Google Earth just got what turns out to be rather a big update. On paper it seems like nothing more than a few interface tweaks and the ability to open KML and KMZ files linked from Safari, but one new bullet point — “Touring support: load tours from the Earth Gallery or from mountain layer” — turns the map app into something entirely different.
First, V6.2.0 does have few other changes and fixes. The aforementioned ability to launch KML and KMZ files in Google Earth when clicked in the browser is actually very useful, letting you browse many travel and outdoor sites for routes and see them in a native app. Also, tapping on the screen to zoom now zooms in on the spot you tapped instead of the center of the screen.
But it’s the Earth Gallery which stands out. You launch it from the wrench at the top of the screen, and you get a sheet which lets you search for anything in the gallery. This includes travel tips, but also route-finding websites.
One of these is Wikiloc, a wiki for sharing GPS routes. I use it to search for places to tour on my bike, or routes that will keep me away from major roads. With the new Google Earth you can not only open these routes directly in the app, but they are actually overlaid in a new layer right there in the app.
It’s super-neat. Activate the layer and the current map gets a lot of little icons showing hiking or cycling routes. Tap one, and it gives an overview of the route, with distance, elevation and so on. Tap again to show the route on the map as a thin white line. You can’t do a fly through like you can in the desktop version, but it’s a great way to fond a route when you’re out and about.
As ever, Google Earth is free. If you have any interest in the outdoors whatsoever, you should be downloading it for your iPhone or iPad right now.