Google Maps, that most handy of services, will soon finally bow to its most common complaint regarding functionality and offer offline maps to those who wish to download them. The feature was demonstrated recently at a press event and it definitely did not fail to impress. Of course other maps services have had offline, save-able maps for some time now, but Google has taken it a step further.
With the new system, a user can load a map of an area and, from the menu, select “Make Available Offline”. This will allow that map to be accessed at any time regardless of internet or GPS connectivity. The feature will also inform the user of the estimated size of the map file so that judgements regarding download quota and free disk-space can be made.
Where this feature stands apart from other services is in its absolute completeness. Saving a map to your device doesn’t just take a screenshot of that area. It saves all the data contained therein. That means that as you zoom in and out the map adjusts just as it would if you were online. Shops, landmarks and other places of interest are also saved. If you have an active GPS signal you can even see yourself moving around within the map.
Basically it provides as close to an online experience as possible, but entirely offline.
From what we’ve seen this is an utterly fantastically crafted feature by Google. Of course we’re yet to check it out for ourselves, as Google was somewhat vague regarding release dates. But we can tell you that this feature will be available on Android before it comes to other mobile OSes.
Google also added that they will soon be able to provide Street View images of places that were previously difficult or impossible to get to. The Street View team has managed to shrink their camera technology down so that it can fit in one, albeit cumbersome, backpack. This will allow Google to hire trekkers to walk around fields, up mountains, down tiny alleyways and in to famous landmarks all while taking high-definition 360 degree panoramic photos that will be added to the Google Street View experience.
Google really seems to be taking its maps to the next level and we can’t wait to try it all out.