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OK, stay with me here - APIs are important. Case in point, ever notice how whenever one of your favorite apps uses a built-in Google Maps viewer, you suddenly want to open up the real Maps app? (Read: because the web maps viewer is old and ugly and terrible.) Today, that's all about to start changing. With Google Play Services 2.0[.10], Google's introduced a brand-new vector-based embeddable Google Maps view. That means that instead of sending you to a crappy WebKit browser map, apps can now directly call up the engine that powers the Maps app, and presto: native Google Maps in any app.

This includes all the good stuff, too - 3D buildings, tilt and rotate, layers. It's all there. This is going to make some apps suck a lot less. Real estate app Trulia is set to roll out a new version of its app with the new Maps API tomorrow. The API will work for all Android devices at API Level 8 or above (that's Android 2.2).

Trulia Screenshot

You can check out this 26-minute long video discussing the new Maps API in-depth, here.

So that's awesome item number one. Number two? A Photo Sphere API. What will it allow developers to do? The API is actually pretty limited right now, but it does the one thing you'll actually hope it does - allow you to view Photo Spheres from any app. Using a basic "checker" function, an app determines whether or not a particular image is a Photo Sphere, and if it is, throws you to the Android Photo Sphere viewer.

My big question that isn't exactly answered by Google's blog post is whether or not the viewer is now embedded as in Google Play services, or if this will only work on Android 4.2+ devices. My gut is leaning to the latter, given that Photo Sphere's viewer is probably packed into the new Gallery app somewhere.

The post also sheds a little more light on the workings of Photo Sphere, which as you already know, stores the metadata which the viewer compiles into a sphere in an open format. Specifically, a JPEG file with embedded text-based metadata - it's called XMP, and it's an open format that was actually developed by Adobe. The same format is actually used to generate spherical images in Photoshop.

To enable these new APIs for use on your device, you'll need the latest version of Google Play Services. You can find it below.

Google Developers, Android Developers

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Mike Larrabee

    Hey! Maybe the Google+ mobile app will get photosphere support! Yay!

    • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

      That's what I was thinking! This could be why it didn't have it yet; they were waiting for it to be rolled out to Google Play Services first.

    • Paul_Werner

      Not to change the subject here but I'd like to get Google + native support for GIFs from the app too

  • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

    "My big question that isn't exactly answered by Google's blog post is whether or not the viewer is now embedded as in Google Play services, or if this will only work on Android 4.2+ devices"

    I just tried the panaroma sample app which comes as part of the SDK on an old 2.3.3 device and can confirm it works, so its bundled within the Google Play Services apk.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Awesome - thanks for the info.

  • Camon

    Dear google,

    Play Music API please.

    People who hate Google Music App (aka everyone)

    • Julio M

      Totally left out.

  • Alex Mocaby

    So does this mean we could possibly get a third party maps app with good offline navigation?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Maybe! [I have no idea]

  • Joel King

    XMP also happens to be part of the name of the weapons in Ingress: "XMP Burster".

  • selonmoi

    One potentially scary thing about the new maps API: Maps has gotten extremely heavy. It positively crawls on my Nexus S. It also eats all of my RAM, meaning everything has to restart itself when I leave the app. I wonder what effect adopting the new API might have on other apps. They might become a lot less old-device-friendly.

  • damnson

    Play Music API!!!!

  • Naveen Krishna

    best thing about android is, you dont need to have 4.2 to experience the individual app updates like the. photosphere, maps updates, google play services etc..
    Wonder iOS does it so well