Google Maps, the preeminent cross-platform mapping utility, just received an update.
Per the app page on Google Play, the new build includes:
â€¢ Filter search results for restaurants by cuisine type
â€¢ See your Google contacts when searching for addresses
â€¢ Business owners, claim your listing page to manage your presence on Maps
â€¢ Bug fixes
The update is rolling out now; Google Maps remains free on the Play Store.
Scout, the voice navigation utility from industry heavyweight TeleNav, is getting a pretty nice update.
Most notably, the update brings interesting collaboration tools; now, it is possible to chat with friends and family from within the app. Thus, meetups and more are easily arranged.
Chats can be initiated via the devices address book.
The user interface has been retooled somewhat. Now, upon opening the app, a “Me” icon is shown. In this, the app ties in even further to the username associated with the signed-in account. At the bottom, there are virtual buttons for Home, Chat, Meet Up and Me. the “Me” portion now houses the account and settings information. Here, one can download maps and such.
All in all, at first glance, the app feels cleaner and more streamlined. The changelog states the app is easier to navigate, and that certainly seems like it is the case.
We had an opportunity to reviewScout a while back, and we mostly loved it. We look forward to checking out the new build more formally.
Scout is available for free (with optional in-app purchases) on the Play Store.
Google Earth, as well as many other online map services, all suffer from one simple flaw: they’re online. But wherever you are, now you can have a map service that doesn’t require online connection. PDF Maps, an immensely popular app, jumped over from iOS to Android, and is available at Google Play Store. It’s not a single map service, but rather, a collection of maps, which can be exchanged and modified at will. PDF Maps by Avenza can be downloaded from here: PDF Maps on Google Play
Even before Google had its name appropriated as a verb, MapQuest accomplished the same thing. MapQuest opened up the door to so many road adventures, and I still have stacks of printouts. In the days of preceding standalone GPS units and mobile software, TripTiks and printouts were what the cool kids did.
With decades of cartographic experience under the belt, MapQuest is almost made to make mapping products, and MapQuest for Android looks to explore that premise.
The user interface was clean, and looked functional without being cramped. The opening map showed my location with GPS on. Graphically, the mapping portion retained a business-like feel that i would have expected from MapQuest, with pinch-to-zoom working admirably. The navigation looked crisp, with focus seemingly given more to touch functionality than loud looks. The program switched to landscape effortlessly. Clean arrows and distance icons accompanied the mapped route.
Off the bat, there were fixed buttons to search for staples like food, accommodations, gas, hospitals and miscellaneous entertainment on the concealable and sliding bottom dock. I found this to be pretty convenient; especially since looking stuff up through the dock while navigation was quite easy. The search functionality did work well, and when available, I could access business location and “go” to the location. The Action tab was also a nice idea; it gave me access to a menu that allowed me to list written directions or edit the route on the fly. The voice used was faintly human, and it did an adequate job of communicating street names concisely. I especially liked the map touching functionality, whereby I was able to touch a point on the map and generate a route to it. I also found that the app re-routed pretty well as well.
Option-wise, the developer adds in toggles for satellite and nighttime views, giving the app a bit more versatility in different situations. It also boasts the ability to show real-time traffic, traffic cams and store map tiles locally.
I would have liked a more vibrant day view, and more options off the initial data entry or search. Giving multiple choices of navigation can be a positive, especially in places the driver is familiar with.
All in all, MapQuest is a great online option… good enough to pay for, in my opinion. The price makes it that more appealing, and it does compare favorably with the Android platform heavyweights.
Frankly, navigation applications are not entirely scarce on Android, as there are quite a lot of options for people interested in convergence. What is a little less common, and invariably much coveted are offline solutions.
This is where industry heavyweight TomTom looks to fill in the blanks. TomTom USA for Android is a solution that works online as well as offline with downloadable maps. Thus, the user is not held to ransom by finicky data connections.
As expected, the download was fairly large, and the app warned me of such.
