Google Maps combined with GPS happens to be a powerful flagship product that weds both an excellent direction and mapping service on the Internet with location finding on mobile phones. And it’s about to get better for Android users. Google is working to upgrade their mapping offering for mobile phones with much cleaner data structures, less bandwidth/storage usage enabling offline usage and include three-dimensional visualization.
It’s unclear if this technology will be released for iPhones and other platforms, but it seems unlikely.
Greg Sterling at Marketing Pilgrim has an excellent preview analysis about the new Google Maps,
The new, richer 3D buildings will automatically appear as you descend to the street level. Rendering will apparently be much smoother at every level of zoom as well. Vectors have replaced tiles.
The point was made to me that Google Maps for Mobile had always been “North and flat.” Now the map’s orientation will change with the user. As you move through a city, the compass will rotate or shift the map’s orientation so the rendering of streets and buildings will correspond to your perspective on the physical world (akin to Google Navigation).
The second major enhancement is “offline reliability.” The new Maps for Mobile will work without a persistent data connection. It extends to rerouting in Google Navigation, while not connected. And this starts to give Maps for Mobile the persistence of a paper map.
This could be a giant leap forward for using a mobile phone a lot more like a paper map—the offline mode, not the 3D mode—although most of the cases where users rely on maps is amid urban centers, not the middle of nowhere when paper maps are most useful. However, it will help lower the amount of bandwidth and render time that it takes to download and visualize a map if the phone doesn’t have to deal with network congestion when the user wants to get a map in order.
The 3D maps, on the other hand, that’s just visually amazing.
Including the rotating orientation (moving along with the user’s commands or the phone’s directionality) will be extremely cool to look at and it might help some people—such as me—a great deal. Many maps, which are flat top-down spaghetti-splashes of lines and words, tend to blur at me while I’m trying to identify my location and where I need to go. If the map were a bit more dynamic, reacted to my input, and creates even the illusion of depth would give my eyes something to latch onto.
It looks like there will be 100 cities this new mapping system will be available in. According to Google this will include “70 within the US (including SF, NYC, Boston, LA, New Orleans, Chicago, Tampa) and more than 30 internationally (such as Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver, Copenhagen, Dublin, Florence, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Venice, Zurich, and Buenos Aires).”
We wonder when it might come time for commercial navigation like TomTom (who have a recent high-tech launch) might want to worry about Google walking into their backyard. Perhaps they’ll simply climb on board by licensing this technology from Google and using it in their own devices and services.