This past year, there has been already a number of large acquisition moves in the technology industry with Yahoo buying Tumblr for $1.1 billion and Salesforce acquiring ExactTarget for $2.5 billion this month. The most talked about story in the tech industry lately is the recent acquisition of Waze by Google for $1.1 billion.
Waze is an Israeli-based startup of a free mapping and turn-by-turn navigation app (available on Android and Apple iOS), that caught the attention of the top three tech companies in world: Apple, Facebook and Google. Earlier this year, Apple reported a $500 million bid, then Facebook offered a $1 billion deal, but Google closed with a $1.1 to $1.3 billion offer.
Maps are powered by big data and Google Maps has established itself as the map maker to be beaten. With nearly 50 million users crowdsourcing real time data from their devices, Waze relies on these users to flag and record updates on accidents, bottlenecks and traffic. It mines information from your phone such as your speed and location to determine the best routes on its own maps.
Although Google Maps may be the most popular app, acquiring Waze further leverages Google’s capabilities as a search and data powerhouse, while shifting towards localized mobile advertising revenue. Waze has a defined advertising program where brands can display their logo and information based on the user’s driving route. It will be interesting to see how mobile advertising will take off in the coming years.
Waze offers various features that can help Google improve the way we interact and use maps such as the social functionality. Drivers can view where their friends are in real time on their way to a mutual destination, share drives, pickups, meetups and make it easier to communicate status from the road. Waze currently features a Facebook single sign-in option which will likely be replaced with Google+ to attract more users to their social network. Google will continue to let Waze operate as a stand alone division.
What are your thoughts on Google’s acquisition of Waze? What features appeal the most to you? Tweet us at @PlasticMobile.
Technology is getting better very fast. Day after day devices are getting smaller, faster, stronger, smarter. Our lives have changed a lot in recent years because of this. When technology helps people with disabilities though, it’s even better.
A pioneer in this field is Sumit Dagar. He is the latest person to use technology to help visually impaired people use the devices most of us take for granted. He created a smartphone for the blind. Braille is not only on the buttons, but also on the screen. It’s automatically generated depending on what the phone is doing (web browsing, maps, pictures, games, you name it). He presented his invention during a TED conference in 2011 and the phone should be available at the end of this year for about $200.
Another recent move to help people with difficulties was made by Google. Last month they released the app One Today for Android.
This app lets you donate $1 to a charity of your choice. Unlike Facebook likes, this app gives real dollars, which are far more helpful to people in need. With millions of Android users, the impact could be very significant. The social part of the app (visibility of friends donations) that Google has added in, is a brilliant idea that should drive more people to participate.
Google will of course not charge anything on your donations except the credit card transactions fees, which is 1.9%. Now we just have to wait to see this app on all platforms and in all countries.
Do you know any other mobile projects trying to help those in need? Let us know on twitter @PlasticMobile
It’s a fact that sales of computers are falling as people spend more time on their smartphones and tablets. Part of this is because it’s very convenient to carry these mobile devices in your pocket or your purse. But it’s also because mobile operating systems are easy to use, making them more accessible to a larger public.
We know that Android is the most used OS on smartphones worldwide. Google maintains it as an open source OS so that any company can use and modify. Even though it was released after iOS, Android quickly became the most used OS and its recent updates make it even better than iOS for a lot of users. Here is an interesting infographic about Android devices in the world.
The really interesting thing now is that Android is available on TV and a lot of other devices as well (e-readers, smartwatches, cars and more). Google Glass will be add to the list at the end of the year, but before that, here are two other kinds of devices that Android is about to conquer:
- Android on computers:
It’s not an accident that Microsoft is taking is latest version of Windows in a mobile OS direction with a new interface and app system. Unfortunately for them, Windows 8 hasn’t had very much success so far. The latest rumours say Google will announce an Android laptop soon. This is probably a better idea than Google’s current laptop, the expensive Chromebook Pixel. It runs the Chrome OS and is not worth the hefty price tag despite the impressive hardware.
