How to use Google Maps offline on Android devices

Google map has been there as an integrated part of Android-based smart phones for quite a few years now. A lot of map-based apps have come and gone, but the reliability and ease of use of the Google maps app have made it the most popular app for navigation. Google maps have been used not only for navigation purposes but also for detailed information about sites and geographic regions across the globe.

Slowly and steadily, it has become an inherent part of our lives. I, for one, always rely on Google maps when traveling to new and unknown places. Google maps also provide aerial and satellite view of places. Its best feature is the street view that is now an independent app. With the street view, you can experience new places without physical presence. It gives you stunning high quality; three-dimensional panoramic images that help you explore a place using just your smartphone from any part of the world.

Services are provided by Google Maps

  1. It offers a route planner that you can use for directions while driving, biking, walking or using public transportation.
  2. The Application Program Interface (API) of Google Maps also allows Website admins to embed it into a proprietary site. This could be any real estate or community service page.
  3. Using WiFi or mobile networks, Google Maps can utilize GPS and downloaded maps to determine the device’s location on the map.
  4. It has a Street View feature that you can use to explore a particular place with incredible detail from the convenience of your home using your smartphone or tablet. 360 degrees panoramic images that extend up to street level are provided.
  5. Some supplementary services also provide images of celestial objects and heavenly bodies like the Moon, Mars etc. This is often used by amateur astronomers and enthusiasts.
Google street view

Google Street View is now a separate app but was earlier an integrated feature

 

new-google-maps

The latest version of Google Maps on Android


Yes, Google maps is an amazing app that helps you in many ways. However, you must always remember that it is a web-based app. Therefore, it stops working when your internet connection ceases. What actually happens is that the app downloads maps from the internet while it uses GPS technology to determine your (or the device’s) position on the map. Thus, without an internet connection, Google Maps has nothing but latitude and longitude info to share which you might not find very useful. It might happen that you visit a place with no network reception. In such cases, Google maps cease to work. This could land you into serious trouble in case you were planning to rely on the app for navigation.

navigation

The Navigation feature of Google Maps which was a separate app earlier

 

A word of caution

Google map has proven itself to be very accurate and it really helps when you have an internet connection. But what if you don’t have one? What then? There are certain places where you might not even get a cell phone reception, let alone an internet connection. However, Google has a simple but ingenious solution to the problem. But, before we delve into the solution, let us first double check the basic requirements. In order to be able to use Google Maps without an internet connection, you have to have the latest version of it installed on your Android device. Yes, Google map comes pre-installed on your systems.  However, it is also necessary to update the app once in a while to access all the latest features.

For some time now, Google Maps have had an offline feature in case an Internet connection is not available to access the maps. Using this feature, you may save a portion of the map of a place on your device. This downloaded map can then be used by the App along with the GPS system. Fortunately, even if your internet connection fails, GPS is always available.

The offline feature downloads the map and necessary info to your device. Thus, no internet connection is required to navigate within the borders of the downloaded map. However, there are certain drawbacks of this feature. Before using this feature, it is better that you know about these drawbacks, just to be safe.

The offline maps downloaded on your device have a time limit. What this implies is that the map cannot be saved on your device forever. The reason behind this is that places change after sometime. Therefore, Google also updates the maps in order to conform to the real world. Once the maps get updated, the former maps become invalid. Thus after each update, the downloaded maps have to be re-downloaded for future use. “So what is the so called ‘drawback’?” you may ask. The drawback is simple, if you are headed to some place without an internet connection for a period of a month or more, the offline feature would not be able to help you much. This is because Google updates its maps at least once or twice every month.

Another drawback with the offline maps is that it cannot reverse your direction. The directions and the cached navigation might be loaded in your device beforehand, but it cannot tell you how to return home. Therefore, you should always make sure that you know your way home without having to rely on the app. Not knowing your way home could lead you dangerously astray. Fortunately, you can also use the map to navigate yourself instead of relying on the app to tell you the way.

