Google Maps 5.7 just rolled out on Android Market and the latest version of the popular and free map service has some interesting news, which should scare companies like TomTom and Navigon. Google Maps 5.7 has local traffic navigation and downloading of offline maps for those with limited data plans.
Google calls the new local traffic navigation for Transit Navigation and the beta version found in Google Maps 5.7 supports over 400 cities around the world. Sadly not many in Northern Europe, but a few.
You can see how Transit Navigation works in the video below and it sure sounds like a nice function, especially when lost in a foreign city.
More interesting for users living where TN is not available is the hidden service for downloading maps. This simple means you can download maps of specific regions for offline use. An excellent addition when you are about to go abroad and you’re risking a huge data bill. It is worth mentioning that it only downloads map squares and no satellite or traffic information, but is still a big step forward for Google Maps as a navigator.
The function is activated in the Settings -> Labs and by pressing the arrow on a fetched address you will get several options, where the last is to Download the area. the limitation is that the function only fetches data within a 10 minutes radius, but it seems to be 10 high-speed minutes since you can download almost entire cities with suburbs. You can of course download several maps and expand your offline library.
Maps for Malmö and central Copenhagen
Google’s first stumbling steps with offline maps makes us want more and should make other navigator companies nervous.
The new version of Google Maps can be found at Android Market.