Google Maps gives us the opportunity to explore places we might never get to visit in our lives, but Google wants to let you do even more with Maps than just navigating to your old friend’s new house or exploring exotic Pacific islands. The search engine giant’s Google Maps Engine app for Android is designed to let you view custom maps created by you or users of the service by using map builder API. For the uninitiated, Maps Engine – a service which Google introduced back in 2011 – allows you to plot small spreadsheets of locations, and use styling and drawing options to customize the appearance of the maps to however you please. The mobile app provides a simple way to explore those maps from your phone or tablet.
The interface of Google Maps Engine looks fairly similar to that of the Google Maps app. In fact when launched, the app shows you the regular Google Maps, though you wouldn’t find all the functionality of the former in the new tool. The purpose of this app is to provide users with a way to view their custom maps or those that are created by other users, business and organizations. There is a search bar at the top that allows searching for places using information stored in the custom map’s infrastructure. That said, you can also tap the GPS button to detect your current location.
Thanks to its Google Maps-esque UI you won’t face any difficulty navigating around. To open a custom map, simply hit the button at the bottom-left, followed by tapping ‘Open a map’. Maps Engine will then let you select custom map content from your account, i.e. the maps you’ve built using the Maps Engine service. In addition, there are some neat samples available for a headstart, like NASA’s light map, World Bank GDP growth rates, and some National Geographic maps such as Atlantic Ocean Floor, Classical Lands of the Mediterranean etc. All you have to do is tap your desired item from the list to open the map layer in the main viewing area.
The custom maps work exactly like the full-blown Google’s Maps. You can use pinch-to-zoom gestures as well as navigate around by swiping your fingers over the map layer. The included samples look really neat and give an overview of what to expect from this app with custom-built maps by other organizations.
The app is available for free at Google play Store. Google offers Map Engine Lite web service to everyone for free, though Google has just released an enhanced Map Engine Pro service with more features for businesses. All your maps will be saved to your Google account and will be accessible from the app.