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Enhancements galore! Google updates Earth, Chrome and Google+ Android apps

by Marty Gabel

It’s been a big day for Google, with some exciting announcements at the opening keynote speech at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. In addition to a new tablet, new streaming device and a freshening up of its Android OS, Google just pushed some big updates to some of its most popular apps in Google Play.

Google Earth goes high-res

A long-standing favorite on Android (and iOS devices), Google Earth is now at version 7.0. Taking advantage of the 3-D mapping technology the company revealed a few weeks ago, Google Earth’s visuals are now automatically created from 45-degree aerial imagery and can pick up even the tiniest of details. Only a handful of cities are covered so far including the San Francisco Bay Area, Boulder, Boston, Charlotte, Lawrence, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Portland, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Cruz and Tampa in the U.S. Right now, Rome is the only international city to get the new high-res treatment so far. iOS users will get the update on their devices soon, too.

Chrome no longer Beta

Google finally removed the beta tag from its popular browser, and it’s now simply known as Chrome. The browser will be the default browser for the new Nexus 7 tablet, but it’s also available for any user who has a tablet or smartphone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (or later). The differences between this new, stable release and the previous beta version are hard to spot, but apparently users can expect some minor UI tweaks and stability and performance improvements. Chrome is already pretty speedy on Android devices, and syncs up with the desktop version for a seamless browsing experience between smartphone and laptop/PC.

Google+ keeps taking the tablets

Google continues to push out enhancements and improvements to its social networking efforts, despite its less-than-positive reception in the media. Previously only for Android and iOS smartphones, Google+ has been optimized for Android tablets, especially in light of the new Nexus 7 device. Unlike the web-based Google+ stream, the one on the tablet app streams sideways. Google also announced an update to the whole Google+ experience called Events, which offers real-time photo and information sharing during live events, and “Party Mode” so everyone can get in on the fun sharing of media while attending said events.

According to CNET, Google+ will be arriving on the iPad soon, too.

But wait, there’s more...

In addition to the three significant updates above, Google also posted enhancements and updates to its other popular services. Maps can now store offline data so you won’t be caught short if you lose your data connection. YouTube received a new look, with navigation moved to the left side of the screen and the ability to download videos over Wi-Fi in the background. Finally, Google Play Books now lets you tap the top corner of a page to set a bookmark, and embedded video and audio should now play properly within the books themselves.

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