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Would you trust crowd-sourced maps? Skobbler releases satnav app

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Privacy-conscious Apple fanbois worried about The Man tracking their every move can now buy - and update - an offline mapping app from open-source mapping biz Skobbler.

Skobbler uses maps from the OpenStreetMap project, a crowd-sourced effort which offers an alternative to the maps offerings from Google, Bing and Nokia. Skobbler's new iOS app, ForeverMaps 2, adds features lacking from the mainstream options but with one key addition - a price tag.

It's not a lot of cash, in fairness: the app is priced at 69p until the weekend and £2.49 thereafter, which seems like a small price to pay for truly offline mapping which can be used without the cloud following one's every step.

Not only are downloadable vector maps available but all of the route-planning calculations are performed locally, so the maps work without a data connection - which should make it the default option for anyone without a data contract.

But that 69p won't provide navigation advice, or a driver's-eye view to compete with satnav apps. For that one has to shell out £1.49 for Skobbler's navigation tool, plus a couple of quid for the offline UK map.

Neither app works on Android devices, though we're promised integration soon.

ForeverMaps is interesting because it makes such great use of OpenStreetMaps, offering users the chance to become cartographers just as Wikipedia offers readers the chance to become writers, though with a measure of quality control sadly lacking from the encyclopaedia.

OpenStreetMaps has matured of late, and now rivals the free alternatives in quality and speed even if it lacks some of the flasher features (no 3D buildings or street view images), but it will appeal to those who value their privacy.

Microsoft, Google and Nokia all fund their free maps by selling local adverts and delivering them to users who wander near enough. That means tracking users, an idea many people find repugnant and will buy from Skobbler to avoid.

But only by tracking our every move can Google and its competitors deliver information we didn't know we wanted: reminding us when we have to leave for a meeting rather than when we've left it too late; knowing that music is distracting at work but welcome at home; and all the other cloud-based intelligence Google and its ilk are hoping to deliver to us - functionality which costs us nothing more than our privacy. ®

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