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App review: Google Earth


Even the most clueless map readers may find it easy to identify directions using pictures rather than lines on a grid.

Reviewed by Karen Tay

Google Earth – for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch
Rating: 3.5/5

Google Earth is one of those websites that can be both a curse and a blessing. A curse because ‘street view’ completely breaches your privacy (I used to park my car on the street near where I lived, and it stayed on that photo for two years), but a blessing at the same time – even the most clueless map readers find it easier to identify directions using pictures rather than lines on a grid.

Therefore, it made sense to download the Google Earth app, which not only has the street view function, but is also attached to Google, which means that you can use the search engine to look up a place before you go there. The app also tells you nearby places (such as eateries), and links to web reviews - a bonus if you’re a traveller or not familiar with that particular part of town.

Google Earth, the app, is definitely very pretty to look at. The satellite picture of earth that pops up as the app loads reminds us just how far humankind have come from the days of black-and-white film and television and computers that took up the whole room.

The app has an auto locate feature, which is pretty standard with most mobile phone maps these days, but the graphics on this surpasses anything else I’ve seen on the market so far.

But, I do have a few reservations about it – namely how long it takes to load up (a couple of minutes, rendering it totally useless if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere), and how it seemed to take up the entire memory of my iPhone, prompting a warning message to pop up on screen telling me to turn the phone off and on again. The beautiful detail that can be admired on the screen of a computer is also fairly useless on such a small screen.

I was tempted to file this one under ‘completely random iPhone apps that serve no purpose but to look pretty’, but after several minutes spent figuring out how to navigate my way around the Google Earth map, the final verdict is that it’s definitely an app that’s more than gimmicky, but could do with more tweaking to improve and refine it. Or maybe I just need to upgrade to an iPad.