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ForeverMap handy but a bit rough

ForeverMap brings maps of every location in North America to your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. The US$0.99 app lets you decide which maps you want, such as a state, a whole country or a province, and download what you need. Maps can be downloaded through iTunes or on Wi-Fi, but not on 3G. You can delete or add more maps as you wish, the only limitation being storage on your iDevice.

The maps are sourced from OpenStreetMap.org. The advantage of the app is that you have the maps with you without any data connection needed. You can plan a route, find a nearby restaurant or museum, or find an address without ever being connected to the internet.

The routes you plan can be for walking or driving, but the app does not give you turn-by-turn directions. It will show you as a moving icon on the map if your device has GPS. There is a bookmark function and filters so that you can select what you are looking for that might be nearby.

Forever sounds OK, but in practice, it's all a bit fiddly. The maps are very sparse. Don't expect the kind of detail you are used to seeing with a paid navigation app, or even Google Maps. The GUI isn't too intuitive, either. I made quite a few mistakes just searching for points of interest, and there aren't a lot of businesses in the database. I did a search for restaurants within 8 miles of home and the app found 4. Google found 11 pizza places within a few miles and many dozens of restaurants within 8 miles.

The app was done by Skobbler in Germany. I took a look at a free Navigation app from Skobbler last year. Like ForeverMap, it was pretty basic. It did require a data connection for maps, but it could do turn-by-turn directions.

At less than a dollar, ForeverMap is not a great risk if you want built-in mapping and you have little or no connectivity, but most of us aren't in that situation. With an easier to understand GUI and more data, I'd like the app a lot better. Of course, more data is a trade off to the size of the files. Arizona was 29 MB, California is 148 MB and the whole US is 1.86 GB.

ForeverMap is out today on the App Store. It is a universal app that requires iOS 3.1 or later.

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