Google Earth on the Nexus One

Earlier this week, Google unveiled the “Nexus One”, an Android-powered cell phone manufactured by HTC with lots of input from Google.
During the keynote presentation when the phone was unveiled, they showed off a version of Google Earth on the phone, and the app will be available for Android devices soon. While the app looks very similar to the iPhone version, there are some key differences.
The advantages of each:
Nexus One

  • Voice Commands: With Google Earth open, tell it where you want it to fly and it’ll go there. The video below shows an example of this.
  • High resolution: The Nexus One’s screen is a touch bigger (3.7″ vs. 3.5″ on the iPhone), but has much higher resolution — 800×480 vs. 480×320 on the iPhone, resulting in a much sharper view of the earth.
  • Faster Processor: The processor in the Nexus One is quite a bit faster than the processor in the 3GS, which should make the application run more smoothly. However,due to the higher resolution, the application needs to deal with more than double the pixels. Until we can get them side-by-side, it’s hard to say which one will run better.


  • Multi-touch: This is really the only advantage that the iPhone has, but it’s a good one. Instead of having to pull various sliders around on the screen, you can just use two fingers to zoom, pan, tilt, etc. Holding the phone sideways and using your thumbs is a great way to do it.

Since the time that video was produced (with Google Earth version 1.0), Google has released version 2.0 of the app with some nice enhancements. Among them is synchronization with your “My Maps”. No word on whether or not that feature is included in the Android version.
While it’s fun to talk about the small differences in Google Earth on the two platforms, the two versions of Google Maps aren’t even close. The Android version is simply amazing, and it’s only getting better with the Nexus One. The main difference is that the Android version includes free turn-by-turn navigation. Just hold up the phone, tell it “navigate to xx” and it’ll fire up Google Maps, locate your destination and start taking you there! It’s very slick. In fact, when Google unveiled it, stock prices of the major GPS navigation companies (Garmin, TomTom, etc) dropped quite sharply.
For more information about Google Maps on Android, check out the latest entry on the Google Lat Long 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.


  1. Another advantage of the iPhone version is that it is actually available.

  2. John — Great point! I’m not sure when they’re releasing the Android version, but I’d expect it fairly soon. Once nice thing about Android is that once the app is ready, they can release it — no need for the two week review like Apple does. 🙂

  3. Paul van Dinther says:

    It is almost as if Google doesn’t want their phone to be better than the ITouch. The single touch interface with Google Earth looks awkward when compared to Google Earth on my sons IPod Touch. which not only makes zooming easy but also rotation and orientation.
    Having played with that device it is obvious that multi touch is the new norm. It is no wonder Apple keeps the lead. The hires screen alone won’t be enough.

  4. Paul — I don’t think that’s the case. No Android device in the US supports multi-touch, so it’s not a Google Earth-specific problem. It’s apparently because of some patent that Apple holds. Some non-US Android phones have multi-touch, and I’ve heard you can hack the US ones to support it as well.
    I certainly agree that it makes a BIG difference when using Google Earth. I compare it using a mouse vs. a SpaceNavigator on your computer. A mouse is ok, but a SpaceNavigator turns it into a whole new world.

  5. This is exactly the same what we are talking about. There is update released from which you can make it multi-touch. I wonder why they don’t do it before releasing it.

  6. Apple doesn’t own any patent on multi-touch. At one point, they also claimed to own a patent on the multi-touch scroll gesture on Mac. Then they were sued by the company who actually own the patent in question.

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