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Going Off the Grid? Google Maps Has Your Back

Google Maps is getting disconnected.
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Google Maps is getting disconnected.

With an update for Android phones Tuesday, you'll be able to search nearby businesses and get driving directions, including turn-by-turn voice prompts, even if your Internet connection is spotty or non-existent. Google says a version for iPhones will come soon.

The feature is ideal if you're trying to leave an underground parking garage or a remote national park. It's also great if you're travelling abroad and want to conserve on expensive data plans. Google is also targeting users in emerging markets, where cellular speeds are slower and prices are higher relative to typical incomes.

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Mapping apps included with Windows phones have long had this feature, but Windows has a tiny market share compared with iPhones and Android. Offline mapping is also available with some third-party apps, including Nokia's Here.

Google Maps has had a limited offline feature. It lets you save a small region ahead of time, but it's the equivalent of displaying a paper map in a phone app. You can't use it for navigation and other tasks we've come to expect in digital maps.

With the new version, you'll be able to do most of what you can do now. You'll need to download databases ahead of time, preferably when you have a Wi-Fi connection.

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