There is also a limit to how many offline maps you can download. This number is six currently. Therefore, it is important to select which maps you might need before venturing into the unknown. Another way around this could be to delete unrequired maps and load new ones in-between the trip, provided you get internet reception. This can prove to be very risky and unreliable to say the least.

Always remember that Google Maps has been basically designed to work with the internet connection and not without it. Therefore, using it offline comes with its fair share of risks. Always make sure that the place you are about to travel to has good internet reception. If it does not, then you could download the maps of the places you are planning to visit. But always remember to carry a physical map and not completely depend on the app. Trust me, you do not want to find it out the hard way.

Save your maps offline

Now that you know of the drawbacks and have probably accepted it, I will tell you about how you can use Google maps offline. It is a really simple process and Android users have been using it for a long time. But in case you are new to Android, you should find the following steps helpful:

  1. In order to begin the downloading process, you should ensure that you have internet connectivity. Use a fast internet connection, preferably Wi-Fi in order to save data charges (Maps are much bulkier than you think). On an average, per map area amounts to 80MB or more. This, however, strictly depends on the area of the map that you have selected for downloading.
  2. Open the ‘maps’ app on your Android device and navigate to the area on the map which you want to save. You don’t have to be dead accurate, but the areas you wish to visit should be covered inside the selected area on the map.
  3. In the next step, tap the search text box at the top of the screen. A list pops up. Scroll to the bottom of this list where you will find an option named ‘Save for offline use’. Alternately, you could just type ‘ok maps’ in the text box.
ok maps

Type ‘ok maps’ in the search box to open the offline option

 

  1. After completion of the above step, you need to scroll to the exact area which you want to download. The area should be small enough for maps to save it. Tap the download button to begin the downloading process. The time for downloading could be a few seconds to more than a few minutes depending on the speed of your internet connection and the area selected for download. The size of the map is near about 80MB for big city maps that have been fully zoomed out. Open countries etc. amount to fewer data.
map downloaded

Your map has been downloaded

 

  1. In order to double check whether you have succeeded, you could turn on the airplane mode to deactivate your mobile network and internet connection. Now, if you are able to still view the selected map area, then you have successfully downloaded the map on to your device.
airplane mode

Enable airplane mode to disable mobile network and double check your offline map

 

Re-download expired maps

Remember, this map will be valid for a period of 30 days only from the day you have downloaded it. In order to re-download the map after it has expired, you need to follow certain steps. Go to your places and tap on the expired map area listing right at the bottom of the screen. Here, you can re-download the updated map of the area easily without having to select it all over again.

Other offline features

Another feature allows you to simply set up the route when you a connection and navigation will work offline for you. Maps download all the info that you need to get to your destination automatically. So what is exactly the benefit of this feature? The best thing about this feature is that you do not have to save the entire area. You only save just the amount of information required to reach your destination. But this data is only retained until you reach your destination. Once Maps detects that you have reached your destination, it will remove the data. Turning off maps on your device could also lead to the data being deleted. Thus, you have to be careful with this method.

Always remember, with Google Maps online, you cannot use navigation. You can only use the map to look around yourself. You can do this as long as your device has GPS. Traffic data and other features of Maps cannot be used without internet connectivity.

Conclusion

Although, the offline mode of Google Maps comes with its share of disadvantages, it is undeniably a very useful tool. This feature is even available on iOS devices. Tablets having Wi-Fi only features could benefit from it. Also, there are certain foreign countries where data roaming charges are mind-blowingly expensive. In such places, you can often cut down your data costs by using the offline feature. However, it is always important to remember that the Maps app works best with internet connectivity. Some of its best features are not available offline. Also due to the time limit on retention of offline maps on your devices, make sure that you do not rely on it on long trips that extend beyond a month. Also, there are certain features on your phone, like the compass, that can help you find your way when you are lost. It is always advised that you also learn about these features so that you might not be left completely helpless without the Maps app.

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