Maps and the importance of offline

Published by Pino Bonetti on June 7, 2012


Since we first introduced navigation on our smartphones, we’ve been taking offline maps very seriously. That is why we have been using vector maps since 2006. For smartphones to become the ideal personal navigation device that never leaves your side, they have to work with preloaded maps and completely offline.

Offline user experience

Offline maps are at the core of our navigation offering (with Nokia Drive) and we have been developing the perfect know-how over the past six years. Offering offline maps is not only about giving the option to cache some data offline for later use, it’s a complete experience.

Maps are either preloaded on the smartphone to offer a great out-of-the-box experience or people are taken through an easy first-use process to make their favourite countries and regions available offline. This provides an easy way to manage your offline maps that you can always go back to, regardless of service provider coverage.

An offline experience is not only about street maps, it’s also about offline available points of interest (POIs) to enable offline search, it’s about navigation voices (over 70 of them, btw) available on-device and offline rerouting.


Size does matter

And where do offline maps actually go? They are locally saved on your device, the memory usage of which you are probably very protective, and rightly so. That’s why we are giving you complete flexibility and not limiting you to a 10 square mile radius. You can download an entire country (e.g. USA for 1.8 GB, China for 862 Mb, UK for 203 MB) or specific regions (e.g. California for 147 MB, England for 166 MB, Beijing for 63 MB): just like having a shopping list.

Numbers don’t lie

So now you have all these shiny maps stored offline and you are ready to go. What will you do with them? Most probably you are going to put your smartphone in your car and start navigating. In your home city, in your country or abroad for vacation. It would be a shame to travel somewhere and discover you couldn’t do much with the offline maps because no navigation instructions were available. This is why our voice guided turn-by-turn navigation is not only available for 1, 2 or 29 countries; it is available for over 110 countries.


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For whom?

But the question remains, who can actually take advantage of offline maps? Nokia Drive with a full offline experience is available for Nokia Lumia, Nokia N9 and Nokia Belle smartphones. Even the Nokia N95, introduced in 2007 has offline navigation. And if you think offline maps are only a feature for premium smartphones, think again.

Many of our Asha phones also come with preloaded maps and preloaded POIs to make sure location-based services are affordable for people in emerging countries. We also haven’t forgotten about those out there using iOS and Android devices: they can visit from their mobile browser and discover they could have had cached maps available offline since last year.



  • Muhammad Malik

    Just dropped my uncle to La Guardia airport using offline navigation. I searched offline, and it instantly found the different terminals of La Guardia. Not one bit of internet data was used to travel back and forth. Thank You for this service especially when it is free. By the way I have a Nokia E7-00.

    • Adam Fraser

      That’s great Muhammad, that’s exactly how offline maps should work.

  • Dagmar Schneitz

    Well, I drove through New Orleans for the first time with offline navigation. For anyone that drives through that city, the streets are so confusing! But thanks to this system, I had almost no problem. 

  • Francois Magny

    Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were a blast in offline mode on my N8! Love Nokia Maps.

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  • Martin Eyles

    I remember having maps on my N91 (older than the N95), but this needed an external bluetooth GPS receiver to do navigation. It was great to have this all built-in on the N96. Even better now, since I’ve had an N8, it’s all free!

    The best thing about this is that, no matter how much travel you do, you will never need to buy a standalone sat-nav again!

    Another place where offline maps are useful is for walking. The Viewranger app does this wonderfully, with proper offline Ordnance Survey maps on Symbian devices. It’s not available on Windows Phone 7 though (only Symbain, iOS & Android at the moment – unless Conversations know something I don’t), so for now the only OS which gives me the best offline driving and walking is Symbian.

    • Federico

      if nokia is so committed to navigation how come they haven’t yet managed to port the symbian experience to Lumia?

      Also, after the acquisition of Navteq, have they expanded their coverage? NO!
      still no Japan in nokia maps!

      • Pino

        Ciao @mrlovat:disqus,
        As I explained several times here, for instance at, we have been developing for Windows Phone roughly for one year, whilst more than six on Symbian. Yet, we have managed to update 3 apps 3 times each in just 9 months and introduce 2 more in beta. Not to mention what we are doing with our location platform, now open to the whole Windows Phone 8 ecosystem.
        And of course if you are a Japan-lover (just like me, actually) or if you travel often there, it’s frustrating to not have quality maps provided by Nokia. Nevertheless the coverage has increased dramatically in the last 6 years, basically doubling the number of navigable countries.

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  • Steve VanderWoerd

    I just did a trip to Italy with the Lumia 800 and it was invaluable.  However, I will be much happier when we can have offline maps for “Maps” and not just “Drive”.  
    The problem was I needed to get a data plan there to get the maps into the app where I could sync my faves (maps).  I had the maps downloaded for drive which was ok, but then no faves.  
    To me it seems a step back given a year ago I was able to use offline maps w. GPS AND sync my faves that I put in prior to the trip using the E7.
    I’m sure its just a matter of time and we’ll have that again, and then I can’t think of another map offering that will allow me to do all the input of waypoints on Pc and easily have them appear where I need them to navigate on the mobile.  I cant believe google does not have that still.

