How to play Minecraft Earth, now with smelting and crafting


Minecraft Earth lets you build a world on your phone using the world around you.

Angela Lang/CNET

Explore, gather items and find monsters in an AR world on your phone. Sounds like Pokemon Go from Niantic, right? It’s not. It’s Minecraft Earth, Microsoft’s new augmented-reality app for iOS and Android phone. 

Over 10 years, we’ve played the blocky game on desktop and mobile devices, on consoles and VR headsets, and even got excited about a promised Minecraft movie. But Minecraft Earth could represent the next big phase for the Minecraft, taking the crazy-popular lo-fi sandbox game off your computer screen and putting it in the real world, where you gather resources, encounter mobs, build structures and have adventures with friends and strangers, all on your phone.

Minecraft Earth is the latest attempt to transform gaming on mobile phones through AR. Mobile gaming will generate $68.5 billion by the end of 2019, making up 45% of the global games market, according to Newzoo. Augmented reality and virtual reality are pegged as the future of immersive gaming, and while they haven’t taken off yet, a growing audience of gamers is taking to the streets to play not just Pokemon Go and Ingress, but also Harry Potter Wizard’s Unite. (Consequently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks Facebook can save AR.)

Minecraft Earth is available right now in select regions to Android and iOS players who signed up for a prerelease version of the game. Microsoft said it intends to roll out the game publicly country by country through the fall. I’ve been playing betas and early access versions of the game since getting access in early September, and here’s my experience so far with Microsoft’s new AR game.


Trees, a cow, chests and other tappables on the Minecraft Earth map.

Screenshot Clifford Colby/CNET