Google Maps 5.0 for Android is here, and it makes every other maps app—including older Google Maps and Google Maps on the iPhone—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 vector graphics to dynamically draw the maps, so Maps uses around way less data than before. (Update: Google phrases the ultra economical data usage like this: "Viewing maps uses almost 70 percent less data than before, but we can render usable maps at any zoom level with 100x less data, which allows for the large pre-caching.")
• Maps load—and feel—faster
• Zooming is ultra-smooth, not point-by-point
• It can cache a lot of the map offline, and it does, as you can see in the video, which was shot entirely in airplane mode. 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.
• Offline rerouting for navigation, even
• 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—which can be discombobulating—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 views 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