How to send your Android device’s photos to Apple iPhoto with Dropbox

android-logoA friend of mine recently got his first smartphone, and it happens to be an Android phone. He asked me how he could get his photos and video off of the phone and into iPhoto on his Mac. I had no idea, so I told him to try to connect the phone to the Mac via USB and see if it shows up in iPhoto like a camera. Unfortunately, that would be too easy and did not work.

The Dropbox solution

After researching the problem on the Internet I determined that the easiest method would be to use Dropbox and its automatic photo upload feature.

Step 1: Install Dropbox on your Mac

Before getting started you need to have a Dropbox account, if you don’t have one already. An account is free and comes with 2GB of storage (with ways to get more free storage through referrals and more). You then need to download and install Dropbox onto your Mac. The application will download automatically when you set up an account. You will need you login information when you install Dropbox on the computer.

Step 2: Install Dropbox on your Android phone and enable automatic photo uploads

Once the account is set up and Dropbox is installed on your Mac, you will want to install the Dropbox app from Google Play on your phone. Once installed on your phone, open the app and follow the steps to set it up using your account information. At one point in the setup you will be given the option to turn on the ability to automatically upload photos from your phone to Dropbox. You want to do this. There will also be an option to only enable this feature over WiFi. If you are on a limited data plan you will want to use the WiFi only option. Uploading photos uses data and you do not want to burn up your plan sending photos to Dropbox. Let the phone do this when you are connected to WiFi instead. If your plan is unlimited the choice is up to you, since you don’t have to worry about a data limit.

Once you complete this step, the phone will begin uploading the images already on your phone to your Dropbox account to a folder called Camera Uploads. It will also automatically upload any photo and video you take to Dropbox from this point forward.

Now you want to go back to your Mac and open your Dropbox folder . The easiest way to do this is to go to the Dropbox icon in your menu bar and click “Dropbox Folder.” The folder will open and you should notice a folder called Camera Uploads. This is the same folder that the phone is not loading your photos and videos into. If you open it you should see all of you content appearing.

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Step 3: Add your photos to iPhoto

Now you have to get those photos into iPhoto. To do this make sure you are in the Dropbox folder. Drag and drop the Camera Uploads folder to iPhoto in your dock. All of the content in the folder will be placed into an event in iPhoto and you are free to edit and share from iPhoto.

Step 4: Manage your limited Dropbox space

There is one final and important step. Your Dropbox account is not unlimited storage. You want to empty the Camera Uploads folder each time you import into iPhoto and free up that space. To do this open your Camera Uploads folder and choose “Select All” from the Edit menu. Next choose “Move to Trash” from the File menu. At some point you will want to empty the trash, but that is not required right now. This will empty the folder and free up that space. Keep in mind that this only deletes the photos from your Dropbox account. It does not delete them off the phone.

If you followed these steps correctly you are set and able to take photos and video off your Android phone and import them into iPhoto thanks to some help from Dropbox.

Distributed computing comes to Android with BOINC

Our understanding of the world around us has grown by leaps and bounds since the invention of the computer. The simulation of complex systems in particular involves crunching a ton of numbers, a task computers excel at. Unfortunately, the very best number crunchers happen to be extremely expensive, both to buy and to maintain. Through a system known as distributed computing large, complex tasks can be completed without the hassle of managing a supercomputer.

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Image credit: NASA

In distributed computing, a central server offloads small tasks to the computers connected to its network. Each computer completes its task and sends the results back to the server. By utilizing the spare CPU cycles of tens of thousands of volunteer computers, a project like Folding@Home can complete vital research without needing to buy pricey supercomputers. Distributed computing networks exist for a vast array of scientific pursuits, including disease research, the factorization of large integers, and even the search for extraterrestrial life.

Major distributed computing platforms have been available for the desktop computer for more than a decade, and a Folding@Home app can even be installed on the PS3, but until now the mobile market has remained largely untouched. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) has changed that with the recent release of their Android app.

