Offline, on the go

Picture the scene. You're out and about. You're off to visit your friend's new house for the first time. You've scribbled his postcode on your hand. You get off the tube, and take out your phone to open up Google Maps. But you've got no signal. You wave your phone around, put it into flight mode and out again, but no luck. You're in the dead zone. So Google Maps just comes up with a bunch of grey squares and an error message.

What if it didn't have to be this way?

Obviously, the best way for it not to have to be this way would be if there were fewer places we couldn't get any $%^£$%£! reception. But let's be honest, that's not going to happen any time soon. So the best alternative is for our mobile online apps to work better offline, right? And that's just what's happened to Google Maps for Android.

If you've got an Android phone, you'll want to get yourself the latest version of Google Maps right away. It adds a 'Labs' feature that lets you download map data and store it on your phone, letting you navigate around happily even when you're out of signal.

Obviously, you can't download all the Google Maps data - that would require a phone the size of a house, or something. Rather, you can tell it to download a 10-mile radius around you - enough to cover most of London, for example.

This function has been available for ages in Nokia Maps, but because of Google's background as an internet company we feared it might never come to Android. But, low and behold! Take that, iOS users. Wait, hang on - we use an iPhone. Darn.

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