This navigation app teaches Google Maps an offline mapping lesson

This navigation app teaches Google Maps an offline mapping lesson

Google Maps has evolved into an all-in-one map service. It includes not only navigation features but also more advanced features such as busy information, reviews, immersive view and street level images via Street View.

Its navigation component remains a key feature for drivers, especially since the app also includes offline map support.

The way Google has integrated offline maps into Google Maps leaves a lot to be desired, and the feature hasn’t received any improvements in the past few years.

Why are offline maps important?

The main advantage of offline maps is highlighted by their name. This feature allows users to find addresses and get directions without an internet connection.

Offline maps therefore enable offline navigation in a way that reminds nostalgic drivers of traditional GPS devices.

The available options have improved significantly in the meantime, so offline maps include additional functions for drivers.

However, in Google Maps, the application does not provide traffic information, lane guidance and alternative routes.

Sygic GPS Navigation Offline Maps

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

Download offline maps on Google Maps

Given the gigantic user base of Google Maps, one would expect the app to download offline maps in an easy way.

Unfortunately not. Users must specify the area they want to download by selecting it on the map. This option comes with frustrating territorial restrictions, and you’ll have to repeat the process multiple times for larger countries. This is because it is not possible to select an entire country at once, as the selection only allows for a smaller region.

Google Maps offline maps are automatically updated when the app is launched and a Wi-Fi connection is found.

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The map update can also be done in the background, as long as Google Maps is still running.

How Sygic GPS Navigation works better

Sygic GPS Navigation is an alternative to Google Maps that also supports offline maps.

This time, the parent company tried to make the download process simpler. Unlike Google Maps, users can simply select the country whose offline maps they want to download. If you live in Denmark and plan to navigate without an internet connection, select this country and the app will download the full map of the country.

Sygic GPS Navigation Offline Maps

Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

The same steps can be used in all countries where the app is available. Users can also download offline maps for multiple countries, as long as there is enough storage space on their devices.

This is especially useful when traveling abroad. By downloading offline maps that cover the countries you want to travel to, Sygic provides users with uninterrupted navigation. In Google Maps, you need to plan your trip more thoroughly as you have to manually download offline maps according to your route.

Then Sygic also makes the map update process more convenient.

You can download updates over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. If you have an unlimited mobile data plan, we recommend the latter option, as you will receive new map updates the moment they are uploaded to the server.

Otherwise, stick with the Wi-Fi option and use your home internet connection for map updates. Downloading should be faster too.

The app would need more automatic download options. For example, it should be possible for users to decide whether new map updates are automatically downloaded. A new map version notification system should also be implemented to inform users when downloadable updates are available.

Additionally, map updates should support a download schedule option so users can access new versions at a more convenient time. So the new maps can be downloaded at night.

Another useful feature is the frequency of map updates. Sygic lets users know how often they receive new maps. Free users get map updates every three months, and subscribers get new content every month. The app displays the date of the latest map update and the estimated arrival time of the next release.

Overall, Sygic’s implementation proves that Google needs to further polish the integration of offline maps in Google Maps. Managing such data is critical for users, especially since map updates usually arrive in large packages that take some time to download.

The Google Maps map download system needs to be reformed urgently, as it is much more difficult for users to access the map of an entire country by selecting a region. Users traveling to another country, for example, will need to download multiple data plans to make sure all roads are covered. As such, Google Maps needs an option to download entire countries right from the get-go, even if this sometimes comes down to saving more data on the device. The process can be enhanced with the support of cities, so that users can download only the maps they need.

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