It's been five years since Google launched Google Maps for mobile and my, how it's changed. The company recently demoed Google Maps 5 for Android on a Honeycomb tablet and we were promised it would be rolling out to current Android users very soon.
On Thursday, Google gave Android users an early Christmas present and released Google Maps 5 for Android. The vector-based mapping application allows for a kind of interaction we've never seen before. Tilt the map (drag down with two fingers) and buildings sprout up from all those grey squares that Maps uses to signify buildings. Google has added support for 3D buildings in more than 100 cities around the world.
Though being able to navigate through more than just flat, grey and green tiles is incredible, it's not the best feature available in Google Maps 5. Google is also adding an offline mode that will see the application cache large areas of places you frequent most often on your phone. This means when you're stumbling home from the office holiday party on foot because someone took your keys away, you can pull up the map of your neighborhood and find your way home. This matches up quite nicely with Offline Rerouting, a feature being rolled out to Google Maps Navigation users over the next few weeks. Offline Rerouting lets you use turn-by-turn navigation even if your internet connection drops mid-way through the route.
"You'll still need a connection to start a route," writes Google's Michael Siliski. "But if you miss a turn along the way, we’ll quickly get you back on track, even if you don’t have an Internet connection."
Check out a video demo of Google Maps 5 below.