Google Earth adds Street View for your ground-level peeping pleasure
Google Earth for iOS has just been updated to version 7.1 and among the big new features is Street View, just like its cousin, Google Maps, has been enjoying for a while now. According to Haris Ramicthe, the program manager, on the Google Maps blog:
Have you ever wanted to take a tour of Stonehenge or retrace the steps of Christopher Columbus? With the addition of Street View to Google Earth for mobile devices, you can explore many sites from street level right on your mobile device. And with the new streamlined interface, a simple click of the Earth logo in top left will give you quick access to more information through layers like Panoramio Photos and Wikipedia. Just in case you decide to visit these places yourself, Google Earth's improved directions enable you to visualize step-by-step transit, walking and biking directions in full 3D.
Google Earth is also now available in 100 countries. The new interface is an improvement, more like a layered HUD and less obtrusive. (Though hitting the X to get the touring menu to pop up is nonsensical.) My city, Montreal, doesn't seem to be in 3D yet on Google Earth, while it was there on day one for iOS Maps, but that's a personal gripe.
A professional gripe is the terrible mechanic someone at Google dreamed up to access Street View. You grab the little yellow dude at the top right and drag him to the street you want to view. At first it seems cute, but it's utterly undiscoverable and incredibly tedious. It should be accessible via a tap or touch and hold on the place you want to go to. (Though that seems reserved for poorly formatted Wikipedia entries and sticky notes...)
Performance was pretty much on par with iOS 6 Maps, though neither are silky smooth on an iPad 4. The biggest downside is still the multitasking -- every time I switch apps, even for a second, and then go back to Google Earth, it re-animates from the distant earth view. It may not take any long to resume, but perceptively that feels like a much longer process than just re-rendering the buildings from the previously stored position and perspective.
But that's minor stuff. I'm using Google Earth for touring, not navigating. Now if Superman had used it in Man of Steel, maybe he wouldn't have crashed into every damn building in Smallville and Metropolis...
If you've tried it, let me know your thoughts.
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