Google’s Offline Maps Now Live In 150 Countries

As of yesterday Google’s new offline mapping capability for Android devices is now live (with a Google Maps update). It was announced a couple of weeks ago at the Google Maps “next dimension” event that preceded the announcement of Apple’s new mapping platform.

Offline maps are available for 150 countries, and users can save offline maps for up to six large metropolitan areas (e.g., Manhattan). To save a map, you search for the desired location, pull up the mapping menu (not the layers) and select “make available offline.”

You’ll be asked to confirm or crop the area of the map you want to download. If an offline map isn’t available for the selected area that’s immediately indicated. Depending on the designated area and density of the map it can take some time for the map to download, especially over a wireless network connection. Offline maps are stored in the “My Places” area.

Even when there’s no wireless signal the blue dot will follow you as you move around, or if you’re on a WiFi-only device and there’s no connection (e.g., the Nexus 7). As an aside, I think the Nexus 7 (or other 7-inch Android tablet with Google Maps) will help move the tablet “out into the streets.” Currently most tablet use is at home.

Using this feature on a larger-than-a-smartphone screen is going to offer a somewhat better experience. Regardless of the device, you can pan and zoom around and look at neighborhoods or zoom out and view at the entire map area. Overall it’s very useful.

The thing you don’t get — and it’s a bit frustrating but requires an adjustment of expectations — is the ability to search for places/things or populate the map with local information when you’re offline. In my tests I also wasn’t able to conduct a local search (e.g., London pubs) and save those locations as part of the offline map. That would be a great addition to the capability and make offline maps even more useful.

Accordingly, right now, Google offline maps are basically a more compact and dynamic substitute for a paper map in your pocket. They can also indicate whether you’re headed in the correct direction (the compass feature works too). However you’ll need a connection to do any searching for content (beyond transit locations such as subway stations).

I have never used Nokia Maps offline so I cannot compare the two at this time. Nokia will provide the mapping functionality for Windows Phone 8 when those devices are released in the fall. Apple Maps will require a wireless or WiFi connection.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Isla_McKetta

    This is fantastic news! The stories I could tell about being lost in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest without cell service (and thus no map). Now if Google Maps can only figure out the difference between a logging road (which is sometimes a hypothetical road) and a real road, we’re set for summer vacation!

  • http://www.facebook.com/abhiktheone Abhik Biswas

    You can’t compare Google Maps with Nokia Maps. Google Maps is much better when it comes to navigation. It has more detailed roads and satellite imagery.

    Too bad Google stopped supporting Maps for latest Symbian devices. I really miss it on my Nokia 701.

  • Halid

    Ok so if we have GPS on our phone and we download map areas. why do I need connection via cellular or WiFi? when I use Garmin, maps are pre downloaded so it uses just GPS no data connection. google makes deal with thiefs att verizon etc.. to make it so that consumers use their overpriced capped data and they get percentage of that. This offline maps is crap useless. Do you agree or no?

  • David Wirtz

    You’re right. There is NO comparison as Nokia Maps application is infinitely better. You can download the entire WORLD to your cellphone or just the countries you want…and they are all available offline…including POI. You never need a data connection when using Nokia Maps to navigate.

  • David Wirtz

    With Windows Phone or Nokia Symbian, you don’t ever need a data connection for maps/navigation. All countries can be downloaded and then you never need to use a data connection again. Care to change your destination at the last minute? No problem since Nokia Maps works perfectly to calculate your route offline…and includes points of interest as well! Why be limited to 6 large metropolitan areas when you can download the entire world?

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