Official Google Maps App for iPad Released

Google Maps had last year, much to the delight of iPhone users, released an official app for the phone. Apple had chucked Google Maps for their own Maps service which was less than satisfactory and ended up getting criticized. The criticism even had Apple’s CEO Tim Cook apologize for it. That is old news. Google has moved ahead with a new user-interface for its Maps on Android and has now rolled out the same of iOS users. The big news here is finally it has also released an official iPad version.

I checked out the app on my iPad and came away impressed. The android version on my phone is great for navigation and reviewing places but the iPad version pretty much matches feature to feature. The bigger screen also is much better for navigation purposes.

Features of Google Maps app on iPad

The search option to find locations and routes displayed are clean and without any information overload. While on the phone version it requires moving down to check alternate routes, because of the bigger screen on iPad, the several options can be viewed at the same time.

Search Routes on Google Maps - iPad
Several alternate routes displayed on Google Maps for iPad

The turn-by turn navigation UI is also a lot better with options to view toggle to satellite view. About a year ago, I was not very happy with the navigation mode for Google Maps and found it was not as accurate in India. But it has become extremely accurate over the past few months, especially in cities.

Navigation UI for Google Maps on iPad
Navigation UI for Google Maps on iPad

Finally one of my favorite features on Google Maps in the new UI, is the ease with which users can review places they visit. Simply click on any of the places you find on Google Maps and it allows users to review the place. I think this is Google’s way of leveraging its Google+ layer on Google Maps.

Review places easily - iPad Google Maps
Review places on Google Maps by simply tapping on it

I think it was about time for Google to release its Maps app officially for iPad. The browser version would work fine but it was tedious. Overall, I think in the maps business, with the acquisition of Waze, Google has more or less taken a unbeatable lead atleast for the foreseeable future.

Try out the new Google Maps app for iPad and drop in your comments.

Link: Google Maps for iPad

5 Apps to Reduce Your Monthly Phone Bill

The smartphone has been a very important invention for the entire world and has increased the efficiency of day to day tasks in ways possibly not imagined by anyone when they were first launched.

There are a variety of ways through which you can cut down on the money you spend on your calls. There are a number of apps available that let you make calls for free through the internet. They are absolutely safe and are real money-savers.

Here I have chosen 5 apps that you can use on your phone and see the money piling up.

Viber

Available: iOS and Android

Viber Viber has a very smooth and simple approach to the concept of making free calls.  What makes Viber a very useful app. It has no noticeable lags or delays on the audio while making calls.

Along with that feature it has the option of sending text messages, multimedia messages and e-mails.

Link: Viber

Skype

skype-screenshotAvailable: iOS, Android and Windows Phone

Skype is no doubt one of the most well-known desktop app for making calls. It was first created for computers but has now branched out into the world of smartphones.

You can make calls to any smartphone or computer in the world which has Skype installed in it. It also comes with the ability to send IMs as well as make video calls.

Additionally you can actually call a regular phone but that will cost you credits which can be purchased. Essentially, mobile users in India use this App to keep in touch with near and dear ones staying outside the country.

Link: Skype

Fring

Fring_screenshot

Available for: iOS, Android and Symbian

Another popular app in the market is Fring. Importantly it supports Symbian phones. There are the regular features for making calls but with a twist as you can make all those free calls through your phonebook as it gets integrated with Fring.

You can hold conference calls to up to 4 people even while video chatting. Like Skype, you can make calls to normal phones however you have to pay for them.

What sets Fring apart from other apps is that you can actually integrate your AOL and Google Talk with Fring making it a handy tool to handle all your communication needs.

Link: Fring

Nimbuzz

Nimbuzz Screenshot

Available: Almost all Operating Systems for phones including Java.

Nimbuzzis undoubtedly one of the most versatile apps for free calls available in the market and doesn’t require a single monetary unit to operate expect for your normal data charges. It has the ability to integrate a variety of other chatting portals like Facebook, MySpace, ICQ, Google Talk, Yahoo! etc. Once integrated, you can make calls to people on any of these contact lists. If that is not enough, there is a desktop version of Nimbuzz available. Apart from calls, it can also send messages and can obviously be used to send IMs. An option for web-chatting is also at one’s disposal.

