Google to widen Maps' offline features

Turn-by-turn navigation and local business reviews will be available without an Internet connection

Jen Fitzpatrick speaks at Google I/O 2015

Jen Fitzpatrick speaks at Google I/O 2015

Google will let users access more key functions of its Maps service, including search and navigation, without an Internet connection this year.

For the first time, offline users will get search results for places and be able to use turn-by-turn voice navigation, said Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of engineering at Google, who announced the changes during Google's I/O conference for developers in San Francisco. She didn't say when this year the offline features will go live.

Users might also see local business reviews and their operating hours.

Google is also working to bring its public transit directions in Maps to more countries around the world, Fitzpatrick said.

Google already provides some offline functions for Maps, though they require the user go through some additional steps.

The changes are part of Google's larger ongoing efforts to improve the way its services work in low-connectivity regions in developing countries and where people may not be able to afford expensive data plans.

For example, Google has streamlined its search results pages in developing countries like Indonesia to reduce the memory required to display results and make them load faster.

Google's Android One program also provides more affordable versions of Android phones in developing markets. The program was initially launched last year in India, but has now expanded to a handful more countries including Bangladesh, the Philippines and Nepal, Fitzpatrick said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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