How to use Google Maps and other common apps without an internet connection
Having a smartphone in our pockets at all times gives us access to the entire wealth of the internet on the go, in a single lightweight form. This incredible innovation has made our lives easier, however the offshoot of it is that, all of a sudden, we have started to rely on our phones for information and help more and more.
So, what happens when we’re out of our phone carrier’s range? Or getting close to our monthly data limit? Or when we’re overseas and don’t want to incur mobile roaming costs?
What you probably didn’t know is that there are some amazing apps that are available for offline use.
Apps to use offline when travelling
Using Google Maps when offline
One of the most frequently-relied on apps – particularly when travelling – is Google Maps. If you have the Google Maps app on your phone, and you sign into your Google account and search for a city or region, all you have to do is tap the bar at the bottom of the screen (where the name of the city is displayed), and then tap on ‘download’. This will make that area or location available to you even when your phone is offline.
Offline maps mode works more like a street directory, in that it won’t provide walking, cycling, and transit directions, but nonetheless, it’s a remarkably useful feature if you’re in an area that you’re unfamiliar with.
Making use of offline maps is a great way to save on both money and data. Use the Wi-Fi at home (or in the hotel) to load up on the maps that you need for the day, and then enjoy the day out and about without having to worry about data or directions. However, Google Maps isn’t the only enormously beneficial travel application you can grab that has offline functionality.
Most major cities in the world have apps for their transit networks that are really helpful when travelling. When your phone is offline, you can download an app that holds information on multiple transport networks, such as Transit App, which offers offline access to some 175 transport networks across Australia, New Zealand, North America and Europe.
XE Currency Converter
XE is a useful one if you’re travelling overseas. It’s a currency converter, and when you’re offline, provides a cached version, featuring the most recent rates the last time the app was online. If stock markets spike or crash, then the data might be a little too inaccurate, but that happens rarely. For the most part, you’ll get an accurate enough conversion to figure out what that meal or souvenir is really going to cost you.
Finally, as far as travel goes, you can’t go wrong with a translation app for the country that you’re travelling to. There are many translation apps available that allow you to point your phone’s camera at the text, and then see it converted in real time to English. Because the application developers understand that most people overseas don’t want to be on roaming, in most cases these apps will have offline functionality. One good example of this is Google’s own Google Translate app.
Using offline apps to save data, even when you’re not travelling
When you’re not travelling, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy your mobile device without chewing up data or relying on being in an area that gets a signal.
Start by downloading a host of books to your Kindle app. Originally, Kindle was a dedicated eReader device, but Amazon has invested heavily in the app, and now you can have a superb reading experience through your mobile phone or tablet. The Kindle has full offline reading functionality for a disruption-free experience.
Staying up to date with the news
When it comes to news and articles, there are two excellent apps that get the job done. Pocket allows you to download and save articles and videos for offline reading. Just download them using your home Wi-Fi and enjoy them on the commute to work. FeedMe is an RSS feed reader, which has full offline synching for any websites that you enjoy enough to monitor their RSS feeds.
Keeping entertained without chewing up data
There are plenty of entertainment options for your smartphone that are built around an offline experience. If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, for example, you get access to millions of songs, and you can download your favourites for offline listening. With Netflix, some (though sadly, not all) television shows and movies can be downloaded for offline viewing. You’ll be able to find out which shows can be downloaded by opening the app – if there’s a little download icon next to an episode or movie name, it can be downloaded.
Finally, don’t forget the games! The Apple and Google app stores offer a game for every interest, age or skill level. In many cases, you’ll need to be online to play free-to-play games, but a neat little trick to find games to play offline is to look at the ‘premium priced’ games. In many cases, those will feature offline play options. Given how large games tend to be, you’ll definitely want to download those when your phone is connected to Wi-Fi anyway.
Making the most of your smartphone (without the data)
The main point here is that there is so much you can do with your phone, you’d be surprised how little you need to rely on your mobile data, or being in a Wi-Fi hotspot, for it to be a useful device for both work and play.