For the longest time, my only involvement with smartphones was limited to Nokia's Symbian devices, then I bought an HTC Desire Z in February 2011 and the rest, as they say, is history. I was immediately ecstatic about most of the Android experience save for two aspects where my heart strings kept tugging back to my Nokia N8: photography and mapping. Android cameras have improved a lot over the past three years — I am amazed by the Lumia 1020's scary-good 41MP sensor, but my LG G3 does an excellent job 99% of the time — and so did Google Maps, but at no point has Google's mapping service completely levelled up with parts of the experience that I used to get through Nokia Maps, even in 2010 on an N8.
Google Maps/Navigation is fantastic. It's easy to use, stays (mostly) up-to-date, and is built into Android's core. However, it has one major flaw: offline navigation simply doesn't exist within Google Maps. If you're heading into uncharted territory where cell service may be sketchy or non-existent, you're basically on your own. And getting lost is not a fun experience.
The solution? A third-party GPS application with offline support, like Sygic's Maps & GPS Navigation.
Google has just announced at today's Maps events that Google Maps offline download feature, previously a "labs" option inside the Google Maps for Android app, is going official. According to the Google, the feature is "coming soon." Unfortunately, there was no word on support for offline navigation.
Here's are some (less than great) shots of the interface in action on a tablet:
From what we can tell, the interface has been improved and it is now much easier to make an offline area selection than it was in the Labs version of the feature.
Update 2: ASUS has issued an official statement on the matter and determined that the Prime's GPS is functioning as intended, which for many folks means essentially non-functional.
Google Maps 5, which we have been anxiously waiting for, mostly due to its 3D capabilities and offline map caching, has arrived! You can download the update in the Market by clicking the following QR code from your mobile phone or scanning it with Barcode Scanner:
Here are the new changes: