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Google Map downloads cut the data cord

A new Labs feature for Google Maps on Android lets you view map details when you're offline.

Offline download in Google Maps 5.7 for Android
Google

Google Maps has received a new experimental Labs add-on today that may simplify your life in areas with little to no Wi-Fi or data.

The "Download map area" add-on in the new Google Maps 5.7 for Android will store a map for a specific area you're trying to visit. You'll have to plan in advance with this tool, and downloading a map will take some time and storage space, but it beats lugging around a guide book, or worrying about getting enough signal in a trouble spot.

If you've got an Android phone running version 2.1 or higher, and the latest version of Maps 5.7, you can get started by opening the menu, tapping More, then Labs, and selecting the download feature. Later when you search for a Place, for instance, going into the More menu will show you an option for downloading the area map while you're still online.

Be forewarned that the feature won't show you directions, Places, satellite view, or 3D buildings.

Since you may not want downloaded maps sticking around too long, you can view or delete them from the cache settings (get to it from Menu, then More). After 30 days, Google will delete them by default.

After playing around with the map downloads, we like what we see so far. The real test will be seeing how easy or useful the feature is in areas that are truly data-starved.