Google Maps is one of the most popular and reliable mapping/navigation services, but it’s not without its faults. One of the main complaints is that it works best with a solid data connection, something we don’t always have outside the city. Thankfully, Google Maps can be used offline, but this great feature is rendered useless without some proactive procedures.

Getting ready to take that road trip or get yourself into a wild hike? Make sure to follow this tutorial so that you will be covered when off the grid.

How offline access works

You will need to download the area of interest before being able to take advantage of Google Maps offline. This is what we mean when we say things must be done “proactively”. The map area must be downloaded before leaving the safety of your city’s strong connection.

Thankfully, the area you can download is pretty large (I can cache all of San Diego and the LA area with a single download. Of course, there is a massive amount of information when downloading nearly two cities and everything in between them. Be ready to sacrifice plenty of storage space for your maps. These can take up to 1.5 GB, depending on the area. There is a way to download this data to an SD card, though, which is a relief. Simply go to Menu > Offline Areas > Settings > Storage Preferences and switch “Device” to “SD card”.

It’s also important to note these maps expire after 30 days. This is mostly due to the fact that the world changes pretty much daily. Maps are dynamic and require updating. What happens when a new street is added, or an old one is closed? Maybe a new restaurant opened up in town. Google wants you to have an updated version of your maps when offline.

This was a bigger issue before automatic map updates came into the game. Now it’s something you don’t really need to think about. Just go to the Offline Maps settings and activate automatic updates. This will ensure your offline maps are constantly updated when expired. You can even choose to only be updated when using WiFi, ensuring your precious gigabytes don’t go to waste.

Google Maps Lane Guidance Europe

Also keep in mind you won’t get everything Google Maps has to offer. Offline maps won’t have information such as bike routes, walking directions, transit details (along with its alternate routes) lane guidance and all those goodies that make Google Maps stand out.

Everything else works as expected. You can look for addresses, find businesses and easily navigate to them. As we said – just don’t expect the full-fledged Google Maps experience.

How to store offline maps

Without further ado, let’s show you how the magic happens.

  1. Open the Google Maps application.
  2. Find the area or location you want to download.
  3. If you have searched for a specific place, a bar with the name should appear at the bottom. If not, just press and hold somewhere in the map to make the section show up. Tap on it to display more options.
  4. Hit “Download”.
  5. You can now pinch-to-zoom in and out, making the download area larger or smaller.
  6. After making your selection, hit the “Download” button in the lower-right corner.

Once your maps are downloaded you can navigate and find directions as you would when online. Just remember not every feature will be there, as we mentioned before.

Alternatives?

Taking a quick trip offline, but don’t need the entire area saved? Navigation works offline just by simply setting up your route when you have a connection. Maps will automatically download the info you need to get to your destination. This is completely independent of your manually downloaded map areas, as discussed today. Once your route is configured, Maps will hold the data at least until you arrive at your goal, or until Maps is turned off on your device.

We would also encourage you to check out HERE WeGo, which is one of the best offline maps services we have tested. We commend Google for having probably the best overall map quality and information tool on the planet, but when it comes to using our devices for offline navigation, Here WeGo is king.

See also:

10 best GPS app and navigation app options for Android

April 19, 2017

Wrapping up

Ready to hit the road? Now you have the necessary tools to know your way off the grid, so go enjoy the benefits Google Maps has to offer when offline!

Jonathan Feist
Android purist and enthusiast, rarely more than arms reach from a stock Nexus 7. Often accused of being a Google fanboy, proud of it. Proponent for Android customization and personalization, if you can change it, make it your own!
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