OS Maps App FAQ - Android


Download from Google Play for Android devices Download from Google Play for Android devices


What's new

The basics

Viewing maps


My Activities

Map downloads with a paper map

Purchasing a subscription

Map downloads for subscribers

Other Features

Technical Questions

Look for:

OS Maps App for Android - what's new

Version minor update

  • Route line colour preferences set on web version will now appear on the route in the app. Line colour cannot be changed in app, or set for routes created in the app
  • Fixed an issue where downloading both 50k and 25k offline maps at the same time prevented switching map layers. Thanks to those that reported and helped us track down this issue
  • Improved GPS tracking to reduce battery use
  • Fixed distance counter to show 2017 activity


Version 1.8.0 update

  • Added the new 'My Activities' system. See here for more information on using it
  • Fix where routes were lost if the connection was lost during saving
  • Route filtering is now faster


Version 1.7.6 update

Minor update to fix the most common cause of crashes reported by users. If you find OS maps crashed regularly in use, install this update now.


Version 1.7 for Android phones and tablets

  • Added the new AR viewer, allowing you to see the names of places nearby
  • Improvements to the process for buying a subscription in app
  • Reduced how frequently waypoints are added while recording a route to save power and reduce route file size
  • Minimum required version of Android is now 4.4

Known issues

We are aware of these issues in the current release:

  • On some devices the maps flicker when zooming in. Greenspaces layer can flicker even when static on older devices
  • Nothing happens when tying to redeem a paper map code, and when trying again a message saying “code burnt” is shown. This is an intermittent issue where the app times out when checking the paper map code, so it appears not to work. In most cases, you can go to Menu > Maps > Paper maps and see that your map has been redeemed and is ready to download. If not, please contact Customer Services with the login email address, map number and the download code so they can investigate.
  • Users with large numbers of downloaded maps can have issues with the app crashing when attempting to load the map layer. We recommended you remove offline maps and downloads when you are not using them, and re-download as necessary. The number of maps or downloads you can have depends on your device and other apps installed.
  • The new AR viewer may appear empty when opened if you have not downloaded the file of places. If you have not been asked to download the file, you may need to delete the app and re-install to trigger it.
  • The AR viewer is not available on devices that do not have a GPS, rear camera, magnetic sensor (compass) and motion sensor installed. Additionally, it is not available on certain Samsung devices due to compatibility issues with their camera software.

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The basics

What devices does OS Maps work on?

The OS Maps mobile app is available on Android devices using Android 4.4 (KitKat) and higher. There is also a version for iOS (Apple) devices, but it is not available on Microsoft devices or Amazon Kindle. You can also use the OS Maps desktop version, using the same username and password.

How do I register?

Just open the app and register with your details. This gives you access to features like saving a route and downloading maps you have purchased in the shops.

The app says my email is already in use?

It may be that you already used your email address to create an account with us or buy a product. Either create a new account by using a different email address (if you have one) or use the 'I've lost my password' link on the login page of the main website. If you still get problems logging in, please let us know.

What permissions are required?

Location to show your position on the map
Storage to store offline maps and routes
Contacts to share routes and import and export routes as GPX files from your email. (Exporting GPX files is limited to subscribers only)
Camera to use the AR functions

Blocking permissions will make functions that rely on them not work, or may prevent the app starting at all


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Viewing maps

How do I switch between maps?

Use the 'layers' button in the bottom of the map screen to switch between the available map types.

How do I use the AR (augmented reality) view?

OS Maps app AR buttonOn the main map screen click the AR button in the bottom left corner. This will turn on the rear camera and the AR labels.

Hold the device up to the horizon, and labels will show the feature name and distance. Click on a text label to open a web page with information about that point. AR will work with no mobile phone signal, but opening the information page will require a data connection.

Why is the 50k / 25k map blank?

These maps will only display if you are a subscriber, or have downloaded the map using a code from a paper map, and when you zoom in to an appropriate level. Zoom in further to see the map detail.

How do I use the Greenspace layer?

  Public park or gardens, including village greens, nature reserves and similar
  Play space – childrens’ play area unless it’s inside a paid attraction or school. Includes features like skate parks.
  Playing field for football, rugby, cricket, etc. which is accessible to the public
  Sports – all sorts of sports facilities not in other categories, such as recreation centres and swimming pools. Includes both free access and paid facilities, but not places only for spectators.
  Golf course – including both private and public courses
  Allotments and community growing spaces. May not have public access.
  Religious grounds and cemeteries, where these have a reasonable amount of greenspace. May not be available all the time.

