back to article Google Maps for Droid phones becomes a LOT better

The Android version of Google Maps for Mobile has added some new features in a major revision – with 3D panning, a proper compass and off-line caching, to name just three. The new version of Maps uses vector-based files, which Google reckons requires about a third of the data, and that data doesn't load in tiles any more …


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  1. Dan 55 Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Has it got a map loader program

    So you can fill up the SD card before setting off, avoiding roaming charges?

    1. David Hicks

      Sod the roaming charges

      Roaming charges or no roaming charges, being able to use a GPS system when you can't get a mobile signal is important for it to be really useful.

      Well, important to me because sometimes, just sometimes, I leave the city and end up lost in places with no network.....

  2. DrXym

    Wish I could cache directions

    I like the Google Directions satnav-like feature. It works fantastically well when you have a network but it's virtually useless without an internet connection.

    It would be great if it could cache a route and function in offline mode. Perhaps users could specify how large a cache to allocate then it would use it to storing maps of the primary route, and perhaps some roads either side.

    On a more mundane point, Google Maps seems to have wonky pinch to zoom which only works in the zoom out direction which is pretty annoying. Hope that gets fixed.

    1. cs94njw

      Actually... contractually...

      Actually, it will cache a route as you require ;)

  3. MihaiA
    IT Angle

    Google maps 5 for Android

    Actually there are two cities in the UK that have 3D buildings at the moment. Is Birmingham and Cardiff. Just try Bullring shopping centre or Cardiff Castle!

  4. Tigra 07
    Thumb Up

    This tips the scales a bit.

    Woo Hoo!

    Can't wait =]

    I was actually putting off the Google Maps upgrades because they want so many permissions, but maybe i will update it after all now.

    1. kissingthecarpet
      Big Brother


      They've got you now....

  5. thesykes
    Thumb Up

    It's pretty good

    Some of the features are hardware-dependent, the two-fingered 360 degree spin doesn't work on mine for instance, but, more useful is the feature of the maps auto-rotating depending on which way you face.

    Cardiff and Birmingham have had the 3D treatment in the UK, there may be others.

  6. Bassey


    Cardiff seems to have 3D buildings.

    1. Mr Grumblefish

      Does that mean I can stand on top of them

      like Captain Jack?

  7. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Up


    "Being able to fly over the tops of buildings is quite surreal, even if we‘re not convinced it‘s terribly helpful in finding one‘s way about"

    I reckon it would actually be very useful to help spot distinctive landmarks such as the Gherkin in London.

    1. Anton Ivanov

      You will be once it has eaten your battery

      Flat tile maps have one distinct advantage - they require very little CPU resource.

      I would not say the same about 3D rendering however especially on platforms that do not have it properly offloaded.

      It would be interesting to see not "data volume" but "battery life" comparison for both.

      1. Richard 22

        Could improve the battery life...

        I'd expect the battery life to be improved by vector-based maps, particularly if you're downloading the data on-the-fly. Data transfer is almost always going to be more power-hungry than drawing. If you've got the data cached already then you have to take into account the additional accesses required to the SD card for the larger data volume. And if the vector drawing is hardware accelerated, I'd expect this might be more power efficient than jpg decode plus pixel blitting

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've seen this

    on my Win 7 home PC as well. I find it slightly confusing.

  9. scaley

    UK 3D maps

    There are some 3D maps for the UK. Zoom in on either Birmingham or Cardiff

  10. Richard 22
    Thumb Down

    Ovi bitchslapped?

    Apart from the 3d buildings - which might be cool if I lived somwhere which had that data - this is all stuff that ovi maps can do already. Plus, you can download entire countries maps over wifi straight to the device with the latest beta labs version.

    1. gerryg


      On the upside, sitting in London talking to a South African woman, zoomed out from "here" smoothly to globe, tweaked to SA, zoomed in to see her home town.

      All extra data downloaded over wifi.

      (And I've got Antarctica, but no street info)

      On the downside no satellite photo overlays anymore, following software upgrade from wayfinder to ovi, and an annoying tendency to try to persuade me to use 3G, despite best efforts at setting "no" to everything.

  11. Popup

    Changes in the third-party terms and conditions?

    Will this also mean that third-party developers will be able to cache map data?

    Apparently that's against the current T&C's for mapping apps. - One of the driving forces behind OpenStreetMap, if I'm not mistaken.

  12. Mark .

    Re: Has it got a map loader program

    I'd be curious to know this too - the killer feature of Ovi Maps isn't caching, it's being able to download the maps to an area beforehand without ever needing to do it on the phone (very useful to avoid roaming charges, but also useful for us PAYG customers).

  13. Caerdydd_Mike

    Glad to see ...

