New service enables mobile users to save maps for use when they have no data connection.
Google Inc. unveiled a revamped maps program Wednesday that allows mobile users to use the service offline in places where they lack an Internet connection.
“You will no longer need paper maps,” said Google’s Rita Chen at an event unveiling the upgrades.
The service, which will be available soon on devices powered by Google’s Android operating system, allows users to select an area and save a local map that can be viewed when a user doesn’t have a data connection.
This can be useful for people traveling to international locations where they don’t want to pay Internet roaming charges, or for situations when someone is underground or on a plane without data access.
Chen demonstrated by saving a section of a map of London, which would still retain interactive features even without going online.
“If you have GPS enabled, the blue dot will still work,” she said.
“You can orient yourself without Wi-Fi.”
She zoomed in on the map, saying,”As we start moving in, the map remains clear, even down to street level.”
The Google upgrade comes amid widespread reports the widely used maps program will be booted off devices sold by Apple, which is developing its own mapping service.
Google also unveiled improvements to its Street View, with access to more areas where cars can’t go, and a more detailed three-dimensional Google Earth map that allows users to view as if they were flying over a location.
Greg Sterling, an analyst at Opus Research, said Google is trying to protect its turf in maps.
“The offline mapping capability is the major announcement,” Sterling said.
“But I think they probably put this together quickly to show people that they have a comprehensive platform, and how it won’t be easily duplicated by Apple or anyone else.”
While Google doesn’t generate much income directly from maps, it often ties into Internet search that does generate advertising dollars.