Learning While Aging

Google Maps offline feature may replace GPS devices

Google recently updated Google Maps with a new exciting feature that might eventually make the traditional GPS navigation devices history. This new feature allows user to download a map of an area on their phone, whenever the user is in the area with no connectivity, Google Maps will continue to work including turn-by-turn directions, and I think this is so cool.

Currently whenever I am on the road to another city, I will have my Garmin Nuvi GPS device and my HTC One running Google Maps both sucked on windshield to provide driving directions. Every time I miss a turn, it will take several seconds for my GPS to recalculate a new route with the boring “recalculating” reminder, while this might be ok to have several seconds delay when the traffic is light and you are driving at low speed. But when you are driving at 75 MPH on a highway with heavy traffic, the delay of recalculating new route could be troublesome and even dangerous. With Google Maps, I don’t have the problem. Whenever it detects that I missed a turn, it will provide a new route immediately and seamlessly, as if nothing wrong has happened. However, the only problem I have with Google Maps is that it requires my phone to have connectivity in order to work properly, and because of this, I still have to bring my GPS device with me whenever I travel as a backup. A good example is last summer when my family visited Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico,  I relied only on my GPS for driving directions because Sprint does not have service there.

But all this will change soon. With this offline mode in Google Maps, I can pre-download the map of the place that I will visit, then when Google Maps detects there is no connectivity, it will use the downloaded map to provide turn-by-turn driving directions; whenever the connectivity is restored, it will switch to online mode seamlessly with live traffic information. Again, as if nothing wrong has happened.

Google has raised the bar really high, so if the traditional GPS devices want to survive, then they should learn how to improve their service and user experience as Google Maps just did.

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