The Mapbox GL engine uses OpenGL features such as vector rendering and GLSL shaders to make mobile maps fast and fluid. Unlike raster tile-based maps, vector rendering allows you to change subtle aspects of map styles on the fly, show and hide layers, and freely rotate the map and labels, all without needing to reload the map.
Vector tiles are lighter to download than raster tiles, which helps deliver a seamless experience over slow mobile connections. In the future, offline caching will allow your map to be fully functional without a network connection.
Device compatibility can be a difficult problem on Android, so we’ve ensured the SDK will run on devices from API 14 (currently 91.8% of active devices) to the latest API 21. In the near future, this support will be extended down to API 9 (currently 99.6% of active devices).
Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah province of Malaysian Borneo rendered in a dynamic nighttime GL style.
You can continue to render raster tiles, such as this satellite imagery close-up of Manhattan, along with GL vector styles right in the same map.
All of this is part of our commitment to open Android mapping. You can help us build these tools on GitHub. Whether your expertise is Java, C++, OpenGL, the JNI bridge, or device testing, you are welcome to join us.
Hit me up on Twitter at @LeithBade if you have questions or want to talk Android GL.