The latest version of Google Maps for Android, which is ready to launch within days, sets the stage for future versions of the mapping service across devices and platforms. The big innovation in Google Maps 5.0 for Android is vector graphics replacing the previous static image-based map.
There are a big number of advantages or using vectors instead of regular images. For one thing, vectors are more accurate and retain their visual quality at any zoom level.
This means that the maps will look great no matter how far or how close you zoom in. Of course, the regular version of Google Maps provides images for different zoom levels so this isn't a huge issue, but these different quality images have load each time you move about.
Which leads to the second big advantage of using vector graphics, once the data is loaded, it will be accurate regardless of the zoom level. No new data has to be loaded when you move in closer, except for newer objects that weren't represented at higher zoom levels, of course.
What's more, panning is greatly improved as well since the data can be pre-loaded and the map then rendered on-the-fly.
And, because vector images are significantly smaller than bitmap ones, a lot more data can be loaded before it's actually needed making navigation a much faster and smoother affair.
Another very interesting new feature demoed with the upcoming version of the Google Maps app for Android are 3D buildings in the regular Map layer.
3D buildings have been available for quite a while in Google Earth and the data is now used to create vector representations of those buildings that can be displayed using 2D graphics.
While all of this will only be available in the Android version of Google Maps, you can be sure that the technology will make its way into other mobile devices and very likely on the web version of Maps, once HTML5 is robust enough.