976 Map Apps and Counting

I’m trying to decide whether this passes the smell test.

While searching for navigation apps for the iPad to check out for possible review, I came across scores and scores of street map apps that were identical except for the area they mapped. They’re all made by Dubbele.com (iTunes link), and at the moment there are a total of 702 for the iPhone and iPod touch, most at $1.99 apiece, and 274 for the iPad, at $2.99 apiece. They’re all little more than offline viewers for the OpenStreetMap map tiles of a given city — pay a few dollars, get an OSM map that can be used anywhere without incurring data charges.

I don’t doubt this is allowed by the OSM licence, and I don’t necessarily object in principle to for-pay apps based on OSM data. But I’m not sure I like the fact that the iTunes Store is being flooded with a lot of nearly identical apps. I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that a number of these city maps are still very much works in progress on OSM — I know, because I’ve been working on some of them — and can’t see any indication, short of buying one or two of them (which I won’t), that these apps’ maps will be updated on a regular basis. And, at the same time, there are other OSM apps for the iOS platform — free apps — that will download map tiles for offline use: I have two of them.

A single offline OSM viewer that allows you to download map tiles for offline use from hundreds of bookmarked cities and that costs a few dollars — that I wouldn’t have any problem with. But this seems a little bit hinky — the map equivalent of 99-cent book applications that contain works you can download elsewhere for free. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not necessarily good either.