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Google optimizes Google Earth for Android Honeycomb tablets

May 5, 2011 |  2:04 pm

Colosseum

Google released an update to Google Earth on Thursday, optimizing the 3-D mapping software for use on Android tablets.

The update marks the first time that 3-D buildings in Google Earth have been available on any mobile device -- until Thursday, the 3-D views were only available on the desktop version of Earth, Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic said in a statement.

The tablet-optimized version of Google Earth is available for tablets running Android Honeycomb, which is Google's mobile operating system built specifically for tablets.

"When we launched Google Earth in 2005, most of us were still using flip phones," Peter Birch, a Google product manager, wrote in a blog post. "At the time, the thought of being able to cart around 197 million square miles of Earth in your pocket was still a distant dream. Last year, that dream came to fruition for Android users when we released Google Earth for Android."

But although Google Earth for Android was a good fit for Android phones, Android tablets with larger touchscreens weren't taken care of as the company would have liked, Birch wrote.

Hence Thursday's tablet-minded update.

"We've added support for fully textured 3-D buildings, so your tour through the streets of Manhattan will look more realistic than ever," Birch said. "There's also a new action bar up top, enabling easier access to search, the option to 'fly to your location' and layers such as Places, Panoramio photos, Wikipedia and 3-D buildings."

Moving from a mobile phone to a tablet was akin to the transition from a regular movie theater screen to an Imax screen, he said.

"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," Birch said.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of Google Earth from a tablet running the Android Honeycomb operating system. Credit: Google

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