Using the Maps app vs Blind Square

iOS & iPadOS

Hi, I'm just looking for some opinions and helpful tips about using the Map app on my phone compared to the app Blind Square. I have no sight so can't pick up any clues for navigating. I've previously tried Blind Square but found it to pick up streets far away from where I actualy was, even though I had put the setting to the lowest diameter and whether it was lack of practice or understanding, it all seemed a little confusing. I haven't yet attempted using the Maps app on my phone but having listened to how accurate it has been for my friends and family as a car sat nav, I wondered if it would be easier for me as a walking sat nav.
My 3 key questions are:
1. Can it determine what side of the road you are walking and give the specific info for that side, or like some other walking sat navs, assume you are walking down the middle of the road?
2. the blind Square app lets you set a destination, for example a particular store and announces other shops, roads etc as you head for your destination along with a countdown of how far you are away from it. I don't expect the iPhone Map app to be that specific, but wondered if it can announce places and roads that you pass along your route as a sort of navigational aid?
3. People's experiences! Which is the easiest and more helpful navigational tool?
Sorry, 1 more question on behalf of my sighted Husband. If any of you have sighted friends or partners that use their iPhone Map app as a driving sat nav, have they managed to boost the volume beyond the max of the iPhone setting? I wondered if there was a sort of loud speaker similar to hands free phone calls. Apologies that question isn't technically for the blind, but in a round about fashion it'll help me not having to be very quiet in the car because my Husband can't hear his directions!
Thanks in advance for any feedback. Debbie



Submitted by DPinWI on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When I first got an iPhone, I tried using the Maps application. I was not able to get the kind of point of interest notification you suggested. It told me street names as i approached, either by car or walking, but as I recall, it was as I crossed them. There was no early indication of what was ahead. It also assumed, as you suggested, that I was walking down the middle of the road.

I used Blind Square next and liked it a lot. I could set my own points, and hear those in Yelp. Personally, I liked that it announced the next street crossing, no matter how far ahead. In my area, the maps were flawed and several main intersections were unannounced.

When Nearby Explorer came out, I tried it. The maps were more accurate in my area, and the ability to use Google Places, Yelp, or just my own points was great. By default, it announces upcoming streets when you turn or cross a road, and then updates the distance as you approach. For some, it was a little too chatty, and the app got a setting to only announce upcoming streets when you crossed a street, or turned a corner, and then again once you are close. It is nice to have the option.

Nearby Explorer seems to know what side of the road you are on, but even then, it announces if a cross street is on the right, left, or both. I like that as i know whether to have my dog look for the curb, or not.

While i keep Blind Square on my phone, and i know it has had a lot of updates since i was a regular user, I find Nearby Explorer, despite the size and price, to be my navigation app.

In the car, it works quite well too.

Both Blind Square and Nearby Explorer can give you turn by turn directions, but the ones in Nearby Explorer are done inside the app, while blind Square relies on your choice of Google Maps or Apple Maps. I like that I get the directions from the app as I know it well, and am not very adept at using the other maps.

as for volume, I have found that with the windows up, the hands free mode of the phone is loud enough most of the time. Our car has an AUX input jack, and we can connect the phone to the car's audio system. Of course newer cars have blue tooth and Car Play as options too. Sometimes, I will use a blue tooth earpiece and relay directions to the driver. It's nice to play navigator sometimes.

In my experience, both Blind Square and Nearby Explorer offer major advantages over the Apple Maps app. Either one is a good choice. I have no experience with the Seeing Eye GPS app.

I hope that helps.

Submitted by Debbie on Friday, July 7, 2017

Hi DPinWi
Many thanks for your very helpful & informative message. I like the sound of the app you are using, so am going to check that one out. I also have a Guide Dog who is young and a little immature at times, so some of my reasons for wanting a navigational tool are the same as what you use yours for with your GD. It was interesting to also read about an alternative app that I've never heard of, although there's probably loads of apps out there that I know nothing about! I'm off to check out that app and give it a try. Many thanks for replying. Debbie

Submitted by DPinWI on Friday, July 7, 2017

Nearby Explorer is on the expensive side, but I find it is quite worth it. A recent update broke the almost 5GB map into bite sized chunks, so it is viable on a 16GB device. I am really happy with it. I can zone out a bit on walks, let my dog do his thing, and know where I am, where I am going, and what's around me. This is not to put down Blind Square. It's a really good solution too. It just didn't work as well for me.

Good luck, and happy navigating.

Submitted by Debbie on Sunday, July 9, 2017

In reply to by DPinWI

I downloaded Nearby Explorer and as you say, it's broken down into chunks so I'm discovering that to get particular options I'm having to pay additional £1.99 - £2.99 etc. However, its probably more my lack of patience so far, but I haven't yet come across a section whereby I can enter an address and/or postcode such as my friends house. It's also picking up places that are miles away from where I live and I haven't discovered a settings button yet to alter any options. It starts off inNearby" and lists destinations under subject headings, pretty similar to Blind Square, and its obviously American by some of the language used! The app I got is called "Nearby the smart location Explorer" produced by Kento Studios. Have I got the right one?

thanks for the link to the app. Looks like I've got the wrong one! However, reading the blurb, it doesn't sound like it works in the UK? does anyone know? I'm hoping it does as it sounds pretty good.


Submitted by John W. hess on Friday, July 14, 2017

When maps is first activated next to the settings button there is a button that says tracking. The first choice is tracking on the next tracking with heading. Once this is turned on streets and points of interest are spoken

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Thursday, July 20, 2017

I don't know if it works in the U.K. but if you search for aph and beta-test you will find you can download Nearby Explorer free through Test flight. You have to apply which is easy, then APH sends you a link to download Test flight which is the apple app for controlling beta-testing. Once you have test flight installed, you then can download whatever apps are assigned to your Apple ID for testing. Works great and it's a fine way to decide if this app is for you. When the test period is up, the app is automatically deleted.

Submitted by Debbie on Monday, July 24, 2017

Hi. Many thanks for your suggestion. the app sounds really good, so I think I will probably give your suggestion a go. Not sure if it'll work in the UK as its a US app, but if I don't try, I'll never know! cheers!

Submitted by JeffB on Monday, July 24, 2017

I heard that you can trace streets and even roots with your finger but this has never worked for me. Maybe this is no longer true or I'm not doing it right?

Submitted by Debbie on Monday, July 24, 2017

Personally, I can still trace routes using the maps app. Simply put your location into the edit field, make sure you've got location tracking turned on and it will bring up your route in picture format. Then, using your finger to move up and down the screen, it wil announce the roads etc. along your journey. You can select either walking or driving the route and it will give you an ETA. Personally, I've found it to be very quick to jump forward to the next section before you want it to, but then I don't really use this as a method of navigating, so am probably not that good! I use this style of route mapping more to find out where a location is, rather than helping me to get there.

This is really helpful for sighted people, but not great if you're Blind and trying to navigate using this method whilst walking along at the same time as using a cane or working a Guide dog. Some people say that it helps them navigate their route whilst walking, but its never really been good enough for me, I prefer to get a GPS navigational app designed specifically for the Blind. Just make sure the app works in your country!


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