Want to view Google Maps in your native iPhone or iPod Touch map app even if you’re online? Here’s how I did it!
So why is it important for me to have access to offline Google Maps? For one, If I’m traveling to some unfamiliar place, Google Maps are extremely helpful to explore the area and get from point A to point B. The iPhone/iPod Touch has a built-in maps application but can only be used if there’s WiFi internet around. Even if you do get connected online, once you close the maps app, all stored (chached) maps are cleared and if you open the app again, only a small portion of the map will be available for viewing. If you’re an iPhone user, you can always connect to the internet through your wireless carrier but you will still be depending on whether there’s a cellphone signal or not.
photo by stevegarfield
I’ll try to explain the steps to viewing maps offline in a simpler way but this initial guide is more targeted for power users (should know what “jailbreaking” and SSH are) and also iPod touch users since I don’t own an iPhone.
Update: I’m not sure if this hack for offline Google Maps still works. I’ve given up on this and switched to an Offline Map for iPhone powered by OpenStreetMap.
How to view Google Maps on the iPhone or iPod touch:
First, you will need to jailbreak your iPhone / iPod touch. Jailbreaking is a mod or hack that lets you install (third party) apps without going through the iTunes app store. I’d like to point out that Jailbreaking and saving data from Google Maps is illegal (or at least frowned upon by Apple and Google), I just want to demonstrate that it’s possible to use the maps app offline so go through the following steps with utmost discretion. I’m not going to give a detailed step-by-step guide on how to hack your Apple products/software since there’s a lot of online documentation about it. A google search of “how to jailbreak iphone” or “how to SSH iphone” will do the trick ;)
There’s basically two ways to store offline Google Maps in your iPhone / iPod touch. I’ll show you the simpler way first using an app called “Maps Enhancer.”
Maps Enhancer – Save cached Google Maps and View Offline
Maps Enhancer adds the ability to automatically save all cached maps data on the built-in maps app so you could view them even if you’re offline.
How to install and use Maps Enhancer
- Open Cydia app in your iPhone / iPod touch
- Go to “Search” tab and look for “Maps Enhancer” from BigBoss
- If you can’t find it, you will have to add the BigBoss source first by going to the “Manage” tab, clicking on “Sources”, then “Edit” button on top right corner, and then “Add” on the top left corner. Enter “http://apt.bigboss.us.com/repofiles/cydia” click “Add Source” and lastly “Done”
- After installation is finished, exit Cydia
- Go to your iPod’s settings, go to “Maps Enhancer”
- Make sure that the “Keep maps cache” setting is turned on. Feel free to change the other settings.
- Go to your Maps app and browse a certain area.
- If you would like to test if it’s working just close Maps, turn the WiFi off, and open Maps again.
The drawback of the Maps Enhancer is that you will need to browse the maps in your iPhone / iPod Touch first when you’re online. Saving maps for a big city can be a daunting task. Plus, if you clear your cache (sometimes you need to do that incase the maps app get buggy), you will lose all your stored maps. If this is an issue for you, then you will need a more powerful app called Atlas.
Atlas (formerly called OfflineMaps) – replaced iPhone / iPod Touch maps cache with downloaded Offline Google Maps
Atlas lets iPhone / iPod touch users to view google maps by loading offline map files using a desktop program called GMDL (Global Map Download Tool). Atlas is great for larger maps such as big cities, countries, and even whole continents. It is more complicated to install though. I’m using a 3rd Gen iPod Touch with OS 3.1.2 and the app works mostly fine for me.
How to install and use Atlas for iPhone / iPod Touch OS 3.1.2:
- Download the Atlas installer from their website (I used Atlas version 3.1.2-2)
- The installer is in .deb format so you need to manually install Atlas via SSH. Visit this page to learn how to manually install .deb files via SSH. Note: Instead of “stack.deb” type in the filename of the Atlas installer (like “Atlas_3.1.2-2_iphoneos-arm.deb”)
- Respring or Reboot to display the Atlas icon on your Springboard
- You have successfully installed atlas, now you will need to download offline Google Maps using GMDL
How to download Offline Google Maps using GMDL (Global Map Download Tool) for Windows 7:
- Download the latest version of GMDL from http://www.in7ane.com/psp/ (I used GMDL version 5.13a)
- Unzip the contents in any folder
- Navigate to the Debug folder – GDML > big > Debug
- If you’re using Windows 7 (or any 64bit OS), copy “System.Data.SQLite.DLL” file in the “x64 SQLite” folder and overwrite the similarly named file on the Debug parent folder.
- Open “Global Map Download Tool.exe”
- Navigate to the area that you want to download and click on the “Preview 1x”, button to see what it would look like. Don’t worry if there a lot of surrounding areas you don’t want to download, you can choose individual tiles you want in the next step
- After you’re done with your preview click on “Download The Map”, and make a new folder where you want to save the temporary map files
- You will now be directed to the preview page where you can check or uncheck the map tiles that you want to download. You can also choose how much detail you want to save, 1x and 2x means that you’ll be able to see the zoomed in maps with more extra details but it also bloats up the file size dramatically.
- Once you have done that click on the massive selection button on the top and wait for it to finish download.
- Once it has downloaded click the “->iPhone” Button on the top right side of the screen and then click on “Process”.
- Once that your iPhone compatible map has finished processing, put the map folder into your iphone via SSH at /var/mobile/Media/Maps, if “Maps” folder does not exist, create one.
- Launch Atlas app in your iPhone / iPod Touch, and you should see you just downloaded. Choose the map, and select “Copy” (not Link).
- select “Maps”
- You should now be able to view the Google Maps even without an internet connection.
Maps Enhancer and Atlas works fine together though I noticed a few issues.
If you do not want to jailbreak or prefer to view OpenStreetMaps. Then there’s this program called “OffMaps” which is available for download in the iTunes store. OffMaps uses OpenStreetMap (OSM) not Google Maps. OffMaps is not free but after you’ve installed the program, all you need to do is browse the map, select the area you want to download, and it will get automatically saved in your iPhone / iPod Touch for offline viewing.
This is currently my favorite map app. Click here to read my review of PocketEarth.