TomTom comes with a packed feature set. Aside from the expected voice directions, it also had multi-point travel functionality, and the ability to work when my device was in portrait or landscape. For basic navigation, I was presented with a few travel options: I could choose a bike option, walking, an “eco” route (one that cut down on stop and go), or I could choose to drive with the shortest or quickest route.
There were several other customization options as well; I found plenty of built-in themes for both daytime and nighttime navigation. I could also change the type of voice. A lot of care seemed to be ascribed to making the user experience as nice as possible. For every generated route, I was able to look at the map and written directions, as well as a demo of the route. I could also get an alternate route, avoid portions of the upcoming route and even create an off-route waypoint. This waypoint could be an address, a recent destination or a point of interest. I also was a fan of the lane guidance and the way the app automatically re-routed me when it determined I went off grid. It worked quite well without signal.
One important piece for me was the fact that TomTom worked well in the background, even with music playing. It worked with my contacts, and the app also offered free lifetime updates, which is a biggie. Updated traffic was an extra in-app purchase. Now, considering the cost of the app, some folks may balk at the extra cost associated with getting traffic warnings. I was not able to to get TomTom to pop up as an option when invoking navigation from a Google search, and I was not able to figure out how to use or generate coordinates, which is something that I actually use often. This is something that is good to have in a pinch, and I would have expected this in this app.
Still, for folks looking for an offline option that is backed by good reputation, TomTom might fill the void.
Scout is the newest, award-winning Android voice-directed navigation app from TeleNav Inc. Don’t call it a comeback…
Full disclosure: I am a fanatical advocate of device convergence. I want one device that does a lot of things very well. I want functionality in the palm of my hand. Since my phone is with me most of the time, it makes sense that it serves as the hub. Much has been made about the hastened obsolescence of secondary devices by smartphones, and Scout does make a strong case for the retirement of standalone GPS devices.
Scout seemingly shares the same engine with its older brother TeleNav GPS Navigator, but where the original is nice to look at, Scout goes for statuesque. The UI is sharp, with colors contrasting well, and it looked bright and inviting.
There is a clear effort to make the application more social. Billed as a way to discover places and get there, I thought Scout mostly succeeded in living up to its lofty self-imposed premise. I noticed that the app pulled in information about local weather on the Dashboard. The Places tab gave me GPS-generated locations categorized by type (like Lodging, Food, ATM and even wi-fi spots).
And, of course, there was the Drive functionality, which was really nice. I was able to set up my Home and Work addresses for easy retrieval later. Entering an address got the software going, and it quickly got me three color-coded optional routes, with estimated times and distance superimposed on a map which, allowed me to visually compare the routes.
The navigation “voice” sounded human. Fortunately, the dialogue wasn’t overdone, as can happen with some apps. The reminders were concise and timely, and the audio guidance could be set to directions, traffic, both or neither. The languages could be toggled between English and Spanish, and I had the options of picking metric units or imperial units. The voice input worked well for me, and I was able to switch back and forth between 3D and 2D. I also appreciated how, when set to auto, the device automatically gives a bright contrasting night-time mode at evening time.
As an additional feature, Scout syncs with TeleNav online, allowing me to trip plan from a desktop and backup addresses. The TeleNav website even has interactive mapping software, so it is the perfect cloud solution. The optional upgrades (speed limit, lane assist, red light camera and more) are available via in-app purchase.
Feature packed as it is, one gripe I had was a comparison I inadvertently made to an earlier iteration of Telenav Navigator: more voice choices would be nice. Also, any offline functionality, even partial, would be very welcome. Multiple transit (biking, walking, etc) modes could also be valuable.
With the industry giant (Google Maps) looming in the smartphone space, it takes a formidable offering to stay relevant. Fortunately for Android users, Scout casts a mean shadow of its own.
