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[Hack] How to reduce your iPhone Map data usage by up to 75% and save maps for offline use

Lets face it, iOS Maps uses up too much of your data package. If you don’t believe me, try this:

  • Check your data usage in Settings -> Usage -> Cellular Usage
  • Reset it, or take a note of the value
  • Go to Maps, and search for a city youve never viewed before in map
  • Zoom in a few times, and pan around for 30 seconds
  • Check your data usage again
  • That’s right, 2-3 MB for that small privilege!

The problem isnt just the amount of data itself, but the fact that it gets deleted soon after you download it! Why? The maps app on the iPhone has a very small, ~22MB cache. So even if you use your home WiFi to pre-download all you need for your week away to Paris, it’s likely you can only access a tiny bit of your previously viewed maps before you need to download again. And for that you need cell access, to drain more data from your monthly allowance (or force you to sell your house to pay for roaming fees), and patience.

The Solution

1. First you need to jailbreak. Luckily this is possible on all devices, including the iPhone 4S (at time of writing).

2. Now there are a number of existing solutions you can try. However, I found (at time of writing), some are difficult to understand, and none of them work with Google Maps or iOS5. In case this changes, and because it’s likely my solution will one day fail, I’ll list some of them here:

We are going to modify the cache database to stop it deleting old map tiles, thereby allowing it to increase in size indefinitely. Don’t worry, its not as hard as it sounds.

  1. Find and Copy the /var/mobile/Library/Caches/Maps/MapTiles/MapTiles.sqlitedb file to your Mac / PC (you can do this using a file copying program such as iExplorer [http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/], or using ssh).
  2. Open it with an SqlLite database reader. I used MesaSQLite [http://www.desertsandsoftware.com/?realmesa_home] for Mac.
  3. Add the following trigger to the database by executing the following query:- “CREATE TRIGGER prevent_delete BEFORE DELETE ON image  BEGIN SELECT raise(IGNORE); END”
  4. Quit Maps on your iPhone
  5. Copy the MapTiles.sqlitedb back to the same location on your phone, replacing the original
  6. Ensure the file has the correct permissions, owner: mobile, 775. You can use terminal, ssh, or even iFile (an app available in Cydia) to do this.
  7. Restart your iPhone.

Now try it out! It’s best if your on a wifi network, but 3G will do. Pan and zoom around the map all you like, and after a few minutes check the size of the MapTiles.sqlitedb file. It should grow beyond 22Mb, and when you go back to previously visited places, it will load instantly, and without need for network.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • You may have to be connected to the internet for a second or two when you first load the maps app after a phone restart in order for them to work offline. After that you should be able to close and open it and view all tiles without being online and not using any data.
  • GPS does NOT appear to work at all without a network connection in the Maps app or any apps that use Google Maps API in iOS, even if you have perfect line of sight to the sky and the area you’re in is definitely cached. I have no idea why this is. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Your maps will eventually become outdated if you live in a fast changing country like China. You may want to delete the cache file at this point and repeat the process above to make sure it’s not limited to 22MB
  • Your Maps may eventually have problems, after all this is a hack, though mine hasn’t yet with my cache file at 150mb.
  • If your very geeky like me, you can discover the location of the MapTiles database for all the applications other than the official Map app, that use the maps api. One of my favourite such apps is called cartographer. By creating a symbolic link from your modified MapTiles database to the common location for the other apps, you can use the same cache for all your maps related apps!
  • One day the tool iMapsManager [http://imapsmanager.ru/mapConverter/mapConverter_eng.htm] will hopefully be updated to allow you to create maps using the google map downloaded toll and load them onto your iPhone.
  1. Hi,
    Was excited to use your tutorial today to get my maps working offline.

    the path /private/var/Library/Caches/Maps/MapTiles/MapTiles.sqlitedb does not exist on my iphone (iPhone 4, iOS v5.0.1)

    Do you know the proper location of the MapTiles.sqlitedb file for iOS 5.0.1

    Thanks

  2. Does not seem to work here. File maxes out at 22MB despite change. Ipod Touch 4thG 5.0.1. :(

  3. Hey Nick,

    Did it maybe take a ton of looking around in the Maps App to suddenly see the MapTiles.sqlitedb change in size? Also, is this tweak still hitching you up and working well?

    I used to *LOVE* MapsEnhancer, but ever since broke with the switch to iOS5 I’ve been looking for a replacement.

