When Google first launched its Google Maps app for Android, users were elated with the idea of not having to carry paper maps anymore whenever they need directions. All that is going to get better, as rumors have been saying that Google Map’s navigation feature will soon be able to run completely Net-free. That is, if All About Phones’ insider source is to be believed.

According to the Dutch tech site, Google is planning to provide fully-offline navigation abilities for the Google Maps app within summer. The current version of Google Maps for Android allows you to cache your routes and destinations for as long as your Android device is within an area with data connection coverage. Once you lose your data connection, you will no longer be able to input new destinations. Google Maps has been providing this caching feature since late December.

With the rumored offline version of Google Maps, you will no longer need an Internet connection to be able to use Google Maps’ navigation feature while you’re on the move.

A similar kind of Internet-free navigation service is provided by the likes of TomTom, NDRIVE, Garmin, and CoPilot–and the service is not free. With Google Map’s free and fully offline navigation features, these companies could potentially see a big slice of their market being eaten by Google.

Although the Google Maps app is available for other platforms (e.g., BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia or S60, and Windows), the Android version of the app has the following exclusive features:

  • free turn-by-turn GPS navigation (even includes voice guidance)
  • personalized recommendations for nearby places (e.g., restaurants, coffee shops, other establishments)
  • 3D map viewing (available on supported devices only)
  • background caching of maps for most-used areas

Google Maps features that are also available to non-Android devices include the following:

  • Compass mode (displays a 3D compass pointer to indicate your orientation)
  • Place pages (quick access to information and details about places)
  • Business listings (e.g., address, phone numbers, etc.)
  • My Location (shows your location even if you’re not hooked up to GPS)
  • Latitude (displays your friends’ current locations and allows you to share your current location to your friends)
  • Voice Search (perform a place search by speaking to your phone)
  • Traffic (informs you of real-time traffic info so that you can avoid those routes)
  • Street View (gives you a street-level view of places)
  • Driving, biking, walking, and transit directions (depends on data availability)
  • Layers (lets you view your map with overlays for such map info as traffic, satellite view, terrain view, etc.)
  • My Maps
  • Starred Items
  • Labs (experimental features)

If you want to try Google Maps and explore its latest features, install the latest version (5.5.0) from the Android Market.

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