I know that for most of you, smartphones are never going to replace GPS. And honestly, I can’t blame you. However, at Google’s latest I/O conference today, the search and technology giant announced an upcoming improvement to its Maps program that takes away one of the biggest pitfalls of smartphone navigation: connectivity.
Starting sometime next year, Google Maps should be able to function offline. While previously, users were able to save Google Maps through various shortcuts and eventually from within the program, with this update Google will allow users to not only search POIs, but also save navigation and receive voice-guided turn-by-turn directions from within Google maps.
“We want users of Maps to be able to navigate and explore the world literally wherever they are: on a good connection or a spotty one,” said Jen Fitzpatrick, Google VP of Engineering at the I/O Conference today.
It wasn’t clear from any of the articles or the address that I watched exactly when this functionality is coming out, and I expect it will be available to developing countries like India and Mexico first, as that’s initially what Google was aiming for with this new ability. However, I expect that it will eventually be making its way over to the United States and Europe as well.
While this is a huge leap for the tech giant, a lot of details are still rather fuzzy including rollout, whether consumers will be able to change routes offline or exactly how the offline POI search will work. It’s also unclear what, exactly, users will have to download and save in order to get this functionality.
It’s probably a little early to hint that something like this is going to be a threat to any kind of GPS company, especially the larger ones like Garmin or TomTom, as dedicated GPS devices not only will have better directions and routing but will not drain your smartphone battery. Regardless, I can’t help but feel like this is still a pretty significant change in the world of mobile navigation. Only time will tell if this really will have any effect on the market.