Link: Nimbuzz

Qik

Qik Screenshot

Available: iOS, Android phones.

The best app that you can find for video chatting is Qik. Apart from making calls, you can also create video feeds and send video broadcasts live and go through the feeds of your friends as well. If you feel like, then share your videos through Facebook or other assorted video sharing services.

Link: Qik

Bottom Line

Hope you find these apps useful to bring down your telephone bills. If you have more apps that you know about do let me know about them in your comments.

List of Top 10 Free Photo apps for iPhone

If you own a iPhone, then you are probably taking a lot of photos. While iPhone does have its built-in features for managing and editing photos, a lot of us like to use apps. Here is a list of free photo editing and management apps for your iPhone.

#1. Pixlr-o-matic

Pixlr-o-matic
Pixlr-o-matic

This app lets you transform your photos by applying cool retro effects to them. Pixlr-o-matic offers a wealth of filters and lighting options in a strip along the bottom as well as a selection of borders. You can either take photos using your device’s camera, or apply the effects to an existing image.

Link: Pixl-o-matic

#2. Photosynth – Capture your world in 3D

Photosynth
Photosynth

Microsoft’s Photosynth app for iPhone (oddly, it’s not available for Windows Phone 7) lets you create seamless, 360-degree panoramas from multiple photos. Just press ‘start’ and rotate slowly on the spot to capture and stitch together a series of shots. You can add your panoramas to Bing Maps and explore other users’ efforts.

Link: Photosynth

#3. Flock

Flock
Flock

Flock groups together your photos with those of your friends and family to create a shared online album of a particular event. It scans your photos as you take them, and displays them with your Facebook friends’ photos taken at the same time or in the same place, with the same people in them. You can set individual photos to private if you don’t want to share them.

Link: Flock

#4. Pixengo

pixengo
pixengo

With Pixengo, you can add 30-second voice messages and ambient sounds to your photos to add atmosphere to them and bring them to life. The app works on new photos, as well as old images saved in your gallery. You can share your ‘audio photos’ with friends on Twitter, Facebook and email.

Link: Pixengo

#5. Blippar

Blippar
Blippar

Augmented-reality app Blippar uses your phone’s camera to recognise real-world items such as posters, newspaper adverts and food products. The app then overlays the object with games, videos and web links. Cadbury is currently offering Blippar content via the packaging of its chocolate bars.

Link: Blippar

#6. TouchRetouch Free

Touch Retouch Free
Touch Retouch Free

Forget messing around with fiddly editing tools; TouchRetouch Free lets you remove unwanted elements from photos using your finger. Just select the item you want to erase and press Go. Usefully, the app includes unlimited Undo actions in case you’ve eradicated something important.

Link: TouchRetouch Free

#7. PicArts Photo Studio

PicArts Photo Studio
PicArts Photo Studio

Pic Arts Photo Studio lets you edit individual or multiple photos. You can add stickers, lighting effects and frames, and rotate, crop and resize your photos. Our favourite tool is Color Splash, which turns your picture black and white, then restores colour only to certain parts.

Link: Photo Studio

#8. Instagram

Instagram
Instagram

This addictive photo-sharing app, bought by facebook for $1billion, lets you add filter effects and tilt-shift blurs and borders to create unique images from your phone’s camera. You can share the images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or by email, and they will also appear on your Instagram account’s news feed, where they can be rated and commented upon.

Link: Instagram

#9. Web Albums – A Picasa viewer

Web Albums
Web Albums

This app let’s sync your iPhone or iPad photos with your picasa account. Using Web albums app you can view, upload and manage your picasa photos.

Link: Web albums

#10. Dabble

Dabble
Dabble

Dabble turns holiday snaps into postcards that can be pinned via the app to the place the photo was taken, and shared on Facebook  by email and by text. You can add messages to your postcards and tag people in them, and see other people’s postcards when you check into a location on the app. When you arrive somewhere, the app will alert you if there is a Dabble photo saved for that location.

Link: Dabble

#11. Snapseed (Bonus)

Snapseed is also a very popular photo app on iPhone. It is popularly known as the best photo editing app on the iOS ecosystem. Though in the past it was a paid app, it is now free for iPhone users after Google bought it.