Everyone's used a mapping application or a check-in service at this point, and the linking thread between them is that while it's possible to navigate to locations, it's only possible to see it as one giant entity. For shopping malls, it can be difficult to check in to the actual stores in the mall, for example. Snapp has a way to help. This app has the ability to map the insides of buildings for easier check-in and navigation. While it appears that this technology is specific to the app itself, the app also includes maps for over 100 locations worldwide to help navigate, including several of the largest shopping malls in the US. At worst, Snapp serves as an effective way to check in to multiple services at once, including Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter with location-enabled tweets, and developer Sensewhere's own Friendswhere service. Snapp is available as a free download from Google Play.
iStoreHours is an app listing store hours that was made for people like me. As a night owl, I frequently run into the issue of places I want to go during my prime hours that are closed, because apparently the rest of society thinks it's cool to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, not the other way around! As well, websites tend to be lax with their store hours information, and I don't want to call anyone about their store hours â€“ ever.
So that's where iStoreHours comes in. They claim to have the largest directory of when places are open, with over 4 million listings contributed by over 25,000 members. By default, the app opens up showing the hours and contact information for stores and restaurants nearby. Stores can be exported to contacts, and looked up on Google Maps. Incorrect listings can be reported in the app, and new ones can be added. iStoreHours is available for free from Google Play.
To Do Mapr is another to-do list app that lets users add tasks with a notification timer alerting them at a specified time. Notes and tags can be added to tasks as well. But what makes this app unique is its mapping features.
Users type in a destination and a time that they want the task at that destination to be done. A list of destinations matching the search are shown on a Google map, which can then be added with a time to the list. Once all the destinations have been added, the app can then plot a travel course, showing the path that users will take, along with estimated distance, time, and fuel usage. This is extremely handy when running errands, to show just how to drive between different destinations. While it’s possible to view traffic in the app, there’s no way to send directions to turn-by-turn navigation yet. EDIT: The developer points out in the comments below that tapping on a pin will open up directions to a destination in Google Maps.
It’s been a curious relationship between the two companies because of the fact that Google is a competitor to Apple as well. Or at least, they power the competition, and they’re the easiest arch-nemesis to focus on. Samsung may be huge, but are still a fraction of the smartphone market (though they too have an interesting relationship with Apple as Samsung produces displays for Apple devices) and just part of the Android dynamo.
Google remains a service provider, and yet, as the biggest competition to Apple, it was always curious that Google always had this hand in iOS that Apple didn’t have in Android, in part because the fact that Apple is such a vertically integrated company. Apple might be wise for themselves to make this shift as far away from Google as they can get, because if they are this enemy, still laying in bed with them is a mistake. Factors such as Google service integration won’t go away because Google’s hooks are too deep, but Apple has iCloud services set up for just that purpose, to start weaning people away from the clutches of Google, and into their own clutches.
The impact this will have on Google may be more behind-the-scenes than anything, purely revenue-based than anything else. They could try to match Apple’s mapping solution in terms of features and potentially outclass it, but there’s only so far that can go. In fact, as our own Jeff Scott notes, the iOS 6 maps are currently feature-deficient in some areas compared to the Google maps.
The move stings of pride as much as anything else â€“ Apple may be doing some things differently now, but Steve Jobs’ vision still guides the company, and the anti-Android sentiment still plays out, in their tactics both in launching products and in the courtroom. Apple may just be trying to straighten out their relationships, now that they’re the big dog, and don’t want to be pushed around any more, though they still have many ties to those they simultaneously compete against.
Oh no, looks like Google has something up their sleeves. Today they announced the addition of Check-Ins via Google Latitude. Location based social networks and games have gained increasing popularity with sites such as Foursquare boasting over 15 million check-ins in their first year of service.
Check-ins are essential just that, a check in to a certain place or location. Through these various services you can share your location with others, allowing them to see where you are and what you’re up to. Different sites put different spins and incentives on check-ins such as badges or real world discounts to the very establishments that you are checking in to.
An update for Google Maps is now available bringing it up to version 4.6. This recent update focuses primarily on enhancements to the “Places Pages.” They decided to improve on the way reviews are displayed by adopting the same format as the desktop view. Reviews will now be broken down into two separate categories: