Google Maps 5.0 for Android is Live

Ryan Whitwam

Google has dropped the newest update to Google Maps into the Android Market today. This update contains some interesting new features, but as usual, not all  phones will be feeling the love. The most obvious change is that instead of downloading rasterized tile images, Google Maps now uses vector graphics. The result is s much smoother zooming experience, and faster filling in of detail after zooming. This bit is available on any device running Android 1.6 and higher.

The new update is also making better use of multitouch. Users can tilt their view by swiping down with two fingers. Zooming in to street level also reveals a new feature. 3D skylines are available in over 100 cities. These are solid outlines, not actual images, but it is still very impressive. The last feature is potentially huge for the platform. Offline caching of map data will allow users to see areas of the map they often use without a data connection. This will be applied to Google Navigation to do offline rerouting and directions, but that specific part is being rolled out over the coming weeks. All this is only available on Android 2.0+.

It is also worth noting that some of the multitouch gestures are not fully supported by some fairly new devices. This includes the Nexus One, LG Ally, SE X10, and HTC Desire. Thank flaky touch sensors for that one. Have you tried the new Maps app? Let us know how you like it.

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