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Google Maps for Android offline mode out now

Android owners can now save maps to use offline, making it easier to get around without consuming data.

Good news for out-and-about Android addicts -- the Google Maps app has been updated and now lets you save maps to use offline.

A new button inside the app lets you download maps, dragging and zooming to fit the area you want to save into an on-screen square.

Naturally our first thought was to try and save the whole of the UK for offline viewing, but the app deemed our selection too large. We zoomed in until it worked, and found that we were able to download an area a little bit larger than the M25. You should be able to save an area roughly the size of your home town, which really is what you'd want from an offline service like this.

Make your selection, and the download begins. Once it's complete, you won't need to consume data loading new maps when you're out and about -- something that could save you time and money.

Saved maps are stored in 'My Places', under the 'offline' tab. You can find your location within a saved map and orient yourself with compass mode without incurring any charges, as these features don't require a data connection.

There appear to be some teething issues however -- when we tried to save London for offline navigation, the download failed. Slashgear meanwhile reports glitches within saved maps, such as landmarks and road names not showing up.

These issues could be down to the service being very new, so here's hoping any bugs get ironed out soon. There are some other limitations too -- it doesn't look like you can use saved maps for navigation or finding a route.

Google thinks offline mode will be useful for exploring new towns, and I can see how it could help if you're heading abroad and are worried about getting around without data.

Apple, meanwhile, is splitting from Google's maps when iOS 6 touches down this autumn, bringing rival services like Flyover, which pans scenically around locations. Pretty perhaps, but will it actually be any use?

The Google Maps update is available now in the Play store. If you'd like to see it in action right now, check out the chirpy promo video below, and let me know how you use your phone to get around in the comments or on our Facebook wall.