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Upon first opening BOINC’s app you’ll be prompted to select a distributed computing project to contribute to. A brief overview of each project’s goals can be found on BOINC’s website or by selecting a project in the app. After selecting a project you’ll need to create an account to track your computing progress. Once you’ve created an account, BOINC is ready to do its work.

You’re probably thinking that an app of this nature would quickly drain your phone’s battery, and you’d be right if the BOINC app ran continuously. Thankfully, it isn’t configured to run continuously. By default, it only runs when your phone is connected to power, and even then only when the battery is charged to at least 90%. These settings (and others) can be fine tuned in the preferences menu. I highly recommend changing the max used storage space option to something much lower, as the default setting is absurdly high.

The computing power of a current generation smartphone might not compare to that of even a meager desktop computer, but combined with thousands of other phones that power becomes much more substantial. Every little bit helps.

BOINC is available for Android and can be found on the Play Store. Clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux can be found on the BOINC website.

4 ways to make your Android phone’s battery last longer

Android PowerageOne of the reasons why Android operated devices are highly welcome in the market is their exemplary multitasking capabilities. However, there is a price to pay for this. To maintain a good number of applications running in the background and on demand, the processor has to constantly keep a record of running apps and actively swap every now and then. As the number of services accomplished by the processor increase, so does the devices power consumption.

However, there are a couple of things that you can do to reduce your gadget’s power consumption. This freedom draws from the characteristic customization capabilities that Android devices possess. You can shut down some services and functionalities that you do not need and reduce the hardware performance to save battery juice for a nobler course.  Below are some of the basic tricks to help you accomplish this.

1. Turning off Unused Features

Most of the services and applications bundled into our Android devices do not have to run 24/7. For instance, you will not use you Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and data connection continuously. Even though these services make the device more functional, they also consume a good amount of power whenever they run, whether on active or idle mode.

To save on power, only turn on wireless connectivity when you intend to use it. Additional functionalities that may look cool but are unnecessary and power consuming include vibrations. Only use haptic feedback where necessary to conserve power.

2. Filter your notifications and reduce the number of apps that can ‘Auto-sync’

In bid to keep smartphones smart, most designers give them the power to ‘talk’ to the internet. The basic idea behind this is to allow the phone to access and process data on your behalf. However, such powers would be useless in some instances.

To ensure that your phone does not consume power processing unnecessary notifications or accessing the Internet every now and then for futile synchronization, you could turn off auto-sync and report generation for most of the apps and only let the most important applications retain this capability. This will help your device will stay alive for longer due to reduced power consumption.

3. Make Use of Power Control Widgets and Task Apps

Even though statistical reports show that the number of people purchasing smartphones is on the rise, not all of them know how to optimize their power settings. Developers seal this gap by releasing applications that help you regulate the number of processes your phone executes per unit time and the speed of execution to cut down on power consumption.

With a swift and convenient way to access most of the native setting from under the same roof, you are in a position to optimize your device to best suit your environment and requirements. The most basic things that you can change using these applications include screen brightness, processor frequency and allowed limit of process per unit time.

4. Power Efficient Customization Techniques

As device manufacturers struggle to create better display units, the power needed to run the high-resolution screens increases exponentially. Rendering high quality graphics on the screen at high brightness levels consumes more power than rendering still and dull graphics. When selecting your wallpaper and themes, go for something dull and simple to cut down on power hogging.

These are just some of the things that you can do to your smartphone in a bid to cut down on its power consumption. Though these measures might reduce your device’s performance, they are helpful especially if you do not have the opportunity to recharge every now and then.

Vine continues to explode after Android release

vineNow that Vine for Android is a few weeks old, users are finding more and more uses for the six-second video app. Owned by Twitter and essentially creating the video form of tweets, Vine is taking the app market by storm. At a year old, Vine even topped Instagram for the most downloaded app among Android users. And the more users that are signing up for the app, the more uses that have been found for this handy little app.