    Thanks for the post saying this stuff! :-)

    • Phil,

      If your cache is already at around 20MB, which it should be, and you have a high res iphone 4, it should take no time at all. I racked up another 14MB of Map data (taking me to 34MB database) in just a few minutes.

      I’ve had no issues with this hack, except when my maps grew beyond 800mb it would start crashing. Since I’ve finished travelling and am in a new country now, I’ve reset it and started again. Still very useful!

      • DOH! I’m an idiot. Even though I read over the part about using the correct directory, I guess I was too eager to try it. :-)

        Works for me!!!!

        When things started crashing, is it safe to just remover the MapTiles.sqlitedb cache file and fire Maps up again?

        Have some fun/safe travels!

        Phil

  4. thanks for the tip to change the SQL db! That is great. I wonder if someone could make a CYDIA tweak to make a GUI for this. It is super helpful as it is, but it would also super helpful to make it easy to reset the cache if needed – - just so it doesn’t grow out of control or so you don’t have year old maps on your phone which don’t get updated.

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[REVIEW] Stereo Bluetooth 3.5mm headsets: Samsung HS3000 & Sony Ericsson MW600

Ah, how lucky we are to live in the technology age. Personal Electronics just keep getting more convenient, faster, cheaper, and dare I say it, more Star Trek-like. About a year ago I indulged in my first stereo Bluetooth headset (which was an MW600), which have recently started hitting the market. A year on, with the addition of Siri, I now find myself regulalrly tapping my breast pocket, where the device susually sits, scheduling appointments and making calls, rather like I remember Captain Piccard tapping his lapel ‘communicator’ to communicate with crewmates or the computer.

Anyway, without further ado, I’d like to offer a brief review of the Sony MW600 and the Samsung HS3000, along with my overall experience of using such devices day-to-day, to help you decide if they’re for you.

An Introduction

To give a bit of background, both of these devices are a little larger than a pen-top, and clip onto your shirt, lapel, or top pocket. Both have a standard headphone socket on the top, and come with short length wired headphones if you want to use them (In fact, the Sony headphones bundled with the MW600 are excellent in themselves). Both have an inbuilt microphone for wireless calling. Both can pair with multiple devices. Both have play/pause, forward, back, and volume controls for music. Both work with the iPhone (the Samsung is better). Both contain small, irreplaceable batteries which charge in 2-3 hours and last 2-3 days depending on how much music and calling you do.

If you’ve never tried a stereo Bluetooth headset and you’re a bit of geek like me, I strongly suggest you try. It’s quite a liberating experience to have all the audio interfaces of your phone (sound effects, full quality music, videos, and calling functionality) ‘outsourced’ so you don’t need to have a messy cable tugging all over the place when you pull out your phone to make a call or respond to a text.

Why am I very familiar with both of these devices? I first bought a MW600 to try it out last year in 2011, and was thrilled with the experience. I was so thrilled that after leaving it in my jeans pocket and putting it though the wash thus destroying it (but not the earphones, most earphones are surprisingly resilient to being washed, I’ve found), I went straight out and bought a second one. After that one was lost during the new year festival in Edinburgh (I have a slight problem about being careless with even my favourite things), I decided to see if there was something even better in the same class I could try, and thought id give the Samsung HS3000 a try.

Sony Ericsson MW600

Having had two of these, I’m quite familiar with it. It’s rather badly designed. The screen is nice, but the buttons are hard to find, and the volume control is completely terrible. I heard Sony is releasing a other version of this class of device this year, and I hope they manage to sort out the volume. The touch sensitive sliders only works with practice. The device itself is ok to handle and wear. The battery isn’t bad, lasting longer than the samsung. The sound quality is great, especially with the included earphones. However, it does have a problem with distortion and noise at high volume ranges. It includes a radio which I’ve never used. The device sometimes has problems pairing and needs to be reset, but the signal is very strong. It has a rather convoluted way of pairing to different devices which took me a while to get use to. The microphone is not great, causing me to use the phone most of the time rather than the headset when making calls, partly because the background noise cancelling system of the new iPhone 4 is so good. The microphone is not good enough to use with Siri reliably.

