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How to use offline mode in Google Maps with your iPhone or iPad

One of the continuing advantages of Google Maps over Apple's native iOS Maps app is better support for going offline — something particularly important when going on vacation, traveling through rural areas, or otherwise passing through regions with weak internet access. Here's how to take advantage of those offline functions on your iPhone or iPad.

After loading the app and making sure you're signed into your Google account, the first step is to search for a location — this can be a business, city, state/province, or even an entire country. The limit for a single offline area is 120,000 square kilometers (46,332 square miles), bigger than nations like the Netherlands.

Just remember that each offline area can consume hundreds of megabytes on a device, or even gigabytes, so people with 16- or 32-gigabyte hardware may want to avoid going berserk.

Tapping on a place's name will typically present an obvious "Download" button, though if you search for a business or landmark, you may have to tap the "More" (triple-dot) button to find the same option. Either way, you can then pinch, zoom, and pan to customize the area you plan to save before committing.

For the most part, that's it. Google Maps will then automatically switch to offline mode if an internet connection is slow or absent, with searchable points of interest and even turn-by-turn navigation so long as the host device has GPS.

There are some further limts to going offline. You can't, for example, take advantage of multiple route suggestions — Maps will simply suggest the best one under ideal traffic conditions. Some rare areas can't be downloaded (for contractual, language, or other reasons), and saved ones must be updated every 30 days, though Google Maps will try to update them automatically when there's less than 15 days left and a device is connected to Wi-Fi.

To manage existing offline areas, tap the triple-line Menu button in the Maps search bar. Then tap Offline Areas, followed by whichever item you'd like to update or delete. You can change a map's name by hitting the Edit button in the top right.