Time to go completely free of paper maps whenever you’re traveling. That is, if you have an Android device. Yesterday, Google enabled true offline navigation in the Google Maps app for Android. “Download Map Area,” which is still experimental in version 5.7.0 of the app, makes offline navigation possible.
The experimental feature allows you to download any map with a 10-mile radius and use the map data even when you go outside of your Wi-Fi or 3G/4G coverage area. This simply means continuous use of Google Maps even with no active Internet connection.
Such an Internet-free navigation service is not a novelty, though, with similar service offered by companies such as TomTom, NDRIVE, Garmin, and CoPilot. The service from these companies isn’t free, though. But, with Google Maps’ free offline navigation functionality, people may prefer the costless service from Google over that of paid services.
The offline navigation feature hasn’t been integrated yet into the Google Maps app’s main interface and requires activation via Google Labs. To do that, you need to open the Google Maps app on your Android device, press the menu button once, select “More”, and select “Labs”. According to Google, downloading map data should be quick–usually about just a minute or two. However, only the base map tiles and landmarks data will be downloaded. To download satellite view and 3D buildings, or to search for Places, you will need an active Internet or data connection.
Another beta feature included in the updated app is Transit Navigation, which allows stop-by-stop navigation for public transit in more than 400 cities. Using GPS, Transit Navigation pinpoints your exact location along your route and notifies you when you need to disembark or transfer to another vehicle. Since the feature uses GPS, it can only be used for above-ground transit.
If you still have the earlier version of the Google Maps app for Android, update to version 5.7.0 for free from the Android Market.
What do you think? Will offline navigation for Google Maps finally make paper maps a thing of the past?