Google Earth has a Honeycomb makeover

Google has released a version of Google Earth for Android devices "to take full advantage of the large screens and powerful processors that this exciting new breed of tablets had to offer".

The update brings support for 3D building renderings, a "fly to your location" feature, a new action bar that sits above the mapping action letting you layer up as you please, fitting in with the other Honeycomb optimised apps.

"Moving from a mobile phone to a tablet was like going from a regular movie theatre to IMAX," said Peter Birch, Google Earth product manager.

"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.

Although the new app works with Android devices 2.1 and above, you'll need to be rocking Honeycomb to get the full list of features. It's out now, and available in the Android Market so we've been playing with it.

We'd already installed the regular version of Google Earth, so it was a simple update for us on the Motorola Xoom. It's great to see things like menus in the action bar, as it gives that Honeycomb-optimised twist that makes apps that little bit more consistent on tablets.

In terms is rendering if doesn't look much different as it was silky smooth before, but easy access to those action bar shortcuts is welcomed, zooming from a whole Earth view to your house is pretty cool. Just like Google Maps, you get to rotate with a two finger swivel, and change the viewing angle with a two finger swipe.

If we have a criticism, it's that Google Earth sometimes seems irrelevant alongside Google Maps, but we love the fact that it will fly from place to place as you enter details in the search box, whereas Maps will just relocate and redraw the map.

The 3D buildings now appear on the regular map (once enabled in the Layers menu) and they are textured too, so look better than the grey boxes you'll find in the map view of Google Maps, so perhaps that is justification in itself.

Great fun, free and Honeycomb optimised, Google Earth will easily eat chunks of your day as you look up your school, old house and favourite pub. Download and enjoy.



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