Expedia Hotels & Flights

Expedia – Book Your Hotel Rooms

As a frequent traveler, I’m always comparing hotel room costs. Even though I’m a frequent guest at Hiltons and Marriott Hotels, I often to travel to places where neither a Hilton or Marriott is the closest hotel, nor the least expensive. This is where an App like Expedia comes in. Before this App, I used Hotel Pal and the developer of that App has ceased development and now points people to download Expedia instead. I gave it a shot and I have to admit that I really like it better than Hotel Pal. The interface is better and faster. Not to mention that it’s a Universal App and Hotel Pal never was. The App works as you would expect. You can search your immediate area for rooms around you or you can search a specific location. If you find a room you want to book, you can book it right in the App. I also use the Hotels.com App and again i like the Expedia experience a little better from a User Interface experience.

You can sort your listings by Price, Popularity, Rating or Distance. You can also Filter by specific hotel names, ratings and price ranges. Best of all you can sign in with your existing Expedia account to make the booking go even faster. The biggest downside to an App like this is that it’s a one trick pony. It would be nice if it also allowed you to book air and ground transportation as well. Aside from that, there is definitely no reason not to have this App in your travel arsenal.

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Chrome - web browser by Google

Google Chrome Comes To iOS At Last

If you use Google Chrome on the desktop instead of Safari, you’ve probably been at a slight disadvantage when it comes to syncing your bookmarks, history, etc. to iOS devices. It was just last week that I reviewed “Chrome Sync Pro“, an app dedicated to syncing your Google Chrome bookmarks, history, tabs, etc. from your desktop to your iOS devices. While this utility is good, it’s a one way sync and the bookmarks open up in Safari. I was able to delete this App yesterday.

Google Chrome comes to iOS

While Apple allows developers to create web browsers, these browsers are really just skins on top of the iOS native browser. Apple is still pretty strict about letting developers truly create full blown browsers on iOS. This is why you won’t see Adobe Flash in a browser on iOS like it is in Chrome on the desktop. Nonetheless, I still appreciate having a Chrome look and feel and more importantly Chrome SYNCING between iOS and my desktop Chrome. Once you install the App you are prompted to log in with your Gmail user name and password. This is what ties it to your desktop version similar to how Apple uses your Apple ID to sync things. My bookmarks came over immediately, but more importantly so did my saved passwords! I went to hilton.com and my user name and password was already keyed in and ready to go (be sure to passcode protect your iOS device). Chrome also syncs your browsing history and open tabs. Speaking of tabbed browsing there is no limit to the number tabs you can have open. I’ll admit it’s kind of confusing in appearance on iPhone, but on iPad it looks and works great! Overall the browsing experience has been great so far. While it is fast, it will never be as fast as Safari on iOS because developers are prevented from using the Nitro Javascript Engine. I’ll accept this trade off for the other benefits though. Before Chrome for iOS, iCab was my favorite iOS browser offering what I think is most full featured browser for iOS. However, the one thing iCab doesn’t do is sync with Google Chrome. Even with iCab or Chrome the bigger problem is that Apple doesn’t allow you to change the default browser in iOS. This means that when you tap a link in another App, it’s still going to open up in Safari. Additional effort will always be necessary to use a different browser. Hopefully one day Apple will allow users to pick a different default browser for iOS just like they do for Mac OS. In the mean time I’ll be using Chrome as much as I can. It’s great having Chrome on both my iPad and MacBook Pro dock!

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Podcasts

Apple Podcasts App

As Apple starts to break out the functionality of the “Music” App, they have provided a New Apple Podcasts App. This makes it easy to go right to the Podcasts App, search, subscribe, and play the audio and video podcasts that you want without having to find them in the Music App. I downloaded this free App and was pleasantly surprised to see that two of my downloaded podcasts were there and ready to play. Like the iBooks App the App is designed to allow you to see your existing content or flip it over to see the “Catalog” of available podcasts. You can either stream an episode right in the App, download it for later viewing or subscribe so that future episodes are automatically downloaded.