    .. Cardiff up to date for a change . That said , High Street is now pedestrianised , theres no snow in the street view images and I'm not sure that "Get Ya Kit Off! Kissograms" should be in the Castle Visitor Centre :) (then again.)

  14. ratfox
    Thumb Up


    Google maps also has 3D buildings on the iPhone 4, but there is no way to spin the screen. I'm not sure if the 3D stays when you use the auto-rotating, as it only works where you are, and I am not in NY.

  15. Peter X

    Still can't customise routes though

    Nice updates, but I still find the Navigation feature sometimes takes the wrong route, but I still can't manually tweak the route like I can on the web-based Google Maps.

    Also, although my phone supports two finger gestures, I don't need to be able to two-finger drag the screen to change the 3D angle... not that it matters that much, but it'd be nice to do! I also don't seem to be able to rotate the map using fingers either.

    1. greggo

      2-finger rotate only works on Android 2.2 or later

      so maybe (like me) you don't have that.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Google store just gets crappier and crappier

    I'm wondering why I don't have any of this goodness, so I search the market for "Google Maps". It shows up as "automatic update enabled" but "needs a manual update" - what?

    So I update it, and there we go. But... it doesn't show up in my list of downloaded apps. You might say "well, Google/internal apps don't" but I've updated GMail the same way, and it DOES show up in my list of downloaded apps. If I search for it, it says "installed" like any other downloaded app.

    Nice. Way to be consistent there, Google...

    1. hazzamon

      'Manual Update'

      'Manual Update' means that the app's system permissions have changed and that your consent is required prior to update.

    2. TIMMEH


      My Market just updated to the new one and Google Maps has started downloading, without me telling it to either I'm sure.

      I had a 'manual update' notice on an app the other day, I think this happens when the required permissions for an app change, forcing you to go through the updated list of access permissions before the update is downloaded.

  17. kain preacher

    @Gene Cash

    I have a driod and i Google maps shows up in the downloaded section for me. Now this is whats weird. I've found that auto updates takes as much as week to happen. What I mean is that if a new version of an app comes out to day it can be as much as a week for the program to auto update.

  18. M Gale

    ZTE Racer

    Android 2.1. No 3D buildings. I wasn't expecting a two-finger rotate on a single-touch resistive screen, but it's a 600mhz processor and can definitely manage 3D games.

    Ah well. Maybe at some stage they can do what people here seem to want and have a cache-to-SD option? Hopefully at least this cheapy toyphone will manage that! And maybe, just maybe, with a future update the various Google Apps will recognise the magnetic compass and orientation sensors on this thing properly. Other apps manage it, but apparently not Google's. The location arrow on Maps rotates the opposite way to reality, and as for Google Sky Map, well that just spazzes out all over the place.

    C'mon Google. At least give us an option screen where we can invert X/Y/Z axes?

  19. Giles Hinton
    Thumb Down

    STILL no move to SD

    All very nice but what I would like over any of these "pretty" GUI enhancements is the ability to move to SD. Maps remains a storage hog. Very poor, Froyo has been out long enough now. There' excuse to keep ignoring this potentially minor yet valuable tweak.

  20. David Halko
    IT Angle

    Will it be released on the iPhone?

    Or is Google ceding the iPhone mapping market to Apple and a new [Apple?] map maker?

    Seems odd that Google would want to litter the smart phone space with different levels of Google maps support (2d, 3d, 3d with spin, some of iPhone, some on Android, some Android more fully funtional than others, etc.)

    All of that old back-end technology has to be maintained and increases cost.

    1. M Gale

      I would guess...

      ...that for the same reason you'll never see Facetime on Android (no big loss when Skype is available and talks to more than just other iToys), I imagine Google are not too keen to give Apple the best of their own toy collection.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Why not?

        I thought Facetime was supposed to be an open standard? In that case, surely some Android developer will write a Facetime app sooner or later?

        Not saying that Apple will, mind.

        1. M Gale

          Not quite yet, apparently.

          Based on h.264 and AAC, so "open" as in "we'll sue you if you don't pay the danegeld" open.

          Apple have apparently pledged to release Facetime as an "open standard" (at least, Wikipedia says so), but they haven't yet and I don't see how h.264 and AAC can ever really be part of an open standard. Well, without completely twisting the meaning of the word "open".

          So maybe, eventually, if someone with enough money to pay for it wants to. Right now though, Facetime is good if you only want to talk to other people with iDevices.

  21. D. M

    No pre-load map yet

    I was very disappointed, unless I really missed anything, there is no pre-load map I could see. So it is still useless where you don't have internet connection or don't want to connect to the internet.

    It is not hard to do, but Google wants you to be connected all the time. We should have evil Google.

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