Another computer called MiiPC, coming from Kickstarter, is a product that we really like because it addresses the real issues parents have trying to monitor their kids computer usage. Check out the video.
- Android on video game consoles:
There are a lot of people playing games on smartphones and tablets, so making an Android game console that can play the high number of already existing games seems like a good idea.
Ouya, to be release in June, looks like a traditional video game console, except that it fits in your hand and will bring Android games into your living room. Another option will be released a few days later in June, Gamestick, is just a dongle (but apparently also less powerful than Ouya) and will do the same.
Do you think Android will have the same success in PC’s or game consoles? Let us know on twitter @PlasticMobile.
Google is serious about getting their “driverless” technology on the road within the next five years. This project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun (co-inventor of Google Street View). His main goal for this new technology is to create a car that can drive safer than the actual driver can – because it turns out there are a lot of really bad drivers out there, and a lot of freak accidents. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 4-34 and can cost some $300 billion a year. So, the Google car mission is to improve traffic safety and open opportunities for people who can’t drive on their own.
This all sounds amazing, but we’re a far cry from surrendering control of our cars to computers. Over and above the technology, there are several laws, regulations, safety standards and insurance policies that need to be dramatically modified in order for the Google Car to move forward. I mean, who will take the blame when an accident does occur? The driver or the Google Car?
Reviews from Google Car test drives report that the system drives at speed limit, maintains its distance from other vehicles using sensors and even provides an override so that the driver can take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel. Many said that in the beginning of their test drive they did not trust the vehicle, but as they saw how well the car drove itself, they began to trust the system more.
The U.S. state of Nevada is all for the “driverless car.” So much so, that they passed a law in 2011 permitting the operation of driverless cars. Driverless cars are coming, but we will just have to be patient to see what shape they will take in the next couple of years.
To check out the test drive video, click here.
What do you think about the Google Car? Do you think you can see yourself purchasing this type of technology in the next couple of years? Let us know! Tweet us @PlasticMobile
This year is extra spooky for Apple since Google and Windows have released some cool new smartphones.
Despite Hurricane Sandy, Google went ahead and unveiled their newest smartphone on Monday. The Nexus 4 gives real competition to the iPhone 5. Its got a slightly higher screen pixel count, 2GB of data instead of the iPhone’s 1 GB, Android 4.2 and wireless charging. Like the iPhone, it has an 8MP camera and 1080p video, but is a little heavier and doesn’t have LTE. Those are great specs, but here’s the clincher: The Nexus 4 starts at $299 for 8GB and is available in early November.
The second buzz-worthy release this week is the Windows Phone 8 by HTC. Although Windows has been putting out some pretty cool offerings lately – like the Nokia Lumia 900 earlier this year – this new smartphone goes above and beyond. The device features an interactive home-screen that is cooler than ever and all of the tech specs you’d expect like 1GB RAM, 16GB of internal memory and an 8.7MP rear “Pureview” camera. The problem with the Windows Phone 8 isn’t anything to do with design or functionality. It’s just that no one uses it yet! Although the 8 offers a great integrated ecosystem that avoids the “walled garden” developing situation that Apple perpetuates, there is no community of developers and limited support from brands. This means that there will be a shortage of apps until developers start coming on board. It also means that the “Wallet” feature on the 8 will not do too much for a while either. “Wallet” is NFC and m-commerce capable, but will not embody its full potential until people start developing for it.
All these competitive phones – the iPhone 5, Nexus 4 and Windows Phone 8 – are great. With amazing standards across the board you really can’t go wrong. It just comes down to what works best for you.
Check these out and let us know which one you’d get! @plasticmobile.
The recent release of Apple’s iOS 6 marks the end of YouTube as we iPhone users know it. With the five year licensing agreement between Apple and Google not being renewed, users running iOS 6 will no longer be seeing YouTube as a pre-installed app on their devices.
