Anyone who spends time outdoors in the UK probably knows that Ordnance Survey maps are darned useful, not to mention incredibly detailed. Showing paths, rights of way, hill features and even power lines, the OS range are the go-to choice when planning an adventure in the great outdoors. But the paper maps are cumbersome and expensive. There are apps which will let you download maps for specific areas or even the whole country – but at a couple of hundred pounds for the whole of the UK, it’s still a lot of money.
Enter iOSMaps. Once you get past the confusing app name – this is a separate entity from the stock iOS Maps app – you have a free app which gives full country-wide access to Ordnance Survey 1:50000 mapping. On launching, the app centres on your current location, after which the familiar touch screen controls come into play. The app makes particularly good use of pinch-to-zoom – while 1:50000 is the default scale, zooming out will switch to the OS small scale map set, as seen on road atlases. This makes the app useful for long distance map viewing, for example if planning a longer drive.
Zooming the other way brings up the 1:10000 scale, which goes to street atlas detail level. When you get down to this scale the Ordnance Survey have actually mapped each individual building, so a row of terraced houses appears as a block of colour, while a street of detached villas appears as individual blocks. Great if you want to know at a glance what the make up of houses in a street is!
This isn’t a feature-rich app – its purpose is to display maps, and does that well. There’s a search box which will centre the map on your chosen place, a location button to return to your current location, and an option to view the Ordnance Survey’s 1:50000 map key. It’s a simple, uncluttered interface which is intuitive and easy to use. There are a couple of points which could do with improvement. The map is a little jumpy when scrolling at times, meaning it can take a couple of attempts to get where you want, but it’s a minor niggle really. Slightly more annoying is the fact that the search box takes you straight to what is presumably the most popular result, rather than giving options; so for example a search for Newton, which should return several towns of that name, sends you to Newton Abbott. Similarly, Milton sends you straight to Milton Keynes. It would be preferable if this brought up a list of options so you go to the right place.
Overall this is a really useful app – and when it’s free and doesn’t feature adverts, the negatives above are easy to ignore. The app does require a data connection to function – to contain the maps within the app would make it a massive download – so it shouldn’t be relied on in remote places, but is extremely handy for quickly planning journeys or outdoor jaunts. iOSMaps is available free from the iTunes Store.