Google Maps for Android gets updated with offline mapping capabilities

Late at the end of last year, Google released an update to its Maps application for Android which brought about some fundamental changes with how the maps work. Among other features (including 3D rendering), instead of rendering 256px square images containing the maps, the application switched to rendering vector-based mapping data for vastly increased resolution and quicker download speeds. We even called it a mobile development masterclass.

Now the Maps team have released an update to the Android app which includes a so-called "Labs" feature which allows users to pre-download a mapping area for offline use. So instead of requiring an internet connection to download new map areas, the downloaded data can be used instead, providing simple mapping features for an area you're visiting without an internet connection. The number one use for this kind of thing is going on holiday in a country where you don't have an internet connection or data plan, of course. However it also gives Maps on Android phones and tablets a major advantage over its iOS counterparts.

There are some features that aren't available offline - mapping, street view, and satellite imagery require an internet connection. But simply by having the mapping data offline will solve a lot of problems for users on the go.

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