Google has improved the functionality of its navigation app on Android.
Google Maps for Android has just had a “download map area” feature introduced, although it’s still an experimental (Google Labs) feature at the moment.
This addresses the problem of visiting an unfamiliar area and finding you’ve got no signal (or indeed if you’ve gone abroad, and simply don’t have a data plan).
Currently, you’d be pretty stuck to get a map, but this addition lets you pre-download an area you’re about to visit. You can then use this map offline without your connection.
There’s a download map area lab now available in Google Maps 5.7 for Android, although the caveats are that it still might not work perfectly (being in testing and all), and the offline maps don’t carry the same details as the full online affairs.
Only the basic data, street layout and landmarks are referenced on the map, but that should be plenty enough to find your way around. 3D buildings and the satellite view aren’t available.
Google notes that any downloaded maps can be deleted from your Maps cache should you need to free up space on your mobile, and indeed maps will automatically be removed after a month (although you’re free to download them again, of course).
It’s not clear when this feature will come to other mobile OS versions of Google Maps, but currently only Android users get this added beta functionality.
Google Maps is by far the most downloaded app on the Android Market, with in excess of 50 million downloads.