Google Maps is going to be more useful for Android OS users as the mapping facility becomes usable without a data connection. Also in a move to enhance the maps the company are flying planes over major U.S. cities to create digital 3D map views.
The offline mode for Google Maps will be available on Android, but not Apple’s iOS, shortly. Rumours are that this is a response to Apple being about to ditch Google Maps with the introduction of iOS 6, an announcement that may come next week at WWDC in San Francisco. The offline maps feature will be very useful for people travelling into areas that may not have strong enough data signals from their mobile operator. Also consider if you visit a foreign country you can pre-download the map so when you visit you can use the Google Maps without the danger of incurring potentially large data roaming charges.
I have the current version of Google Maps on my Android phone and I enabled the similar feature of map caching, there is a “Download Map Area” in the “More Options” preference page. On the Google page about this “Labs feature”, introduced in v5.7, it says “After 30 days, all downloaded map areas will be removed from your cache; they can be re-downloaded any time.” And while maps can be saved, the navigation program still needs a data connection to work out a route.
For the 3D city views planes will be flown over pre-defined routes, they will take block-by-block photos as they sweep over the city at 45 degree angles. Later on in Google’s offices they will be stitched together and used for the 3D city views. The first 3D cityscape will be available “within weeks”. The video demonstration below, makes the map scenes look impressive and realistic.
Google didn’t say anything about the Apple iOS setback but has expressed the desire to make its maps available in as many places as possible and the updates will bring “the next dimension” to this popular mapping service. Google mapping has been a core feature of the iPhone since its inception and if it is replaced Google will miss out on lucrative geo-sensitive advertising to Apple iOS users.