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Google Maps for Android gets offline access; iOS coming soon

Google is rolling out the Offline Areas feature for its mobile Maps app, with Android device owners earning first dibs.

The feature, which allows entire cities, counties or countries to be cached for offline use was first previewed at Google I/O back in May.

It enables users to section off a portion of the map and enjoy features such as turn-by-turn navigation and the ability to search for specific destinations, all of which had required internet connectivity until now.

The Offline Areas tool also downloads information about a business, such as the hours of operation, visitor reviews and contact information.

Google says the feature will automatically come into play when the user has limited connectivity, but will also be handy when users run out of mobile data.

In a blog post on Tuesday, product manager Amanda Bishop wrote: “Once downloaded, Google Maps will move into offline mode automatically when it recognises you’re in a location with spotty service or no connectivity at all. When a connection is found, it will switch back online, so you can easily access the full version of Maps, including live traffic conditions for your current route.”

Related: Best Android apps 2015

Google says more offline features will be added soon, along with a new version of the iOS app.

The company is far from first to the offline mapping party, with Nokia’s Here Maps – now in the hands of a consortium of German car makers – doing an especially good job of making areas available to download.

However, the arrival now will be a huge boost to the millions of Google Maps users who no longer have to worry about racking up data charges or being stuck without connectivity when visiting foreign lands.

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