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Google Maps 5.0 for Android is smaller, faster and 3D

Google Maps 5.0 for Android is faster, lighter and packed with data, including 3D buildings. You can even find your way when you don't have an internet connection.

Google Maps 5.0 for Android is here. The graphics are now vector-based, which means files are smaller so maps load faster, and they're now packed with data, including 3D buildings. You can even find your way when you don't have an Internet connection.

This latest version of Google Maps now runs on vector-based graphics. You know when you swipe across Maps and each new section appears in big square tiles? The new maps are made up of data recording the details of the landscape, instead of individual tiles, making the files smaller.

The fact that maps are now vector-based rather than tiled means they're much lighter on data. That makes them faster to draw, so moving and zooming are super-fast. Even better, your phone can now cache maps so if you lose your signal, you can still plan your route on maps saved to your phone. Your phone automatically saves the areas you visit most when it's plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.

When you are connected to the Internet you can see live traffic and richer map details, including flashy 3D models. Offline supports sat-nav rerouting, so even without a Web connection your route will adapt to missed turns.

Drag down with two fingers to tilt the map, and you'll find yourself flying across a 3D landscape. As you swipe to scoot into new areas, 3D buildings sprout from the ground like a city flowering around you. You can even zoom right in to street level and fly through the buildings, or twist two fingers to rotate your view.

The 3D landscape is available in cities that have been mapped in 3D. London hasn't been 3D-ified yet, but other cities from Birmingham to San Francisco have had the virtual treatment.

The new-look Maps was revealed by Google boss Andy Rubin at a recent conference, when he whipped out a prototype Motorola tablet and showed off an early version of the next version of Android, codenamed Honeycomb.

To get Googling, search for Google Maps in Android Market, or tap on this link on your phone.