We’ve not included several features:

  • Woodlands, as these are already clearly marked with a green tint on the ‘standard’ map
  • Play areas and playing fields in school grounds, as these are generally not accessible to the public
  • National parks, open access land, rights of way in the countryside and similar, as the Greenspace map is for urban greenspace areas available to the public

What’s the night map for?

It’s useful when out at night as the low brightness will not spoil your night vision. It also saves batter life as less power is used by the screen.

How do I move around the map?

To move around, swipe left - right and up - down. You can zoom in and out using two-finger pinch and zoom controls.

Why can’t I zoom in further to see details?

The maximum zoom level depends on the exact device you are using, but on most devices will give a size similar to a printed map.

At times it can be useful to be able to zoom in further to see fine details. Fortunately, all recent versions of Android include a really useful function to do this.

Turn on zoom: In Android go into Settings > Accessibility > Magnification Gestures and turn it on. It may appear in slightly different places on some devices.

Use in OS Maps: Zoom in as far as you can normally. Then triple-tap the screen to turn on the Accessibility Zoom. A yellow border will appear, and you can use pinch to zoom to decrease or increase the magnification level, and swipes to move around. Triple-tap again to turn it off.

Bonus: You can use the zoom function in almost any app or screen to make it easier to see detail

Turn on magnification gesturesTurn on magnification gestures
Normal map viewNormal map view
Triple tap to turn on magnificationTriple tap to turn on magnification

Use the 'Search for location' box at the top of your screen. As long as you're connected to the internet, we'll try to work out the name of the place you're trying to find as you type. Confirm the name of the location and we'll zoom straight to it.

If we can't find a match, we'll suggest the next best result. If there's nothing at all on our database, please check the spelling of your search.

The search uses your data connection. If you are offline search functionality will not be available.

How do I find map features, such as pubs or places to stay?

Map features will be introduced in a future release.


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How do I plot a route?

Tap on 'Plot a route' in the app's main menu. Or if you prefer, tap on the location marker that shows where you are now and we'll give you the option to plot a new route. We'll also ask you if you'd like to plot a route when you search for a new location.

Your first tap on the map tells us where you'd like to start. We'll identify that spot with a marker. Carry on tapping on the map to create other waypoints.

If you want to remove the point, use 'Undo' at the top of the screen.

Once you've completed your route, tap 'Save', and we'll identify the last waypoint as your destination with another marker. You can then name your route and make notes about it for future reference.

At the bottom of the screen, we'll also keep you updated about the elevation profile of your route.

How do I find my saved routes?

From the menu, when you are logged in, select 'My Routes'. All your previously saved routes will be listed.

Tap on a route name to view it on the map.

Can I see the routes created on the OS Maps browser version?

The latest release brings automatic 2-way synchronisation between the Android app and the desktop version. When a data connection is available, all routes you have created on the desktop version will synchronise to your mobile device and will then appear in your routes library, even when you are offline. Similarly, routes created on your mobile device using either the record function or the route planning function will appear on the desktop version of OS Maps so you can review route details or print maps.

How do I record a route?

In the menu just choose the ‘Record a route’ function and click the ‘Record’ button to start. You can pause a recording for a time, or stop it altogether, then save the route to your routes library.

How do I export a route as a GPX file?

You need to be a subscriber to export a route as a GPX file. Find the route from your routes list, click Menu > Options > Export. This will generate the GPX file, and you will be able to send it to email, message or other destinations, depending on apps installed. If this fails to work the most common reasons is lack of permissions on the device. The OS Maps app needs access to 'Notifications' in order to be able to create the pop-up saying the route is exported and is able to send. 

How do I create a route from a GPX file?

You need to send the GPX file by email to an account you can open on the device. In your email, click on the attached GPX file and choose to open with OS Maps. The file will be imported and shown as a route.

Can I show routes in miles not kilometres and vice versa?

Yes. Under the main menu select 'Preferences' and then 'Units and measurements' and tell us which measurement you'd like to see.

We'll make the changes to height and distance together, so you can't mix miles with metres for example, or kilometres with feet.

The estimated time for my route was too fast or too slow!

