Today Google declared the end of paper maps. For Android users, that is: Google Labs just launched “Download map area,” an experimental feature in Google Maps for Android.
“You will never need to carry a paper map again,” writes Chikai Ohazama, Director of Product Management, Google Maps for mobile, in the company’s mobile blog. “The ‘Download map area’ lab in Google Maps 5.7 for Android is a step in making that statement true even when you’re offline.”
The “Download map area” lab requires Android 2.1+ and the latest version of Google Maps. You can use it to download any map with a 10-mile radius and navigate without a data signal or data plan. That’s handy because previous versions of Google Maps require an active internet connection in order to download the map data as you go. It could also be especially helpful for traveling abroad. Not only can you get around, you will look less touristy by not waving around a paper map.
Part of the helpfulness comes from Google admitting a weakness. Opening Google Maps for mobile and zooming into a specific area without data coverage or wifi results on the (incredibly frustrating) image to the left. Now you can “Download map area” while you still have access to Wi-Fi or data coverage and get the image on the right.
To access Labs on your phone, press your phone’s menu button once in Google Maps, choose “More” and select Labs. On a tablet, click the menu button in the upper-right corner of Maps. Google says a map download should only take a minute or two.
“This download stores only the base map tiles and the landmarks on the map, so you still need a data connection to see satellite view and 3D buildings, search for Places and get directions,” writes Ohazama.
The “Download map area” feature comes on the heels of the Google Maps 5.7 for Android release Wednesday, which added a number of additional features: better suggested search results, a photo viewer to Place pages, and Transit Navigation.
Transit Navigation, which is still in beta testing, allows stop-by-stop navigation for public transit in more than 400 cities. Here’s the coolest part: Transit Navigation uses GPS to determine your current location along your route and alerts you when it’s time to get off or make a transfer, even if you open another application or put your phone away entirely. Since Transit Navigation relies on GPS signals, it can only be used for above-ground transit. This should also be helpful for people who are hearing impaired, since there’s a vibrating alert.
“Now you can spend more time enjoying the sights out the window and less time worrying about how many stops are left, where you are along the route or whether you missed your stop,” writes Chris Van Der Westhuizen, Software Engineer, on Google’s official blog.
How quaint to think travelers will look out a window and not their Android device.
You can download Google Maps 5.7 for Android here. It requires an Android OS 2.1+ device and works anywhere Google Maps is currently available.