Android Google Maps to get a whole lot cooler

Posted by Mark Raby

If you're anything like me, when you load up Google Maps on your Android phone you're either frustrated or have just learned to live with its slow load times and lack of reliability. That's going to change.

Google is planning a huge update to its mobile location-aware map app in Google Maps 5.0 for Android. Here's a look at what's new:

3D Buildings:
You'll now get a better sense for what the area looks like without having to load up Street View. That's because 3D renderings of buildings now show up on the main map view.

Offline Mode:
If you're on the subway and want to peruse the local landmarks where you're headed, you'll be able to do that now. Or, if you miss a turn in the GPS Navigation mode, and you're in a dead zone, it will still be able to give you re-routed directions.

Faster Load Times:
No more waiting around for Google Maps to render everything in real-time when you hit the app button. Some content will be pre-loaded to the phone so you can  get a more instant look at your surroundings.

Direction Awareness:
The app will now also know when you turn, thanks to stronger support with the phone's built-in compass.

The new version of Google Maps will require Android 1.6 or later, which counts for the hugely vast majority of Android users. No word on when the update will happen, but hopefully it'll be sooner rather than later.