Back when Apple showed off the first iOS 6 beta, there were a paltry 11 cities featured in the spectacular 3-D Flyoverfeature.
I figured a week or two back that the new maps app wouldn’t launch with such a crappy line up, and I was right. With the Gold Master (GM) version of iOS 6 released to developers yesterday, maps just got a whole lot more 3-D cities.
My home town of Barcelona is in there, as is New York, Rome and many others. It’s pretty easy to spot “from the air” which sections of your city have been Flyovered, as they are sharper and more saturated: even when viewed from a distance the satellite view seems to be rendered from Apple’s 3-D data, leaving the surrounding satellite imagery looking rather flat (sorry) and washed out.
The official way to tell if a two finger-swipe will switch to 3-D is to check the little “3-D” badge at bottom left. If Flyover is available it’ll switch to a little building icon.
Flyover is nothing short of spectacular, and aims to take the place of two of Google’s map views at once: Street View and Terrain. It makes a pretty good job of terrain by folding satellite images (or 3-D renderings) over a 3-D map, so you can see the bumps and the mountains right there.
Street View needn’t be worried yet, though. Apple’s rendered streets give a great view of the architecture, but it looks more like an empty, creepy ghost town than Google’s messy everything-goes street-level photos. This typifies the difference between the two companies.
Navigating the 3-D cities is like playing a game. Two finger twists rotate the buildings, and the buildings are drawn in over a black grid as they load. It’s like Tron, or the old PS1 version of Ridge Racer. You’ll be forgiven for taking hours-long virtual tours of cities far away.
Those without access to the developer preview will have to wait until next Wednesday 19th to see Flyover in action. And curiously, Apple’s own site currently lists the 3-D buildings feature as U.S-only.