Google Maps for Android adds 3D, offline reliability and re-routing

Friday, December 17, 2010 2:07
Posted in category Uncategorized
Those who checked their Android device to see if their Android Market apps need an update were pleasantly surprised on Thursday. Google has released Google Maps 5.0 for Android, including 3D support (sans glasses) and greater offline reliability.

Here's how the 3D portion is explained (although, only some 100+ cities currently have the 3D imagery set up).
Until now, Google Maps has always downloaded the map as a set of small, square images that we stitch together to form the map you see. (You’ve probably seen those gray squares getting filled in, block-by-block, as the images load over the network.) Starting today, we’ll use vector graphics to dynamically draw the map on your device as you use it, allowing you to interact with it in new ways:
  • Tilting: Drag down with two fingers to tilt the map. Tilt while zoomed in on one of the 100+ cities around the world with 3D buildings to see a skyline spring to life.
  • Rotating: Twist with two fingers to rotate the map. After tilting to see 3D buildings, rotate around them to gain a new perspective from any direction.
  • Smooth zooming: Slide two fingers together or apart, and see the map and labels continuously scale to any zoom level, stopping when your fingers stop.
  • Compass mode: Center the map on your location, and then tap the compass button in the top right corner. The map will flip into 3D mode and start rotating to match your perspective, while still keeping all the labels upright and readable.
Vector graphics are also much lighter weight than the traditional stitched-together images used previously, which leads into the other change: better caching to allow better offline functionality.

Google will do this by caching the areas you visit the most. They'll do this at night when your device is connected to wi-fi and charging.

Finally, they are also adding offline re-routing, though this will roll out gradually over the next few weeks. You'll still need a connection to start a route, but if you lose it after that, you yourself won't get lost. Google says:
You’ll still need a connection to start a route, but if you miss a turn along the way, we’ll quickly get you back on track, even if you don’t have an Internet connection. We’ll be rolling this feature out gradually over the next few weeks.
While Android 1.6 devices can get Google Maps 5.0, it won't have the 3D or offline features; those require Android 2.0+. At least those devices still stuck on Android 2.1 can get the features.

Also, some devices will not support all the features. These limitations are detailed here.  You can watch a video on Google Maps 5.0 below.

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