The world at your fingertips

4 08 2010

Disposable App of the month

This month’s entry comes from the internet giants, Google, in the shape of Google Earth. For those who’ve never come across the Disposable App monthly feature, here’s a quick rundown of what it entails. Each month I pick an App, which is worth trying out on your iDevice, but is unlikely to occupy your interest for a long period of time, resulting in it either lying dormant or getting deleted. Other examples, of Disposable Apps, which I’ve covered, are, Lego Photo, Layar and SmileMaker.

The Basics

Category: Travel

Last Update: 14th June 2010

Seller: Google Mobile

Price: Free

Size: 12.8 mb

Version: 3.0.0

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 2.0 or later.

The Review

Google have taken their highly popular desktop Application, Google Earth, and shrunk it, so the average user can literally have the entire world in the palm of their hand. The App shares many of the characteristics with it’s older, more established, desktop sibling. Both stream the imagery data into the Application to help save space, however, this trade off means that you’ll need a constant 3G connection, or, more ideally, a WiFi connection, to prevent images becoming pixelated or not loading at all as you zoom further in. Both versions of Google Earth also feature the same rich and immersive environment for the user to search and navigate around.

This is where the similarities end, since both versions take an entirely different route in terms of user input. While the desktop client is constricted to the tried and tested ‘ball and chain’, that is the keyboard and mouse, the Application for iOS devices is freed from this. Rather than point and click, users will swipe, pinch and tap their away around the world, and the end result is a more naturalistic experience. Spinning the Globe around with a flick of your finger tip is far more satisfying and visceral, than clicking and dragging with the mouse. The keyboard and mouse emphasis the separation between the user and the experience being offered by the Application, while, Apps for the iPhone/iPad help blur this distinction.

Despite this, the App serves no really purpose- in effect, it’s no more than a technicial demonstration to prove that it was possible. At best, you can show it off to your friends and family- especially Grandma, “look Grandma, I can Zoom in on your house”, regardless of this, she’ll complain about the screen being too small…Back to the point; the App lacks functionality, partly because it’s a cut down version of the Desktop client. Many of the features are missing and even the simple layers, used to overlay information, is restriced to Wikipedia articles and Panoramio pictures.


The Google Earth App for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad mirrors many of the key founding ingredients of the desktop version, meaning that users can easily transition from one to another. Where the App really is shines, is in how you interact with the content- rather than point and clicking, you are touching, pinching and tapping. However, the App likes practical use- one of the key criteria for it being a disposable App.

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