By now, most of you have heard all about Apple’s new iPad, their tablet computer. If you haven’t yet, check out Apple’s iPad page for some information, photos and videos. For us, the big question has been how well it’ll handle Google Maps and Google Earth. Before we can answer that, though, we need to look at the hardware.
Unlike the latest iPhones, not all of the iPads have GPS built-in. They all include the digital compass and accelerometer, but only the 3G versions come with a GPS. It’s assumed that Apple figured a GPS would be less useful if you didn’t have a 3G connection, which I suppose is fair. However, I could use my Cradlepoint with it when I’m out and about, and others could use devices like the Verizon MiFi. Ultimately though, keeping the price at $499 for the basic model was a great decision, and removing GPS from the low end models certainly helped with that.
Speed-wise, everyone that has tested one says that it’s noticeably faster than the iPhone 3GS. Because it runs “almost all” of the iPhone apps, we can assume that the Google Earth app will run on here, and run well. Google Earth 2.0 for the iPhone is excellent, and it should translate well to iPad.
The next question is whether or not Google will update Google Earth specifically for the iPad. While most iPhone apps will run without a problem, they need to be scaled up to fill the screen, resulting in a chunkier image. If they were to rewrite the app specifically for the iPad, they could make it look much sharper. A year ago, I would have been quite sure they’d do it. Now, with Google’s push toward Android, it’s hard to say. Will Google put in the effort to update Google Earth for the iPad, or will more of their focus shift to Android? If we find out anything one way or another, we’ll be sure to let you know.
There had been speculation that Apple will be replacing Google Maps on the iPhone (and thus on the iPad) with their own system after the purchase of Placebase, but that’s not the case — at least not yet. Google Maps and StreetView look excellent on the iPad, but ultimately seem to be almost identical to the iPhone versions. Check out the video below for a quick look at it:
Without a doubt, Google Maps on the iPad looks to be a great experience. Here’s another short video of Google Maps on there, with Apple’s Phil Schiller demoing it. The speed and smoothness of the application is quite remarkable:
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one in the near future, fire up Google Earth and let us know what you think of it.
[UPDATE, June 2010 — Google Earth has been officially released on the iPad.]