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.