Amazon Updates Maps API, Adds 3D Vectoring and Fluid Movement

Amazon recently released Amazon Maps API version 2.0. The mapping API has long enabled developers to add maps to their apps for Amazon’s Fire Tablets and the Fire Phone. The revised API takes Amazon Maps to the next level, thanks to support for 3D vectoring and fluid movement through map environments. 

Amazon’s Maps API has been around for two years. It initially only supported Amazon’s Fire-branded tablets. Amazon added support for the Fire Phone earlier this year. Developers have always been able to use the Maps API to cram maps into any type of application for the Fire OS. Amazon says the new API adds support for 3D landmarks and drawing APIs for circles, polylines, and polygons. It also offers map fragments and support for multiple maps within a single app. The result should be better embedded maps. 

Amazon notes its Maps API operates nearly identically to Google’s Maps API, which means developers who are familiar with Google Maps will feel right at home. Developers shouldn’t have to worry about making changes to their workflow. Porting apps from the old API (or Google’s Maps API) to the new Maps API is a simple, four-step process, thanks to API parity between the two.

Amazon says developers need only: add a reference to the Amazon Maps API v2 library; update the manifest to declare the updated Fire OS API level; rename Google-specific functions to their Amazon equivalent; and strip Google Play Services from the existing library. These steps are all that are required to update an app with Google Maps to an app with Amazon Maps. 

Amazon believes apps updated with the Amazon Maps API v2 will add a lot of value to its Fire tablets and Fire Phone. Developers can place location context within their apps in order to show off 3D vector maps and seamless panning and zooming. Developers can further customize their maps with markers or specific locations, highlight specific neighborhoods, or add circled areas within maps. In short, owners of Amazon’s Fire tablets and Fire Phones should be able to do more with the maps embedded in third-party apps.

Amazon Maps API v2 works with Fire OS 4.5.1 and up, which is the OS on Amazon’s third- and fourth-generation tablets, as well as the Fire Phone. The API requires the Amazon Mobile App SDK. The company provides a more in-depth set of directions for working with the new API on its developer portal. There are tutorials on how to display interactive maps, as well as how to use the markers and objects within maps. 

Based on the sample maps published by Amazon, the updated Maps API can truly help developers flesh out their apps with compelling details. Given their popularity, Amazon’s tablets are a major market worth pursuing.

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.