Google Earth for Android tablets updated; now includes 3D buildings!

Google Earth on mobile devices just took a big step forward with the release of Google Earth 2.0 for Android, with a special emphasis on tablets. It has some great new features, but is still lacking some of the features that we were hoping for.
When I purchased my Xoom a few months ago, I showed how well Google Earth ran on there, despite only having the scaled-up phone version to use. Now that the software has been customized specifically for tablets, it’s quite amazing.
The big addition to this release is 3D buildings! Every 3D building that you can view on your desktop is now available on your Android tablet. The buildings use the same high quality texture as the desktop version, though there’s no anti-aliasing built-in so things can look a bit choppy around the edges. Here’s a quick video showing how it works:


Curiously, it doesn’t appear to load any of the gray buildings from Google Earth — only the ones that are textured. Nor do any of the new 3D trees load, though that’s not a big surprise at this point.
In addition, they’ve worked on the “action bar” at the top of the screen to make it easy to search for locations, toggle layers, reorient yourself, etc. It’s very well done.
Other nice new features include the new content pop-ups when viewing items like photos, as shown here:
colosseum.png

The photo feature is nice, but it’s difficult to view the picture full-size. Rather than clicking the photo itself, you need to click the small Panoramio link below it. Not very intuitive, though the overall photo viewing experience is quite nice.
In terms of performance, it certainly doesn’t run quite as smoothly when you’ve got the buildings enabled, but it holds up quite well. Much of that will be based on the capabilities of your tablet, but the Xoom with its dual-core processor handles things quite well. It’s very apparent that they worked hard to optimize performance on this version.
The only real downside is that they’ve ignored most of Frank’s list of things the tablet version should have, specifically KML support. Having some degree of KML support on the tablet version would be quite nice, and I’m sure we’ll see it someday. We believe that the new Android tablets are fully capable of supporting all of the features from the desktop version, and it’s a matter of Google taking the time to port those features over.
If you have a Xoom, or one of the other few Android 3.0-enabled tablets, give it a shot and let us know what you think!
(via Google Mobile Blog)

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.



Comments

  1. I appreciate the effort made by Google to reach for more platforms and users. But I am having trouble to understand why they disperse their energy at building and maintaining so many different code bases. Desktop, plug-in, iPhone, iPad, Android mobile and tablets, …
    Without too much analysis (so I could be wrong) I would see WebGL as being the unifying technology that will (soon enough) run in the whole stack of devices.
    Plus, WebGL would allow developers to hack deeper into the application (enhanced graphics, extended 3D capabilities, fast computation on GPU, etc…)
    Business-wise, this would not hurt their offer for “pro” services as these are mostly data related, not client dependent. And they can always keep the desktop application for enterprises.
    So, either I am completely wrong, or they already are silently working on it. But I can’t imagine they just missed that.
    Have a look at http://www.webglearth.com and let me know if this is not an interesting direction.

  2. Please get a tripod

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