Google Maps 5.0 – we first heard of it last week – is now available for Android smartphones, bringing two new and important features.
The new version of Maps uses vector graphics, which allows it to display 3D maps – including 3D buildings for more than 100 cities around the world. You can rotate, tilt and zoom in and out the 3D maps.
3D goodness aside, Google has made the “first steps toward greater offline reliability” by caching large map areas on your device “based on where you use Maps the most.” Turn-by-turn navigation has also been enhanced with offline rerouting. So now you don’t need to be permanently connected to a 3G network when using Google Maps.
With maps in 3D and (partial) offline capabilities, Google Maps is now catching up with Nokia’s Ovi Maps, which has had these features for quite a while now. Of course, as my colleague Vlad said, “search in Google Maps is light years ahead of search in Ovi Maps” – so each of them has good parts and bad parts.
Google Maps 5.0 for Android can be downloaded now via Android Market – here is a direct download link that you can access from your phone. It works with all devices running Android 1.6 or later, but 3D maps and offline capabilities are available only on Android 2.x devices.
Here’s an official Google Maps 5.0 video promo (and yes, that’s a Nexus S):
Google didn’t say when Maps 5.0 will be available on iPhone or other platforms.
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