Down with Capped Data

Google Maps Offline hands-on (Verdict: Finally! Great!)

I currently use an OG Motorola Droid (2009 baby!) for nav, but I’d much rather use my Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Tab 7 in the car. With offline mode, that’s now a possibility.

Google Maps: Click “Make availble offline” from the menu, then highlight the metro area using pinch to zoom. Maximum size is about 80MB which is about enough to cover wine country, or the SF Bay Area from San Francisco down to San Jose. Google allows you to store up to 6 offline maps.

A lot of big news came out of Google’s I/O developer conference today. The new Google Nexus 7 Tablet which will be sold direct and features the pure experience is aimed squarely at the Amazon Kindle Fire. The Nexus Q, a streaming media player, is clearly Google’s attempt to knock-off Apple TV.

And Project Glass? I’m not sure what to make of that. But it made for a spectacular, over-the-top parachuting demo featuring divers landing on the Moscone Center roof in San Francisco, and then scaling the building, before biking through the hall right on to stage to meet up with a visibly excited Sergey Brin.

Sergey Brin demonstrates Google’s Project Glass in San Francisco today. Is this a massive breakthrough, or a pet project that solves a problem no one knows they have? Developers can pre-order an “Explorer Edition” for $1,500 that will ship in early 2013.

But the biggest news — at least for me — was a quiet update to Google Maps which adds (queue applause) the long awaited offline mode. Check Google Play now to update your Maps app.

Offline is a big deal because now we can use any Google device whether it’s data-enabled or not for viewing maps.

You could, for example, us a wi-fi only tablet and get all the benefits of maps without the need for a pricey, capped data plan from Verizon or AT&T. I currently use an OG Motorola Droid (2009 baby!) for looking up directions, but I’d much rather use my Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Tab 7 in the car. Not only are those devices newer and faster, but their screens are larger which makes them perfect partners for Android’s superb mapping features.

I gave offline a quick test today, and found that it is simple to set-up and works as expected.

First, I clicked “Make available offline” from the menu in Google Maps. I was prompted to select the area I wanted to store on the device; this is unlike traditional GPS systems that have large, pre-defined maps organized by State and/or country.

The limit per map (you can store up to 6) is about 80MB download. This is enough to store, say, Silicon Valley, extending from San Francisco down south to San Jose. Or you could store wine country, including Sonoma and Napa in about the same amount of space.

Once you confirm the size of the metro area to make available offline, a sidebar pops up with download progress bars. This all ran fast on both the Tab 7 and Tab 10.1 that I tested.

And that’s it!

You can now view maps, as before, but sans data connection. If Google adds nav to offline maps it would really strike hard against the bow of all those GPS apps on the Google Play store that tout offline mode as a competitive differentiator.

You can store up to 6 metro maps offline (“My Places”), with each being approximately 70MB. Here I am downloading my definition of Silicon Valley, and also a second map for wine country, two of my most common driving areas.

Dare to live a little. Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 9,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Subscribe to Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest (and quirkiest!) arts & travel channel in San Francisco.
Clinton Stark
Clint is based in San Francisco and has produced videos for Stark Insider since 2006. Film projects recently completed include short MORADO shot in the Baja, doc THE ART OF HALL WINES in Napa, and music video WRONG'S WHAT I DO BEST at the San Francisco Art Institute. He regularly writes about Canon DSLR and filmmaking. His Broadway features have garnered praise, including SHREK UNMASKED which is the most viewed BTS video for the musical on YouTube. In addition he's worked with DreamWorks, Disney on Ice, and Cirque du Soleil, among others. Interview highlights include James Franco, Gia Coppola, Colbie Caillat, Vincent Kartheiser, Dana Carvey, and Dany Boyle. Clint is a member of ATCA and covers the SF theater scene. He also writes about Napa and wine, and Silicon Valley news and trends. More: Clint's story...
  • balazer

    I don’t believe the new Offline feature of Google Maps supports directions or navigation without a data connection.

    • Mark

      it does support directions without a data connection, but at this point you must be connected to wifi when you put your destination in. if you’re out and about, and need to adjust your trip after you get to your destination, you’re out of luck until you get back to wifi.

      hope this changes in the near future, or i’ll be investing in some gps apps.

  • Satya Ramisetty

    How do you get the gps signal. Most of the mobile devices use data to get their location.

  • Satya Ramisetty

    How does this get the gps signal, while most of the mobile phones depend on data from the carriers

  • David Stonier-Gibson

    IMHO a sadistic teaser. I just tried to download enough maps to cover an upcoming trip to Southern California, and hit a limit on the allowable number of map downloads. As a traveler I can’t on having Internet access while away, nor the time to spend fiddling getting downloads for the next day’s drive.

  • Patrick Nguyen

    because of the map size limit in Google Maps, you can’t even fit California. I live in southern California and occasionally go to the Bay Area and Google Maps fails because of the size limit.