Richer maps experience coming to third-party Android apps

Google's new Maps API offers developers more features

Google is offering Android application developers a chance to use some of the advanced mapping features it had previously made available only on Google's own applications.

On Monday, the company released a new version of the Google Maps API, a software interface that allows third-party applications to utilize and integrate data from Google Maps. The Google Maps API 2.0 adds features that will allow developers to offer a much more interactive experience within their software, said Andrew Foster, senior product manager for Google Maps.

"This API allows developers to access a lot of the features we've built into maps on Android," Foster said by phone from Australia. "It's quite different from the top down, north facing maps we've had."

He cited features such as the ability to tilt and rotate maps, either automatically using software code or through a user's on-screen gestures, and 3D buildings as examples of the new features. The 3D buildings are available from some cities, including San Francisco where Google also offers floor plans for some buildings. These are also offered through the new API.

The new API also makes it easier for developers to drop markers on maps and mark out overlays, lines and polygons, said Foster.

With the launch of the new API, it moves under the umbrella of Google's new "Play services" platform.

Android devices will be automatically updated over the next couple of days to include the Google Play services platform support. Developers can download the SDK now and begin working on new apps that make use of the features.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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