In fact, it’s being used for almost everything. Entertainment, creative resumes, just-for-fun posts, even educational ventures, like sharing recipes or cooking instructions. By using the record feature only when it’s necessary (for instance, to show ingredients or important work history), viewers are able to fill in the gaps between shots. This cuts down on share time while creating unique and creative effects. The hold-when-necessary also provides a unique GIF-like appearance, showing the effect of jerky camerawork without giving viewers motion sickness.

Using the Vine

Because of its unique features – which include sound, stop motion, time restraint, and the ability to share directly to social media sites – Vine has been used for a number of creative video ventures, even more so than its competitors. Reporters are even using the app to share news events as they happen; while video can be recorded, emailed, and posted online, but why not upload a Vine recording directly to Twitter? This feature allows the timeliest of news to be shared while eliminating minimal technology delays.

Like Twitter, users cite one of the biggest perks is the time restraint. Users are becoming far more creative with their time without the ability to drag out pictures or instructions. For instance, with cooking-related Vine videos – ingredients are shown in sequence, along with the recipe in progress, until the final project is reached. During a cooking show, a viewer would have watched 30 minutes of program to see the finished product. But with Vine, instantaneous cuts down on all of the in between nonsense, like rambling or commercials.

Whether you sign up for Vine for a creative new way to explore social media or you’re looking for a trendy way to share information, this app seems to have something for everyone. Just click, record, and share.

To find out more about Vine or to start creating your own stop-motion videos, check out the app on Android and iOS.

An introduction to mobile app testing

Testing Apps

By now, it should be evident that smartphones are the next big thing. The explosion of consumer apps can be seen in just about every industry. Location intelligent mobile commerce apps, magazine apps, real-time trading apps, and gaming and social networking apps are just a few of the industry verticals experiencing this shift.

Mobile adoption has been experiencing exponential growth in the last few years and the trend does not seem to be stopping. This means that mobile apps will continue to become ever more critical to the success of businesses and companies. As such, what steps are you taking to prepare yourself for this technological revolution that is already unfolding?

One way to do this is to make sure your mobile apps are optimized and ready to go when users need them.

Apps on Mobile

According to a recent study, 60 percent of mobile users will only give your website or app three seconds to load otherwise they will abandon you. If you thought this was tough, then consider that out of those users, 43 percent do not intend to ever return to your app or site – EVER.  How then can you ensure that your app works the way its supposed to on multiple OS platforms? Should you test in-house or outsource? Can testing increase app store ratings? What are the challenges of app testing?

Lets get some answers to these questions…

Functional Testing

This includes checking the screen real estate, finding device specific bugs, normal use test, and idle run test. Exploring the application in a number of devices will help in locating usability problems. Device specific bugs can be identified as such when they are not reproducible on a desktop browser.

It is also imperative that you test battery usage by running the application 6-12 hours using an automated testing tool.

Usability Testing

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This includes testing the functionality, layout & design, as well as the application interaction flow. This level of testing tries to make sure the user can complete tasks easily and without becoming frustrated.  Usability testing will also include ensure that apps are not crammed with so many features that they leave the users feeling overwhelmed. The goal should be to focus on immersive use that allows users to gain mastery of the content as opposed to quick hits that dilute app usability.

Load, Performance and Localization Testing

Performance issues such as crashes and hangs are common user complaints. These need to be addressed early before consumers divert to competitor apps and services. Your app should also support features unique to specific markets.

We can be sure that mobile apps are not going anywhere anytime soon, which means that when you spend time perfecting your app through testing, you are not losing anything but investing in the future of your company or business.

A look at Gmail’s new inbox with automatic email sorting

Gmail LogoI recently enabled the New Gmail inbox, and I have to say that this new update has me scratching my head.

(To experience the new Gmail Inbox, you have to simply click on the gear icon in your top right window just above the chat and choose “Configure Inbox.” From here, you can choose from the variety of tabs that Google has given to you.)

I understand that Google is known for frequently updating its products, regardless of whether or not an update is really necessary. It has become something of a corporate culture, and perhaps serves to show people that they really are putting the work in to improve their products.

However, was this recent update just a minor adjustment or a useful update to how you use Gmail?

