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Google Maps for Android lose offline Maps - seriously? (droid-life.com)
62 points by DoubleMalt on July 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I suspect this might be down to the 'dynamically generated' maps feature in the current maps.google.com preview.

Either way, unless Google has somehow managed to bypass extortionate data roaming charges, spotty local coverage, and absurd latency It's pretty much made maps useless for me.

At least before, when my phone has decided to not connect to the network, or latency has spiked up to 30s I could still look at the map and get places.

Yup. It's frustrating for me since I used a winmo device 7 years ago with TomTom that provided flawless offline maps. There doesn't even exist a comparable offline maps program for newer Windows Phone OSes... Google abandoning offline maps in the Android OS is another reflection of this trend, but the world's infrastructure just isn't there yet, especially when you leave California - here in Southern Ontario, coverage is good but the cost of data plans for all is prohibitive once you've got a family full of people with phones.

Of course, Google has been eschewing offline support throughout Android - like the anemic and non-expandable storage on their entry-level Nexus devices, pushing their cloud-based music service instead of the traditional "just load songs onto the device" approach, and so on.

This massive technological regression on disconnected mobile software is really disappointing.

Windows Phone 8 has offline maps via Nokia Here, you can also use Nokia Drive to get offline navigation. Both are free and have helped me navigate without a data connection in Europe, Asia and North America.

Oh, right. I forgot that Nokia had made their exclusive thing. My phone is just a Samsung WP7 device that's getting really long in the tooth.

Yeah unfortunately for WP7 you needed a Nokia device to get the Nokia apps, all WP8 devices get them though.

They should call it City Maps or something. Get a few miles from a major highway and you don't have maps anymore. It was only marginally functional anyway since you have to know the cellular coverage in the area you plan to drive, and save the map tiles yourself, which is time consuming. You often can't save enough map tiles for a long trip in advance, so you have to fiddle with it along the way, as you find coverage. It would have been so much better if this could be done in advance of a trip.

You can cache the current map area that you're looking at by searching for 'OK Maps'. [1]

[1] - http://googleblog.blogspot.in/2013/07/a-new-google-maps-app-...

Does that strike anyone else as a weird thing to do? They write

"Instead we’ve created a new way for you to access maps offline by simply entering “OK Maps” into the search box when viewing the area you want for later."

err.. Simply?

Weird is an euphemism here. It's totally incomprehensible change.

My wild guess it's targeting voice commanding, which I practically never use as voice recognition is still not reliable enough (and I'm not always comfortable with shouting at my phone in public).

The "ok" prefix is the one that Glass uses. I wonder if there's some implied integration there. That the feature is hidden from the UI makes me think this was supposed to not be in use until Glass is out, until someone internally kicked off and said "WHAT DO YOU MEAN OFFLINE MAPS WON'T BE AVAILABLE UNTIL GLASS IS OUT?!"

I assume/hope that they're going to integrate it properly in a future update. They mention a few other features that aren't in this version that they're planning to put back in future updates, so hopefully this is the same.

If not, then this is a pretty terrible unintuitive way to access a very useful feature. I'm not sure how anyone would even know it exists if they hadn't read about it in one of these posts.

I can imagine its related to the whole Glass interaction like 'OK Glass, <take x action>'

Brilliant move. Then when nobody uses it they can suspend it through lack of interest.

What the hell... are they serious?

It is a very useful feature when you're abroad. To uninstall the update : open the launcher -> drop the maps icon on the "App Info" label -> Uninstall updates

I 2nd this...

Osmand for android will let you download the the OpenStreetMaps maps for states or countries for offline use.

I've found OsmAnd to be a great app and it being powered by OSM just makes it better.

(btw, it's OpenStreetMap, not OpenStreetMaps)

There are tons of alternatives to Google Maps, maybe not as complete but decent enough. Just switch to one of them and that's it. I'm using MapsWithMe.

Did anyone use offline maps really anyway? I know I never have. I bet the number of people that actually used the offline feature was a small percentage anyway.

Just use OpenStreetMaps (aka https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.osmand ) and download half of Europe if you wish. Just works, and the navigation was for me (at least in Italy) better than with Google Maps.

I guess it depends. I found Google Maps much better than OSM while on vacation in Turkey.

Thanks for the tip!

also check out Oruxmaps. not free software but free of cost and very feature heavy and fast.

I use it all the time. And it was one of those things I told other people about -- look, you can use maps without even using your precious data plan megabytes. This is very annoying.

> I bet the number of people that actually used the offline feature was a small percentage anyway.

So do I, because it was impossibly difficult to find.

Otherwise, it was quite a useful feature. For Europeans, on holiday, where they'd otherwise have to pay insanely high roaming charges. Unfortunately Google tends to be rather US-centric, so I guess as far as they were concerned it was a useless feature. Oh well.

After moving to Europe, I started using that functionality all of the time. I'll be rather crushed to see it go.

I'm from Europe myself, but I'm only marginally crushed to see it go. The feature provided you with an offline map of an area, to be sure, but you couldn't navigate using it as calculating routes is done online. On a small phone screen, figuring out which route to take is not an easy task.

So I used the feature, of course, but only to figure out where I was in very limited geographical areas, in other words, mostly for small hikes.

