I've always been a fan of Google Earth. Ever since it was first introduced I've always thought the concept behind it, was incredible. Having the ability to virtually surf the globe, and search in any country, state, region, city, town or street and visually fly to it, get walking or diving directions to it, or simply see and read about the surrounding area via various Wikis, was (and still is) almighty powerful stuff - But really, Who am I kidding? You already knew that!
Up until October 28th 2008, Google's 'Earth' service, a spherical flurry of thousands of satellite images which depicted the planet in 2D (and shortly after, 3D), was available on PC, Mac and a selection of chosen mobile handsets. When Google announced Google Earth for iPhone though, I was, like most of you, quietly excited. Not just because this was a mobile version of Google Earth, but that this was a gesture-based version of Google Earth, on the iPhone - and with its built in GPS unit, we now had location-aware mapping, tied into the largest search engine on Earth. That, was exciting.
When the app finally debuted on the App Store, many people including me thought Google had gotten it as right as they could. Spot on, in fact. A stable, feature-packed release which (without exaggeration) literally put the globe in your pocket. Okay it ran a little clunkier on the 3G than the 3GS, but that was to be expected.
If there's one thing I like about the App Store though, it's the update process. It forgets the old, and ushers in the new. Most of the time, updates to said app(s) happen fairly frequently. Google being Google though, their 2.0.0 update (a major milestone release) has been nearly 10 months in the making, and last Monday saw it's debut on the store Has it been worth the wait? .. Well, somewhat. While this release doesn't bring too many ground-breaking features, it does have some nice additions. For example, if you've been waiting to view maps you've saved on Google Earth Desktop on your iPhone, your sure going to like this release. A new feature in the software aptly named 'My Maps' now allows you to view any and all previously saved 'Maps' on the software's desktop counterpart(s), on your iPhone. Not only that, but these 'saved' maps can include layers upon layers of information. For example; itinerary, route lines, traffic, and other data. This essentially means you can no create truly 'personalised' maps - and it works well!
Another nice addition I liked was the use of greatly enhanced visual feedback when tapping objects. Before, it was kinda a guessing game of which 'Wiki' or place marker you were selecting, (especially if you happen to be selecting from a group of similar wikis or places). Now in 2.0.0, tapping on a wiki or object results in a light glow of that object, meaning you can differentiate, more easily. It's still not perfect, but it's a helping hand. Alongside this 'icon glow', you'll also notice that the presentation of place information is much more streamlined, and easier to read.
And that's it! Apart from those two main new features, the app is said to have had its overall performance enhanced - although I have to be honest and say it wasn't really all that noticeable (to me anyway!), and of course Google took this opportunity to add support for a variety of new languages, brings the total supported up to 31 (from the previous 18)!
My only gripe now is I wish they'd update some of the satellite images in their database. Some of them are what? 2003? .. Ugh. You can read more about this update in detail over on The Official Google Blog.