Android users have yet another reason to smile because of Google I/O 2012
. Google Maps now offers an offline feature for the current update of Google Maps, enabling users to access saved regions of maps on their phone without the use of a live connection.
Many users love the concept of Google Maps and loads survive on it on a daily basis. But with intermittent losses of connection, the whole purpose of Maps sometimes becomes useless, as the location vanishes as soon as signal is lost. The newly updated Google Maps version 6.9, which is available on Play Store now, allows users to avail offline functionality in over 150 countries and save up to six large metro areas.
Users can select the "make available offline" option and select the size of the region, both in terms of distance covered as well as how much data this will consume. The maximum size while saving a location offline appears to be roughly 60 MB. The whole Delhi and NCR can be covered in approximately 20 MB. This makes it a pretty nifty app upgrade. It also strengthens its stand against Apple's 3D Maps which were introduced a few weeks ago at WWDC and threatened to destabilize Google's virtual monopoly over internet maps.
This comes as big news for people planning to travel to places where there is no signal such as camping, underground railways and other such places. Foreign travelers too can store offline data of cities they travel to and use it offline over there, where massive data charges would otherwise apply due to roaming.
The offline features of Google Maps do come with their own set of drawbacks. Though the update enables voice navigation, the offline mode does not enable search option for places with the map selection or the ability to get directions. Basically, these maps are electronic versions of paper maps, which comes as a disappointment because Nokia Maps and MapMyIndia along with certain other services offer complete navigation support even in offline mode.
All-in-all, it is still an improvement and a handy feature to have. Google claims that if GPS is enabled on the device, the blue dot will still work without an Internet connection. In addition to the offline mode, has also released a smoother and faster Compass Mode for Street View in Google Maps for Android.