Hello, dear current and future tripwolves!
My name is Matej. I am an Android developer here at tripwolf, and it is a pleasure to introduce to you a major update of our Android app (which will soon be available for iOS, too).
I am especially happy that I personally had the chance to work on a major overhaul of one very important feature in our app and bring it much closer to its full potential.
The feature I’m talking about is our map.
A good map with offline support is without a doubt one of the most important tools in any would-be traveler’s virtual backpack. Anyone who has ever found themselves lost in an unfamiliar city will surely agree, especially late at night or in the early morning hours, with only the town drunk around to ask for directions. We all know that always ends well.
Out with the old, in with the new, goes the saying, and what better way to introduce you to our new map than by comparing it to the old one.
So what have we improved? The answer is, A LOT:
1. Vector maps – virtually limitless detail
The old map rendering technology we used was entirely based on images, which means that the map was divided into a grid, and each square was filled with an actual image tile representing that geographical area at the current zoom level. This could mean hundreds of small images, multiplied further by the number of zoom levels, because every level has its own set of tiles to show you more or less detail depending on how far away from the surface you are. That’s why loading the map becomes sluggish, as does panning and zooming.
Our new maps are vector-based, which means that most of the information, such as streets, buildings, bodies of water, and so on, is not in the form of images but shapes, defined mathematically and drawn in real time. This makes loading much faster, because we don’t load actual images, just the information that tells the shapes on the map how they should be drawn. This is why you will be able to zoom seamlessly in and out without losing sight of the map, and also pan and move around the map smoothly, even on slower phones.
The new maps feel much more responsive. You don’t have to take my word for it — try it out for yourself.
2. Optimized for high resolution screens
One major weakness of the old system we used was that the texts, including street names, were barely readable on devices with high-resolution screens unless you zoomed in extremely close. The reason for this was the fixed resolution of the images, which was relatively small by today’s standards. This looked acceptable on lower to medium-resolution screens but pretty bad on high-res ones.
Our new map features crystal clear, perfectly readable street names, regardless of the screen resolution or the zoom level. This is thanks to the fact that the size at which elements of the map are rendered is actually based on the pixel density (number of pixels per inch) of the screen you have, so it will scale optimally to show you exactly what you want to see, whether your device screen’s resolution is 480p (Samsung Galaxy S2) or 1080p (Google Nexus 5). This clarity extends to every other element of the map, not only the street names. Zoom in as close as you want, and every element of the map will be just as clear as it was before.
Screenshots of the old and new maps at the same zoom level and on the same device
3. Powerful offline maps
With the old system, we were always constrained by the file size of the maps, and this was especially painful for country maps, which typically cover a large area, so more often than not we had to sacrifice how far in you were able to zoom to keep the size reasonable. As I mentioned earlier, one of the major advantages of a vector-based map is that we can now have more information within the same file size or sometimes even a smaller file size. That doesn’t mean that the map downloads will aways be smaller and faster, because we are making sure that you get the best possible offline map experience available and that once you download one of our maps, you never have to look back. You will be able to zoom in as close as you want and see the smallest details, even on the largest country maps, without any roaming costs, just as if you were online. Another notable improvement is the fact that you can choose, within our country and region guides, to download only individual areas of a country or region map, such as specific cities or subregions.
Available maps for the Germany guide
One last neat feature I want to mention here, which can be useful when looking at the map and trying to reach some point of interest while walking through a city, is the fact that you can now make the map follow your location and point of view. Press the “Locate me” button in the top right corner of the map once, wait for it to center on your location, then press it again and the map will start following your point of view, indicated by a transparent blue cone. As you walk, the map will be centered at your current location and will rotate as you turn, so it always shows what is right ahead of you.
I hope you have found this short overview of the new map technology in this version of the tripwolf Android app useful and that you are as excited about it as we are! Of course, this is just the start and the new maps will be available for iOS soon as well.
As always, give the new version a try, leave a comment here, a rating or a review on our Play Store page, or just send us a feedback e-mail and let us know what you think.
And remember, every bit of your feedback helps us make the app better!
Until next time,