We use a set speed plus Naismith's rule to work out roughly how long it will take to travel your walking or running route. In the future we are looking to add the ability to fine-tune this for your activity and pace by getting your personal speeds from the desktop version.

How do I find routes that other people have created?

Click the 'map layers' button in the bottom right, and select the new 'Routes' option. You will see markers shown on the map in the currently viewed area. Click on a marker to see the route details.

To see more details and follow the route, drag up from the bottom of the screen. You will need to have a data connection to search for routes, but you can turn it off once you have started using the 'follow' function.

Use the 'Close' button to close the route view and choose a different route.

Can I change the colour, thickness or transparency of my route on the map?

You can change your route line colour, thickness and transparency in the web version, and it will be reflected in the app. We are working on adding this feature to the app as well in a future release.


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My Activities distance counter

How do I use 'My Activities'?

Start the 'My Activities' distance counter by selecting it from the main menu from any map screen. It's designed to make it as easy as possible to keep track of how far you’ve walked – even if you forget to record a route while walking. There are four different ways to add miles to the counter:

  1. Record a route: at the end of recording you’ll be asked if you want to add the distance to your activity record
  2. Follow a route: once you’ve followed a route you’ll be asked if you want to add the distance to your activity record. It will log the distance of the planned route, not the actual distance covered
  3. Use an existing route: useful if you do the same walk regularly, but don’t always have your phone to hand or want to record it each time
  4. Plot a route: simply plot a new route to get the mileage added to the counter


What happens if I use more than one device?

Your activity record syncs across web, Android and iOS of OS Maps – you just need to be signed in with the same OS Maps account. You can find the My Activities Section under the main menu on OS Maps mobile, and the user menu on the top right of OS Maps web.


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Map downloads with a paper map

Do all maps have a digital download?

All OS Explorer (1: 25 000 scale) and OS Landranger (1: 50 000 scale) series paper maps have a digital download included. Custom Made maps, OS Road, OS Tour and historical maps do not have downloads available.

You can identify the maps with mobile download by the blue ‘Includes mobile download’ badge on the cover.

Do I need specialist software or an app?

Yes, you'll need to install our OS Maps app. You can get this from Google Play; it's absolutely free and doesn't take long to download.

You can't download the maps available from the paper map to a computer. Please look at OS Maps online for an alternative. For OS maps on your GPS device please check with the device manufacturer.

How do I activate the code on my map?

You can redeem your code Menu > Redeem a map, or you can redeem the code on the website using the same account as used on the mobile device. Follow the instructions on the page to claim your download. In the app, check Menu > Maps > Paper map to see the list of maps available to download to the device.

Can I download the same map to more than one device?

Yes. You can download your map to multiple devices, as long as you log into OS Maps using the same account details, even switching between the Android and iOS versions. There is no need to use the map code again - it will appear in your list of available maps as long as you log in with the same details. You can delete and redownload your paper map as often as you need to. Our terms state that each map should only be on one device at a time.

Will my map update with any changes automatically?

No, the digital version you've downloaded will match the version of the paper map you bought.

How will I know if my map is out of date?

Check the OS shop website to see when we issued the latest version. It is listed under 'Specifications' on the product description.

What if my map code doesn't work?

Check that you enter the code correctly. The codes are all letters, and are printed all in upper case. If you receive the 'Code Burnt' message, the code has already been used - check Menu > Maps > Paper map to see if you already have it available to download. If your code still does not work please contact customer services.

What account details should I use in the OS Maps app?

The app uses the same login details as your OS Maps account or OS Shop account, and you will have access to additional features if you are a subscriber.

What if my map does not have a code?

Only maps with the 'Mobile Download' logo on the cover will have a code. Look for the silver scratch-off panel on the inside cover, and scratch this off to reveal your 12-letter code. If this is already scratched off it may already have been used - please return the map to the retailer for a new copy with an unused code.

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Purchasing a subscription

Why do I need to subscribe?

Subscribing gives you access to the OS Explorer (1: 25 000 scale) and OS Landranger (1: 50 000 scale) mapping and the ability to download any section of map for use offline. Your subscription also gives you access to the full features of OS Maps online, the desktop version, including more advanced route planning tools, national parks snap to path routing and larger prints.

How do I buy a subscription?

You can purchase a subscription in the app or through this website - see the subscription options here. To make a purchase in-app, select 'Go premium' from the menu and choose a subscription length.