Introducing the new Gmail Inbox with categories

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The way that the new Inbox is laid out is that instead of one Inbox that has the priority tags, there are multiple tabs on the top of your window. They are similar to tabs in a browser, and by clicking each one you access a different view of your inbox. The default ones that are selected are Primary, Social, and Promotions. If you would like, you also have the options to add Updates and Forums to your tabs as well.

Here are how Google defines each option:

  • Primary – Person-to-person conversations and messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
  • Social – Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, and other social websites.
  • Promotions – Deals, offers, and other marketing emails.
  • Updates – Personal, auto-generated emails including confirmations, receipts, bills and statements.
  • Forums – Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

After you have chosen your tabs, you will notice that your email becomes all jumbled. Gmail automatically goes through all of your emails and places things where they “belong.” For example, anything that is an email generated from a forum comment will go into Forums, any recent email about a great deal will go in Promotions, etc. The idea here is that when you want to look for social emails, you go to social. When you want your updates such as bills and receipts then you go to Updates. I like the idea, and automatic sorting really makes using it literally effortless.

So what’s wrong with the new layout?

For me, I was immediately confused and a bit shocked to see that the “primary” option is exactly as it states. It is for emails that haven’t shown up in other tabs. What this meant took me a moment to process because I was so surprised and assumed it couldn’t be true. What this means is that there is no longer a unified inbox where you can go and just see ALL your email in one date sorted list. So if you don’t see it in primary, go to social. If it isn’t in there, try promotions, etc. This was immediately a deal breaker for me because this completely makes you rely on the automation process which would have to be flawless.

Is Google good enough to sort it out?

The answer to this is yes and no. Fortunately, Google is great at recognizing content in your emails (yes, that is creepy), but the built-in safety is that it will actually learn from you as you move your emails around. So for example, if you get an update in your Updates tab that you would prefer to be in your Social tab, you can simply drag them email onto the Social tab and Gmail will ask you if you would always like to do that for this sender. If you choose yes, then that senders email will go into the tab you chose.

The biggest problem I see with this is that it is essentially creating “rules” much like you would in Outlook or Apple mail. Yes they can be powerful, but not when they are the only choice across your whole email system. The fact is that a machine, although they have made incredible leaps and bounds, is not yet ready to determine exactly where I want my emails. Granted, the existence of one unified inbox that just shows you everything would be a great safety net that would make this whole experience much easier in my opinion.

Limited categorization options

I think the confusion and the difficulty now is that you can’t create your own tabs, and stuffing your email into these pre-created tabs is… well, hard. I immediately ran into questions that I just didn’t want to answer! Isn’t this forum response from a local club a social event? Is this marketing email also the address that sends me blog updates that I actually like to read? Is my second or third communication with a doctor, job, etc. considered an update or just in primary? They are technically updates to a situation right? All in all, it was just too confusing with too many questions that to be honest, I didn’t care to answer.

I don’t get seven thousand emails a day, a nice list of my emails with the occasional folder sorting would be fine for me. I know that for many people, that may not be the case.

New mobile apps

iOS appAnother huge problem I have with this system is the mobile Gmail app. Although I don’t have access to the Android version, the iOS version basically works so that you see each tab and have to tap into the side menu to switch between your tabs. That is two taps to switch between tabs, and I can see it being a huge pain to look through when you aren’t sure exactly where an email went. If the default was to see all your messages, then look at them in the tabs when you wanted, I would be ok with that. You would have a safe ground in some way.

Will it get better?

I have complete faith that Google will improve this system, and even just the added ability to create your own tabs will do wonders. Whether they put in one inbox that shows you everything, I’m not sure, but without it I won’t be using the new inbox. Google also has a reputation for quickly axing a change they made, and it just all of a sudden disappearing from your options. Perhaps this new tab system will go that way!

I think what it comes down to is: how complicated does your inbox need to be? For some people, simpler and straight forward is the way to go, and I think this new update pushes into complicated territory. For power users that love to organize, it may be a nice change, but for others it is a head scratching nuisance.