    • Pino

      Indeed, we are working on extending offline functionality from Nokia Drive to Nokia Maps too

  • Taupo

    On a side note, Nokia needs to bring its “after sales service” quality to Navteq to stay competitive. Here is an anecdotal example. A couple of years ago, I spotted a mistake in Google and Navteq maps. I provided feedback to both after the standard log-in etc. I received an acknowledgement auto-email immediately from Google with another email, personally addressed to me this time, within 72 hrs informing me that change suggested by me was accepted. Nothing so far from Navteq and the error is still there on Bing and Nokia maps. Secondly, adding local information to Google maps is much more user-friendly than Navteq/Nokia.

    • Pino

      Thanks for this @Taupo:disqus, we are indeed improving this process too.

  • droopyar

    Yes, i use my Garmin XT on my nokia 5800 phone and also nokia maps in symbian. 

  • Daniel C

    Is it possible for the app to turn down the volume of music playback on the phone when voice navigation commands are given?

    I had the phone plugged into my car radio and couldn’t hear the nav voice over my music. Maybe not a complete fade-out like when phone calls come in but a significant drop in volume would be helpful!

    • Pino

      Hi @google-82fdf2e288ac9a9e8e6612cf7bd87f4c:disqus, I remember answering this question on another thread, but I’m not sure it was you asking it…
      This is a good suggestion anyway and I will bring it back to the team.

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  • Maximilian Hernandez

    I like the offline functionality in Nokia Drive, but can we have the offline option for regular Nokia maps?

    • Pino

      Hi @twitter-213722886:disqus, we are working on it right now ;-)

  • fred sparrow

    Nokia needs to immediately restructure its marketing department because at present they’re not doing a very good job.

    A word of advice to Nokia executives that might be reading this –

    Marketing should be a pro-active exercise, not a reactive one, so PR stunts like the one above are useless if they don’t reach the broader market. What Nokia really should do is embark on a world-wide advertising campaign (predominantly through TV) to promote these strengths, because as it stands, they’re not reaching the eyes/ears of potential customers. In technical language, this is called a “marketing pull campaign” and it works wonders for creating awareness.

    • Harry Kek

      Yes, Nokia’s add on value to Windows Phone is fantastic BUT most people do not even know and compare to other phones which don’t do a good job.  I am using Lumia 800 and a Samsung Android at the same time.  I know which phone gives me a better phone calling experience; and which have more practical uses.

    • chintannapster

      Nokia really should increase Advertisement and also make marketing very very good. Samsung doing really nice job in this and you can see the result. 

      Nokia has nearly stop the advertising on TV and on internet and that is the one reason of down selling.

    • Darafx

      I completely agree.
      I already saw this “movie” before. When Apple launched iPhone, Nokia started to boast how big, good and untouchable it was, instead of doing something effectively to fight against the threat. One year later, Google launched the Android and Nokia again started to boast how complete and perfect was the Symbian OS. After 5 year, we are working on Carla. Yes, we have the best navigation SW yet but it is really important to focus on converting it from a strength to an real advantage, and believe me, it is not done only with boasts. In fact, Nokia completely forgot how to compete. It is normal when we spend so many time with no real competitors. Now that Google and Apple are focusing on off line maps, we will see people talking on streets about how “innovative” and “novel” are those new competitor’s services. In the end, it is not about only having a good product, it is about the business you can make with it. Nokia needs to avoid losing the “8 Billions Euros” (aka Navteq) advantage. Nokia needs to motivate people starting to use POIs and giving and getting real value from it. We are talking about doing business with Maps for at least 3 year and Nokia will wait Apple and Google to show how to do it?

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  •Александр-Мартыньш/781139904 Александр Мартыньш

    Is it possible for the app  for using voice command in background ? Its very annoying, when u ride in new place, and smebody call u right before turn on the corner.

    • Pino

      Indeed during a call you are not able to listen to turn-by-turn navigation anymore. We are working on a solution but in the meantime please reject the call if the maneuver is very important: it will also reduce the distraction.

  • Ken Wallace

    This application really needs an Avoidance option.  For example, the quickest way from Point A to Point B  is to use a toll road, ferry, freeway, but the driver may not want to use one of those routes

    • Pino

      Hi @facebook-1228973028:disqus, this is a feature we introduced a while ago on Symbian so expect us to port it to Nokia Lumia asap.

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  • Alexander Zinchenko

    When Nokia Drive will be released? Offline mode is good but not so important as traffic information and route settings.

    • Pino

      We are internally testing the new Nokia Drive and as soon as it is good enough for the public audience we will release it.

      • Alexander Zinchenko

        will  it happen? One Nokia representative mentioned “Q2’12″ – is it realistic?

        • Pino

          We are really doing our best to release it as soon as possible. St