Anna Hughes

Ten reasons why maps are better than apps

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Ten reasons why maps are better than apps

On October 16, 2017, Posted by , In Cycling, With No Comments

Ordnance Survey map

“Being able to read a map can open up a whole new world…” – Ordnance Survey.

There’s a week for everything and this week is National Map Reading Week. Launched last year by Ordnance Survey, the idea is to encourage and teach the art of reading maps, a skill that is being slowly lost to technology.

I adore maps. The first thing I do when I move to a new city is buy an A-Z, subsequently spending hours thumbing through the pages and becoming familiar with my new home. Here are ten reasons why a physical map beats an app every time.

  1. A wider view. Your tiny phone screen will show you where you are, but doesn’t give much of a picture of where you’re going. Being able, at a glance, to connect your destination to your current position makes route-planning much easier.
  2. Personal choice. You can choose a route based on where you want to go, rather than on where your app thinks you should go. Algorithms don’t always make sense.
  3. Brain power. It’s a valuable skill being able to orientate yourself, and it’s very satisfying to be able to use all the clues in the landscape to work it out. Brains need exercising as much as the rest of the body does. Working things out for yourself is a great way to do this.
  4. Everything you need on one filter: terrain, infrastructure, amenities – it’s all there. Look also for the remnants of the past (disused railway lines, Roman Roads, old canals) – an OS map can be as much a history lesson as a geography one.
  5. Facilitates dreaming. While apps are functional, maps fuel the imagination. Planning routes, thinking of future and past adventures – this is the beauty of the map.
  6. Signal. Always works, even in the middle of ‘nowhere’ (though with a map, nowhere becomes somewhere.)
  7. Battery. No need to charge.
  8. Romance. The wonder and sense of exploration you feel when walking into a map shop. I can spend hours staring at maps. It’s good for the soul. I don’t feel as wholesome when I’ve spent hours staring at my phone.
  9. The anti-Sat Nav. There’s no need to have a disembodied voice telling you where to go if you can work it out yourself, thank you very much.
  10. A work of art, a thing of beauty. Maps on the wall turn your home into an art gallery.

For more info on National Map Reading Week go to

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