is installed, visit Magic Earth page and click on the Google Play icon to download) To use the app in GrapheneOS, you will need to give it Network and Location Permissions. Magic Earth is one of the easiest ones to use for the average person used to Google Maps, no fuss and simple settings menu. Select between 2D or 3D views, set speed limit warning thresholds (audible), and it’s even possible to integrate this with a Dashcam system if desired.

A great feature on this, as well as the following Map apps, is that you can download an area (such as a state or country) onto your phone for offline use. Even with zero cell service or WiFi, the app will still accurately calculate the fastest route and provide turn by turn navigation with an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) if you have that area downloaded. Downloading the entire United States takes up about 11 GB on your device.


2. Organic Maps

Organic Maps is my other top choice for the average person to use, I find this one is quite appealing for both appearance and functionality. Download using F-Droid app store for best privacy. This is a completely Open Source app with good features and easy use, including auto updating routes should you go off track, gives you ETA and miles remaining on route, just be sure to head to Settings menu and uncheck ‘Motorways’ and any other of the 4 types of routes to avoid. Motorway is actually what we call Highway for folks in the US. (This is the same OSM data set as what the next map app uses, OsmAnd, but with a little more polished user interface)

One shortfall with this app is that in order for voice to work to give you audible voice commands for navigation turns, you’ll need to install a TTS (Text to Speech) engine of your choosing. Choose a TTS app on F-Droid here.


3. OsmAnd+

OsmAnd is an excellent full featured map app that can be downloaded from the F-Droid store. While this is probably the most feature rich map app of this collection, it can be a little trickier than the others to set up initially, but once settings are where you like them, it’s plenty easy to use. Sometimes addresses don’t index properly, and while it will put you in the very near vicinity, it has some catching up to do there.

This is a great app for doing ‘map reconnaissance’ of an area, and if you know the exact point you need to go to by visual on the map, it will navigate to it turn by turn perfectly for you, even showing you which lane you need to be in on highways and turn lanes. This app also requires a TTS engine of some sort to enable voice commands for turn by turn navigation. This app is also Open Source and privacy respecting when downloaded from the F-Droid store. This is my preferred backup map app of choice to have at the ready.

You can also download areas onto your device for offline use. Select a country, or a state to download when you have service, then you’ll be able to navigate like a pro even if cell service is dead. The phone will calculate your route and ETA using the installed maps and GPS satellites, this feature is great.


4. All-In-One Offline Maps

This has been my preferred go to Map app for many years for climbing and doing goat things in the mountains. Excellent features and like the others, download the areas you need for offline use, typically when I’m using this, I’m out of reach for cell service and rely on the internal storage.

You can download All-In-One Offline Maps from Aurora Store or download and install from: https://apkpure.com/all-in-one-offline-maps/net.psyberia.offlinemaps

5. WeGo HERE Maps

Honorable mention, this is not one I use much, but worth knowing about. This may be better for some depending on your likes and needs, for best privacy download this from Aurora Store if using Android. Function of this app is quite nice, the reason I prefer the others listed above such as Organic Maps, is due to the software being Free and Open Source (FOSS), where in contrast this option is still free, but it is proprietary code.

GPS Accuracy in the Modern Age

Many years ago when doing Search and Rescue as well as Military operations, GPS was and is still used heavily, but just how accurate is it? I can remember when our first smartphones would give us a fairly accurate grid, but possibly off by 50-100′ and we were only getting maybe 4-7 satellites maximum (which is still pretty good) but today? Today I frequently see connections to as many as 30 satellites on my smartphone while using map apps, rarely less than 20 unless in a poor reception area.

There was a time where supposedly military GPS had the most accurate settings enabled, for obvious reasons like targeting munitions, and giving our military the most accurate systems, but civilian GPS was purposely limited to about 30-60 feet. These days I would argue that there is no difference, especially when we factor in the newer methods of positioning such as DGPS and RTK and the use of Wireless and Bluetooth technology to pinpoint locations to within a centimeter in some cases.

To read a brief overview of these newer GPS and assisted technology for positioning read here: https://mapscaping.com/how-accurate-is-gps/

Final steep section of ice on Mt. Hood ascent (Pearly Gates, left chute at 11,000′)