| Jan Ungruhe |
Berlin (dpa) – Most apps on your smartphone can be used when you are offline. The trick is figuring out how to activate their offline mode, which can be a nuisance.
But, if you succeed, you have the option of cutting down on data volume while you’re at home, saving money when you’re abroad and eliminating frustration if you end up somewhere with no service.
It’s key to find apps that can download content in advance.
Suddenly it becomes a snap to look at a map without burning through your data limits.
“It’s often hard to find a stable mobile Internet connection in rural areas,” says Damian Gawenda, an IT expert and lecturer at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences. “A lot of people would also like to use an app in the subway or abroad without roaming.”
The trick is downloading the content in some place where there’s a free WiFi connection before you head off into the country.
“Some browsers offer the option of saving websites and then making them viewable again while you are offline,” says Lothar Piepmeyer of Furtwangen University in Germany.
This is possible both with the standard AOSP browser from older Android devices. Apple’s Safari calls the feature “Reading List”.
Opera has a similar feature. Entire sites can be saved in the bookmarks to be called up offline.
The main problem is figuring out how to access offline mode.
“The offline function is often not marked. Often you just find it by chance,” says Piepmeyer. Worse, every program does it differently.
“You often find it in the app settings under a heading like ‘accessible offline,’ ‘save to this device,’ or ‘activate offline mode,’” says Manuel Fischer of German IT industry association Bitkom.
Even Mail apps offer some offline functions.
“It’s possible to compose emails offline. They’re sent as soon as you have an Internet connection again,” says Piepmeyer. Some apps can even show old emails and do searches through them offline.
“That can be practical, for example, if you need information from your email archives while you’re out and about, like an address.”
Software engineers generally design their apps to do as many basic tasks as possible without any Internet connection, says Fischer.
“The decline of stationary-only computing has pushed the ‘offline-first’ mantra into focus for all software developers.”
An online-first program is always available for use, but only shows it ultimate potential once it is linked to the Internet.
For example, it’s key for calendar apps that they must allow users to save appointments even if they’re not online.
“As soon as a network becomes available, the device synchronises the central calendar as well. The same works for the address book,” notes Piepmeyer.
Using a map on a smartphone can also burn through data limits quickly. Doing so can be even more frustrating and expensive when you’re in a foreign country.
“It’s helpful for users if map data can be downloaded with free WiFi before going offline,” says Fischer.