Google Keep: Note-taking from an Android’s perspective

Considering the sheer vastness of the Google Play marketplace, one can assume that there are countless apps that cover the realm of note-taking and to-do lists.  So it is not surprising that Google would try to architect a note/task app in their own fashion.  The result of this endeavor is Google Keep; an Android app that is a depository for ideas, notes, and to-do lists.

The app can be found (as expected) on the Google Play Store.  Here’s a breakdown of its inner-workings:

Google Keep

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The main application menu at first appears like the picture on the left: empty.  The simplest way to add a note in Google Keep is by using the “quick note” option at the top.  Once the note is created, it will appear on the main menu.

Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note
Left to right: To-Do List, Photo, and Voice Note

Underneath the quick note option are the buttons for the four main note types in Google Keep: a simple note, a to-do task list, a voice-to-text note, and a picture caption note.  Each of them are self-explanatory by namesake, so the minor details regarding their operation shall be skipped.

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Save those notes for later…
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…or not.

As notes get composed, they will fill up the main menu screen.  Existing notes can be modified by tapping once to open them or by holding to select (they turn blue).  Once one or more notes are selected, one can choose to delete them, share them, or archive them for future reference.  Notes that are in the archived folder can return to the main screen by holding and selecting it again and hitting the archive button again in the top right.

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If white seems a bit drab for a note color, do not fret; they can be colored to one’s liking.  Google Keep can also be placed as a widget on a home screen for quicker viewing and editing of notes.

The Google Drive Bit

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Now colors are nice and all, but what else does Google Keep have to offer?  Well, very time a note is created, modified, or destroyed inside the Android app, it automatically syncs the changes with your Google account and placed them in Google Drive.  Because of this, notes can be accessed via a browser anytime from this web link here.  Likewise, if notes are modified while on the browser webpage, they are automatically updated when Google Keep is accessed again on Android.

Conclusion

Got a random thought or task that needs retention?  Let Google Keep help you with that.

Updates from Google I/O – What is New on Google Play and Chrome

 900M Androids

Once again, the Google I/O event was an opportunity for Google to showcase what magic and innovation they have been cooking up in their labs. This year, they did not disappoint and came through as usual. Here is my take on what I loved about the new developer tools.

900 million Androids activations as of 2013 was probably the big opening news during the event. The android ecosystem is truly amazing and continues to grow. Another notable addition was Cloud Save when gaming which allows you to pause a game and continue playing on other devices.

 Google Play

I0 Public View

 Optimization was also a big deal during the event. Google now offers optimization tips to help you see where you can improve your apps. This includes giving you such services like App Translation Services and tablet usage to help you determine where your users are coming from and how you can make their experiences better.

Referral tracking is another new feature to help you determine which ads are most effective. By showing which channels are bringing you most traffic, usage metrics will also be available together in the same place without having to navigate to Google Analytics.

Revenue Graphs now allow you to see revenue streams at your fingertips down to specific countries and time. Beta Testing & Staged Rollouts were also introduced to help you manage app rollouts.

Chrome

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Chrome was created to make the Web a better place. Google announced that the Chrome user growth has now reached 750 million active users. With most of this increasing new growth is coming from mobile, Google showcased a demo of Web GL which comes to Chrome that was not available just last year.

The browser is a means and not an end in itself, and Google seems to be concentrating on bringing Chrome capabilities to mobile by increasing JavaScript speeds. The introduction of WebP image format was also showcased with an animated GIF of a cat.

Video formats encoded in H.264 and VP9 were also showcased, with the later being 69 percent smaller which would translate to less bandwidth costs. To enable adoption of these new technologies, Google introduced data compression on Chrome for Mobile to enable web pages load faster. It was also announced that YouTube will soon be offering support for the new VP9 video format.

Autocomplete for checkout has also been simplified to make shopping on mobile phones much easier. One you do an initial checkup, Chrome saves up all of your info. The next time you come to fill out the checkout form, it is automatically populated saving time.

You can also build your own HTML tags with the introduction of web components which is where Google wants to take web development.

A nice demo of a game using Web sockets to keep different devices synchronized during gameplay was also showcased.

