At long last, Google is releasing Google Earth for the iPhone (and iTouch) tonight (Sunday)! I’ve been expecting this to happen for months. Especially after I saw another Google Earth-like application on the iPhone back in May. Apparently some folks in Australia were first to downloaded Google Earth for the iPhone. CNET has an initial review – and it looks fantastic. I quickly managed to download it – see my updated review below (this app is awesome!). You can click here to download GE for the iPhone from the iTunes app store – it’s free of course. Or you can search the app store from your iPhone. Here is Google’s announcement video which shows the app in action:
And, here is a screenshot (form CNET):
I’ve had a while now to play with GE for the iPhone. Here is my initial review (quick summary: I’m really impressed!):
Looks just like Google Earth when it first comes up. Zooming in with the usual touch motion on the iPhone works just like expected. And, at least on my home WIFI, the speed loading imagery is quite good. Much closer to the normal GE than I expected. In fact, I estimate on my non-3G iPhone I’m getting about 5-7 frames per second update rates zoomed out, and over 10 fps zoomed in closer. Quite good! You definitely feel like you’re using Google Earth.
If you enable “Autotilt” by selecting the preference window (the “i” icon in the lower right) when you lift up your phone vertically the horizon will tilt into view. If you go to somewhere with mountains or other terrain you’ll see it in 3D just like in the normal GE.
Google includes the Panoramio and Wikipedia layers under the “Geographic Web” by default. Click on a blue photo icon when you see one, and it will load the Panoramio photo for that location. hit the “Earth” button at the top of the photo to return back to GE. If you don’t want the icons, or want to get a little speed increase, then turn these off in the preference window.
You also have layers for borders and labels (city names, country names, etc.) which you can also turn off if you don’t need them.
AMAZING – they even support off-line mode just like the desktop GE! If you have no connection, GE will prompt you and let you “continue without network” and will work off your cache. So, if you’ve previously viewed places, you can go back there and still see them with no Internet connection! To test this, you can just put your iPhone in “Airplane” mode (to turn off wireless connections) and then re-start the iPhone GE application.
Tilt your iPhone horizontally for a wider view.
The upper left “magnifying glass” let’s you do a search. This works just like with the normal GE and let’s you search for places, airport codes, or you can enter lat/long coordinates. I’m very pleased with how it zooms just like the normal GE to each location.
The lower left icon is the “locate me” button which will fly you to your current location (using the iPhone location feature).
With this release, there are just the 4 layers mentioned above. You also can not load up other KML files or save your own placemarks at this point. But, I’m sure other features will come in future releases.
The “Help” window is found in the preferences window (or here on the web) and gives tips on the interface. If you use two fingers you can do things like twist your view, tilt the horizon (by dragging two fingers up/down), if you double-tap two fingers you zoom out, double-tap one finger zooms in. The finger interfaces are very intuitive.
Overall I’m very impressed with Google Earth for the iPhone. I’m thrilled I’ll be able to take it with me wherever I go. However, I’m sure performance will be a much slower when I’m on the Edge network instead of with a WIFI connection. All you GE fans with an iPhone – go out there and download it now!
[UPDATE: Here is Google’s announcement of GE for the iPhone.]