As if the iPhone weren't seductive enough, Google just released a free app yesterday that increases the gadget's must-have factor exponentially: Google Earth. Now, you can literally zoom anywhere on earth to view detailed maps, using the iPhone's intuitive slide-and-pinch controls to manipulate your position. Tilting your phone allows you to angle the terrain.
BACKPACKER's cartography captain Kris Wagner recently took a spin in Google Earth on his iPhone 2.0, and he reports that while the ability to cruise the planet in the palm of your hand certainly rules, the app isn't without drawbacks. It's slow-ish on all but the fastest wifi networks, and the software seems slow to recognize tilting gestures. Early users also report frequent crashes.
But Google is furiously developing patches to help resolve early issues, and the potential is still overwhelming. There are currently only two layers—Wikipedia and Panoramia location-based photos—but as layers get added, Google Earth on the iPhone could end up being just as robust as the desktop version. With the added GPS functionality of iPhone 2.0, future versions could even render all but the most advanced handheld GPS devices obsolete.
Of course, you can always be like me and just use it to zoom in on yourself every five seconds. "Dudes, look where I am! I'm right here!"