Summary

  • Design – 5/10
  • Usability – 4/10
  • Bluetooth Reliability (with iPhone) – 5/10
  • Stereo Sound Quality – 7/10
  • Microphone Quality – 5/10
  • Sound Volume – 6/10
  • Battery – 7/10
  • Included earphones – 8/10
  • Price – USD 30-40

Samsung HS3000

After doing some research on alternatives to the Sony Ericsson, I put the Samsung HS3000 on my shortlist and decided to give it a try. Overall, I like it more, and it’s further increased my usage of headsets. The main reason is that it’s more usable! At first, the lack of screen and smaller battery worried me, but I have quickly learned to love this device, even though it’s still lacking the polish of a mass market device. The design is much better. Its smaller, and fits more neatly on my lapel. The buttons are not that accessible but they’re better than the MW600. It pairs easily with the iPhone, faster and more reliably than the MW600, and works with multiple devices. The signal strength is not as good, and will break if you are more than a few metres from the phone and turn your back. The sound quality is about the same as the MW600, maybe a touch poorer. The microphone is quite good, and even while mounted in a shirt pocket it works with Siri. A luxury. The bundled earphones are not great. The battery is probably 30-40% smaller capacity than the Sony Ericsson, and it’s frustrating not knowing what the level is because there’s no screen (there’s only an audible warning). Overall, it’s a joy to have.

Summary

  • Design – 6/10
  • Usability – 6/10
  • Bluetooth Reliability (with iPhone) – 7/10
  • Stereo Sound Quality – 7/10
  • Microphone Quality – 7/10
  • Sound Volume – 5/10
  • Battery – 5/10
  • Included earphones – 5/10
  • Price – USD 30-40

Conclusion

I’ll keep this short. This kind of device, wireless earphones, microphone, connected to your smartphone, is going to hit mass adoption in the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple even got in on the act. I’ve had such fun in the last few months trying a few early attempts out. In terms of these two devices, until we get a better integration of both of their advantages and improve on their disadvantages, it’s really about your preferences. Bigger battery, integrated radio, better earphones – MW600. Better, slicker all round device, with neater pairing and good microphone – HS3000 (just remember to charge every few days). Either way, happy Star Trekking!

  1. You will notice the HS3000 has decidedly better sound quality when used with a playback device that supports Apt-X, which the Sony doesn’t have support for. Just a point worth making as more and more devices take up Apt-X support.

  2. I just sent one of these Samsung HS3000 units back to Amazon – it would only keep the Bluetooth connection to my GS2 going if i kept finger-pressure on the upper half of the front of the unit for some bizarre reason..
    If i took my finger pressure off it, gone.. pressed it again.. back.

    I’m a little worried now to order another one, do you think this was a one-off manufacturing default?

    thx Simon

    • Simon, I’ve had mine for a few months now and it’s been in some tough environments, including thrown around in my pocket and bag a lot. There is no issue with the unit. From the little experience I have, I’d say your previous one had a manufacturing issue.

      That said, there is even more choice of devices on the market now, including ones with different form factor (built into earplugs, wrap around ear, etc). Why don’t you try something new?

  3. Please tell me something about noise cancellation buddy….

    I have a iball (Indian mfg) Bluetooth Headset…

    I usually have lots of trouble in Noise Environments like train/ BUS stations … i m not able to hear the caller voice / my voice is not reachable to other person….. (then i intentionally have to turn off my Bluetooth and receive call via phone (nokia n8)

    Also have issues when i m on move (on BIKE) then there is lots of Wind noise to receiver , it is so high that receiver does not hear my voice at all.

    Audio qty wise sony is better to listen to music and voice connectivity and noise cancellation is good in samsung

    I wanted a good headset with good audio qty and most imp is call/receive must work perfect….

    Should i wait for new Sony Ericsson one (launching this year probably )???

    • Suyash, I’ve had no problems with background noise on my Samsung as the microphone picks up my voice quite well. I don’t believe either device has active noise cancellation however. Also, I’ve never tried the device as I don’t ride a motorbike.

  4. hi,
    i have a question …
    i want to buy the HS3000 i have read that the sound quality might not be good…
    so my question is when you are listening musics etc… is it OK ? no disconnection ? as you have talked about “neater pairing” … how often do you have pairing problems
    i want to use the HS with my sennheiser earphone and my 4S.

    thanks for your answer.

    • Hi,

      I never have pairing problems, it jus works. The sound quality is fine, as good as the earphones themselves. Volume does not go as high however as I would like, but this is usually no problem.

      Nick

  5. Hi!

    W/ HS3000, I have disconnections problems… It’s very frustrating when I walk in the street, I have music lags :-/

    W/ MW600, there’s no problem, it works like a charm!

