Google

Google Maps

Google Maps App Now with Open Table and Uber support

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Let’s face it, Apple Maps is not as good as it should be. Therefore we look to other Apps for our daily navigation needs. Google Maps seems to be the gold standard and it keeps getting better. Although Google typically releases new features for their Android platform first, they still see the bigger picture and release updates for iOS as well. This new version has a fresher look that fits in nicely with iOS 8 and I’m happy that Google realizes they can’t be all things to all people. This means they add support for other apps instead of trying to compete directly with them. Who knows if that will continue, but in this version we have support for Open Table and Uber.

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If you locate a restaurant in Google Maps you can now pretty much do everything you need without leaving the app. You can see the menu which is available by the restaurant itself or powered by a 3rd party. You can call them and see the hours and if the restaurant supports Open Table reservations (U.S. Only) you can book your table right there on the spot. Of course you can also get turn-by-turn voice navigation from where you are to the restaurant as well.

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If you’re an Uber user you can now the estimated wait time and trip cost. This will be very nice to have when I’m on the road.

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I also like the new “nearby” view. Google Maps just gave raised the bar for all navigation apps to step up to. It just became that much more useful to me especially when I travel.

You can get Google Maps here from the iTunes.

Google Docs

Google Docs and Sheets are here for iPhone and iPad

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When Google announced the availability of stand alone apps to edit and manage your Google Docs and Sheets some cheered but many screamed! The ones that screamed mostly are users of the Google Drive App. For those of you who are new to this, Google Drive was a single app that allowed you to not only manage the files you stored via the cloud service, but also to edit your Google Docs (word processing) and Sheets (spreadsheets). In other words you had one app that did it all and now Google has divided these tasks into three separate apps. From a shear convenience standpoint I certainly can be tempted to pick up one of those pitchforks and get ready to storm the Google castle, however, since I really wasn’t that big of a Google Docs/Sheets user I’m willing to look at what they did and go from there.

What can you do with Google Docs and Sheets?

With Google Docs or Google Sheets you can create and edit cloud based word processing and spreadsheet documents right on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. These documents are sync’d to your Google (GMail) account. This means that they are accessible in any browser on any device. Having the Apps on your iDevices means that you not only have access to these documents while you’re online, but you can also choose to have them on the device for offline editing. One of the biggest attractions to Google Docs and Google Sheets is that you can also share these documents with others and give them access to be able to edit them. This is AWESOME for collaboration. Want to author a document and get feedback. Share with someone and either allow them to leave comments or edit the document. In a work environment this is very handy as it allows people to get input from their peers or clients quickly and easily without the peers or clients having to download any special software. They can just fire up their browser click on a link and see/edit the documents. Even if you don’t want them to edit or comment you can still share a document and make it View Only. My word processing and spreadsheet needs are so basic that I could easily get by with just these two apps/services. Well almost. Just as I was typing that last line I thought about what I need in a word processor besides basic formatting and the first thing that came to mind was spell check. So I mistyped a word on purpose and to my surprise, NOTHING. No red underline, no warning. Just the typo. Oddly enough bringing that document up in my browser on my Mac I got the red underline and the ability to correct it. I can say without a spell checker this app just became a lot less useful.

Next I created a quick sample in Sheets and I ran into more omissions. First off tabbing on my iPad Logitech keyboard didn’t take me to the next cell. That annoys me to no end. After moving past that I created 4 cells and wanted to get the sum of 2 of them. Umm, where is the formula bar? Sure I could MANUALLY create the formula (=Sum(b1:b2)) but I had to type it in manually. Wow! Once again heading to Google Sheets on my desktop Mac there’s a formula button right there on the bar. So unless I’m missing these features in these apps I’m floored that there is no way to do very basic things I would expect to be able to do in dedicated apps.

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The Bottom Line

While these Apps have promise and a nice native feel including offline editing, they lack some of the things I would expect (yes even in a free app). If you’re going to spend most of your time editing existing documents, then these apps will probably be fine. However, you will probably be disappointed if you plan to do a lot of authoring or creating documents from scratch on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Hopefully Google will update these with the missing features that they should have.

