Google Maps 5.0 for Android goes vector for faster loading, zooming and 3D
The small file size of vector graphics also brings with it storage benefits resulting in Google being able to provide offline caching of maps -- a useful addition for using Google Maps Navigation for turn-by-turn driving directions as it'll allow offline rerouting should you take a wrong turn. Google Maps will also cache your most frequently searched or visited places, which should speed up common mapping tasks considerably. Maps 5.0 apparently downloads 100 times less data, and when combined with local caching, should considerably reduce your mapping data bill, handy for those of us with limited data plans.
Greater multi-touch support has also been built into the new mapping update, with two finger tilt and rotate added to the pinch-to-zoom gestures. Tilting works as you might expect, mirroring what's possible in Google Earth, allowing you to pan down to an angled view to get a sense of scale of the 3D rendered buildings. Maps 5.0 for Android also adds a feature that's been available in Apple's Google Maps offering on the iPhone for a while now -- compass rotation support. Now you can figure out the direction of your route and automatically rotate the map to match the direction you're facing on Android devices packing a compass, allowing people with a total lack of a sense of direction to navigate with ease.
Available soon, Google Maps 5.0 will run on Android 1.6 Donut and up, however some features such as dynamically drawn vector maps and rotation won't be available on all hardware. However, if you happen to have one of the recent Android devices including the Galaxy S, Droid, Droid X, Droid 2, Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, the G2, or of course the Nexus S, you're all set for the full Maps 5.0 experience. Let's hope Google doesn't keep the mapping goodies to themselves and that we see vector maps and 3D rendered buildings making it out onto other Google Maps-equipped platforms.