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article imageGoogle Maps offline navigation and search launches today

By James Walker     Nov 10, 2015 in Technology
Google has announced it is rolling out an update to its Google Maps app today that adds full support for navigating while offline. Users can browse maps and get directions even when they have no Internet connection.
The feature was announced back at Google's I/O conference in May when the company said it wants to reduce its reliance on Internet access to better serve all its customers. Offline navigation is likely to be popular with users who won't need to consume mobile data allowances just to get directions to a new meeting place or venue.
Google says: "Now you can download an area of the world to your phone, and the next time you find there's no connectivity - whether it's a country road or an underground parking garage - Google Maps will continue to work seamlessly. 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."
The nature of being offline means there will be a few limitations. The absence of any traffic data means routes will always be based on average times while space constraints mean photos and user reviews won’t accompany business listings. People who usually travel on public transport or on foot will need to note that offline mode doesn't currently support these transport methods.
Google Maps now supports offline navigation
Google Maps now supports offline navigation
Google Maps still doesn't let you download an entire country or region at one time. Instead, a grid overlaid on the screen lets you select a small area to keep offline after searching for a destination. File sizes are very large even when covering only one city though, an issue that seems to be the key restriction throughout the app.
Google isn't the only company that allows users to download maps for offline viewing. Microsoft has supported the feature since Windows Phone 8 and it is now available in Windows 10. The data is supplied by Bing and HERE, the former Nokia company now owned by a consortium of German car manufacturers. Unlike with Google Maps, users are able to download whole countries at a time.
However, the file sizes are much smaller, due in part to the absence of features like detailed business listings. The entirety of the United Kingdom clocks in at 610MB, for example, while just the region around San Francisco is 375MB in Google Maps. Both providers support navigation and search while offline.
Google says it will be continuing to add more features to offline mode so it can help solve the "huge problem" of providing usable mapping data to the 60 percent of the world with non-existent or patchy mobile Internet. The Google Maps update will be made available gradually to Android users from today and is coming soon to iOS.
More about Google, Google maps, Search, Maps, Navigation
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