Today, Google released version 9.17 of Google Maps for Android with new features including offline search and turn-by-turn navigation. The company is striving to fill the gaps for what it calls the “roughly 60% of the world… without Internet today.” That missing geography can be a challenge for users who must move about every day in places without internet access.
While Google Maps is fairly easy to use in general, the new process to download and cache the desired geographic area is a bit involved and manual. While Here Maps can download an entire province or state onto a phone, Google Maps asks the user to manually search and find an area much smaller than a typical state. The user must then zoom and position, then prompt the app to download the area. Another area for improvement: unlike Here Maps, Google Maps doesn’t currently prompt the user when newer versions of the downloaded areas are available.
However, once an area is downloaded, Google Maps will automatically use the saved geography even while connected, then seamlessly switch back to the network when the device moves outside the saved area. This is in contrast to Here Maps where the user must manually switch between offline and online modes before using the app for search and navigation.
In her blog post, Google product manager Amanda Bishop promised that an iOS version with similar functionality will arrive soon, as well as “even more offline features to help you find your way.”