Google may have a new version of Google Maps to be excited about, but it's also goodbye to some old features along the way, with the search giant announcing plans to retire Latitude and hopefully shift users to Google+ instead. Latitude has a month left to live and is in fact completely absent from the new version of Google Maps, but users won't be able to avoid the shutdown by bypassing the upgrade since Google is axing server-side support - and Latitude friends lists - too. Meanwhile, offline mapping for Google Maps has been buried away as a bizarre "Easter egg" in the newest version.
Whereas before, Google Maps supported easy offline caching of a section of a map through the settings, now that option has been removed. Instead, Google says, offline support is being treated as a non-official feature in v.7 for Android; according to Abby DeBellis, Google Maps community manager, you'll need to turn it on in a different, hidden way.
You can "pre-load an area of the map you need offline simply by going to that area in the app and typing "OK Maps" in the search box (or speaking “OK Maps” into your Android device)" DeBellis says. "That area will then be pre-loaded to your device cache and accessible when you don’t have a connection. Just return to that area of the map, and it will be available to you."
It's unclear why Google opted to remove the more readily-accessed support for offline caching, though a general reluctance to see users turn off data might be one reason. Having a persistent data connection means Google can serve up more promotional offers, for instance, which are now embedded right into the map itself.
For Latitude, meanwhile, it's an attempt to shift users of the location-tracking service to Google+. Location sharing is supported in the Google+ Android app now, and will be enabled in the iOS app soon, Google says; any Latitude widgets you're using will stop showing your location as of August 9.
"We’ll delete your list of friends on Latitude. You won’t be able to see or manage friends. Any existing friends will no longer see your location in Google Maps for mobile on Android, Latitude for iPhone, the public badge, the iGoogle Gadget, and the Latitude website at maps.google.com/latitude, if you continue to use these products" Google
More concerning, perhaps, if you've made good use of Latitude so far, is the fact that Google won't be allowing any of the friend data built up in the service to be exported. If you've had Location History enabled then you'll at least be able to suck out the list of places you've been using Google Takeout.
Third-party apps and services that currently use the Latitude API will lose access to users' location too, though they'll be allowed to keep their databases of positioning data.