Google Earth has been a bit of a mystery for me. A couple of months ago, I downloaded the app onto my Motorola Milestone and uninstalled it shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the darn thing on the Android Market ever since. Why ? I have no idea, but I’ve finally come around to writing a test report for it. Enjoy and Happy Holidays !
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Features & Use
Having just acquired a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab, I decided to give Google Earth another try. Right off the bat, I have to admit that Google Earth looks amazing on Galaxy Tab’s huge display !
Google Earth fits perfectly on the Galaxy Tab 7-inch screen. As soon as you start up the app, a 3D globe appears. If you’ve already visited a place the last time around, the globe automatically redirects you to where you left off. Amazing design and works like charm ! Although most of you are obviously familiar with what Google Earth does, I would still like to go over the app’s functions.
Google Earth is represented by a three-dimensional globe. Satellite pictures are layered onto the globe in such a way as to help the user easily navigate around the world. There are no blank spots on Google Earth except for the South Pole. Amazing ! The picture quality varies from place to place. In the big cities (L.A., New York, Sydney etc.) you can see cars, people and even road markings on highways. The quality isn’t that great across the board, however. In Europe, the picture quality is much worse in rural areas where you barely make out individual cars. Thankfully, Google has been working hard to make big improvements even though you have to sometimes wait for months before you notice any major changes.
Obviously, having a fast internet connection is an absolute must when using Google Earth. It’s no fun having to sit there and wait for minutes for a map to load. Surfing on a 3G network should be enough for most maps to load quickly.
By pressing the menu button you access the following :
- Search : Look for places, sights etc.
- My Location : Show you your current location via GPS
- Settings : Here you can adjust whether to have things displayed in 3D. Not recommended for slower devices.
- Layers : Here you can add additional layers of information
- Places/Business : With one click you can access more information on famous places and business around any given location.
- Panoramio Photos : Displays photos taken by other users of any given location.
- Wikipedia : Links locations to respective Wikipedia articles about the location, country or région.
- Borders and Labels
- Google Ocean : Shows locations of famous shipwrecks.
Unfortunately, Google Earth lacks a street view feature (like the one included in the new Google Maps). On the upside, mountains and canyons are displayed in 3D, giving you amazing views of the world’s natural wonders. Slowly but surely, even the bottom of the ocean is being mapped. Although it’s pretty monotonous and blue for the most part, it is possible to come across shipwrecks and coral reefs from time to time.
I have admit that Google Earth has its fair share of problems as well. The 3D pictures are a bit skewed and stretched when looked at from a sharp angle. Also, the search feature seems to be extremely flawed as compared to the PC version of Google Earth. Every time I searched for Egyptian Pyramids or Giza Pyramids, the app came up blank. I just can’t understand why there are different search results on the app and on the computer.
Bottom Line : Google Earth is another amazing free from Google. With its great animation and élégant design, whizzing across planet Earth has never been funer. It’s a pity that the app still has a couple of pesky little problems.
Screen & Controls
To spin around the globe, just move your finger across the screen as if you were actually holding a gum-sized planet in your hands. Zooming in and out is done with the habitual multi-touch gesture. In order to spin the map around, place two fingers on the screen and turn them in the same direction as if turning a knob. Tap the compass on your top right to point your map to the north. (Warning : thèse multi-touch features only work on devices that support Android 2.2 – but not all of them ! Devices such as the Nexus One don’t fully support multi-touch despite running Android 2.2.)
The graphics on Google Earth are impressive and the controls are extremely intuitive. Unfortunately, you can only change your map view if your phone supports multi-touch. This wasn’t an issue on the Galaxy Tab with Android 2.2., however.
Speed & Stability
Google Earth works like clockwork on the Galaxy Tab. Small delays may occur when loading complex map content, but these shouldn't last more than a couple of seconds.
Google Earth is available for free and without any ads.