July 8, 2011 at 11:51 AM ET
Now, when you don't have a signal for a data connection, it's still possible to know where you are in unfamiliar surroundings with a new feature for Google Maps for Android that allows you to download maps for future reference.
Announced yesterday in the Official Google Blog, the ability to download maps is available via the Labs part of the menu for Google Maps 5.7 for Android. While as a reporter, I've had it drilled into me to always have print maps whenever I go anywhere I haven't been before — especially abroad — features like this give more weight to going paperless.
According to Google, there were more than 200 million downloads of the mobile version of Google Maps by May, making it on track to be more popular than the desktop/laptop version. And since no one with a smartphone seems to use physical maps anymore, features like this definitely enhance the use to those who indulge in wanderlust.
Some notes from Google about this:
- This download stores only the base map tiles and the landmarks on the map, so you still need a data connection to see satellite view and 3D buildings, search for Places and get directions.
- All your downloaded map areas can be managed in your Google Maps cache settings so you can delete maps you no longer need or if you want to free up storage. After 30 days, all downloaded map areas will be removed from your cache; they can be re-downloaded any time.
I have print maps from all over, just in case. But day to day, trip to trip, I rely on Google Maps on my Droid. That's not to say it's perfect; I laughed yesterday when it sent me on a route that saved me all of a minute going another way than I usually would. But there is something reassuring about having access to maps when you might not be able to get online — especially if you remember to do it ahead of time, while you do have a data connection!