Google has announced a new version of Google Earth for Android that promises “an enhanced 3D experience, quicker updates to the map, and an easier way to view your KML files in Earth”. It has some interesting new rendering technology, and the ability more easily load KML files is an important step. I will be giving a more detailed look at the new Google Earth App for Android soon, including an analysis of the new rendering and KML support features. Here’s a screenshot Google provided of the new 3D look.
What is most significant about this announcement and release is that Google says this is the “first major 3D overhaul since Earth launched more than 10 years ago“. For the past couple of years, Google has not been making significant new updates to Google Earth. This is something we have been quite concerned about, since there hasn’t been a major update to the desktop version in almost 2 years. I wrote about these concerns in February, and Google’s Brian McClendon – who leads the Google Maps, Google Earth and other geographic products – promised they were planning to continue support for future Google Earth and KML development. This is the first step in delivering on the promise.
A significant hint at this new development effort is that the new Google Earth app now utilizes the Google Maps dataset. Always in the past, Google Maps and Google Earth used two different databases. That is why the roads and city names and other information often did not agree between the two products. The new Google Earth app definitely accesses current mapping data used in the Google Maps platform.
The new app doesn’t just have new data, it is a complete re-write to the underlying Google Earth underlying 3D model. That’s what they meant by an “overhaul“. I will explain more about this in the upcoming review, but we have discovered the entire geometric model is different. This is very significant and hints that Google is probably already working on developing a new desktop version of Google Earth that will utilize this new model and access the same unified database of mapping data! We are excited!