A new version of Google Maps for Android is due out in a few days, and it has a number of new features. Probably the most important is that it’s based on vector graphics rather than image tiles. What that means is that as you scroll through the map, you won’t have to wait for new imagery to load. Instead, it will load gradually as you move, providing a much smoother experience.

Other changes include:

  • Support for two-finger gestures to tilt and rotate the map
  • 3D building imagery
  • Offline caching of locations you frequently use

Thanks to the offline caching capability, Google Maps 5 for Android should be reroute your turn-by-turn navigation directions in some circumstances even if you have no internet connection — but only for locations that have already been cached.

Not all phones will support all of the features. Users will need 3D graphics acceleration features and “distinct multitouch” support. For instance, the Google Nexus One reportedly won’t be able to handle the two-finger rotate capabilities because multitouch support on Google’s first branded phone aren’t good enough. Engadget has a rundown of the phones which should fully support Google Maps 5 at launch.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...