Saturday, 1 November 2008

Google Earth launches on iPhone

Google just released an iPhone version of its popular Google Earth desktop mapping application. There's been a wide range of interesting iPhone applications lately, but few have been as impressive, or as relevant to mobile navigation, as Google Earth on the iPhone. Google has taken the basics of the Google Earth interface and brought them to the iPhone.

Besides bringing the basic Google Earth features to the phone, the iPhone app also displays links to Wikipedia articles and photos from Panoramio. Because Google integrated a browser into the app, you can seamlessly jump back and forth between the app and the web content. Of course, the app also makes use of the iPhone's GPS, though the lack of street names on the satellite images still gives the standard Google Maps application an edge over Google Earth for navigation.

A drawback would be that for some reason Google thought that it would be a good idea for the app to zoom in from space to your last location every time you start the app. Also, while Google Earth on the desktop allows you to add various layers with information, the iPhone app doesn't even have the ability to show a layer with street names (probably due to the limits of the phone's processing power and memory). Finally, Google Earth uses the iPhone's accelerometer to tilt the screen. As long as you are sitting at your desk, this works great, but once you hand your phone to somebody else, the screen will inevitably tilt and move the focus, which can be quite annoying.

All in all, despite the minor gripes above it is great to see Google Earth on the iPhone and hopefully Google will see sense to expand its 3D navigation capabilities to suit the mobile device rather than see it as another desktop-to-iPhone port.

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