Google Now for iOS: A real reason to use location services

Google Now HomeI am a tech geek. I love technology, I constantly download the latest apps, I do my very best to have hands on experiences with the newest devices, and I am generally constantly reading about new advancements.

That being said, Google Now has completely blown me away.

Google Now: The future is here.

Coming from Apple’s iOS as my primary platform, I have been salivating over Google Now via YouTube videos and tech articles for a long time now. I initially stumbled on it while looking at comparison videos between Siri and Samsung’s S Voice. In the rabbit hole that is YouTube, I eventually ended up watching plenty of videos comparing Google Now to S Voice and Siri, and Google Now handily beat them both every time.

Needless to say, this bit of software was something I was excited about, but honestly was not fully confident that it would make it to iOS. However, as is the trend with Google, they always feel releasing their incredible software on iOS is more beneficial for them than it is detrimental for their Android platform. Lucky for iOS users!

Google Now is basically nested within the Google Search App which can be downloaded from the App Store.

First Impressions

I downloaded the app on April 29th, the day that it was released, and I was blown away right off of the bat. Once I installed it, I went into the Google Search app, and dragged the Google Now interface from the bottom into full view. I was curious what type of “Cards” I would be seeing since it was my first time on the app.

Important note about setting up Google Now

To use Google Now,  it is highly recommended to turn on your Location Services. Without that, Google Now literally does not function. It will just sit there and tell you there are no location services, and show you nothing else. Also, if you have a Gmail account, logging into it will greatly enhance your experience. As far as I can tell, virtually everything is taken from your Google relationship, and generally a Gmail account is the anchor point for that relationship.

2013-05-01 11.14.01Once I had my location services enabled and logged in with my Gmail, I scrolled through my cards. The first thing I noticed were two cards that had the information of two packages that I had ordered from Amazon. I immediately tapped on one, and it showed me all the information about when the order was made, who was shipping it, and gave me a button to “Track Package.” This was the first feature that truly surprised me because it required Google to sort through my email, understand the email from Amazon, take the data and reorganize it for the card, and present it to me with a link that goes directly to the USPS tracking site. That is just plain intelligent, and it’s the type of tech I have been waiting for for a long time!

To be fair, the tracking on the package was rather basic, and didn’t go to the USPS site the first times that I used it. It was still able to tell me the latest status and the delivery day, but wasn’t showing me step by step statuses as the package made its way to my house. However, I noticed that today, when I track a few additional packages that I recently ordered, the “Track Package” button goes directly to the USPS website, and shows me the exact up-to-date status which is even better than using the Amazon app to track things.

Location Awareness and Navigating

I have to admit, this is the category that excited me the most when I looked at all the Google Now videos. Sure, it is incredibly fast at understanding a question and giving you data immediately, but what was being shown for built-in navigation seemed like true predictive and future technology. In these YouTube videos I watched, they showed how Google Now would alert you when to leave for work in the morning based on the traffic situation, basically predicting what time you needed to be at work and alerting you if traffic was jeopardizing that. Since Google Maps navigation has always been the most reliable app on my phone, I was excited by this type of tight integration. So how did it work?

Once I set my Home location in Google Maps, the Google Now integration was absolutely fantastic. However, it relies heavily on having a place to go. While that might sound obvious, what I mean is that this data needs to be in a form Google Now recognizes. For my appointments over the last few days, I had to add them to my Google Calendar (including location)and then it would sync to Google Now.

The result was quite impressive. For example, I put in a doctor’s appointment for the next morning, and when I woke up and went into Google Now, the top card was how long it would take me to get there and a small map highlighting the traffic situation, and of course a button that links to immediate navigating in Google Maps. Pretty cool. Even more, when I was finished with an appointment (or out anywhere for that matter), it would always have a card suggesting the traffic back home. A few times, this made it seem like it was reading my mind, as I was actually heading home.

