Google have announced Google Maps 5.0 for Android, a substantial update slamming two significant new features on the table, in the form of 3D interaction and offline reliability.
3D, without the glasses
With the app now using the nippier vector map format, it’s possible to explore maps in 3D with some deft movement of your digits, letting you tilt, zoom and rotate like Bez on a unicycle.
Here’s Google to explain how to get the map going all a-jiggy under your greasy mitts:
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.
The compass mode certainly makes it easier to oriente yourself – especially if you’re leaving a pub after imbibing excess Chrstmas cheer – although we’re yet to see the groovy 3D vector graphics enjoyed by our American cousins.
Online, Offline, Wombling free
The update also sees Google taking their “first steps toward greater offline reliability,” with the app now able to proactively cache (or store) large areas on your device based on the maps you use the most.
Rather than having a static set of maps when installed, Maps will automatically start caching the areas you visit the most when your device is plugged in and connected to WiFi (e.g., the nightly charge). We’re already hard at work improving the algorithms and technology behind these features, so over time you can expect to see maps work better in more offline situations.
Folks using the Google Maps Navigation feature should be pleased to hear that offline rerouting is gradually being rolled out over the next few weeks.
You’ll still need an internet connection at the start of your journey, but losing a connection shouldn’t now result in you losing your way.
The new Google Maps for mobile 5.0 can be found in Android Market (or tap on this link if you’re on your phone).