Google Maps 5.0 for Android launches – all-new vector based, offline, 3D mapping

Today is a big day for both Android and Google, as the company has just launched its new 3D vector based version of its Google Maps on Android. It’s on the Android Market now.

This is no tiny addition of a few new social features – it’s an entire reworking from the ground up. Ditching the graphic “tiles” of all previous mobile and desktop incarnations of Google’s amazing mapping tool, locations are now displayed using vectors, which allows all sorts of 3D fun to be had. And reduces data downloads. Everyone is a winner.

google maps 5 android 1 google maps 5 android 2

We’ve just had a play with it on running over a 3G data connection and it was indeed noticeably much, much quicker to download map data and display the surrounding areas – and scrolling around on our HTC Desire was super-fast and very nice. The Desire supports the weird tilting perspective shifting.

google maps 5 android 3 google maps 5 android 4

But there’s no 3D data for London as yet. Let us know if you find any 3D European locations. Here’s what Google says regarding phone and OS support…

Android 1.6+ devices can get Maps 5.0, but 3D and offline features require Android 2.0+, and some features may not be supported for all devices or countries.

…and there’s a list of officially supported devices here and an explanation of 3D control gestures here. And here’s the factual part from the official announcement from Google, taken from the Official Google Blog:

Explore maps in 3D

Until now, Google Maps has always downloaded the map as a set of small, square images that we stitch together to form the map you see. (You’ve probably seen those gray squares getting filled in, block-by-block, as the images load over the network.) Starting today, we’ll use vector graphics to dynamically draw the map on your device as you use it, allowing you to interact with it in new ways:

Tilting: Drag down with two fingers to tilt the map. Tilt while zoomed in on one of the 100+ cities around the world with 3D buildings to see a skyline spring to life.

Rotating: Twist with two fingers to rotate the map. After tilting to see 3D buildings, rotate around them to gain a new perspective from any direction.

Smooth zooming: Slide two fingers together or apart, and see the map and labels continuously scale to any zoom level, stopping when your fingers stop.

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

Now we’re off for a 3D walk around New York.

22 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. MrChaz

     /  December 16, 2010

    Man, this thing is 9Mb now and there’s no SD install option :(

  2. Tony

     /  December 16, 2010

    san francisco has 3d city.. also how did u rotate on the desire.. i cant rotate with multitouch

    • Gary C

       /  December 16, 2010

      It wasn’t doing the rotating, just the perspective tilting thing. Which is pretty useless on a flat map, TBH.

      • Tony

         /  December 16, 2010

        Yeah its very useless, they should add compass mode like street view one where so it rotates the map not the pointer…

        • Zaphod

           /  December 20, 2010

          You can do this by tapping the “location me” button twice (Think thats what its called, looks a little like a target). Once you do that the map will orientate which ever way you are facing. A much needed feature!

          On a side note, Dublin is also 3D rendered

  3. It works in Hamburg and Madrid. It doesn’t seem to be vector only, it looks like only names are rendered locally and are straight regardless of map orientation, but pure vector view appears only on higher zoom levels.

  4. Marv

     /  December 16, 2010

    Zurich has 3D buildings, too. You have to get the zoom level right though.
    I think this could really help orientating and is loading really quickly.

  5. Dave

     /  December 16, 2010

    Birmingham, UK, has 3D maps

  6. Mark

     /  December 16, 2010

    Birmingham in the UK is in 3d

  7. Mark

     /  December 16, 2010


  8. Is London in 3d? I cant seem to get it to be, but considering Birmingham is one would assume London is to!

  9. Sponge Finge

     /  December 17, 2010

    I’ve been to London. It’s definitely in 3D. It even has sound.

  10. Ricardo

     /  December 17, 2010

    Cardiff is in 3D – but only when you really zoom in

  11. will dutton

     /  December 17, 2010

    i cant get 3d maps in london either

  12. will dutton

     /  December 17, 2010

    just checked the google maps page and apparently only cardiff and birmingham in the uk are supported for 3d maps, dublin is in the republic, no london, how weird

  13. Joe M

     /  December 17, 2010

    Great update but rotation multitouch isnt supported on the Desire or Nexus, presumably a hardware restriction. The Maps website has a list of supported and semi-supported phones.

  14. Timbo

     /  December 17, 2010

    No 3D for bradford that I can find!

    • Khatt

       /  December 18, 2010

      no 3D london for me:(
      no SD :(
      no multitouch rotation:(


      • Gary C

         /  December 18, 2010

        The lack of multitouch rotation on the Desire is a little strange. I’m using a different phone for review at the moment which does do rotation. Cardiff’s never looked so good.

  15. Rob H

     /  December 21, 2010

    The offline caching works great, just had 2 hour drive and completely lost my signal for half hour, Google maps kept on going and even made 2 route re-calculations.

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