Currently, field crews consumer geographic data via laptop (no internet, no gps). ArcReader.

I would like to get them shapefiles (or some derivative of a shapefile) on a mobile platform (smartphone) - because of its usability (built in GPS) and to get them acclimatized to using (trusting) a smart phone, among many other reasons.

It needs to be offline (we have limited cell service). It needs to contain some basemap information (which I can providen if needed; imagery, road centerlines, etc...).

No editing, just viewing.

What are my options here? Is there an app I can download that provides this functionality? Very surprised ESRI doesn't have an offline viewer for data on smartphones or tablets.

  • 1
    what type of smartphone (Android, iOS, Windows) are you using?
    – Dan C
    Jul 24, 2012 at 15:24
  • preference is android. but we are a telecom, so we have choices. :)
    – Thad
    Jul 24, 2012 at 15:25
  • 1
    "Very surprised ESRI doesn't have an offline viewer for data on smartphones or tablets." it's more to do with the licensing of the underlying map data (Navteq/TeleAtlas) it can be very expensive to license raw data.
    – Mapperz
    Jul 24, 2012 at 16:46
  • 1
    I did not think of that. But they have an online app? Why not make a basic viewer?
    – Thad
    Jul 24, 2012 at 17:20

3 Answers 3



" is a fully open OpenStreetMap-based navigation app for Android. " [This don't require that you use navigation]

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Hints for using offline map data:

offline map data files that can be used with OsmAnd have *.obf as file extension.
in latest versions of these map files all vector map data, POIs and address indexes for offline search are included.
you can generate your own *.obf files by getting fresh raw OSM data for example via geofabrik.de or cloudmade.com, then process these osm files with OsmAndMapCreator (Java program for desktop PC) that is offered at Osmand's Google-website (try to get latest nightly build).
when you have several *.obf files for single regions of a certain country, you can combine them with inspector.bat or inspector.sh that is delivered with OsmAndMapCreator. Start this script on a command line without any parameters to see all options and proceed.
Maybe there is a named street in the OSM data, but OsmAnd cannot find it via its offline address search? Run the above mentioned inspector with parameter -v and [nameofyourmapfile].obf >list.txt ... this will give you a text file with all places that are within that obf file and all streets that are associated to that place. Thus you can find out whether OsmAnd's street list is incomplete (this can have several reasons like missing administrative borders etc.) 


  • I'm using this in the field (navigating with a Cessna + walking transects) on both a smartphone and an Android tablet - terrific application, and the custom maps creating option is really really useful for offline data.
    – Simbamangu
    Aug 18, 2012 at 12:19

Although more tailored to mobile data collection SuperSurv 3 might be an option. From their website:

Can I use the custom map as the basemap on SuperSurv?

You can create your personal map on SuperGIS Desktop 3.1 and save pre-generate map to the folder named “SuperSurv” on the mobile device.

Locus might be another alternative. From the specs page:

Offline maps
Map browsing without internet connection
Support for formats
TAR maps
MBT maps

Background maps can be created by Mobile Atlas Creator (more info).

There is a simple app (Adobe Air 2.6 dependency) on Google Play Shape file Viewer but judging from reviews it seems to be pretty basic with no support for more than one layer or current GPS location.

Finally, GeoCoach2D-SHP-Info also seems to support loading Shape files.

The shape types can read are "Point,Polyline,Polygon,MultiPoint,PointZ,PolylineZ,PolygonZ,MultiPointZ,PintM,PolylineM,PolygonM,MultiPointM".


You may want to check out QGIS for Android. I haven't used it much, but is will definitely work as a data 'viewer.'

  • 1
    I don't see that as a viable option. The interface needs to be built specifically for use on a mobile device, with touch screen control in mind. A central issue for us is usability. If I am wrong, I'd be open to hear your comments.
    – Thad
    Jul 24, 2012 at 16:05
  • 1
    I didn't have any luck getting QGIS working on my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S3), the GUI seems to be meant for tablets and the windows and buttons were extending off-screen on my phone's screen with no way to scroll around. The second time I launched it it didn't open at all.
    – Dan C
    Jul 24, 2012 at 16:37
  • Figures. Thanks for making me aware of it though. May come in handy in the future to have desktop functionality on a mobile device.
    – Thad
    Jul 24, 2012 at 17:19

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