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Google Maps is finally embracing offline mode, as the company reveals you can now download cities, counties, or countries, use turn-by-turn navigation, and search for specific locations — all without an Internet connection.

Google first introduced an offline mode back in 2011, but it was limited in that you could only capture an area to view offline. Today’s news is a major step for the Internet giant, and will see it challenge incumbents such as HERE (formerly owned by Nokia), which has been offering free offline access as a major differentiator for a while.

Google first teased the new offline capabilities at I/O back in May, but now the feature’s landing for everyone on Android, with the iOS incarnation coming “soon,” according to the company. To download, you simply search for a country, city, or county, and hit “Download.”

Google Maps: Offline

Above: Google Maps: Offline

A neat feature of the new Google Maps offline mode is that it will automatically detect if you have poor or no connectivity, and switch to offline mode of its own accord. Then when you have a connection, you’ll be switched back online again (unless you manually go offline) so you can receive live traffic alerts.

While Google Maps has emerged as the default navigation map for many, its shortcomings with offline access had forced users to turn to a second service when traveling abroad or when in rural areas where 3G/4G was limited. Now, you can download regions on Google Maps over Wi-Fi, and use the app wherever your roam. It’s worth noting here that this will require space on your device.

In addition to navigation, offline mode also retains key information about locations, such as opening hours and contact details for businesses, which will be helpful for tourists or business travelers.

Today’s news comes a month after Google launched its first dedicated public transport app, though it is only available in New Delhi, India. The Android-only app also offers full offline access for those with spotty mobile Internet.

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