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.