App Review: WebOSM | webOS Nation

App Review: WebOSM 15

by Scott Rose Tue, 27 Mar 2012 5:57 pm EDT

App Review: WebOSM

We all know that choice is good. Choice gives us freedom. We celebrate our ability to make the choices we want, such as Pepsi or Coke. Mac or PC. If you've ever felt the need for choice in your Touchpad mapping options then WebOSM by Maël Lavault may be the app you've been waiting for. WebOSM utilizes the OpenStreetMap database, offering the user a choice between it and the built-ine Maps application that uses Microsoft's Bing maps. Lavault goes a step beyond that, offering up webOSM through the webOS Nation Homebrew Gallery for free or from the App Catalog for what amounts to a $0.99 donation.

OpenStreetMap is the community-built free and open source road maps database that powers WebOSM. Anybody can make edits to OpenStreetMap, in essence it's like the Wikipedia of road maps. Using OpenStreetMap comes with some advantages and disadvantages. OpenStreetMap tends to be more detailed on the micro level than Bing or Google, often having extended paths and driveways for apartment complexes and university campuses, and has denoted many more local landmarks such as churches and schools. It also sometimes lacks some political boundaries and topographic data, as well as detailed aerial imagery (or roadmaps overlain on the available satellite imagery). Thanks to the crowd-sourced details in OpenStreetMap, urban areas are often highly detailed, while rural stretches might be as lacking in side roads and goat paths as they are people in real life.

The interface for WebOSM is mighty familiar - it's practically identical to the Bing Maps application. Though there is one immediate difference; the current location button has moved to the left and is positioned next to the directions button. The map interface supports all the usual pinch-to-zoom gestures, panning drags and double-tap zooms that are found in the Maps application.

App Review: WebOSM

Mildly frustratingly, the get directions feature lacks the ability to begin your route from your current position. Sure, the TouchPad doesn't have GPS and can't make use of the cloud-hosted OpenStreetMap data when outside of a Wi-Fi zone (unless you're one of the handful of TouchPad 4G owners), but you can at least get a general location using Location Services' IP address/location database. So you failing to do so will result in an endless search that can only be stopped by an application restart. Yes, there are some rough edges to WebOSM.

After entering in a starting and ending address a route will be highlighted in blue. There is only one routing option - road - though the developer plans to add bicycle and walking routing in the future. WebOSM also cannot give you step-by-step routing, which is a significant pain. You can look at and browse the map of your route, but actually just flipping through the steps to see where you need to turn, that isn't happening.
Additionally, there's a feature in many OpenStreetMap applications that is not present in WebOSM: the ability to download and save the maps for your route. With TouchPads' lacking cellular data, being able to have at least the map of your route saved on the device would greatly enhance WebOSM's usefulness.

WebOSM provides a choice for your mapping, or at least another option to Bing Maps. It's a simplistic app that's missing a number of important features, but the project itself is still young, so there is a lot of potential. The app can only get better and mature over time, a process that we're looking forward to. And it doesn't hurt that advanced users (like the people that visit this site) are able to get WebOSM for free through the Homebrew Gallery where the developer can deploy and rapidly test new features without disrupting the $0.99 in the App Catalog crowd. Though we wouldn't dissuade you from throwing a bit into the Maël Lavault App Catalog tip jar too.


It is possible to use a bluetooth GPS receiver but this application might not (yet) allow it. MapTool Pro (Mapping Tool Pro) from Henk Jonas (Metaviewsoft) was the first to use the available serial bluetooth connection once it was available to the developers via system API (webOS 2.x).
But if it doesn't support offline maps (images or the original vector data) you need a network connection to get the data.

I just tried this and was not able to get the app to communicate with my antique Bluetooth GPS receiver. I don't think WebOS supports it. Maybe if I got gpsd running, but no guarantees that this app would support it then, either.

I'm working to adapt the bluetooth gps example code in the SDK, so let me know if you can (and want !) to test it ;) (saddly, i can't test it myself because i do not own a bluetooth gps...)

Writing about OSM supported app and not mention MapTool? Come on...

I actually tried out MapTool on my Pre2 because of this article (not your comment) since WebOSM is TP-only) and spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out how to get directions or even simply find an address. Then I deleted it. Fine for people who only use lat/long, but useless for me. Any chance you'd add addresses and show the route on the map?

Searching for an address? Tap on the zoom value in the command bar to open the map menu, tap on search and enter your address.
Create a route from your position to the current target? open the app menu and select "Route to target". You can set your current position and the target by tapping on the map. You can also use the current GPS location as your current position: tap on the gray/blue dot in the command bar.
After your route is created (car, bike or walk), the KML file is saved to your device. You can then import it (map menu -> list tracks -> import) and show it on the map. There is a help scene in the app, there is a youtube video in the app catalog and finally there is a thread here on for questions and help.

That's an odd place for that menu since none of those features have to do with zoom...
Anyways, I followed your steps and managed to test a route from work to home and find a Walmart (no way to sort by distance?).
The thing that stood out the most (other than adding targets) is that when I get the route:
1) it uses 2-4 lines of text to explain that I need to go through some hoops to view my route
2) there are TWO "Close" buttons
Instead, at least to take care of #2, can't you just simply have an "Import" and a "Close" button?
The good news is I'll be keeping the app on my phone this time. I'll need a longer time to compare it to the Maps app now that their features are comparable for what I use them for. Thanks!

The place for this menu is odd, right. But it's a fast place to access it. Open up the app menu is much more difficult and the app menu has already too much entries. But I'm open to suggestions.

Tried it on my Pre3, even tho its not supported.
Obviosly its not working very well or almost not at all but i would really like to have a bing maps alternative on my Pre3 cause bing sucks for most stuff .
Miss native googlemaps so much :(

Hope the dev will work on Pre support!

This looks like a great start to what will be a great product. I will use this starting now. Can't wait until they work all the bugs out.

Wish Pre2 was supported... as Bing does not work in my area.

OSM is more accurate than bing and google in my hometown area. Although our city has the university and a 480 qm Lake google maps are more than 5 years old. Zooming to the place where I lived back in those days still shows my old car in front of that house. Bing isn't much better, no changes within at least 4 years.

OSM shows the new traffic circle on my way to work. They finished building it in January. It also shows the building in which I am working. It was build in 2006 but neither google, nor bing seems to know it.

webOSM is quite simple but it's worth spending 99 cent for it. Perhaps more functionality will come.

I like what I see already. I'm hoping future updates include support for phones and Latitude. Pretty please?

I am taking all your suggestions in consideration to make a new release that rocks !
For now, a phone version is very unlikely but i will take a closer look soon.
Offline maps seems to be a very popular feature so i'll work on it.
For now i started a refactoring of the code to be more extensible, so it will be easy to add features in the future.
Thanks for your support !
p.s : The project is under GPLv3 and available on github, so feel freee to contribute ;)

I think Pre3 support would be good for the next version- it runs but the address box doesn't fit on the screen and the scroll/zoom doesn't work.