Google's neato 3D city view arrives on iOS today

Google has brought its new 3D city view technology to its Google Earth app on iOS as part of an update that goes out today.

A 3D view of San Francisco in the newly-updated Google Earth app for iOS.
A 3D view of San Francisco in the newly-updated Google Earth app for iOS. Google

Months ahead of when Apple plans to bring its own photorealistic 3D maps to iOS, Google has beaten the company to the punch.

Google today is updating its Google Earth app on Apple's platform to include the same 3D imagery it showed off in early June. That same feature rolled out to users on Google's Android in late June.

iOS users are getting those same 14 regions, including Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and others. As Google adds more 3D cities to its database, both those platforms will get them at same time.

So just how soon will Google get some more 3D cities in its repertoire? It's in the works says Peter Birch, a product manager on Google's geo team.

"By the end of this year, we're targeting getting coverage for 300 million people, and that's really just this year," Birch said in an interview with CNET. "We're looking to add and expand to that."

That process, which Google detailed in-depth during a presentation last month, involves doing strategic fly-overs of metropolitan areas, and capturing multiple angles. Google then sticks together high-resolution imagery with local geometry to create 3D tiles that users can view from any angle.

But to present all those polygons takes some horsepower, meaning you'll need a newer iOS device to use it. That would be Apple's second- and third-generation iPads, or the iPhone 4S. Users on older models will still be able to use all the other features, Birch says, they just have to be running iOS 4.2 or later.

Along with the 3D feature, the update includes a new tour guide feature that lists cities of interest, and flies users to that location. Google demoed that at its maps event in June, noting that people could use it to learn more about locations they might want to visit.

One question that remains is whether Google will release an additional maps app for iOS to make up for the fact that Apple is going with its own mapping tiles and 3D features in iOS 6 -- something that gets rid of Google's street view feature, as well as public transit data. When asked, Birch said simply that the company wanted to get its maps on every platform.

"We love maps here, and we are really trying to build the best, and most useful and comprehensive maps that we can, and to make that available to our users wherever they are," he said.

Update at 9:15 a.m. PT: The feature is now live in a version 7 update. Google has its post about it here.

 

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