Set up OsmAnd & online tracking on Android

OsmAnd is a mapping, planning and tracking app for smart phones. It has a number of benefits:

  • The app is free
  • You can download up to 7 maps for free (England is one map) and costs for additional maps are low
  • Maps are downloaded to your phone so you don't need internet access to use them
  • Maps can be downloaded to an SD card (useful if your device has an SD slot and limited main memory)
  • You can track your route, and/or follow a pre-planned route
  • Includes route planning
  • Includes a feature to interface with our online tracking service
  • Lots of features and options

Several Portsmouth CTC riders use it already including Me and John Rosbottom - could you get a higher recommendation?

Note that you do not need the app to monitor where people are on a ride. For that you just need an internet-connected browser.

This article explains how to get OsmAnd onto your phone and - if you want - how to link it to our online tracking service. The notes and screen shots are from the latest version of Android at the time of writing, Marshmallow. They should also apply broadly to previous versions although there will be some differences.

The following sections include some Android screenshots. Click any one for a larger version.

To install OsmAnd, click any of the following for more detail:

If at all possible, connect to wifi (rather than mobile data) before you start. Installing OsmAnd and maps involves a lot of data, using wifi could save a lot of money and/or a big hit on your monthly broadband allowance. If you use wifi, try to get as close as you can to the router box - it could significantly improve download speeds.

Look for the Play Store icon on your home screens:

PlayStoreIcon

Tap the icon. If you can't find it, click the apps icon at the bottom of any of your home screens:

AppsIcon

You should see the Play Store; in the alphabetic list of apps, tap it to go to the Play Store.

In the Play Store, enter "osmand" in the search box at the top:

PlayStore

Tap the entry for OsmAnd (the first entry in the screen shot above - note the icon should be the same (unless OsmAnd has changed it since).

Now tap 'Install' at the OsmAnd screen and follow the prompts to install it on your phone.

To put an OsmAnd icon on one of your home screens, go to the home screen where you'd like it. Tap the apps icon:

AppsIcon

Find OsmAnd in the list. Press the icon until you see the home screen and drag the icon to the position you want.

Tap the OsmAnd icon to run it. You'll see a display like this (although you won't yet be able to see a map):

OsmAndMain

Tap the 'three lines' menu icon at the bottom left to see this menu:

OsmAndMenu

Now tap 'Manage map files' to see a screen like this:

OsmAndManageMaps
Tap 'Europe', 'United Kingdom', 'England' to see something like this:

OsmAndEnglandDownload

Tap the download icon to the right of 'Standard map' to start downloading your map of England.

You can use the above mechanism to download detailed maps from around the world.

Start OsmAnd to see something like this:

OsmAndMain

Tap the 'three lines' menu icon at the bottom left to see this menu:

OsmAndMenu

Tap 'Plugins' to see a list of plugins. Tap 'Trip recording', then 'Get' to download the plugin.

To connect to our online tracking service, click any of the following for more detail:

To connect to our online tracking service, you need to be able to connect to the internet via mobile data. There's no issue using wifi where it is available, but while out on the road, mobile data will be your main means to connect.

If you already use mobile data while you are out and about, you won't notice the extra data used by the tracking service - it is very frugal.

If you have mobile data switched off so that you connect to the internet only via wifi, switching mobile data on can lead to nasty surprises as other apps pile in to use mobile data while you are not using wifi. If you are a pay-as-you-go customer, you might see your balance quickly drop to zero. If you pay a monthly connection fee, you might see your data allowance disappear.

Before you switch mobile data on, you should therefore consider installing a firewall app like NoRoot Firewall (my preference) which allows you to control which apps can use mobile data. I've found, though, that even this doesn't fully control use of mobile data since Google code is allowed to by-pass the firewall. I plan to produce a tutorial (or find one on the web) to cover this when I have time.

Start OsmAnd to see something like this:

OsmAndMain

Tap the 'three lines' menu icon at the bottom left to see this menu:

OsmAndMenu

 Tap 'Plugins' to see a list of plugins. Tap 'Trip recording' to see a screen like this:

OsmAndPlugin1

Tap 'SETTINGS' to see...

OsmAndPlugin2

I'll be honest, I don't know what effect your selection has here. Having experimented a bit, the settings seem to apply regardless of which option you choose. I always choose the cycling icon, and have the same icon selected on the main OsmAnd screen.

You will then see the trip recording settings...

OsmAndPlugin3

It's worth going through them all. For the time being, though, swipe down to the bottom of the list to see the online tracking settings...

OsmAndPlugin4

Tap 'Online tracking' to tick the checkbox (as shown above). You will automatically start logging your position to the web site any time you are tracking your route and you have mobile data switched on.

Tap online tracking web address to see a screen that allows you to specify how OsmAnd should talk to our web site. Enter the address exactly as you see it here...

OsmAndPlugin5

... except that you should put your web site user name (the id you log in with) instead of xxx and the tracking password you set in your profile (more about that here) instead of yyy. The password is case sensitive so make sure you enter upper and lower case characters exactly as you entered them in your profile. Note that the address does not contain any spaces or newlines.

Finally, tap online tracking interval to see:

OsmAndPlugin6

We suggest you select a 5 minute tracking interval, as shown.

It's worth checking that online tracking is working before you use it for real. To do that, go outside to make sure you have a decent GPS signal. Make sure mobile data is on (via Android settings: Data usage). Start OsmAnd and, on the main screen...

OsmAndMain

Tap the 'GPX' icon at the top right so it turns red. After 5 minutes, check the online tracking page to see if your position appears. If it does, you're ready to go. If not, check the following:

  • Online tracking web address - it must be exactly as specified above
  • The online tracking check box in the trip recording plugin is ticked
  • Mobile data is switched on
  • You have a mobile phone connection
  • You have a GPS fix (I find an app called 'GPS Test' useful for that)