Earthscape for iPhone reviewed

A few months back, Google Earth Blog revealed a slick new iPhone application coming called Earthscape.  The application is a Google Earth-like program that runs on your iPhone.  It costs $9.99 in the iTunes app store (get it here).

One disappointment is that it’s not yet using the accelerometer to control movement — it’s all done with finger swipes.  That being said, the interace is fairly intuitive and it works well.  The data for the US is quite sharp, although all of the non-US data it limited to 15 meter resolution, which is quite blurry.

One odd thing I found was the transition between 2D and 3D.  While browsing around, it works very much like Google Maps, with a top-down perspective.  If you want to angle your view, you have to click an icon, and you’re suddenly swooped sideways.  This also changes the interface, so you need to use different kinds of finger swipes to navigate in 3D (two fingers to pan instead of just one, one finger will tilt and rotate, etc).  I found that I had a pretty tough time moving around in 3D, but that will likely improve as I get used to it.

The application comes with three layers built in: Borders, City Names and Wikipedia Articles.  All three do exactly what they say, and they’re done well.  I like the way the city names do a quick zoom-up when it’s time for them to display.  The two big items missing are roads and a search box.  Without roads, I had a tough time finding various landmarks (my house, etc).  I still found them, but the yellow labeled roads make life much easier.  A search box would be very useful, too.  I’d expect we’ll see both of those in a future version.

All in all, it’s a very impressive little app.  If you want a great toy to show off your iPhone, this is it.  I think the $9.99 price tag is a bit steep for what it does, but the value is sure to increase as they add more features.

Here is a brief video that Earthscape produced to show off the application:

Here are a few photos I took while browsing around:

3D Earth product in the iPhone

Google Earth Blog has a story about a digital earth product called Earthscape.  Earthscape is a desktop program that aims to be similar to Google Earth (and others).  It may end up being a decent product, but that’s not the point of this post.

At Where 2.0 last week, GEB author Frank Taylor was shown an iPhone application that uses their product.  Not only does it handle the top down view (like Google Maps Mobile), but you can pan down into a 3D view!  Taking it a step further, the application responds to tilting, so you can move the phone around in your hand to change the view.

The application has some work to be done before it can be released, but it shows a ton of potential.  Below is the video that Frank took and you can read more about it in this blog post:

New updates coming for the iPhone version of Google Maps

Rumor has it that the iPhone firmware will be updated to version 1.1.3 next week. Part of that update will include a few new features for the Google Maps app on the phone.

  • One part will be a hybrid view, which the phone currently doesn’t have.
  • The other is the addition of the “My Location” feature, which is already available in the mobile Gmaps for other phones.

I’ve had these features on my Nokia N95 for a while now, so it’s nice to see that they’re finally making their way to the iPhone.

GPS for the iPhone — sort of

Gizmondo has a nice write-up about a GPS-like add-on for the iPhone from Navizon.  Using cell tower data, along with any local wifi that it can find, the software calculates your location to within a few hundred feet.  While it’s not as accurate as real GPS, it provides a nice starting point for driving directions and will push your location to the Google Maps app so it will start at your current location.

The program is free for 15 days, then $24.99.  More details on the Navizon blog.