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.
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.
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.
Which is fairly often, if you're not in an enormous block like the US.
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.
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.
This may not be historically unreasonable, but I am now used to having the world for free!
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.
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.
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
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.
Without offline maps maps is pretty useless to me.