Google Maps gets offline download area feature

When the cloud is over the horizon

Google Maps offline access

Google has added the capacity to download map areas, as it continues to roll out offline functionality across its range of services.

Google is aware that we do not have internet access at all times when we are out and about, and the early criticisms of its Chromebooks has scathingly pointed out just how useless they are when offline.

And with Android quickly becoming the most popular phone OS, the need for some offline functionality on certain services is clear.

Maps is certainly something that could benefit from offline functionality – allowing people to download sections to local storage in their phones or netbooks so that being offline does not mean that you cannot explore an area.

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"When you're visiting an unfamiliar location, Google Maps for mobile is great for getting an idea of how close you are to your destination, where streets and landmarks are in relation to each other, or just for getting "un-lost," blogged Google's Durfee.

"But what if you don't have a data signal, or you're abroad and don't have a data plan? We say that if you use Google Maps for mobile, you'll never need to carry a paper map again.

"The 'Download map area' lab in Google Maps 5.7 for Android is a step in making that statement true even when you're offline."

The functionality is available now in Labs, with the base map tiles and landmarks downloadable but a connection is still needed for other functionality.

The downloaded maps can apparently be managed in the Google Maps cache – allowing you to get rid of the areas you no longer need.