Google Maps 5.0 for Android Adds 3D, Offline Access

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Google on Thursday released an updated version of Google Maps for Android that incorporates 3D capabilities and offline access.

Since the launch of Google Maps for mobile five years ago, map views have consistently "remained the same: a flat, north-up map and the need for a strong Internet connection," Google said in a blog post. "Today, we're changing that for the first time."

Rather than downloading maps as set of small, square images stitched together to form a map, Google Map 5.0 will use vector graphics to dynamically draw a map, Google said. This will allow for tilting when you drag down with two fingers. "Tilt while zoomed in on one of the 100+ cities around the world with 3D buildings to see a skyline spring to life," Google said.

Users can also twist with two fingers to rotate, pinch to zoom, and access a compass mode.

"Center the map on your location, and then tap the compass button in the top right corner," Google said. "The map will flip into 3D mode and start rotating to match your perspective, while still keeping all the labels upright and readable."

Using vector graphics will require 100 times less data to get maps across all zoom levels, so Google said it will be able to cache large areas on your phone based on where you use Maps the most. As a result, you can refer back to those maps when you're in an area without Internet connectivity.

"This way, you can rely on having fast, robust maps available to you where you're most likely to need them," Google said.

Google Maps 5.0 will automatically start caching most-visited areas when a device is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. "We're already hard at work improving the algorithms and technology behind these features, so over time you can expect to see maps work better in more offline situations," Google said.

These offline capabilities will also extend to Google Maps Navigation beta, the company's free turn-by-turn GPS navigation feature. It will now support offline rerouting in case you drop a connection en route, though users will still need connectivity to start a route. Google will start rolling out the feature in the next few weeks.

To download, search Google Maps in the Android Market. 3D and offline capabilities require Android 2.0 or higher.

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