Google Maps 5 for Android brings 3D, offline support

Google has released 5.0 version of their Maps application for Android devices. This is the most feature rich update to Google Maps since long.

Maps in 3D

Maps 5.0 now includes 3D viewing support for buildings and structures. From this version, instead of showing some images for different zoom levels, they actually draw Maps using Vector graphics. This means the transitions will be much smoother and instead of reloading the images they’ll resize the vector images. You can think of it as resizing by stretching a figure. After zooming into the appropriate level you no longer see 2D blocks, but real building structures. They have built in some multi touch gestures as well for some incredible Maps experience. For instance you can drag using 2 fingers to tilt the map and then twist to rotate the perspective. See the video for the awesome demo.

The only problem is that not all devices support Maps 3D gestures.
Only the following devices upgraded to 2.2+ will support all the features and gestures:

  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • Motorola Droid
  • Motorola Droid 2
  • Motorola Droid X
  • HTC Incredible
  • HTC EVO 4G
  • HTC G2

The following devices also support 3D except the rotating gestures:

  • HTC Desire
  • Sony Ericsson X10
  • LG Ally
  • HTC Nexus One

Here is the full updated compatibility list.

Offline Reliability

Now that Google is using vector graphics for drawing the maps, the data usage is apparently 100 times lesser. Using it to the full advantage, Google Maps now caches the Maps data from the locations you frequent. This is generally done when the device is plugged in and connected to Wifi to conserve resources. Not only does caching reduces the data usage by almost 70%, with time the commonly visited places and routes will be heavily cached and available even if your connection drops!

Offline Re-routing

Although not fully available in India yet, turn-by-turn Navigation on Google Maps is used by over 10 million users worldwide. Now Google is using the caching abilities to allow re-routing even when you drop the connection. You just need the internet connection to draw the route initially. After that even if the connection drops, Maps will be able to guide you to the right path if you take a wrong turn.

The offline features for Google Maps 5.0 require Android 2.0+ devices.

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