I for one couldn’t be happier about this. You see, Google has released it’s own version of the YouTube app and it addresses my biggest problem with the old app, very limited video selection.
Not only does the new YouTube app offer more in terms of video selection, it also offers some new functionality, and much better experience. The app is currently available as a free download in the App Store and, not surprisingly, it’s also sitting comfortably in the #1 spot of the Top 25 free apps’ list.
When I launched the new YouTube app, the first thing I noticed was a cleaner, sleeker and far more aesthetically pleasing design. Only when I saw the new app in all its glory, did I realize how outdated the old YouTube had become.
The new YouTube sports an overhauled menu, larger images for your viewing pleasure, an alternative to full screen landscape viewing and a search function that not only reduces taps, but also allows users to search for videos without even typing.
The new YouTube app utilizes a familiar menu style used by many other popular apps, most notably the Facebook app. The new menu also improves browsing by providing users with more categories to browse by and allowing them to do so efficiently. Users can find more content that interests them in a shorter amount of time. The previous app only allowed users to browse “Featured” or “Most Viewed” videos, which only go so far at keeping users engaged.
Larger Images For Better Browsing
The new YouTube app displays much larger images than its predecessor. I find, and I’m sure most will agree, that larger images make for quicker browsing. In fact, with the new design I find that there’s less of a need to stop and read a video description, because a picture is worth a 1000 words.
I also find larger images much more enjoyable to browse through. Especially, when the app displaying those images is quick and responsive as the new YouTube app is. Take a look at the below screenshots of the old and the new, then decide for yourself.
Improved Search Functionality
If you remember, the older, pre-installed YouTube app had its search function tucked away in a tab menu. This meant that if a user wanted to search for a video while browsing the “Featured” list, they would first have to tap “Search” from the tab menu, and then tap the text field to enter their query.
The new YouTube places the search function in the app’s header bar, as an icon resembling a magnifying glass. The function is available throughout most of the app and the placement is consistent, making the function highly accessible and easy to find.
When a user taps the search icon, the keyboard slides up and a pre-selected text field appears. Because the text field is pre-selected, the user can begin typing right away, saving them a tap.
A cool piece of additional functionality comes in the form of the ability to dictate a search. By tapping the microphone icon next to the search text field user can simply dictate what they wish to search, then select their video from a list of search results.
When I first saw this feature in YouTube, I was sure I had seen it somewhere else, but simply couldn’t remember where. Shortly after, it hit me. It was another Google app we reviewed here, Chrome.
A Huge Improvement
There is no comparison! In my opinion, the new YouTube app is better in every way. Probably because the old app never really saw any significant updates and was essentially the same app for as long as I can remember.
Today we wanted to give a shout out to an incredibly bright 17-year-old who has unknowingly done women across the globe a great service. Brittany Wenger from Florida, won the Grand Prize at Google’s annual Science Fair.
The best part? Her prize winning piece uses data and cloud computing to detect breast cancer with 99.1% accuracy. Called the, “Global Neural Cloud Service for Breast Cancer,” the product took her more than 600 hours to code.
Asked how she got involved in computer science, she said she just started exploring things she loved, like soccer. As one reporter wrote , “Wenger’s work with artificial neural networks (yeah, I know) started when she applied the computer programming methods to soccer, a sport she loves. Why not let a kid explore what he or she loves? They can always move onto cancer.”
A HUGE congrats to Brittany on her achievement!
Last week at Google I/O 2012, it was announced that Chrome, the popular internet browser, was coming to iOS. Hours later, it was available in the App Store for all iOS devices.
I’ve been using it for the last few days and have found it to be a very easy transition from Safari on my iPhone – though, I should mention that I use Chrome daily as my go-to browser on my Mac. In fact, with the exception of a few minor differences, the iOS version doesn’t look or feel much different.
Google Chrome on the iPhone
Upon launching the app, I was first greeted with a screen displaying the Google Chrome Terms of Service that I had to agree to before I could continue any further.
Once the formalities were out of the way, I was given given the option of signing in using my email address and password or continue without doing so.
