in Mobile, Technology

Google Maps 5: 3D Maps & Offline Caching

Most of us have used Google Maps at some point or the other. Either on the desktop or more often on the mobile platform. Google Maps in it’s latest avatar uses vector graphics instead of map tiles and it caches some of your most frequently used maps so that they are available offline. The advantage of vector-based maps is multi-fold:

  • 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 Caching & Re-routing

The new 3D view makes maps more intuitive and easier to use, but the fact that Google no longer has to download map images from its servers and vector-based maps require 100 times less data for all zoom levels means it is now feasible to cache data. Instead of a static set of maps installed locally, Google Maps will automatically start caching the areas you visit the most when your device is plugged in and connected to WiFi/3G/Edge (while charging). At the moment, you cannot manually control caching, but it’s an step toward an offline Google Maps.

Offline rerouting to Google Maps Navigation now allows you to quickly get back on track, if you miss a turn along the way and don’t have an Internet connection. Of course you’ll still need an Internet connection to start a route.

Faster

These new features maximize dynamic map drawing technology to create a faster, more interactive experience where efficiency really matters: mobile devices. Google Maps 5 for Android uses about 70% less data than the previous version, so it loads maps much faster. The new features require Android 2.0+, but not all devices support them. The list of devices that support all multi-touch gestures includes: Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy S, HTC G2, HTC Incredible, HTC Evo 4G and Motorola Droid/Droid 2/Droid X, while HTC Nexus One, HTC Desire, Sony Ericsson X10 and LG Ally don’t support rotating gestures. Get Google Maps for mobile 5.0 by searching for Google Maps in Android Market (or tap here if you’re on your phone).