What happens if I buy a subscription through the app and the mapshop?

Your newly-purchased subscription will extend any existing subscription no matter where the subscription is purchased from. This means if you renew early you won't lose out.

What happens if I change phone while I have an active subscription?

If you have an OS Maps account, simply log in on your new phone and your subscription will be carried over, along with your routes and the rights to any paper map downloads (although you will need to download these and any downloaded maps or routes to your device memory). This will work even if you switch to an iOS (Apple) device or a newer Android device.

I have bought a subscription - why can't I see the routes i have created on web on my mobile? (or vice versa)

You may be using two different usernames (logins) for web and app. Wherever possible, please use the same email address to log in to each account as otherwise we will not be able to sync your routes. Try logging out and back in again, or contact customer services for help.

How do I cancel a recurring Premium subscription?

If you have purchased a recurring Premium subscription through the web, you can cancel your next renewal at any time by contacting customer services. If you have subscribed through Google Play in the app, you can cancel via Google Play subscriptions on the web. You can also cancel on your mobile device: 

  • Open Google Play Store and select ‘My Apps’
  • Select ‘Installed Applications’, scroll down to find ‘OS Maps’ and select it
  • On the information about the app, you will see ‘Subscriptions’ which provides your subscription status.
  • Tap ‘Cancel’ to stop your auto-renewal subscription.

What happens to my content once my subscription expires?

You will receive a notification on your mobile and by email before your subscription expires. To ensure no effects, please renew before your current subscription expires. Any remaining time will be added to your new subscription.

If you choose not to renew your subscription, you will lose access to the subscriber-only features such as additional map types and GPX file exporting. Additionally, the following will happen:

  • Routes will still be available in the app and online, but only shown on standard mapping
  • Redeemed paper map downloads are retained and are still available
  • Saved offline maps are deleted


Map downloads for subscribers

How do I save maps for offline use?

Premium members of OS Maps can download mapping for any part of the country for offline use.

  • While you have a data connection (preferably Wi-Fi, as downloads can be large), scroll or search to find the area you are interested in.
  • You will download the current map layer. If you want to have additional map layers for the same area you will need to repeat the download with a different layer selected.
  • Click Menu > Download offline maps. You will have an opportunity to move the map area before clicking the ‘Download’ button to start the download.
  • Name the download and click save. It will show up in your downloaded maps list with this name and the map layer.

Click the back button to cancel the download mode.

What area is downloaded?

You will download the area visible on screen. You can download multiple sections to cover a larger area. If you turn off all data connections (or turn on flight mode) you can check that the complete area you need is covered.

Downloading many map sections at once can cause issues, overloading your device and causing slow response or crashing when you try to view maps. Delete map downloads you are not currently using to both save storage space and improve app speed.

The total area you can have downloaded at any one time depends on your device and other apps installed.

How do I remove a downloaded map?

If you need to free space or no longer need a specific area, find your map in My Maps > Custom Offline maps then choose the ‘delete’ option.

Can I update a downloaded map?

To get the latest updates to an area you have already downloaded, find it in My Maps and click ‘Refresh’. You will need a data connection to do this.

Why have I lost my downloaded maps?

Downloaded maps are removed when you log out of the app, as we no longer know which users maps to show. Generally, you should not need to log out of the app except when switching between different users. However, it is still possible to lose your offline maps by:

  • Changing the downloaded files location using an external file manager. This will break the link from the app to the files and log your out. Delete the files you moved, log in to the app and download again.
  • Clearing OS Maps app cache or OS Maps data will remove any custom downloaded maps.
  • You may also lose maps if you update the app and the new version is not compatible with your existing downloads, but we try to avoid this. If you are planning to use the app offline we suggest you check your downloaded maps after running any updates.
  • You may lose downloads if you update your devices operating system

If you are planning on using maps where you will not have a data connection, please check the downloads are available after running any updates or making changes to the device.


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Other Features

How do I find my current location using GPS?

Use the ‘locate me’ button to jump directly to your location. This will use the GPS signal to locate your location as accurately as it can. If your device does not have a GPS chip, if GPS is disabled or there is no signal (such as in a building or near tall cliffs) this will not work.

