Today I would like to share something that is slightly off topic — how to use iPhone GPS map on the road without a data or WIFI connection. To be more specific, I mean how to use the iPhone Google Map as a GPS (without a network connection on the road) by pre-caching the map. This trick is very useful if you don’t have a data plan or want to avoid the data roaming charges when you are travelling.

Cache the Map First

First you have to cache the area of your destination at various zoom levels with Google Map (you need a data or WIFI connection for this part):

  • search the location where you will be visiting in Google Map
  • drag the map around the area to cache it
  • zoom in & out and drag around again to cache the map at various zoom levels
image cache

On the Road

When you are on the road, launch Google Map and press the GPS locator button to locate yourself. The iPhone built-in GPS can communicate with the satellite even when you don’t have a data or WIFI conncection. The purpose of caching the map is to know where you are.

locator button

Limitations

  • you can not search or find direction
  • the area or zoom levels that you didn’t cache will not be viewable
  • sometimes you need to zoom in or out to reset the cached map

Final Remarks

This trick was first discovered by my brother accidentally. I have tested it in Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles, Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris. It hasn’t failed on me yet. It has saved me a lot of time and data roaming fees particularly travelling in Europe. You should test it before using it.

84 Comments

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  1. robin
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    i am a wedesigner. it’s really useful for me
    thank you

    Reply

  2. Ed
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    I was expecting something else, but useful nonetheless. :3

    Reply

  3. Nick
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

    Ahhaha! I LOVE IT! I didn’t know that!

    Reply

  4. thextremedesigner
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

    I travel alot and I kinda knew this already but definitely a great link to send to my non techy friends.

    Reply

  5. Yogesh
    Nov 5, 2011 @ 1:26 am

    I’ve been using this for a few years now around the world. Especially useful if you are in a train and need to know how far you are from your destination.

    However I was recently surprised and really annoyed that this feature is MISSING in ANDROID devices. Google left it out, god knows why ? In android, without a data connection, google maps will now show your position.

    Reply

    • TJA
      Nov 18, 2011 @ 10:57 am

      @Yogesh, maybe your android device gets its position from its cellular signal rather than having an actual GPS chip inside.

      Reply

    • Joe
      Mar 23, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

      Android actually has a built in feature to cache maps of an area. No zooming and panning required. Just drop a map pin and select ‘cache this area’. It’s a feature I really miss since trading in my galaxy nexus for a 4s.

      Reply

  6. adumpaul
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 6:00 am

    Great useful article.Than you.

    Reply

  7. Will
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    This is great since I can’t afford a real gps or roaming charges :)

    Reply

  8. garmin
    Jan 6, 2012 @ 1:19 am

    You’ve got great insights about gps navigation, keep up the good work!

    Reply

  9. Dave
    Apr 5, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    This works. Your iPhone or iPad needs a map upon which to project your location. With Google Maps, you can cache the standard map, an aerial photograph, or a hybrid map for the area you want to travel in. Once cached, your current location can be pinpointed in real time as you travel, and you can see all the roads, buildings, and even restaurants by name. We used this feature of the iPhone to navigate through complex, unmarked streets in the towns of Costa Rica, without any WiFi or 3G connection on an iPhone showing “no service”. This saved our bacon when our regular GPS was stolen.

    Reply

  10. Hans
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 6:58 am

    Good tips. It’s very useful

    Reply

  11. Alain
    Apr 11, 2012 @ 3:42 am

    It would be nice to show the demo on you tube. I don’t know how to cache the maps and how to call them up and use it with the locator.

    Reply

  12. deborah
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    Thank you for the explanation. I accidentally tried this in Amsterdam and didn’t understand why there were no data charges on my plan. This works great, just load your map over wifi before going out. Tracked us walking along the street and didn’t get lost!

    Reply

  13. Hyon Diggins
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 9:33 am

    Hi there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from this site.

    Reply

  14. Dimitris
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 4:51 am

    This post is very useful for drivers who travel often to new places. Thank you very much.

    Reply

  15. Ibiza yates
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    Once cached, your current location can be pinpointed in real time as you travel, and you can see all the roads, buildings, and even restaurants by name. We used this feature of the iPhone to navigate through complex, unmarked streets in the towns of Costa Rica, without any WiFi or 3G connection on an iPhone showing “no service”. This saved our bacon when our regular GPS was stolen.

    Reply

  16. British Expats Forum Spain Cabo De Palos
    Sep 22, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    I always used to study paragraph in news papers but now as I
    am a user of web thus from now I am using net for articles, thanks to web.

    Reply

  17. jim pack
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    great info but how do I cashe the map on my iphone?

    Reply

  18. www.articlesnatch.com
    May 27, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Thankfulness to my father who shared with
    me concerning this webpage, this web site is really remarkable.

    Reply

  19. Mopping-Microfibre
    Jun 7, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

    Hello !
    I found that you and your brother both are talented one. So, we should be thankful to him for this innovation and to you for sharing this post with all of us.
    Thanks.
    Mopping-Microfibre

    Reply

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