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How to download Google Maps data to your mobile device

Google Maps has made navigation almost--but not quite--trivial for smartphone users. Anyone who has had to wing it on the road when their connection fades, or just wants to save precious battery life, has longed for Google Maps' new feature that lets us download data for offline use.

Google Maps makes it easy to get from place to place, even when those places change on the fly. If you're on the road, though, your connectivity may be spotty at best, so it's a good idea to take along a backup. Up until now, our best option was hard to fold and harder to manipulate while moving at high velocity, but now it's easy to download all the map data you need onto your mobile device. Here's how to do it: 

  1. First you need to enable the function. Go to Maps on your device, then tap the Menu key, then More, then Labs.
    Step 1: Select "Labs."
    Step 1: Select Labs. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  2. From here, select Download map area (and anything else that looks appealing). 
    Step 2: Select "Download map area."
    Step 2: Select Download map area. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  3. Once you've activated it, the rest is simple. Pick a Google Places spot, tap it on the map, then select Download map area. It takes a little while, at least on a 3G connection, but the wait is worth it if you want that data. 
    Step 3: Select center of downloaded map.
    Step 3: Select center of downloaded map. Screenshot by Rob Lightner

You can clear your cache to delete old map data, and it's only stored for 30 days, so those on long journeys may want to take a hard-copy backup. Still, for most people, this is a pretty sweet feature.