Link: Review of Snapseed

Hopefully you have all the app you need in this list. Do let us know of any other ones we have missed in your comments.

Facebook Introduces Instagram-Like Photo Filter on iOS App

Facebook rolled out an updated yesterday to its iOS app. The updated app has a lot of features like sharing multiple photos, gifts and chat buddy list. The new update comes on the heels of Twitter planning to roll out a feature that allows sharing photos with filters.

Though apps allowing users to add filters on photos have been around for a long time, Instagram took it to a new level but becoming a social network.

It was finally purchased by Facebook at a very high price of almost a US $ 1 Billion. The high price tag was possibly because Twitter and Google might have been interested in getting something like Instagram.

What happens to Instagram?

Facebook itself is not really winning on the mobile platform unlike Instagram. So it seems doubtful that Facebook will abandon Instagram but it does seem to be undermining it by copying the same filter features at the moment.

These changes are only for iOS users in the US, but these changes are expected outside the US and on other platforms soon. Facebook has previously released a native app for iOS users and is expected to soon release one for Android phones.

(via TechCrunch)

Google Introduces SIRI Competitor “Enhanced Voice Search” for iPhone

One of the major upgrade announced to the Google Search app, with Android 4.1 (Jellybeans, was its enhanced voice search feature. It allows users to speak into the phone a search query and get results spoken back to them.

Yes! It was considered Google’s own version of SIRI, which is a voice assistant app introduced with iPhone 4S.

Today, Google uploaded a video that shows the voice search working with an iPhone.

Note: The video is up but the updated version for iOS will be available in the next couple of days.

Apple’s SIRI as competition to Google!

I doubt Apple, realistically thought of SIRI as a competitor to replace Google. But a primary search feature, that is “NOT Google” on the iPhone, might have started ringing enough alarm bells at Google.

So now with enhanced voice search app, Google seems to have got SIRI covered. The only problem is how much will people actively use it instead of SIRI.

Google has recently pushed the Chrome browser for iPhone /iPad users too, which could be an alternative to Apple’s own Safari browser. Apple too is introducing a new Maps feature with iOS6 update. It will replace, Google Maps as the default maps application.

As long as these two companies are competing with new features and innovations, instead of law suits, I guess the customer is winning. ;-)

Have your used Google’s enhanced search feature on your phone? Do you think it is as good as SIRI or better? Do drop in your comments.

Link: Google Enhanced Voice Search

[Updated] Cooliris 3D Photo Wall is Available for iPad

Over two years ago, I was very impressed by the Cooliris photo wall browser extension for Chrome. It shows up your photos from various social media accounts in a layout that mimics a 3D wall.

The Cooliris Photo Gallery gives the impression of browsing in a 3D environment

Cooliris also has worked Gallery for Android app, which now has ended up being the current default photo gallery on Android. Cooliris is now targeting iPad and iPhone users with a shiny new photo viewing and sharing app.

Cooliris for iPhones / iPads

  • The app allows users to look through their photos on Facebook, iPad/iPhone photos and Instagram in their trademark 3D wall layout.
  • The photos can also be shared privately from the app.
  • The app allows unlimited and free photo uploads.
  • The web search for images is powered by Google Image search.

Video Demo of Cooliris on iPad

I loved the Cooliris 3D wall layout on my browser. But moving through it with the help of a mouse or keys is not as intuitive as it is with a tablet device like iPad.

If you are doing a lot of photo browsing and sharing from your iPads then Cooliris looks like a great app.

UPDATE: The 2.2 version of the app released recently also integrates with Google Drive. It also uses a new image recognition feature that works on Google Drive photos. It does not require users to manually tag the photos from Google Drive.

Link: Cooliris for iPad/iPhones

Infographic: Who is Winning the Games Market between iOS and Android?

In recent past, there have been many discussions on various blogs about which platform is better; Android or iOS. In my opinion it does not matter which platform is better as both seem to be pretty close performance wise.

But revenues for Apple and Google will not come only from the sale of devices but from the apps purchased on it. One of the biggest money earners on both platforms are gaming apps.