Definitely used it alot when travelling around Europe. We still have inflated fees for date roaming here, so having offline maps comes in handy for visiting cities abroad.

I use it extensively when travelling outside my home country, i.e., where data roaming charges are insanely high. I also use it when travelling in my home country when far from major urban centres (hey, Canada is huge, man, even Ontario is huge - get too far north of the Windsor-Quebec corridor and forget about coverage).

To me, offline maps were a huge win for Google Maps, and "OK Maps" or some other weirdness is a usability nightmare.

-1, Google, -1.

Every time I'm not in the same country as my SIM card provider.

Which is fairly often, if you're not in an enormous block like the US.

Maybe because the offline experience wasn't good? I have been using Nokia maps on my Symbian / Windows Phones and they have been invaluable to me, especially when traveling. I know many users of Nokias who swear by offline maps.

Very useful when you're on an underground train - its a killer feature in London

On my android phone? Not yet but I want to in future. On my previous phone, a nokia N900, I had downloaded the whole world.

When you're in the wilds of Australia, and go days or even weeks without mobile signal, it's invaluable. Without this I may need a dedicated GPS device.

> Without this I may need a dedicated GPS device.

I find this ridiculous, but you're probably right. I could run a complete offline maps application back on WinMo 7ish years ago. TomTom had the complete maps for the entire continent, text-to-speech synthesis, and directions being calculated all client-side on general-purpose phone hardware. There is no reason we should need a dedicated GPS device.

Then again, there probably already exists a similar app in the market for Android that provides all of this service offline, we're just ignoring it because it costs north of $50 or something.

Yeah, it looks like Tom-Tom is available, but they want $80ish for Europe, $60 or so for Australia etc.

This may not be historically unreasonable, but I am now used to having the world for free!

I really really tried to on a recent trip overseas. It totally didn't do what I needed (I don't remember the exact details but I think it didn't allow for offline searching or something).

As a backup I had two other free nav apps on my phone (well, on my phone and also installed on an older phone and my tablet just in case) and one of them worked well enough that my wife could just watch it and yell out turns.

The hardest part was finding destinations on the map in a country without a proper addressing system (I'm looking at you Ireland). Before the trip, I had to go to google maps, find the place and get the coordinates, then save that waypoint in the app (I think it was Navfree) as a destination.

It was fussy, but functional and better than a paper map or nothing. The thing I really need from these kinds of apps is a good offline point of interest search. Unless you just happen to have the address (or coordinates!) of every place you might want to go, you end up missing this feature really quick. And even if the app has it, the data quality can by a major issue.

> It was fussy, but functional and better than a paper map or nothing.

Were you using the aforementioned free apps because there aren't paid nav apps on Android, or because said apps aren't any good/not suitable for you purposes? Not that your strategy is terribly bad, just wondering why it was necessary.

In the presence of workable and decent free apps, I didn't feel the need to pay for marginally better paid apps, especially when I would probably never use the app again after the trip.


If you have high roaming charges (or don't have data connection)

This doesn't happen very frequently but it's at the times you most need a map

I use it all the time, it's wonderful. I cached the entire city I live in and it's much faster.

Also, I went on holiday recently and cached the entire country I went to, so I only paid for roaming data on directions, which was quite cheap.

I use maps (actually ViewRanger) with my phone in airplane mode and the tiles pre-cached, to increase battery life while traipsing around.

Well, beside the fact that 3G is slow as molasses outside of major cities (if there even is any coverage), data plans are severely limited (and expensive as hell if you even try to use them in another country), and that network access is slower than local storage (and more power-intensive), why would anyone want to use it, right? [/sarcasm]

I use it all the time as well, especially when making a road trip or just doing touristy stuff in DC. My phone is slow enough that I can usually figure out what street I'm trying to get on by the cached map before the network data finally starts streaming in.

Offline maps is what's kept me on the Nokia Symbian platform for so long. There are quite a few places in the US with poor or non-existent cell coverage and those tend to be the places where I really need access to map data.

It's great for traveling in other countries when roaming charges are high

I'm not 100% clear on what that feature includes. If I'm on a roadtrip and I'm moving into an area with spotty coverage, do I lose the previously cached map? Were offline maps automatic before?

One more for the 'yes' chorus. Whenever I'm going somewhere I'm not familiar with, I'll download a map of the city in advance, to avoid data charges.

I have the offline map of my city downloaded on my WiFi tablet. I often use my tablet when I am travelling when I can't be bothered to waste my phone's battery.

I've often presented offline map as one of the best (or only) reasons to own an Android over an iPhone. That and the keyboard. I would be mad to see it go.

I use it all the time due to not having a data plan (I don't need it often enough to make the expense worth it).

Without offline maps maps is pretty useless to me.

It's useful if you are underground (e.g., subway).

I used it all the time when travelling anywhere.

Perhaps this update was launched by a conscientious objector within the Googleplex.

It never occurred to me to even try using Maps offline.

Meh. The only useful thing (for me) in there is the navigation; for everything else (offline maps, route recording, geocaching, tens of map providers), there's Locus ;)

Type 'OK Maps'

Couldn't they just cache some ads as well instead of limiting features. They could also log GPS and send it back later so they don't lose location data.

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