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


  • 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.


Jun 13, 2011 at 7:21 am

Cool tricks. People can save a lot by using this trick. By the way nice sharing

Jun 13, 2011 at 7:48 am

Do you know how much data can be cached?

BTW, nice font in these form elements.

oh boy
Jun 13, 2011 at 7:56 am

for real? you mean there is a way to cache javascript, images AND scripts????

Jun 13, 2011 at 8:03 am

yeah, been doing this for a few years now.
2 things to be cautious of:
obviously when you close the app the cache is cleared. that means for 3G users (or anyone before ios 4) dont close the app at all!!
secondly, there does seem to be a time limit on the cache as ive done this before and occasionally after leaving it for a while it requests new data.

Bearded Yeti
Jun 13, 2011 at 8:06 am

I don’t think the gps actually is used… I read that it pings off of wifi connections in the area and get your location that way. I found this out after a friend of mine said he could still use his iPad after they left for their trip. They used the maps until they got out of the city but then it stopped working… Wifi only iPad too.

Daniel Ogden
Jun 14, 2011 at 4:41 am

The Maps app uses GPS but when it doesn’t have access to a satellite signal it then tries to triangulate its location with cell towers and WiFi hotspots.
So GPS is the most accurate and this is tried first, but if that fails, it goes down the list to the less accurate methods.

Jun 13, 2011 at 8:37 am

Yeah… I’ve noticed this as well…. for example: I can look up subway directions at home, and while I’m in the subway (no service), I can still look at detailed information about each step.

As for GPS, I think “Bearded Yeti” is right. In the subway, I get no GPS cos it can’t find any towers. However, when I was in Korea, I looked up direction before I ventured out or at a café. On the street, with data completely off and not on any WIFI, I was still getting my GPS location. I remember reading that iPhone uses “assisted-GPS”, which means your phone cheats by using data and cell towers to assist itself in finding your location and the correct satellites fast, no data required.

Jun 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

Wow. Nice! Hope it works. I went testing!

And almost forgot, bookmarked this!)

Jun 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

Has anyone also tried this trick with an iPod touch/iPad?

Jun 13, 2011 at 9:24 am

This trick works on iPod Touch and iPad (without 3G) too. Old iPod Touch don’t have GPS signal but can cache.
A tip to cache a path: With a data connection, just search the directions, click Start (top right) and press the arrow -> to navigate full path from start to end and at the each turns, crossroads and final destination make caches from various zoom levels. The cache is limited, but that way, the cache will be more consistently on final location and important places to pay attention.
Do not miss the way so much or you can get out of cache area.

Jun 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

Galileo does some really nice map caching. I think it’s free.

Then, for $1.99 you can create maps offline for it at all sorts of zoom levels. I use it out and about in costa rica. And in michigan where I only get edge service.

Jun 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

How was Barcelona? Plaça Catalunya a bit full right? heheh

Sai-Kit Hui
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

This also works with Google Maps for Android. I also discovered this by accident carrying around my Verizon Moto Droid around Hong Kong.

Jun 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Excellent tip – I just came back from a trip to France and had data roaming turned off the whole time – if i’d have seen this earlier , I would have been able to get around the town we were staying in for free :-)

Jun 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Great tip — I can usually get by without my phone when traveling internationally, with the exception of the maps feature. This is going to be really helpful on my next trip.

Jun 14, 2011 at 4:14 am

The whole drag-around-to-do-precaching-thing is a bit annoying. If you want a decent solution, you may want to try OffMaps. Okay, it’s not free, but definitely worth the 99 cents.

Jun 14, 2011 at 9:16 am

It is even to easy to came up with it :D

Jun 14, 2011 at 10:04 am

The Maps app uses GPS

Jun 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

I’ve been using this trick with my Wifi-only iPad2 for a while now. I’ll just load up the map and directions of where I want to go when I’m at my apartment, click through all the steps to load them, zoom in and out of tricky areas to cache those as well. Then when I drive out of the network area, my map is still loaded and I have directions to where I need to go! :)

Saskatoon Edmonton Regina Web Design
Jun 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Interesting, I’m assuming it would work with other devices too?

Jun 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm

old stuff. did you just get the iphone?

Jun 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

That’s a very old trick..

Velva Cables
Jun 22, 2012 at 1:55 am

I have to express my respect for your kindness for persons that really want assistance with that study. Your special commitment to getting the message along became wonderfully functional and has in every case made guys just like me to get to their pursuits. This warm and friendly information entails much a person like me and especially to my colleagues. Best wishes; from all of us.

Jun 15, 2011 at 12:55 am

I was wondering if you could use GPS without a data plan (without 3G)? For example, the AT&T no-contract iPhone 4’s don’t require you to purchase a data plan… Would I still be able to use GPS or do you need 3G to do so?

Matt Fairbrass
Jun 15, 2011 at 10:24 am

My friend and I used this technique two years ago when we were traveling up the east coast of the US. Was very handy indeed!

New Day Properties
Jun 16, 2011 at 5:03 am

Thanks for the tip!!
I will definitely use it, when traveling in Europe!

