One way Google brings new product features is through Google Labs - a collection of fun, experimental features. And now, Google introduced another experimental feature which sounds pretty handy: "Download Map Area". Google Maps for mobile is a great tool for visiting an unfamiliar area but it has one major problem - it requires a data connection which could be either not available or better not used - especially if in international roaming. So far there was a workaround because Google Maps Mobile for Android was already able to cache maps. However, with the new Labs features, downloading a map area became even easier by automatically downloading maps for a 10-mile radius!
According to Google, the download can take as little as a minute or two and the download stores only the base map tiles and the landmarks on the map but neither the satellite view and 3D buildings. Also search for Places and getting directions again requires a data connection. All downloaded map areas can be managed in the Google Maps cache settings and can be deleted from there if no longer need. After 30 days, all downloaded map areas will be removed from the cache automatically but can be re-downloaded any time.
Download map area requires Google Maps 5.7 for Android which Google released yesterday. As always, it's available free of charge from the Android Market.
Cheers ~ Arne