Price: $4.99 (9/17 - temporarily free!)
Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
iPhone Integration [rating:3/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:5/5]
Earthscape is a virtual globe application for the iPhone OS. It features both overhead views and 3D/terrain view that shows you the contours of the earth. It is, of course GPS enabled to show your current location, but you can easily swipe the screen to navigate to another location. The app uses the usual pinch method for zooming in and out as well as a double tap to zoom in to a location. Navigation around the globe is amazing smooth for such a small device.
There are limitations to the application though -- you can't look up a location, map an address from your contacts, or store locations. You can only manually move around the globe. While this limits the usefulness of this application, it doesn't limit the coolness of the look and feel.
This latest version includes something very interesting -- location based photos. While this is something that other applications have done for your current location, Earthscape is the first mobile application to place them on the globe -- so you can see exactly where the photos were taken. There are three options for using photos, your Earthscape photos, Earthscape photos from all users, and interesting Flickr photos. Obviously at this time there are more photos available from Flickr, but expect to see more and more Earthscape photos over the next few weeks.
The My Earthscape Photos options allows you to see what photos that you have take in the Earthscape application. Over time this could be interesting to use to see what you have where. The Recent Earthscape Photos option shows these photos from all users. Note that one bad thing is that these photos are not stored in your camera roll -- so once you have taken the photos the only way to see them is in Earthscape.
The third option, and currently the source with the most photos, shows interesting photos from Flickr that are geo-tagged. I think an interesting option for photos in Earthscape would be to allow you to authenticate with Flickr to see only your geo-tagged photos as well. And also upload the photos taken in Earthscape to Flickr.
Another great feature is the integration of location tagged Wikipedia articles. Wherever you see the little Wikipedia w icon you can click to be taken to the article. Useful feature for finding out more about locations you are near or are traveling to.
Here's a short video of Earthscape from the developers that shows the 1.0 version:
The resolution of the satellite images in the United States is just as good as those in Google Maps for places I compared -- though the quality outside the US is not nearly as good. Resolution outside the US is, according to the developers, limited to 15 meter resolution. Not very precise but good enough for regional details. For outside the US you will need to use Google Maps to get higher resolution.
While this is a fantastic toy, currently that's all it is. It's fun to zoom in and out and view other parts of the world. The pictures feature is a huge one and make this program 10x more interesting. But, without the ability to look up a location or address, it remains just a zoomable globe. Still, to me, it's worth the $5 as it provides some great and possibly even educational entertainment.