    Maybe APTx is not properly supported by HS3000 (I have a HTC One X, APTx compliant)… HS3000 stay in my bag if I have no more battery with Sony’s one!

  6. Can anyone explain to me in SIMPLE TERM how do I swap the phones when making calls>
    I have the GS2 and the G-Note they are both connected to the HS3000 but if I use one of them to call someone, everytime I try using the other the HS3000 will not allow me to hear the conversation, so I end up taking out one of the ear plugs and use the phones mic and speaker.

    • You cannot have 3 devices paired simultaneously over Bluetooth.
      So you cannot listen in with he other phone when the first one is paired!

      • Sorry, missed a point.
        You cannot have 3 devices paired “and connected” simultaneously over Bluetooth.
        So you cannot listen in with he other phone when the first one is paired and connected!

  7. I really like my HS3000. How can I pair this headset with my computer to comminicate via Skype or Office Communicator? I am able to pair it with the computer but I don’t hear in audio.

  8. I have the Sony Ericsson MW600 but not the Samsung.
    Have been interested in trying the Samsung because of the Apt-x feature, but fear this is mostly hype.
    I have the Nokia BH-214, which I do prefer over the Sony Ericsson!
    Sound output is better, the Sony has some better bass though, the Nokia is more clear and detailed.
    The Nokia has better radio, better microphone, better sound to the listener in the other end when used as handsfree with my cell phones in noisy environments.
    The Sony has FM radio, which was the reason I purchased it.

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How to Set your China Unicom 186 ‘Service Password’. 中国联通服务密码

After some extensive and rather bizarre searches aided by Googles helpful new translated search feature I finally found how to set your service password for a China Unicom mobile number. This allows you to Log In to their online services and do other things like link your number to an existing account. Much discussions on Chinese forums told me the default number was ’123456′ which obviously did not work as a login to their site, but after more searching I found you can change your service number without phoning the service line (something I was a little reluctant to try given my Chinese is not great). Here’s how:

Simply text the following:

MMXG#123456#NEW_PASSWORD#NEW_PASSWORD

to

10010

And that’s it! This works for my new number which is of the ’186′ breed. Your new password must be numbers only and no longer than 6 characters. I think. Below is some Chinese which might hopefully help someone out there…


你不知道你的中国联通服务密码吗?

就发这个短信:

MMXG#123456#<新密码>#<新密码>

10010

我有联通的186号码,对我有用!

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iPhone 4: What reception problems?

It’s been a few months since the whole ‘Antenna Gate’ outpouring of anger over the iPhone 4′s signal attenuation problems when held in a certain way. I get asked by friends whether it has a problem and I have to answer truthfully that I’ve had only one distinctive occasion on which the signal dropped and caused a noticeable drop in audio quality, and that was at my home in Scotland where the signal is poor on the best days.

But here’s the thing. In normal use this phone definitely has better voice quality and reception than any phone I’ve had before, including my Android running Motorola XT800. This has been confirmed here in the most in depth and objective reviews of the phone.

I can make calls in the garden at home when I never used to be able to, walk around inside our house in Beijing (we are in a null reception zone on the 20th floor of a tower block), and enjoy better audio quality and call quality than ever before. The second thing I say to curious friends is that the antenna issue was mostly a gross marketing error, not a technical one. By drawing attention to external aerials and the join between them, Jobs put his foot in arguably Apple’s most embarrassing PR mishap ever. But as one of the 99.9% of the iPhone 4 owners who has not asked for a refund, I am just happy this phone makes great calls!

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Facebook iPhone App Push Notifications work in China!

Which makes sense, because I believe, although I’m not an iPhone app developer, that the way push notification works is something like this:

(Facebook) App Server  —-*push update*—->  Apple Push Notification Server  —-*push update*—->  iPhone (connecting from China)

If you didn’t already know, Facebook and Twitter were blocked in China for the final time last year during the Ürümqi Riots. Since then, there has been no access to those domains. For expats interested in useful things like Facebook and Twitter, there are ways to ‘jump over’ the great firewall.

Side-note: This is an unaltered 100% scale screenshot from the iPhone 4 which demonstrates the incredible 960×640 resolution. I was amazed to find the full length shot could not fit on my laptop’s screen. The image above only shows a small top section of the screen but if the icons look big on your computer you get a feel for just how many pixels there are on that little device’s screen.

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