Use Google Maps offline on a phone with no signal

Google Maps is a great app for phones that enables you to find places nearby, see where you are, get directions to places and driving navigation. Here’s how to use Google Maps offline.

Although strong mobile signals are available in cities and towns, if you have ever ventured from the city and headed out into the country, it does not take long before the phone signal begins to deteriorate. Eventually you might reach a point where there is no signal at all. How will you navigate then?

How will you even know where you are when Google Maps on your phone cannot access the internet? I have been walking in the countryside through a forest on more than one occasion and have needed to use Google Maps to see where I was.

Google Maps might struggle to show you where you are or give directions when the phone signal is weak and it may stop working completely if there is no signal at all. The solution is to download mapping data and save it on the phone so that it can be used offline without a signal.

You don’t even have to leave the city to have problems with maps. If you spend a lot of time using Google Maps navigation features your phone uses data. Frequent use might clock up a lot of data used on your phone contract and if the limit is low, there is a chance it may be exceeded.. To keep data use down to a minimum, you should save map data to the phone for areas that you frequently use it for.

Let’s take a look at how to set up Google Maps offline. I will use an Android phone for this guide, but it works just the same on the iPhone.

1 Open Google Maps

Google Maps app on an Android phone
Google Maps home screen

Open the Google Maps app on your phone. The current location is not essential because you can select the maps area later, but you can save a bit of time by going to the area that you want to use offline. Go to a location and zoom out to cover a larger area. Tap your account image top right corner of Maps.

2 Google Maps menu

Google Maps options screen
Google Maps menus

Tapping your account picture opens this menu panel and a little way down the list is Offline maps. This is just what we want, so tap it to proceed.

3 Google Maps offline maps list

Offline maps screen in the Google Maps app

Offline maps are listed on this screen or at least they will be once we have added one or more of them. It will be empty if this is the first time you have used the feature, so press the link SELECT YOUR OWN MAP.

4 Choose a map area to save offline

Select an area in Google maps to save offline in the Maps app on a phone
Select the area in Maps to save offline

The current map is displayed and if it is not the area you want, use the usual gestures to move the view (press and drag) and zoom (pinch or spread with two fingers). Zoom out to include a larger map area, but keep an eye on the amount of space required shown at the bottom of the screen if your phone’s storage is nearly full. Selecting a very large area can require more than 1 GB of storage, but a small area is just a few tens of megabytes.

You can select any part of the country or even other countries, which is handy if you are going on a trip somewhere and don’t know whether there will be a good phone signal. When you are happy with the area and the amount of storage required, press DOWNLOAD and the highlighted map area is downloaded and saved on the phone.

5: Manage Google Maps offline maps

Google Maps app offline maps screen
Google Maps list of offline maps

Select Your Own Map: More maps can be downloaded by pressing SELECT YOUR OWN MAP again and this may be needed if the area is large or if you plan to visit many different areas. It may be better to save several small maps than one big 1 GB+ size map.

Recommended maps: The Maps app may suggest maps to save, such as the area in which you live or frequently travel. Multiple offline maps can be stored.

Downloaded maps: Multiple offline maps can be saved, but here we have just one. Each map has an expiry date and this is because maps are often updated with new information. Sometimes it is new roads, but more often it is new businesses, entertainment, places to visit or eat and so on.

Press the three dots for a menu. This allows a map to be updated, renamed or deleted. Downloaded maps are simply called Map 1, Map 2 and so on. You can’t tell where they are, so tap Rename and give it a descriptive name. Maps you don’t plan to use again should be deleted to free up storage space. You will be prompted to update a map when it expires, but if you think something may have changed, press Update on this menu to download the latest map data.

Press the gear icon in the top right corner to open offline maps settings.

6: Google Maps offline settings

Google Maps offline settings screen
Offline maps settings

The gear icon on the downloaded maps screen accesses Offline maps settings. Your offline maps can be set to automatically update when they expire, but to save you from using too much of your phone data, there is an option to download over Wi-Fi only. It is recommended that you turn on all these options. You can also choose to auto-download recommended maps.

The next time you plan to go on a trip, follow these steps to download the map data you need using Wi-Fi before you set off. Then if the phone signal dies, you won’t be affected and can use Google Maps offline.

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