Google Maps 101: How to Download Maps for Offline Use

How to Download Maps for Offline Use

Spotty cellular reception is a fact of life that we all have to deal with, especially if you live in suburban and rural areas. For those of us who rely on our smartphones for navigation, driving through areas with bad mobile data service can be a cause for major headaches.

Thankfully, Google Maps has this problem covered with a feature that lets you download your route, which can be a lifesaver if you ever get lost in an area with poor reception. This feature works for both Android and iPhone, but the process is slightly different between the two. Either way, we've got you covered below, so keep reading to find out how to download routes in Google Maps for offline use.

Step 1: Enable Location Services

Before you start downloading maps, you'll need to make sure location services are enabled. If you're using an Android device, tap the search icon at the top of your Settings menu, then type in "Location." From there, select the entry labeled simply "Location," then make sure the switch at the top of the screen is turned on.

If you're using an iPhone, go to the Privacy menu in your Settings app, then tap on "Locations Services." On the next page, make sure the main toggle switch is turned on, then select Google Maps and set it to "While Using this App" or "Always."

Step 2: Enable Downloading Over Mobile Data (Optional)

Next, if you want to be able to download routes over your cellular data network, you'll have to enable a setting in Google Maps. So open the app and tap on the hamburger icon in the top-left to open the side menu, then select "Offline maps" (Android) or "Offline areas" (iPhone). From there, tap on the cog shaped settings button in the top-right corner.

From here, if you're using an Android device, tap "Download preferences," then select "Over Wi-Fi or mobile network" and press the save button. If you're using an iPhone, simply select "Over Wi-Fi or mobile network" from the section labeled When to download offline areas.

Enabling map downloading over mobile data on Android (left, middle) and iPhone (right).

Step 3: Download Your Desired Route

At this point, you're ready to download offline maps. If you're using an Android device, open Google Maps and either type your target destination into the search bar or put a pin on it by long-pressing the location. From there, tap on "Directions" in the lower-right corner and decide on a route.

With the directions pulled up, tap on the black banner right below the destination entry to download an offline copy of the entire map and all the businesses along your route. After that, you can proceed to the next step.

If you're using an iPhone, the process of downloading offline maps is a little more tedious, but it's still doable. To get started, open Google Maps and tap on the hamburger menu in the top-left corner, then choose "Offline areas," and select "Custom area" on the following screen.

You'll now be shown a preview map that you can move around to center on an area you'd like to download. You can zoom in or out as well, and when you do, you'll see a preview of the area's approximate file size.

You can download map areas that are a maximum size of roughly 1.7 GB, so you may need to zoom in if the preview area is larger than that. But once you've picked out an area that you want to access offline, just tap "Download" to save it.

Step 4: Use & Access Your Downloaded Maps

In the future, when you need directions in an area that you've downloaded, but you don't have cellular reception, you'll have no need to worry. Just open your Google Maps app, then all of the streets, businesses, and points of interest in the downloaded area will be visible — even without a connection.

As long as you stay within the bounds of your downloaded map area, you'll essentially have a fully functional Google Maps app even without the internet. This means that features like directions and search will continue to work, but note that map overlays (like satellite view and traffic data) will not work without a data connection.

Downloaded maps showing up on Android (left) and iPhone (right), even in Airplane mode.

Step 5: Update Your Downloaded Maps Every Month

There's one more thing you should know about downloading offline areas in Google Maps. Each offline area will expire after a month if you don't update it, which means you'll no longer be able to access the downloaded area without an internet connection. Google does this to save space on your phone and to ensure you're not using an outdated map.

However, it's easy to update your offline maps if you want to be able to access them indefinitely. To start, tap the hamburger icon in the top-left corner of Google Maps, then choose "Offline maps" (Android) or "Offline areas" (iPhone). From here, select the downloaded map area, then press "Update" on the following screen. Once you've done that, you'll have offline access to this map area for another month.

Please remember that some important traffic data, like construction zones and accidents, will not be available when using offline maps. While it does serve as a great backup in case you run into areas with poor cellular service, it should really only used during those times. As always, though, leave a comment below and share your thoughts about this nifty feature.

Cover image and screenshots by Amboy Manalo/Gadget Hacks

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