Until now Google Maps was the tool to use as a digital map on your iPhone (and iPod Touch). But it’s sexier brother Google Earth is taking over the show, because Google just announced it’s availability.
The biggest advantage of Google Earth over Google Maps is the ability to view the landscape from any angle you want. You can tilt the map in every possible degree. And when adding this up with the capability to view landscapes in 3D, with actual height differences… this makes for an interesting step for the iPhone to become a serious wayfinding tool. And besides the landscapes users themselves can add 3D versions of actual buildings into Google Earth, thus generating realistic looking cities. I would be very happy when driving through Manhattan with a map that can change instantly from a top down overview into a 3D presentation of my surroundings.
And these aren’t even all the extra possibilities… because there is the possibility to import KML files in Google Earth (at least on the Mac and PC version, so hopefully also on the mobile version). This can add an extra layer of interesting data, such as a live broadcast of the weather and traffic. But also events, photographs and air traffic… the possibilities are endless. At the moment there are a lot of different uses, but I bet with Google Earth becoming mobile that a lot of new uses will be found.
Last but definitely not least is the always interesting and good use of the iPhones gyroscope. This subtle, but very effective interaction enables people to easily change the angle of the map. The movement of changing the angle is so natural for people that it will definitely become a good pattern. The only unfortunate aspect is that the hardware can’t detect which direction you’re looking in… but nothing is perfect.
Look at the official video from Google: