Announced during the Google I/O in May earlier this year, Google has finally begun the gradual rollout of its new Google Maps offline navigation feature. Users can expect to see this feature in the latest version of the Google Maps app which will allow users to save locations, search, and access the app’s turn-by-turn navigation offline.
As good as all of this sounds, there is a slight catch though.
This new feature will only be available now on Android devices with availability on iOS devices listed as “coming soon” though no definite date was provided. Although relatively unsurprising, this feature will make owning an Android device versus an iOS one that much sweeter, at least for the time being.
Previously, saved offline maps could only be viewed, the new Google Maps app will allow you to get turn-by-turn driving instructions, search for specific locations, and find information about places like operating hours, contact information or ratings. Offline navigation is simple enough to access as users only need search for a city, country or location and then tell the app to save the selected area. Areas can be saved by tapping “Download” on the resulting place sheet or by going to “Offline Areas” in the Google Maps menu and then tapping the “+” button.
According to Google, the offline feature will not only benefit users navigating in areas without connectivity but also for users navigating between locations with spotty service, like in underground carparks or country roads. The app will automatically detect these areas and switch between online and offline mode to compensate for the lack of connectivity.
Google’s product manager told the BBC that they have been working on all of these features for two to three years already as Google Maps happened to be really slow or completely unusable in many scenarios due to limited connectivity.
She added that with this, users will not have to resort to “all that screenshot jujitsu” before they leave on a journey for fear of loss of access during their journey.
Saved offline maps will update automatically once every 15 days as long as the device is plugged into a charger and connected to WiFi unless the user overrides these settings.
Despite the ability to access information, like ratings, about specific locations being listed as one of the new features’ capabilities, the BBC reports that reviews people have posted about restaurants and other businesses are not shown, and neither are user-generated photos.
There is a silver lining to this limitation though as Google promises that they will be introducing even more offline features over time.
While availability in Malaysia was not specifically mentioned, Forbes has indicated that this feature will be work with any area in the world. Should this new feature arrive on our shores, it could really give existing popular navigation apps a run for their money.