I chose to sign in, as doing so gave me access to my open tabs, and bookmarks from my laptop. I found this feature to be very useful, as it allows for users to grab their phones and pick up right where they left off on their computer. Meaning that, in a sense, the Chrome application for iOS bridges the gap between the desktop and our mobile devices. Finally!
To access bookmarks and open tabs that exist on other devices, users select the corresponding tab near the bottom of the screen while in a new tab. Alternatively, they can tap the menu icon to the right of the address field and select the “Other Devices” option.
Another thing I like about Chrome is something called “incognito mode,” which is basically the equivalent to Safari’s private browsing. The main difference between the two is that Chrome makes switching between regular and incognito browsing easy and quick, while Safari users are forced to navigate away from the browser and make the change in Settings.
To enter incognito mode, users tap on the menu icon next to the address bar and select “New Incognito Tab.” This opens a new tab where users can browse without having their browsing history, searches and cookies saved.
Incognito tabs have a dark grey menu bar at the top of the screen, while regular tabs are light grey. This colour coding helps users keep track of which tabs are incognito and which are not. I really appreciated this feature since you’re probably broswing a la incognito for a reason, so confusing the two could result in bad news.
For me, it’s the simplicity of Chrome that makes it a good browser. Unlike Safari, which has two separate fields for URLs and searches, Chrome has one universal text field for both. Because Chrome can detect what it is you are trying to do, with the Google guess, there is no need for two separate fields. Chrome will either navigate to your desired site or provide Google search results for your query.
Users can also speak to Chrome to tell it where to go or what to search. Just by tapping a small microphone icon in the far right of the URL/search field, then dictating either a URL or keywords, Chrome will produce your results just like that.
Make the switch?
Overall, I enjoyed Chrome and believe it to be a fairly good alternative to Safari. Particularly for users who are already using it on their desktops.
But in the end, it ultimately comes down to preference. Users know what they value and what they like. For example, it has been reported that Chrome is the slower of the two browsers, making Safari a better choice for those who value speed. However, I’m sure any difference in page loading times is minimal, as I did not even notice it.
The biggest problem with Chrome for iOS is that there is no way to set is as the default browser, which means that links from messages, emails and other apps will continue to be opened in Safari. Leaving Chrome secondary browser. Boo.
What do you think of the Chrome app? Love it? Hate it? Tweet us @plasticmobile and share your thoughts.
The latest in Android anti-virus, called Sophos Mobile Security, has produced a report identifying the top five most frequently encountered scary problems on the platform. The first, PJApps-C, is Android’s most significant chaos causer. See the chat above and the list below for more on Android’s scariest viruses.
Read more in depth about each of them HERE
While many people may not give a second thought to the mobile computing threats emerging as the mobile industry continues to grow and expand, there is some cause for concern. Thankfully, the company Veracode has got our backs. They’ve recently released a free ebook about mobile security that offers 10 simple ways to ramp up the company protection against a very real growing mobile threat. Get the free ebook HERE.
ComScore Mobile Metrix 2.0 released a report on Monday that looked at mobile media usage across both apps and mobile web browsing. According to the new data, Google is the #1 site used across iOS, Android and RIM devices, followed by Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon.
But in terms of usage, apps took home first prize. The New numbers from Comscore indicated that of the smartphone users on the web while mobile, nearly all of them are using apps and not a browser, with four out of every five mobile media minutes spent in apps.
There was little surprise as to which apps were being used most with the built-in system applications winning and Facebook following as a close runner up.
The first spot on app usage? Well, given the information above, it seems obvious that – platform dependent – the App Store or the Android Market are most used.
What does this mean for mobile commerce, we wondered? It’s hard to say from the report statistics, but we’re excited to see more mobile users moving away from just browsing on their phones and using apps to do their research, stay connected and get immersed in the wonders of mobile.
What do you use most on your mobile device? The web browser or apps? Tweet us and let us know @plasticmobile.