Google Maps 5.7 for Android is now available for your downloading pleasure in the Android Market. Included in the latest revision is full-blown transit navigation (beta of course), updated directions, an improved search widget, photo viewer for places and one unannounced feature of epic proportions: offline maps mode. Put simply, Google Maps 5.7 is a game changer.
The decision to leave behind a life of standalone navigation units for the frequent traveler is troubling. On one hand, as an Android user you’ll have access to Google Maps’ free Navigation solution — free is always an attractive proposition. But, at the same time you jeopardize battery life and if you dare lose signal, your navigation maps cease to exist. Thankfully Google has begun to resolve the latter of these two issues.
Offline map mode in Google Maps 5.7 represents a milestone in free mobile navigation. Although Google has covered its transit navigation beta, updated directions, improved search widget and photo viewer for places in great detail, we’re not quite sure how offline maps managed to fly under the radar. The only reason we can think of is that it is an experimental feature since only a 10mi radius of offline mapping is available.
Nevertheless, the feature is included in Google Maps 5.7 for Android and undoubtedly raises the bar in free mobile navigation. The livelihood of competing paid mobile navigation solutions and standalone units is now in question. This might be the perfect time for TomTom or Garmin to court Apple to secure a position in mobile navigation since a shelf life on Android looks rather bleak. Let’s see if Apple can respond to the challenge — we’re sure there’s some space in those North Carolina data centers for a little mapping, don’t you think?
If you’ve updated to Google Maps 5.7 and you’re wondering how you can download offline maps simply follow these directions: open Google Maps, tap the menu button, select “More”, choose the “Labs” option, scroll down until you see “”Download map area” and click download. That’s all there is to it.