In Windows Phone 8, the Bing Maps app is now backed by Nokia’s well-respected mapping technologies but looks and works much like the version in Windows Phone 7.x. Aside from using better underlying map data, the move to Nokia maps does comes with another major advantage: You can now download maps for offline use.

Note: Nokia Lumia handsets based on Windows Phone 8 do not include Bing Maps. Instead, these devices come with Nokia Maps, which features different UI “chrome” but utilizes the same underlying mapping technologies and, not coincidentally, the same ability to download maps. So this article is equally applicable to both Bing Maps and Nokia Maps.

Note: This article is based on information found in Chapter 11: Bing Search and Maps, from my in-progress book, Windows Phone Book.

This feature lets you download maps ahead of time so that you can still use Maps if your handset’s cellular or GPS connectivity stops working properly, or if you’re roaming and simply would prefer to disable them yourself to avoid excess data charges.

To view which maps are available—as you’ll discover, it’s an amazing collection that spans virtually the entire globe, press the More (“…”) app bar button, then Settings, and then tap the DownloWad Maps button. This displays the Downloaded Maps screen, which is empty by default. So tap the Add app bar button.

(On a Lumia handset, it’s a bit different: Press the More app bar button, then Download maps, then Download new maps, and then tap the Add app bar button.)

First up is the Choose a Continent screen, from which you can begin whittling down the choices and getting to actual maps to download.

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I happen to live outside Boston, Massachusetts, so my usage near home, it makes sense to start with North and Central America. From there, I can choose USA from a list of countries, and then All Regions or an individual state. In this example, the entire United States is a fairly big download, about 2.5 GB. But my own state, Massachusetts, is a more reasonable 74 MB.  Just choose the region you want and the download will begin.

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Map downloading works similarly around the world. If you live outside of Paris, France, for example, or will be visiting there soon and wish to use Maps for navigation while traveling, you would navigate to Europe, France, and then Paris-Isle-of-France/Picardy, for example.