So who is winning the Gaming market between iOS and Android? This infographic by App Annie, shows the differences between revenues and also the strengths of the two platforms.

It is interesting to note that iOS has 71% of the revenues compared to 29% by Android. This is probably due to Apple iPad being a market leader while Android has not really tasted success on the tablet front. Also tablets users seem to like playing games more than phone users on an average.

Infographic: Games on iOS and Android

Do drop in your comments and views.

Google releases Chrome for iOS platform

Chrome browser has taken great strides as a browser on our desktops. It started a journey on mobiles phones with Android. There were rumours before that Chrome will show up for iOS users.

Today, at Google I/O Chrome has been released for the iOS platfrom.

Chrome for iOS Feautures: The good, bad and ugly

Chrome app on iOS allows users to sync their bookmarks, browser tabs open across devices. Chrome app also is available for iPhone and iPad devices. That was the good part.

The bad part is it will be slower that Safari which is native to iOS platform. Chrome also cannot be made the default browser on your iOS, because Apple does not allow any other browser except Safari to be the default browser. This means if you click a link in your email, only Safari will open and not Chrome.

Now for the ugly reasons on why Chrome will be slower than Safari on iOS. Chrome was not allowed to use its own fast V8 JavaScript engine but had to use UIWebView. UIWebView is forced on all developers as a sand-boxed version of Apple’s Nitro JavaScript version. This automatically renders all 3rd party browsers a lot slower than the native Safari.

Considering how dominant Safari is because of iPhone success on mobile devices, this move by Apple looks a lot similar to Microsoft when it tried killing browsers on its own Windows platfrom to protect Internet Explorers back in the late 90s.

I still think, a lot of Apple users who love Chrome will still use it, especially on iPad, where browsing with all your bookmarks and tabs synced could be useful.

Check out Chrome for iOS and drop in your comments and views.

Link: Chrome for iOS

[Rumour] Google to Release Chrome Browser on iOS Platform!

The browsers are soon set to move from computers to mobiles and tablets. According to Business Insider, Google is planning to roll out a Chrome browser app for the iOS platform this year. At the moment Safari is Apple’s default browser for iOS and all links users click on open automatically on Safari.

Earlier this year Google brought out Chrome beta for Android 4.0.

I use an Android and liked using Chrome browser which is still in beta. It can be synced with my Chrome browser running on my laptop. Chrome does have a fantastic developer base around thanks to it’s Chromium project.

It has retained its speed and minimal look with a wealth of options underneath. The near seamless synchronization options of Chrome, will probably interest a lot of iPhone or iPad users, who might be using Chrome on their computers.

Also at the moment, for all the money Google makes out of searches and ads served through Safari on iOS, they have to shell out a cut to Apple. If these ads were served through Chrome, Google would not need to shell out anything to Apple.

Is Apple the new Microsoft in the Browser Wars?

Apple probably plans to not allow other browsers form being set as default browser for their iOS platforms. That sounds a lot like it’s one time favorite foe Microsoft, which did the same for Internet Explorer on Windows.

I must say, this is not a scientific research on my part but most people I know who use iPhones or iPads, are actually not such big fans of Safari. More interestingly most seem to like using Chrome.

What are your views on Google’s plan for a Chrome browser for iOS? DO drop in your comments

Related: The Real Android Phone before iPhone was released!

[Infographic] How Mobile Apps Compare: Android vs iOS

Increasingly the fight for who controls smart-phones the world over, has become iOS (Apple) vs. Android (Google). This is because more than specifications of a phone, apps have become more important. Apps make mobiles phones more personal and people tend to not migrate from one platform to another if they are hooked on to apps and features of a particular platform.

This infographic by UTest, shows a great comparison between apps form these two competitors. Remember iOS as a platform only runs on iPhones and is not open-sourced. Android is a lot more open and manufacturers can actually do a lot more with it (good and bad things).

apps_android_ios_infogrpahic

It seems overall Apple’s iOS has better performance of Apps, but that is expected as iOS runs on a predictable sort of hardware. While Android apps seems to be easy on the wallet.

Do you own an iPhone or Android phone? Which one would you prefer? Do drop in your comments.