Jun 16, 2011 at 9:53 am

Great!! Very good idea!

Jun 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm


Emprego de Doméstica
Jun 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Great tips! Very usefull! I`m gonna cache my entire city! lol

Jun 18, 2011 at 1:52 am

Fantastic article, thank you for sharing – and keeping up in comments too!

Browse Design
Jun 18, 2011 at 5:22 am

Sounds great to me. i will try it.

Jun 19, 2011 at 10:09 am

Jailbreak and use x-GPS, much better solution : )

Mike Mai
Jun 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

yeah, i’ve been using this trick for a while. pretty handy cuz I don’t have a data plan.

Jun 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

CityMaps2Go is a great app that offers offline downloadable maps of thousands of cities/regions around the world and you can still use GPS with no data necessary. I’m in Europe right now using it. Definitely worth the couple of $.

Jun 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm


Jun 21, 2011 at 4:33 am

This is a nice solution to use maps offline on non-jailbroken iPhone.

Jun 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

If you say its out of topic, even then it is useful. Tech marvels are often discovered accidently… Pretty helpful accidents ! Very brilliant ✫

Jun 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm

gotta love the iPhone

Jun 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

This happened to me in Toronto. I was not sure why my GPS was still working when I left the range of the hotel’s free WIFI. However, I was happy to be able to tour the city without using any roaming services.

Jun 27, 2011 at 3:29 am

Real cool. Can save some money on data and roaming charges. Your brother is a genius.

Jun 28, 2011 at 4:54 am

If not for the cache is not a service to the clogs:)

Jun 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I have actually used this trick as well, but I wish there was a way to increase the size of the cache and/or control what is cached.

Jul 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

I tested this trick n India also. Its working perfectly.

Nitin Reddy Katkam
Jul 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

Try using Nokia Ovi Maps. I have the Nokia E72 and I just load the maps whenever they have any updates and use them for GPS navigation. It does not need an Internet connection and you can download the maps from your PC too!

Rg Enzon
Jul 7, 2011 at 3:36 am

Hey thanks for this one! Really helpful :) This off topic post is nice btw :)

Jul 12, 2011 at 8:18 am

I tried it in my area and found it proficient, thanks for sharing great information

crowd SPRING
Jul 14, 2011 at 10:27 am

WOW! finally i got to know how to use iPhone GPS map on the road without a data or WIFI connection. your posts are always very helpful!

Jul 15, 2011 at 4:08 pm

This is verry good.

cyrus pondeno
Jul 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm

On the iPad, the app OffMaps2 lite allows for similar shinanegans (minus the tedious caching!). I was very surprised, the first time, on the road in Berlin, with neither wifi nor data connection, to find my precise location reliably indicated on a map I had only downloaded to, well, have a map, with no expectation of being globally positioned on it.

Jul 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm

This is very first time, you put a non design topic. This article still benefit me, as I dint subscribe any data plan. Thanks!

Mark Petherbridge
Jul 18, 2011 at 6:23 am

Awesome article, thanks for sharing

Just wondering if you would allow me to repost this on the resources section of my blog: ? full credit will be given of course

Aug 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

And then he handed you the thirty-five 45

Brisbane Osteo
Jul 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Much appreciated article! Really good! Cheers :-)

Jul 22, 2011 at 1:25 am

Clever stuff, keep these gems coming, Cheers

John M. Weaver
Jul 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm

This is an awesome work around for using maps with no signal. Nothing more frustrating then losing your signal when you need the maps.

Jul 31, 2011 at 6:32 am

Looks like it will be time consuming? Now the data plans a really low!

iphone 4 case
Aug 22, 2011 at 1:18 am

Thank you for sharing of the article, I like it very much

Aug 31, 2011 at 2:14 am

This article still benefit me, as I dint subscribe any data plan.

Aug 31, 2011 at 2:21 am

I can usually get by without my phone when traveling internationally.

Sep 16, 2011 at 1:40 am

Unbelivable work around for using the maps without having a decent signal. Keep up with the good work guys! – Sam

Translation Services
Sep 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

Can this be done on an Android?

Sep 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

learn how to make money but first of all we’ll teach you how to make iphone apps and games with no programming skills required

Oct 3, 2011 at 2:36 am

i like that teach us

Oct 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

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

Oct 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

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

Oct 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm

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

Oct 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

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

Nov 5, 2011 at 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.

Nov 18, 2011 at 10:57 am

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

Mar 23, 2012 at 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.

Nov 16, 2011 at 6:00 am

Great useful article.Than you.

Nov 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

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

Jan 6, 2012 at 1:19 am

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

Apr 5, 2012 at 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.

Apr 10, 2012 at 6:58 am

Good tips. It’s very useful

Apr 11, 2012 at 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.

Jun 22, 2012 at 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!

Hyon Diggins
Jun 23, 2012 at 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.

Jun 26, 2012 at 4:51 am

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

Ibiza yates
Jul 29, 2012 at 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.

British Expats Forum Spain Cabo De Palos
Sep 22, 2012 at 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.

jim pack
Oct 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

great info but how do I cashe the map on my iphone?
May 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

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

Jun 7, 2013 at 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.

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