Google is letting Android users search nearby businesses and get driving directions, including turn-by-turn voice prompts, even if they have no web connection.
The service works by letting users choose to download an area they want to explore.
Users determine what area should be downloaded – the bigger they make it, the more storage is taken up.
Google said downloading most of Greater London would take up 380 megabytes on a device, while storing the San Francisco Bay area would require about 200MB.
It added that it intended to release a similar update for iOS devices “very soon”, but could not confirm if that would be before the year’s end.
To make use of the new feature, users will have to tell the app to download an area they select.
Once the information has been installed, the app is designed to switch “seamlessly” between offline and online modes unless forced to stay off the net.
The feature will work for commuters on the underground or ramblers on remote national parks, but is also targetted at emerging markets, where mobile web speeds are slower and prices are higher relative to typical incomes.
Mapping apps included with Windows phones have long had this feature, but Windows has a tiny market share compared with iPhones and Android.
Offline mapping is also available with some third-party apps, including Nokia’s Here.
The software also lets devices find businesses’ locations, opening hours and telephone numbers while offline.
The offline map will automatically update once every 15 days to stay current so long as the handset is plugged into a charger and connected to wi-fi, unless the user overrides these restrictions.
However, offline mapping won’t be able to offer traffic information, photos and user reviews for businesses.
Consumers will get get contact information, hours and an overall user rating when using Google Maps offline.
For directions, the feature initially works only with driving and is not yet available for walking, biking or public transit.