Google Earth (Android) can finally go back in time to compare satellite photos

Google Earth on Android will finally acquire a feature already present in the application for PC and Mac: the ability to go back in time to compare satellite photos. The necessary piece of code is already present in the current version and can be activated on rooted smartphones.

Google earth
Credit: Unsplash

Google Earth is one of the oldest mapping applications available on the web. Most users today prefer Google Maps to travel, and especially to navigate and find your way practically everywhere. Gold, Google Earth keeps a strong user base, because of its very advanced features, although this mainly concerns the PC / Mac application (whose full name is Google Earth Pro).

Google Earth allows you to create complex scenarios on a map, such as a tourist trail, games, and many other types of rich experiences. It is possible to add photos, detailed comments and links. Google Earth Pro also has another feature that you may have used before if you are a farmer, surveyor, or homeowner in conflict with the undeclared work of one of your neighbors: the history of satellite images.

Google Earth can show you how places change over time

google earth ruins stone

Google Earth Pro normally displays the most updated satellite photo of a given point.. But it is also possible to see how the satellite photos of the same place have changed over time. Often with the possibility of going back several years. To do this, you have to download and install Google Earth Pro on your computer, open the program, go to the desired location, click on Historical then choose one of the available dates that interests you.

However, for years, this is only possible in the Google Earth Pro app : impossible to access these images from the web version, and even less from the Android application. So many people do not yet know that this very useful feature exists. In any case, it is not yet possible to quickly consult the evolution of a place from your smartphone.

But according to our fellow YouTuber Kyler Jeffrey, it seems that Google has finally decided to deploy this history in all versions of Google Earth, to start with Google Earth for Android. According to Kyler Jeffrey, the Google Earth application has recently included flags, or experimental values, which allow you to display this history of satellite photos directly in the Android application.

How to test satellite photo history in Google Earth (Android) before everyone else

Google Earth Android
Credits: Google

This means that if you have a rooted smartphone and you know how to display the experimental preferences of the application you can now test the functionality on your Android smartphone. Kyler Jeffrey also explains the brand to follow in detail:

  • Follow the instructions specific to your smartphone to “root” it, that is to say break the Google locks that prevent you from accessing advanced features
  • Download and launch Google earth then close the application
  • Download and open prefedit
  • Go to the line data / data / / shared_prefs / phenotypePrefs.xml and check that debug_menus is defined as TRUE

The developer also offers an alternative procedure depending on your Android version:

  • Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to “root” your smartphone
  • Install and open termux
  • Copy and paste each of the following lines and hit Enter to execute them:

pkg install -y nano, termux-setup-storage


cd data / data / / shared_prefs && nano phenotypePrefs.xml

  • In this file, verify that debug_menus is defined as TRUE
  • Save and exit

Once these operations are completed, you can launch Google Earth:

  • Launch Google Earth
  • Go to the Hamburger menu
  • Scroll all the way down to find the Experimental Features menu
  • Activate all
  • Find a place

You can now view older satellite photos available in Google’s cloud. Note in passing that you can go back more or less far depending on the geographical location, since everything depends on the images that Google has in its possession. In some cases, we can go back as far as the thirties, while in others it is only possible to go back a few years, at most.

Also read: Google Earth – quiz, guided tours… Research is finally fun!

Obviously the presence of a piece of code related to the functionality suggests that Google is about to offer it in the standard version of Google Earth available on the Play Store.. However, the firm has not formalized the change for the moment.

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