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Google bringing expanded offline maps, navigation to iOS

iPhone owners will soon be able to get the same convenient offline access to maps, navigation information, and point-of-interest data promised to Android users in a future Google Maps update, the search firm said Tuesday.

Users will be able to pre-load specific areas, from an individual city to an entire country. Google Maps will automatically turn to this cache when the internet connection is poor or non-existent, and switch back to live maps when a connection returns.

Point-of-interest search and routing will work entirely offline, Google said, though the former is likely to come with some restrictions. Currently, users can cache specific areas of a map for offline viewing, but interaction is limited without access to mobile data.

No specific timetable has been given for the iOS release, with Google promising only that the rollout is "coming soon."

Google Maps continues to be one of the most popular apps on iOS, consistently ranking near the top ten free apps despite heavy competition. Apple's own mapping service still seems to be climbing out from the hole dug early on by its poor debut, a showing that cost then-iOS chief Scott Forstall his job.

AOL's MapQuest and Nokia's HERE Maps have also siphoned users away, while many urban users have also turned to transit-focused rivals like Citymapper.