The Scout iOS app (free, with one in-app option) from navigation provider Telenav gets a solid update today with the addition of OpenStreetMap (OSM) as the mapping provider. OSM is sort of like Wikipedia, a crowd sourced and vetted navigation solution that is often updated faster and more accurately than commercial map databases. The rollout of the new maps starts today and most users will see updated maps before the end of the week.
"As a mapping platform, OSM is a credible alternative to proprietary solutions, with the added advantage of instant updates, resulting in a more accurate and up-to-date map," said Steve Coast, founder of OpenStreetMap and Telenav's head of OSM. "Roads change, subdivisions are built, and freeways expand so, just like all other maps, it needs updates on an ongoing basis. Today's launch has effectively added millions of editors to the OSM global community, breathing even more life into an already exploding free and open-sourced project." Scout was a US-only navigation app, but with OSM Scout will now be able to compete globally.
The new street maps add even more to what is already a popular free navigation solution. Scout offers turn-by-turn voice directions, traffic reports, the ability to download regional maps to cut your data usage, and a Glympse-like feature that lets you show your position and arrival times to friends.
I took the app out for a spin taking special notice of how OSM did in some new neighborhoods in my part of town. The streets were there despite the new construction, and even showed more detail of small curves than Apple Maps did. One of my favorite things about Apple Maps is integration with Siri, but Scout has a feature where you can say "Hey, Scout" without even touching your iPhone. Follow that with directions, like "take me to the nearest gas station" or "find the nearest pharmacy", and you're set. Since I never have to touch the phone, Scout is one-up on Siri which requires a button press to activate.
One thing I did notice in my area is that Scout is weaker in terms of its points of interest (POI) listings. Asking Scout to take me to the nearest Ace Hardware store offered me an 11-mile trip, but Apple Maps knew there was a recently opened store just 1.1 miles away. Google Maps missed the new hardware store, too. Of course, the accuracy of Scout's data will depend on where you live.
Still, Scout is a terrific bargain for free. Scout also offers Scout Plus, which is a U.S. $24.99 yearly subscription that adds lane assist, traffic alerts with rerouting, speed trap alerts, and speed warnings. It's a nice package, but I am not wild about subscriptions, and I think the basic Scout package is quite full-featured and reliable.
Adding OpenStreetMap is a big step. From my look at it, the maps are easily as complete as Google's and Apple's offerings and may be updated more often since users can report issues, changes and new construction directly from the app. Telenav says to expect monthly updates, all based on user input that is then vetted.
I have no hesitation in recommending Scout to TUAW readers, and incorporating OSM is a real positive. Scout requires iOS 7 or later, and it is optimized for the iPhone 5.