Most people agree that Google Maps is great…as long as it’s working. That’s why Google’s next big project is a solution for connectivity options – the ability to save your maps.
It works like this: Look up something on your Google Maps app, and zoom into a particular section of the map. The new version of the app allows you to “download” a city, or county, or potentially even an entire country – RAM and storage allowing, of course. This stores that particular map in a section called Offline Areas.
Once you have an area stored, you can switch to offline mode whenever you want and consult this map just as if you had a perfect connection. You can seek directions, get turn-by-turn navigation, look up information on landmarks or business, and all the other expected GPS benefits.
Google has also proven thoughtful when it comes to potential problems with offline navigation. You can only download a map when you are in a Wi-Fi zone, which requires some planning ahead but also prevents you from using up all your data in one big burst and diving into a pile of associated fees as a result. If your phone detects an area where you aren’t getting great coverage, it will switch automatically into offline mode, but pop back to online mode as soon as you get a good signal back.
This is a welcome feature for traveling through mountains, visiting a foreign country, and similar actions where navigation is important but wireless connections are not looking good.
As with most Google updates, the Maps upgrade is free, and coming to Android phones first. Google is planning on bringing the change to iOS, but this will take longer. Interestingly, the company has also indicated that this is only the first step in other offline-mode work that it plans to bring to other apps.