Ever wanted to use Google Maps to figure out where you’re going in an area with spotty – or even no – Internet access?
That may not be an issue any longer.
Google announced today that Google Maps users now can get offline navigation and search.
"Roughly 60% of the world is without Internet today, and even where online access is available, it can still be spotty," wrote Amanda Bishop, a Google product manager, in a blog post. "That means that quick and easy access to information is still not possible for a majority of the population. This is a huge problem, especially as people attempt to navigate and explore the world around them, so Google Maps is taking steps to help people across the globe find directions and get where they're going, even when they don't have an Internet connection."
To make Google Maps work offline, the company has redesigned the service so users can download a map of a specific area of the world to their phone and if they find themselves without connectivity, they can continue to navigate and search with the map.
"Whereas before you could simply view an area of the map offline, now you can get turn-by-turn driving directions, search for specific destinations, and find useful information about places, like hours of operation, contact information or ratings," Bishop noted. "You can download an area by searching for a city, county or country, for instance, and tapping 'Download' on the resulting place sheet, or by going to 'Offline Areas' in the Google Maps menu and tapping on the '+' button. Once downloaded, Google Maps will move into offline mode automatically when it recognizes you're in a location with spotty service or no connectivity at all."
When a connection is re-established, Google Maps should switch back online so users can again access all of the Maps features, including live traffic conditions.
By default, Maps will only download areas to a device when the user has a Wi-Fi connection, to prevent large data fees, according to Google.
"It's a real enhancement for mobile phones, and it helps Google stay ahead in the mobile maps game," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Think about it. You become used to mobile navigation and suddenly, when you're out of range or outside your country, you don't have it and it's a problem."
The new offline feature should be helpful to users traveling in rural areas, where Internet connectivity isn't as strong, or might not be available at all.
It also will help hikers, mountain bikers and skiers, who are frequently outside of connected areas.