In the War of the Maps, Google's Secret Weapon Is Offline Access

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While everyone was getting all excited about Google's 3D announcement today, Google revealed an even more useful, if less sexy, feature: an offline mode. Today's Next Dimension event, as the name indicates, was supposed to introduce Google's 3D technology ahead of Apple's event next week, where the Google-rival will put out its own three dimensional enabled maps apps. Google met expectations, demoing life-like 3D maps that will be available on both Android and iOS enabled phones in the coming weeks. Take that Apple. But, before talking extra dimensions, Google slipped in something much more practical: maps you can use without a network connecton.

As far as utility goes, 3D maps have potential. We had some ideas last week, with the most exciting possibility -- beyond looking cool -- being augmented reality. Wouldn't it be cool if you could touch a building on a 3D map and it would let you know all about that location, or maybe even who of your friends has "checked in" at said place? We think so. But, other than that, the biggest draw is really that the maps look more life-like than the flat options we have today. From what we can see via the Google demo, Apple's maps will have a more detailed look than Google's. From this picture via CNET's Rafe Needlemen, it's tough to tell how clear Google's renderings will be (it looks like he took a photo of their demo screen), but they are detailed. He called them "Not perfect, but looks pretty magical."

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If Apple's map technology looks anything like the stuff we've seen from the company behind the design, C3 technologies, the stuff coming to Apple's iPhones are pretty exciting. Check out this screen shot from a demo of Oslo.

Google reminded the audience that its maps are more comprehensive, given the years of mapping Google has already done. As far as maps go, more places is better. Google also demoed some sort of new technology that will get to the earth's most remote nooks and crannies. The company plans on mapping national parks and other remote locale.

And here's where the beauty of offline mode comes in. Getting data of the world's most desolate places would be useless without an Internet connection. Not anymore. Google claims users can use maps while not connected to the Internet, allowing users to pre-load maps to Android phones. There are some concerns, like it will take around 50MB of offline storage for each map, explains The Next Web's Matthew Panzarino. But each offline map should cover an entire metro area, and that blue dot will still follow a user's progress. Not only does this make more remote locations accessible, it also assuages fears that the data will cut out during a road-trip or while navigating an unfamiliar city. And, if we can get those offline maps in 3D, even better, though may mean even bigger file sizes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.