Google Maps 5.0 for mobile due in 'coming days'

Stunning update demoed on Android 3.0 tablet prototype
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Stunning update demoed on Android 3.0 tablet prototype

Google’s head of Android, Andy Rubin, showed off a prototype Motorola tablet running Google’s upcoming Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’ and gave a sneak peak of Google Maps 5.0 for mobile.

Taking the stage at the D: Dive into Mobile conference, Rubin also clarified the positioning of the upcoming Honeycomb compared with Gingerbread which Google also announced would debut on the firm’s Nexus S smartphone.

As expected Android 3.0 Honeycomb is the ‘tablet friendly’ version of Android but Rubin revealed that Honeycomb is not a mere upgrade over the imminent Gingerbread but rather a version of Android geared specifically for larger screen devices such as tablets.
Rubin wasn’t any more specific about the release of Android 3.0 devices than some time next year but Taiwanese vendors had previously placed Android 3.0 tablets on their roadmaps around the March and April time frame.

An update for the firm’s popular Google Maps was demonstrated on the hardware which builds upon Google’s recent move to drawing buildings in 3D by using a 3D engine to draw the maps rather than the streamed 2D images. That means zooming in and out will be smooth rather than needing to download new images, something which has probably annoyed every user of Google Maps at some point.

Google Maps 5.0 will also reportedly be faster due to less data needed for the 3D vectors rather than bitmaps. Finally Google is also letting go of the policy of not caching data and the new maps application will remember when you have been and will display the map even if offline.

Most of the functionality of the new Google Maps 5.0 will be available on most Android handsets although performance may vary depending on the specifications. Rubin also demoed an astonishing multi-touch operated tilt, rotate, pan and zoom which reportedly will not work on all Android smartphones as it relies on specific touch screen features.

The first generation Google phone, the Nexus One, will not offer the touch control sin Google Maps 5.0 which may just be the first killer feature to entice owners to upgrade to the new Nexus S.

Google Maps 5.0 is out “in the coming days”.