Google is about to release a version of its mobile Maps application that will allow users to use the free maps on Android devices with no data connection.
The company's vice president of engineering, Andy Rubin, revealed the new version, which he said will be available for Android phones "in a matter of days", on Monday at the D:Mobile conference. He showed it off while demonstrating a prototype tablet running Android 3.0, or 'Honeycomb'.
The new version of Google Maps for Mobile (GMM) will be the first to draw its maps on the fly using vector graphics, rather than downloading static images. As Rubin demonstrated, this will make it possible to show 3D buildings and let the user rotate the image using multitouch. However, business users will see the most benefit from the ability to pre-download maps.
"If I wanted to I could load my entire route when I'm navigating somewhere," Rubin said. "It's a much smaller amount of data, much more efficient and obviously much more manipulatable."
This means Google will match a major selling point of Nokia's, that people can use maps while travelling overseas without the need to maintain a costly roaming data connection — instead, they can just install the maps they need before they set off. Nokia announced such functionality for its Ovi Maps product in January this year.
According to Rubin, the new version of GMM will run on smartphones and tablets. However, as no commercial Android tablets have yet been officially announced, handset users will be the first to get it.