Google Maps is one of Google’s core applications and a core service for many Android smartphone customers. Not only can Google Maps tell us where we are but it can also provide directions, automatically rerouted past heavy traffic or road closures. The Google Maps API can also be used to provide a third party application with estimated travel times, so for developers the Google Maps service can provide a very useful service even without launching the application. Maps, like many of Google’s products, is in a constant state of evolution as Google incorporate improvements to either the foreground application itself or the background service. One of the latest improvements, together with the additional functionality added to the Google Maps API, is that of allowing offline searches and routing information.
The ability to search for locations and directions when the device is offline is a very useful feature for those of us unlucky enough to live or work in areas with spotty coverage, or traveling into areas with poor coverage. Google have unveiled this service in several areas of the world and today, launched it in India. This is great news for customers using Google Maps who have just arrived and their device is roaming, although in the case of using Google Maps offline, a little bit of preparation will go a long way. Customers need to download the map of the area before Google Maps’ offline services will work, but this may be done over WiFi or mobile data. Once an area has been downloaded, customers can get turn-by-turn directions, use the search function and even find out information about places. The facility is being made available for Android customers immediately with the improvement to follow for customers using the iPhone.
To use the offline area, first zoom out to include the area you wish to add to your offline cache. Then tap the menu, then Settings and head over to “Offline Areas.” In here, tap the add or “+” button. Google Maps will then guide you through the process of adding an area to make it available offline, with a recommendation to only allow maps to be downloaded over WiFi, which you can override here or using the cog settings option at the top right of the Offline Areas screen. Google Maps will switch between online and offline mode without requiring your involvement, so if you device does obtain a connection, it will use the online mode. Online mode brings about it the live traffic information and rerouting, which is not available when working offline.