Google has announced a significant update to their mobile maps application called Google Maps 5.0 for Android. The enhancements include the ability to browse maps in 3D and the addition of offline functionality for the first time. Both enhancements are thanks to a change in the fundamental way that maps are presented to users.
Previously, a map was created by stitching together small square images. Thanks to the latest update, maps will be drawn on the device using vector graphics instead. This allows for users to interact with maps in new ways and allows for the addition of 3D maps. Three new interactions include:
* 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.
While Google Maps is great to use the fact that it has previously required an Internet connection to be available at all times has been frustrating. With the change to vector graphics 100 times less data needs to be pulled to render maps allowing for the app to now cache large areas on your mobile device. This will allow for your most commonly used area maps to be accessible in locations where you may not have had an Internet connection available in the past. Those who currently use Google Maps Navigation (Beta) for voice directions will also benefit from some new offline abilities. While you still need an Internet connection to start a new route you will no longer need one for rerouting should you miss a turn.
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