Google Earth on the Nexus One; Hands-on Review

We discussed Google Earth on the Nexus One when it was unveiled last month, but now it’s officially been released! Frank has had a chance to play with it, and here are some of his thoughts.
Google Earth on the Nexus OneI was excited to find that Google Earth for Nexus One came out today. I’ve really been missing having Google Earth on my phone after my iPhone went swimming with me back in December. Now I can use Google Earth as a handheld mapping tool while we’re sailing from destination to destination. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that all versions of the Google Earth application cache the most recent imagery and data you’ve visited. So, you can visit places you’re planning to go before you lose cell phone service, and still use Google Earth when off line. This applies to the Nexus One/Android version as well.
Google has already released the major highlights to the Nexus One in their blog post yesterday. The one cool new feature is voice recognition for flying to places. I tried “Cartegena, Colombia” (where I happen to be at the moment), and it flew right there. Cool!
The screen on the Android is higher resolution than the iPhone, so the imagery looks really good. It’s one reason why Google was able to add the Roads layer to this version (off by default, look under the “Settings” to turn on the layer), since reading the labels would otherwise be very difficult with lower resolution screens. The other reason is that the Nexus One has a more powerful CPU and graphics rendering capability. The pans and zooms are very smooth on the Nexus One.
There are some things I missed with the Nexus One version:
1) I expected it to take advantage of the motion sensing elements of the phone to allow you to pan or tilt your view. You have to use their “Look around” button and your finger to pan or tilt.
2) They only appear to use the GPS to let you find “My Location”. I had hoped it would let you follow your position and lay a GPS track. Maybe a later version?
3) The ocean is still flat on the Android/Nexus One version (like it is on iPhone as well) – i.e. no 3D bathymetry. I think the Nexus One should be able to handle the Ocean (at least as an option). Although, I guess only a small percentage of users would need or want that, so it’s a reasonable performance impacting constraint.
4) Another feature I was hoping to see would be the ability to load a KML file so you could put your own content on the phone. I found no way to do this with this version. I suspect the Nexus One could handle most reasonable sized KML files just fine. Since it can do the roads layer, I’m sure it could show GPS tracks and other common KML files. I’m sure a future release will do this.
Despite my hopes for more, I’m thrilled to again have GE available on the phone. GE on a phone can be very handy while traveling!

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. George Wallims says:

    Will it work with the blackberry bold?

  2. George — Sorry, but at this point they only have it available for the iPhone and for Android devices running version 2.1 (only the “Nexus One” right now).

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