You can use Google Maps without Internet access! The Offline Places feature is built into Google Maps, and there are all sorts of reasons you should be using it.
Maybe you’re travelling to a new country and won’t have data. Maybe you’ve cut your data plan altogether to save money. Maybe you just regularly travel to places with spotty coverage.
Whatever your reason, sometimes it’s nice to have a working map in your pocket — one that doesn’t need Internet access.
This video actually explains Offline Places pretty well, though it’s a few years old (as you can see by the pre-Material Design interface). Let’s take a look at how the process looks today, shall we?
But First, the Fine Print
With Google being an Internet company, you can expect a few things to not quite work offline. Offline maps don’t give you the full Google Maps experience — you can’t look up directions, for example. It’s really more of an alternative to a paper map than a full offline version of Google Maps.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the details:
- You can download as many offline maps as you like, depending on storage space available on your device.
- Maps take anywhere from 3MB to 20MB, depending on the amount of detail required.
- Maps last for 30 days; at that point you must refresh them.
- Turn-by-turn directions and search do not work on these maps.
- GPS does work, meaning you will be able to see your current location.
Got it? Then let’s get started!
How to Save an Offline Map
Open up Google Maps and head to the area you’d like to download. For this example, I’ll be downloading Singapore.
Once you’ve got Maps pointed to the area you’d like to download, hit the three-line menu button to the left of the words “Search Google Maps”. This will bring you to your settings.
If you’re not signed into Google Maps, make sure you do so. Once that’s done, hit the Your Places option.
At the top you’ll see your home and work addresses, along with any other you’ve told Google Maps to save. Scroll past these until you get to the Offline Places, as seen above. Tap the View All and Manage option.
From here you can tap the button at the bottom of the screen, Download a New Offline Area, to start the framing process.
For some reason, Google limits the size of offline maps, regardless of how much space you have available on your phone. Even worse, the limit is completely arbitrary: the biggest area you can save is 50 square kilometers (19 square miles).
So, assuming the area you want to download is too big for Google, you’re going to need to zoom out. When you do that, you’ll be told that you’re ready.
If the map is a little smaller than you were hoping for, know that you can start this process again to cover more ground.
When you’re satisfied with the area framed, go ahead and tap Download. Google will start the process and, if everything goes well, let you know when the map is ready for offline usage.
You’re done! You can now zoom into the downloaded area regardless of whether you’re online or not. The map will stay on your phone for up to 30 days, at which point you can re-download by heading to Offline Places and tapping the expired maps.
Edit: a reader on Reddit, username polux_elm, just pointed out a faster way to do this. Just head to the area you’d like to use offline in maps, then type “Okay maps” into the search bar. You’ll skip ahead to the part where you need to zoom to pick your offline map.
As explained above, Google Maps does have certain limitations. There’s an arbitrary limit on the size of the individual maps you can download (though again, no limit on the number of maps you can download, so you could potentially work around this).
We’ve looked at a variety of offline maps for Android before, but possibly the best alternative is one we’ve never mentioned.
Maps.Me lets you download the entirety of any state, province or country to your phone, and it offers full turn-by-turn directions even if you’re offline.
It doesn’t offer everything Google does — there are no public transit maps, for example — but those features don’t always work with Google’s offline mode anyway.
We might give Maps.Me a full look at some point, but for now, know that it’s a worthy alternative.
How Will You Use Maps Offline?
I’ve been making use of Google’s offline mode for a few months now, particularly during a recent house search. But I want to know when you use it, and for what reason.
Oh, and if you want to learn more about Google’s map service, check out our list of Google Maps tips, or read our recent list of everything you need to know about Google Maps for Android. You’ll learn something.