You can get Google Docs here iTunes.

You can get Google Sheets here iTunes.

You can get Google Drive here iTunes.

 

 

Google

Google Now on iPhone and iPad

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I’ve been a fan of the Google Search App for iOS almost from the beginning. Sure Safari and Google Chrome have a search feature built right into the browser, but the dedicated App offers many more features. For one, when I sign in with my Google ID I get access to my search history even if I did the searches on my notebook/desktop. The app also supports voice search. What’s new in this 3.0 version is the integration of location based Google Now. These cards can start you off with the current weather conditions and traffic conditions. Beyond those basics you can see what local restaurants are in the area as well as sports scores and breaking news. I tend to use a couple of other apps to get this kind of info, but it’s nice having all there at my finger tips when I go to search for something. Also if you search for a business location or other destination, Google Search integrates nicely with the Google Maps app on your iOS device. Just tap and you’re on your way with turn-by-turn voice directions.

While I like having Siri built-in to iOS, Google Search is definitely right on par in terms of usefulness. I wouldn’t want to give either one up.

Get Google Search featuring Google Now on iPhone or iPad here for free:

iTunes

Google Maps

Google Maps for iOS Updated with Contact Search

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Although we cheered when Google Maps returned to iOS as downloadable App, there was one feature missing that we had before. The ability to search your contacts for addresses to navigate to. Although this update is not using the built-in contacts, it will use your Google (GMail) contacts in all searches now. I don’t mind this since I sync my iOS and Google contacts with this great app. It would have been nice to use the built-in contacts since that’s where most users will have their contacts, but I can see Google (an iOS competitor) wanting to keep everything in their own eco-system (just like Apple does). This update also brings fast category searching such as restaurants, bars, cafes, gas stations, etc. and the ability to choose between Miles or Kilometers as your preference.

The more I use Apple Maps, the more I’m happy that we have alternatives. While Navigon is still my overall preferred full featured turn-by-turn navigation App, Google Maps is great for a free alternative.

iTunes

YouTube Capture

YouTube Capture for iPhone

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Google seems to be on roll recently. The long awaited Google Maps App debuted and now Google has surprised us with a new App called YouTube Capture. Your iPhone can already capture video and once you shoot it you can go find it in the camera roll and share it to YouTube. The YouTube Capture App aims to streamline that process much like the way the Instagram App does for posting shots directly to Instagram. Just fire up YouTube Capture rotate your iPhone to landscape orientation (a good idea) and start shooting. Once you stop the capture you can immediately post it to YouTube and share it to Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Again, this could all be done in iOS 6 without a special App, but it would take several steps more. Especially the part of sharing it to Google+, Facebook and Twitter. You can also choose to upload your video as Public, Unlisted or Private.

How well does it work?

I only did a quick test and found it to work as advertised although surprisingly the only problem I had was with Google+. It wouldn’t even let me activate Google+ until I relaunched the App. After I captured my video it told me that my Google+ circles were not available, but Facebook and Twitter were available and ready to use. Although my iPhone can capture 1080p video this App is limited to 720p. That’s probably fine for most quick videos that people want to capture and immediately post to YouTube. Speaking of which the App also gives you the option to upload any videos you have in your camera roll whether you shot them with the App or not. You can also shoot with the App and upload later. Once you shoot a video with the App you can also enhance it with Color Correction, Image Stabilization, Trimming and even YouTube SoundTracks for background music. Also in typical Google fashion, there is no iPad version yet. The funny thing is that I’m seeing more and more people shooting video with their iPads. Something I thought that wouldn’t catch on.

The Bottom Line

Although this App was a surprise and I wasn’t really asking for it, it will definitely be a nice to have. I expect to see a lot more videos on YouTube now as the process before took a few more steps than the casual user was probably willing to go through. Now you’ll see people shoot and share more videos and this is just in time for the holidays.

Thanks Google. (also please fix the Google+ issues)

iTunes

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