Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google Earth on the iPad

Well over a month after iPads hit stores in the US, the folks at Google have finally released an update to the Google Earth application, including native support for the iPad.

It's about damn time.

Previously the only way to use GE on the iPad was using the iPhone app and the pixel doubler. While it's nice that, as Apple puts it, you can choose from over 200,000 iPhone and iPod touch apps in the App Store, iPad owners know the pixel doubler was basically to allow the promotion of the "over 200,000 apps" pitch. This was painfully apparent with the iPhone Google Earth app. The LatLong blog even said "Some iPad users have noticed that Google Earth has been available for the iPad from the very beginning, but until today, this has simply been the iPhone version running in a scaled-up mode." HA!

Now Google Earth is available in much of its glory on the iPad. The layers are the same available from version 2 of the iPhone GE app with the addition of roads as shown below.

The settings button allows easy toggling of the auto-tilt feature which seems to work much better on the iPad. The user gets the sense of picking up a window on the world. As this update will likely be the last one before iPhone 4, I wonder if there will be additional auto-tilt functionality given the addition of a gyroscope. Side-to-side tilt would really add to the user-experience on the iPad, we'll first have to see if it works on the iPhone.

Overall Google Earth works swimmingly on the iPad, but I do have a few complaints and reservations. I don't understand why the Google Earth functionality can't be added in to the Google Maps application. Satellite imagery is already there, add the ability to sign in to your maps account, add more layers and zoom out to globe (as an option) and you've virtually elimnated the need for the Google Earth app all together. Also, there are a couple of bugs that come with signing in with ones maps account. The Google servers see the application as a third party and do not recognize it. That's not too bad in itself but it is a little silly when Google doesn't recognize itself as "Google Earth". I'm assuming this silly little quirk will be fixed in the next update.

Another frustration is that the panoramio icons don't appear in the Google Earth iPad app until the user is zoomed in much farther than in it's PC counterpart. As someone who uses this layer quite a bit exploring exotic areas all over the wolrd, it's sometimes difficult to know where imagery is available.

I was also really hoping to be able to load, create and record tours. I think the iOS would provide a very immersive tour creation platform. Alas, that is relegated to the wish list.

Overall its a vast improvement over the previous release as far as the iPad is concerned but if the functionality could simply be added to the Google Maps application, standard on the iPad, the more streamlined product would likely be better utilized.


Check out my video review on Youtube:

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