Google has just unveiled their new, refreshed Maps 5.0 app for Android, launching soon. What’s new about it? Well, it renders buildings in 3D, loads faster, works offline and will automatically rotate the map according to the phone’s compass.
Thanks to the small file size and scalability of the new dynamically drawn vector graphics in Maps, the app now renders in realtime, and maps download about 100 times less data—which leads to faster load times and super smooth zooming. (Previously, maps were downloaded as a bunch of tiles and zooming was more of a “snap to” experience.) The new 3D building models will start to appear as you get down to the street view level, and you can even tilt the map using a two-finger swipe gesture, altering the map’s vertical orientation to offer a sense of a building’s height. Imagine popping out of the subway in NYC and instantly recognizing where you’re at by checking out the buildings around you in 3D. 100 cities, like New York, will be supported from the outset.
Here’s what it will look like.
Initially there will be 100 cities that get the new maps. According to Google, “70 within the US (including SF, NYC, Boston, LA, New Orleans, Chicago, Tampa) and more than 30 internationally (such as Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Dublin, Florence, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Venice, Zurich, and Buenos Aires).”
The point was made to me that Google Maps for Mobile had always been “North and flat.” Now the map’s orientation will change with the user. As you move through a city, the compass will rotate or shift the map’s orientation so the rendering of streets and buildings will correspond to the your perspective on the physical world (akin to Google Navigation).
The second major enhancement is “offline reliability.” The new Maps for Mobile will work without a persistent data connection. It extends to rerouting in Google Navigation, while not connected. And this starts to give Maps for Mobile the persistence of a paper map.
Here’s a before and after shot that was offered up in the SEL piece as well which shows how maps will continue to render on the iPhone v. Android when this new app is rolled out in the very near future.
As a recent convert to the Android platform, I have to say that this is pretty cool. While calling it 3D seems a bit over the top (after all I won’t need to wear glasses and I don’t expect buildings to jump out of the screen like a hologram or anything) this is a very cool next step for Google to take.
No matter where you think the Apple v Google wars are going this is one area where Google has a distinct advantage. If Google decides to not offer enhancements to the iPhone set (which is unlikely but you never know since Navigation is not available yet) this will be a real reason to consider one platform over the other (depending on your personal needs of course).
All I can say is that from a local perspective my iPhone envy is about completely gone. Since I am not a game person (other than those freakin’ Angry Birds) and I really like a big screen (thank you DroidX for helping out screen weary eyes) plus the concentration on Google Places with incredible map and navigation technology to boot, Google is holding its own in the mobile space.
In your opinion, is this kind of technology for the Android enough to make you decide Android over iPhone? If not, what, if anything at all, would? This is getting very interesting for sure.