Google Maps 5.0 for Android is here, and it makes every other maps app - including older Google Maps - seem straight-up Stone Age. Just watch:
Google's fundamentally changed the underlying architecture of Google Maps with 5.0 - before it was tile-based, but now it's all done with vectors, so Maps uses around 100x less data than before. Which means:
• Maps loads and feels faster • Zooming is ultra-smooth, not point-by-point • It can cache a lot of the map online, and it does, as you can see in the video, which was shot entirely offline. We're talking multiple zoom levels and a decent chunk of city geography. It'll even download fresh map data overnight while connected to Wi-Fi for places that you look up a lot in maps, Google tells us. • 3D buildings for 100 cities • 3D compass • Two new gestures: two-finger swipe to tilt the map and twist to rotate
The kind of ideal killer scenario with Google Maps' new powers is coming out of the subway in New York - where there's no signal - popping open Maps when you step out, punching the compass button before you even get a connection, and seeing exactly where you are, thanks to the combination of the compass, 3D building renders and offline powers.
It's super nifty, and you can snag it now if you've got Android 1.6 or up. You'll need at least Motorola Droid level hardware for some of the crazier features like 3D though. While we can't wait to see this most excellent update to Google Maps on other platforms, this kind of thing is increasingly one of Android's biggest selling points: Getting the most awesome Google stuff before anybody else. [Google]
Music: "Test Drive" by Zapac