Assuming you have an Internet connection and can read this -- and who doesn't these days? -- then there's a strong possibility you're at least a little bit familiar with Google Maps. Maybe you use it to look up driving directions before heading to a concert at the other end of the state, or fire it up to find a gas station when the needle creeps uncomfortably close to E. But did you know you can use Google Maps for suggestions on what to do when you're in a new area? Or zoom in or out with one hand?
When Nokia showed off its new Windows Phone wares at Nokia World last week, we all wondered if the software features shown off would arrive on other devices. Well, the answer appears to be “kinda.” The most interesting Nokia app was the turn-by-turn Nokia Maps, and other Windows Phone 7 devices will get access, but without voice navigation.
Google has announced today that Android owners that use their devices as GPS units will have another reason to smile. The free Google navigation service will now be able to route you around traffic jams in real time. No need to adjust any settings, the Google cloud servers will just spit out the fastest route automagically.
TomTom on Monday announced a couple of new GPS devices, the Go 2405 TM and Go 2505 TM. According to TomTom, both of these offer faster routing than previous versions and feature an enhanced software platform, as well as a new physical design.
"At TomTom, we are continuously working to deliver innovative navigation solutions for our consumers," said Tom Murray, senior vice president of market development, TomTom. "The Go Series combines new software architecture and enhanced routing to provide our consumers with superior driving intelligence."
A new UI combined with more intuitive software purportedly make the new devices easier than ever to use, taking just a few taps for routed directions. Other features include voice recognition, pinch-to-zoom, Bluetooth support, and lifetime traffic and map updates.
TomTom and HTC have announced that the navigation company's GPS maps will be showing up on HTC phones in the coming months. HTC's new HTC Locations software will have TomTom's maps built in. This app is free to use for checking maps and finding locations, but users will have to pay for actual turn-by-turn navigation.
The purchase will be made through the app, or with HTC's Sync software. This may be a tough sell on Android phones as Google's free navigation software is preloaded. The HTC navigation service may be more useful as the maps will be stored on the device. Google Navigation requires a net connection to use.
The new HTC Locations with TomTom will be rolled out on the HTC Desire HD and Desire Z first in Europe and Asia. Future smartphones for other regions will get the software as well. No details on how much the navigation capability will cost, but it will need to be low to lure people away from Google's free option.
To begin enjoying free turn-by-turn voice navigation, users in these countries will need to download Google Maps Navigation Version 4.2 on a smart phone running Android 1.6 or higher.
In related news, the company has added French, German, Italian, and Spanish to the list of languages supported by its Search by Voice feature for mobile phones. It already supports English, Mandarin and Japanese, and is available on Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia S60 handsets.
Late model Ford drivers with Sync-equipped automobiles will soon be able to download directions to their cars and plot out their routes. Announced earlier this week, Ford's Sync Traffic, Directions, and Information (TDI) is a free cloud-based architecture that lets drivers access voice-activated services through their mobile phones.
"Printing paper directions from a Web site is a relic in our digital age," Doug VanDagens, director of Ford Connected Services Solutions Organization, said in a statement. "With Send to Sync, you can map a destination at home, at work--wherever you have connectivity--and when you get to your car, it already knows where you want to go."
As Ford explains it, the app uses a customer's mobile phone voice plan and their vehicle's integrated GPS receiver to deliver location-based services, like driving directions or business services, and can also provide on-demand info, like horoscopes, news, movie listings, stock quotes, and more. And because it's all cloud-based, there aren't any updates to worry about.
The Google Maps 'Send to Sync' capability will launch later this month, Ford said, adding that it will be the only automaker offering this capability without required a paid subscription.
If Israeli company eyeSight has its way then all gadgets with front-facing cameras will be strictly controlled by hand gestures. The company today announced the launch of its flagship Natural User Interface (NUI) technology for Android devices – already available for Nokia handsets, inviting manufacturers to use it in their forthcoming devices.
The technology depends on advanced algorithms for interpreting hand gestures. This requires real-time processing of images received from the device’s built-in camera.
The technology only appears to support simple hand gestures at the moment. “Users of Android devices can now silence an incoming call, navigate between GPS menus, activate their MP3 player, play games and carry many other tasks by simply swiping their hand over the device,” eyeSight said in a press release.
The technology might sound really exciting at first but it begins to lose that initial appeal in a hurry when you are made to think of a practical use for it. Perhaps for this very reason, it has proved to be a dud on Nokia phones.
In January 2009 Vodafone made what seemed like a good investment buying mapping software maker Wayfinder for about $30 million. A year later it’s looking like a pretty awful deal in the wake of free navigation solutions from both Google and Nokia. Facing the inevitable, Vodafone is closing Wayfinder saying, “We could not charge for something that others gave away for free.”
Vodafone has also invested several million additional dollars in Wayfinder, so it can’t be easy to walk away. It’s unlikely they’d do so without being sure they could not compete with Nokia’s Ovi Maps. This really isn’t much of a surprise, especially considering Nokia’s huge presence in Europe. Google Navigation isn’t even available yet in Europe, but clearly Vodafone wasn’t going to sit around and wait for two free solutions to start eating their lunch.
This may be the eventual fate of all the carrier branded navigation apps. Considering the poor quality of many of them, that might not be a bad thing. Would access to a free navigation app from Google or Nokia sway you in your next phone purchase?
Just last week, I showed you a batch of add-ons for, er, a Firefox add-on called Jetpack. With these, you'd be able to tap into the raw power of HTML and CSS-based extensions to add new functionality to your browser without needing a reboot whatsoever--just one of the many features provided by this new class of add-ons.
Well, in case that wasn't for you, I've gone out and searched for a way to duplicate the effects of some of these Jetpack add-ons using normal Firefox extensions. And this is an important point. Although nice to install and configure, many of said Jetpack extensions just felt a touch incomplete, slow, or otherwise non-functioning depending on the circumstances. And that's expected. Jetpack, after all, is a relatively new tool to the Firefox arsenal. Developers surely have a few bugs and eccentricities to work out.
That said, one of the more useful Jetpack applications granted a user the ability to load browser tabs into a live sidebar, giving you the opportunity to see the exact contents of what you wanted to click on prior to doing so. Tab Sidebar is the simple Firefox extension that duplicates this process sans Jetpack, and it's worth your while to install.