Google has launched Google Maps Mobile a little more than five years ago and since then it has added dozens of features. However, while Google Maps Mobile got features like Google Maps Navigation and Google Latitude, a couple of things have remained the same: a flat, north-up map and the need for a strong Internet connection. But yesterday, Google has launched Google Maps Mobile 5.0 for Android which comes with a lot of enhancements and changes, including 3D maps, offline reliability, offline rerouting, and more; while other features like Navigation, Latitude or Places are unchanged.
3D Maps - Until now, Google Maps has always downloaded the map as a set of small, square images that were stitch together to form the map users have sees. However, starting yesterday, Google is now using vector graphics to dynamically draw the map on devices, allowing users 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.
Offline Reliability - Google Maps has always been, and continues to be, a fundamentally Internet-connected experience, meaning users always get the freshest map and place data, search and voice search, live traffic conditions, satellite and Street View imagery, and much more. Still, Google understand that mobile Internet connections aren't 100 % reliable. So with yesterday's update, Google took the first steps toward greater offline reliability, so users can find their way even if the connection was lost.
Rather than having a static set of maps when installed, Maps will automatically start caching the areas which were visited the most when a device is plugged in and connected to WiFi (e.g., the nightly charge). And Google goews even further by already working to improve the algorithms and technology behind these features, so over time users can expect to see maps work better in more offline situations.
Offline Rerouting - Loosing the mobile Internet connection while using Google Maps Navigation can be particularly painful and therefore Google has also introduced offline rerouting. It's still required to have connection to start a route, but if a turn along the way is missed, Google Maps Navigation is getting the user back on track, even if there's no Internet connection available at the moment. This feature will be rolled-out gradually over the next few weeks.
Google Maps Mobile 5.0 is now available from the Android Market, free of charge. Android 1.6+ devices can get Maps 5.0 but 3D and offline features require Android 2.0+, and some features may not be supported for all devices or countries.
Cheers ~ Arne