OS Maps uses the location as provided by your device. Ensure that the location settings are turned on, and the app has permission to access them. If the device is unable to show the exact position, many will show an approximation based on the nearest mobile phone mast, WiFi access point or last known position. For some devices, you can force it to only show the position from the GPS chip by going into Phone settings > Location > and setting it to GPS only. It can take a couple of minutes to get a GPS position, especially if your have just turned on the location functions - speed it up by remaining still with a clear view of the sky. Once the device has your initial location, it is able to update it much more quickly.

Why can I not see anything in AR view?

The update with AR requires at least Android 4.4 to be installed. When you first start AR you will be asked to set it up by downloading the set of points to your device. Until this is done you will not be able to use the AR feature.

Unfortunately, on some devices you may need to delete the app and download it again to trigger the points download. Once it is done you will go immediately to AR mode.

Why do the points in AR not line up with the features?

AR relies on two functions: GPS location and compass. Please ensure these are turned on and the app has permission to use them.

GPS location can take a few minutes to be accurate, especially if you have not used it in some time. Waiting with the app active will slowly give increased accuracy. If a GPS signal is not available, such as inside a building, AR may incorrectly estimate your location.

Your built-in compass needs regular calibrating in order to be accurate. Remove your phone from its case and keep away from nearby metal objects or electronic devices as these may interfere with the compass. To improve calibration, open OS Maps and rotate the phone on all three axes or move it in a figure of eight motion. Alternatively use a separate compass calibration app - you may already have one pre-installed. If the compass is inaccurate, features will not line up in AR view.

Why can I not see a specific feature in AR?

OS Maps app AR settings buttonThere are over 200,000 points in the AR database, which means we cannot show every point at once. There is currently a maximum distance of 10 miles (16km). The app will choose which points to display based on how far away they are and their 'priority' score to ensure the screen is not overcrowded. Generally, closer features and more important ones will be shown. You can filter by clicking the settings button and choosing which types of features you are interested in, which may make more distant features visible.

Why do I not have the AR button, even though I'm at the current version?

First, ensure you have version 1.7 or later of the OS Maps app. Devices running Android 4.3 and earlier will not be able to update to the latest versions, so please update your device first.

If you are on the current version, AR features will be disabled if you do not have a GPS chip, a compass (magnetometer) and motion sensor installed. Some Android devices, such as Motorola 'Moto' and Huwaei P10 phones do not have a compass so cannot use AR features. Some Samsung models do not report reliable compass information to OS Maps so AR functions is disabled at the moment.

How do I see what the map symbols mean or get a map legend/key?

To save storage space, the map legends are not included in the initial app installation. You can get the map legend as a PDF that is downloaded the first time you open it. To find it go to:

Go to Menu > About > Map Legend and select the scale or layer you are interested in. You will need a data connection the first time, but it will be copied locally for future use.


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Technical Questions

What data does OS Maps app use?

Viewing maps, search, downloading maps and some other functions all require data, either Wi-Fi or over the phone network. Viewing a lot of map or downloading maps can use quite a lot of data, so if you have a limited data plan we recommend using Wi-Fi where possible. While offline you can see downloaded maps and use GPS functions.

Where are downloads stored?

Offline maps download to where your device automatically saves content. This may be internal storage even when you have and SD card installed.

Can I store maps on an SD card?

Security restrictions inside the Android operating system prevent most users from saving downloaded or saved maps on to an SD card. However, if your device has insufficient space there are two possible ways to resolve this.

1. Use an app. Some apps allow data that cannot normally be transferred to be moved to SD card storage. Success will depend on your exact device model and the app available, so test your offline maps at home as you may need to download your maps again or re-install the app if it does not work as expected.

2. Use an SD card as your devices internal memory. New with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and later, you can set your device to use an SD card instead of the internal memory. This is most useful where you have relatively small internal memory, and have purchased a larger capacity, high performance SD card. Not all devices are capable of this, as it depends on the manufacturer, but some general instructions are available on HowToGeek.


How does the app affect battery life?

Viewing maps uses the screen and mobile data (unless you are using offline maps), which will use the battery. Using GPS functions, including the locate me, route recording and route following features can also have a significant impact of battery life. We suggest turning these features off when you don’t need them.

The app will continue to run in the background when recording a route or following a route. As it's checking your GPS location and recording it every few seconds, this will use the battery more than when your phone is on standby. Stop recording or following routes when you are not actively using them to conserve battery power. 


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