Google Earth for Android was released today to be able to take advantage of the larger form factor of and robust computing power of Honeycomb tablets.A new version of
The update for Honeycomb adds support for fully textured 3D buildings and an action bar on top of the app for easier search. It will also allow users to "fly to your location" and adds Google Maps layer-like functionality to integrate Google Places, Panoramio photos and Wikipedia notations.
"Moving from a mobile phone to a tablet was like going from a regular movie theatre to IMAX," write Peter Birch, Google Earth product manager on Google's Lat Long Blog. "We took advantage of the larger screen size, including features like content pop-ups appearing within Earth view, so you can see more information without switching back and forth between pages."
The update is intended for Android tablets but is also available for any Android 2.1 (Éclair) devices and above. We tested it on a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate and found that the "fly to" function is quite amusing. The layers of Wikipedia entries, Panoramio and Places could make for an interesting tour guide wandering around a city. Imagine a very sophisticated version of the application "It Happened Here" that is integrated with Google Earth instead of Google Maps (the way it is now). It does not provide quite the deep historical context that It Happened Here does but Wikipedia entries often provide useful facts about a location's history.
On the smartphone, the layers show up in a different window away from the 3D picture you are looking at. On the tablet version the pictures, Wikipedia and Places pop up in the main window without losing the view of the location you are looking at.
It is a solid update to Google Earth. As Google attempts to flesh out the world of Honeycomb-specific applications, it needs to be able to take the lead and release its own build of applications. Google apps optimized by the company itself can make a big difference in whether consumers want to buy and Android tablet.