We make no secret of the fact that Google Maps is one of out all time favourite apps. A fantastic local search function that draws on the immense power of Googe’s search engine, fast performance, great routing and, of course, full free 3D navigation with voice.
What more could you ask for? Well, actually there is one thing.
The sole downside to Google Maps is that you need a data connection to use it. The maps are downloaded as you need them, and while the app downloads and caches map areas intelligently, ensuring you should never actually run out of map data while you’re driving or walking, when you’re overseas and your phone is racking up the roaming charges even a few minutes of Google Maps use can be expensive.
However this need not be the case. There is a little know feature in Google Maps that enables you to download entire map areas, with a 10 mile radius from any point on the map. And you can download as much as you want. Read on to find out how.
The Precache maps feature is stored in the Labs section of Google Maps. Open the app then click the Menu button, then More>Labs. You’ll now see a range of experimental features that may one day make it into the full app.
Choose the right feature
Browse through the list of the features that are available (see right for a guide to some of the others). Choose Precache map area and tap it to activate. A message will appear on screen to tell you that the feature has been enabled.
Select a region
Your now ready to download a chunk of map. The precached area will have a 10 mile radius from the point you choose, so pick a spot near the centre of the region you want. Hold you finger on screen until the small detail window opens.
Cache your map
Tap the arrow in this window to see more information about the location you’ve chosen. At the bottom of the list of options you see will be one entitled ‘Precache map area’. Tap this to start. It might take a few minutes, so using Wi-Fi is a good idea.
The area that you have cached is now displayed on the map within a square. You will now be able to disconnect your phone from the data network, such as when you are abroad, or trying to save battery, and you will still be able to navigate within this area.
View cached areas
There’s no limit to the number of areas you can download, other than the size of your memory card. Simply repeat the process as many times as you need. To see the areas you’ve cached go to Menu>More>Cache settings and select Precached map areas.
Manage your caches
The map areas will be named after their exact central point, which may or may not be of use to you. Tap the pen icon to give them a more memorable name. Delete an area by hitting the red X, or tap the area’s name to view it on the map.
A few caveats
Precaching the maps in this way only save the basic map view. You won’t get things such as satellite view or live traffic information, and if you will also need to go online if you want to perform searches within the cached area.