The App is pretty basic, and does exactly what it describes. It’s a Universal App that works natively on iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. I’d love to see a “genius” feature that would recommend new podcasts based on the ones that I’m already subscribed to.

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Foursquare

Foursquare Is All New

Last week Foursquare labs released version 5.0 of their wildly popular Foursquare App. There are lots of Apps now that let you check in, (Facebook, G+, Yelp, just to name a few) but it all started with Foursquare. The guys and girls over at Foursquare labs have been busy toiling away, completely rewriting the App taking what YOU the users have been asking for! This isn’t just a refresh of the same old check in App, it’s a complete redesign to shift the focus from being solely checking-in to checking in and exploring new places. The redesign promotes rating the locations that you check in to, exploring locations around you, viewing your friends locations and more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Interface

The redesign starts with the tabs. Along the bottom of the screen. Friends, (the left most tab) is selected by default. This tab shows you your friends current status’ and allows you to quickly comment, and/or favorite their activities. A welcome addition, these controls make it really easy to access your friends comments and more fun to interact with them.

Explore is exactly what you think it is. Selecting explore (the middle button along the bottom) shows the most popular  places around your current location that people have checked in (indicated by a blue pin). Tapping a pin shows the name of that location and allows for expanded information including location address, phone number, menu (if applicable), and more! Of course you can still search from within the Explore section like you always could.

The profile section (far right icon on the the bottom) is a direct result of feedback that Foursquare got from you, the user. Many users indicated that they wanted to be able to access their profiles quickly. From within the profile section you can access your friends list, stats, photos, tips, badges, lists, and more. This is a welcome addition for me. I like being able to quickly see my stats, which includes where I’ve checked in at, my mayorships (Chipotle mayor lol), my points, and most explored categories.

Checking in has been moved to the upper right corner of the screen. Tapping it shows a screen similar to the explore screen (a map with pins indicating previously created locations to check in). Under the map is a list (from closest to farthest away) of the locations on the map. Tapping on one of the locations brings up one box to comment on your check in and another to tap if you want to add a photo. Below that are selections to post your check-in to Facebook and Twitter.

 

The Bottom Line

All-in-all I don’t have any complaints about the new Foursquare. I love the changes that Foursquare has made. The new version is well made, extensively thought out, and what you would expect from a major player like Foursquare.

 

You can get Foursquare for your iPhone from the iTunes store for free here: iTunes

Chrome Sync Pro - visit your Chrome Browser's bookmark,history and tab

Chrome Sync Pro – Bring your Google Chrome Bookmarks, History & Tabs to iOS

Google Chrome is my default browser on the desktop. While I like Safari’s features, I’ve just found Chrome to be more stable for me over the years. The one problem with not using Safari as my default browser is when it comes to having access to my bookmarks on iOS devices. iOS of course syncs bookmarks between iOS devices and the desktop version via iCloud. If there is an important bookmark that I want to have on iOS I’ve found myself in the past launching Safari just to bookmark it. Just the other day I was wishing that Google would make Chrome available as an iOS App. However, with Chrome Sync Pro I don’t have to wait.

Chrome Sync Pro is a Universal App for iOS that syncs your Bookmarks, History and even currently open Tabs from your desktop version of Chrome to iOS. I installed the App on my iPhone and then the browser extension in Chrome on my Mac. Once I relaunched the App it was all there. My bookmarks, browsing history and even the two tabs that where currently open on my MacBook Pro. When you tap on a bookmark it will either open in Safari or if you have multiple browsers (I have iCab too) it will ask you which browser do you want to be your default?

The Bottom Line

This is a GREAT way of always having your current bookmarks, history and tabs from Google Chrome on your iOS devices. I do wish that the App would actually sync them directly to Safari on iOS, but I can certainly live with the current implementation of having them live within the App. If Google Chrome is your default browswer, you’re gonna want this App. I have to thank my colleague Paul Trani for turning me on to this app.

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