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You can now download fully searchable Google Maps to use them offline

Having recently transferred from the exotic but quiet realms of Yorkshire to the foreign land that is London, finding my way around the city can sometimes be a nightmare.

But the plethora of mapping services on my phone have always saved the day. And Google Maps has been the king of mobile navigation for years, offering its service first on the web, then more recently on mobile too.

Its latest update on Android (soon to follow on Apple’s iOS) goes one better, giving users the option to download fully functional maps of specific regions for offline use. Previously, users were able only to view an area of the map offline; but this update offers turn-by-turn navigation use and information about specific places – all without a data connection. 

This is extremely handy for the times you know you won’t have any phone reception (hello, underground commutes), or when you’re travelling abroad on holiday.The update will allow users to search and navigate between all points of interest included in the region you’ve downloaded.

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Extra details, such as photos and user reviews of businesses or attractions won’t be included, but Google promises to keep updating the offline capabilities of the app. So, while walking and public transport directions aren’t available for offline use in this next update, we can assume these will come later in the future.

And, of course, the maps come back to life in complete detail once you have a good internet connection, providing you with the option to see photos and live traffic information seamlessly.

This capability hasn’t been completely absent from smartphones. Nokia’s HERE maps brought offline navigation to Windows Phone users in 2012, but their app is also available on the more widely-used Android and iOS app stores.

Anyway, thanks to this update, I’m looking forward to being able to stare at my phone, like the confused part-time tourist that I am, even more thanks to this update. But just remember to download any maps you need over wi-fi (a restriction imposed by Google) before you head out on your adventures.

Emad Ahmed is a science report for our sister site, the New Statesman.
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