Again, this is all understandable, and a natural progression of technology, but here is what really surprised and excited me: I was at a doctor’s appointment, and it was my only appointment in my calendar for the day. Naturally, Google Now was suggesting Home as the next destination and that was all. However, I needed to get some blood drawn for a test my doctor wanted, so I started using Google Search to find lab locations around the area, identify their operating hours and perhaps make an appointment. As I was walking out of the doctor’s office, I casually glanced at Google Now to see if there were any interesting new articles it thought was relevant to me, and the top card was the traffic and time estimate to the lab I looked at! Talk about predictive technology.

Location based results that I have experienced:

  • Restaurants nearby that have Zagat ratings attached
  • The weather and forecast wherever I am
  • Traffic to my next destination (if it’s in the calendar), or back home

Some cool location features I have yet to test:

  • When traveling, it will display a translator for you based on the country you are in
  • It will show you the current time zone you are in, and occasionally flash back to your home time zone so you see the time there
  • Depending on the country you are in, it will offer up the current currency exchange in that area
  • It will suggest local venues and shows going on, including movies

Sports and News CardExperience with Google Search Integration

As the magical addition of my Lab location points out, Google Now is heavily integrated into Google Search. Here are some things I have searched for that Google now later assisted with:

  • Locations I have searched for (like the lab), especially when I am near them
  • Sports teams I have searched for future schedules or past scores (they start appearing in cards with results)
  • News articles featuring the type of tech articles I have been searching for and reading (not many, but they were on target)
  • Restaurants nearby

Aside from these types of integration, the Siri-like feature of being able to search with your voice is just plain spot on. Not only does it show you what you said in text so you can visually confirm the search, it does so as you type. The second you say a word, it is on the screen, and you can see it correct itself by the context of your sentence if it got a word wrong. The result is a flawless voice translation that always has gotten it right for me, and leads to a fast and easy search. It generally can find an answer to just about anything, and is way better than Siri (and much faster).

Is this an invasion of privacy?

I am very sure there will be two camps regarding the privacy issue, one saying that of course it isn’t, and one saying Google is an evil corporation and is trying to sell your soul for money. I have always been a part of the former, but with this increased integration, I can really understand the latter. Much of the impressive things Google Now has done has honestly been absolutely creepy. It seems to know what is going on in my life, before I even know I am looking for it. However, I suppose that I am technologically minded enough to find these advances awesome and necessary, and the sharing your information part of it is just a necessary evil for large jumps in life quality.

iOS Drawbacks

One of the largest differences between iOS Google Now and Android Google Now is simply the level of phone integration that you can attain. For example, when you tap on “Get Directions” on the traffic part of iOS Google Now, it will open Google Maps (thank god it’s not locked to Apple Maps for some silly reason). However, in the Android version, you also have choices like notify the person you are meeting that you will be a few minutes late.

Additionally, and one of the absolute worst limitations for iOS is that push notifications are not allowed. This severely limits the usability of the app because you must have the app open to get the benefits. For Android, your phone will alert you that it is time to leave for work (or whatever appointment) based on the traffic and the time. For iOS, it knows you have to leave, but it can’t say anything to you. It’s up to you to notice the time, and check the app for the traffic update. That is a huge downside, but given all the wonderful other features of the app, I found that I am in it regularly enough to notice things before it alerts me.

Final Thoughts

Google Now is still young on iOS, but it is clearly a winning product. Of all the apps to have ever come out on iOS (not counting Google Maps return to iOS), this is hands down the one that I am most excited about. True predictive technology is something that tech companies have been working on for ages, but nobody has been able to really nail. Google seems extraordinarily close, and if they can develop this to know virtually everything I want to do before I do it, then all the other companies will be scrambling as their market share absolutely tanks.

The best part is that I don’t think any other company really can do it the way that Google can, because they don’t have all these integrated services like Gmail that are constantly pulling in information from every aspect of your life. Time will tell if this is truly the future, but I am very certain that this is a large step in the right direction.

Meet Uber, your on-demand private driver

2013-04-11_09h49_14Thanks to the Uber app for iOS and Android, gone are the days of standing outside trying to hail a cab or find a car service. I was recently in San Francisco for work and I met a friend for dinner across town. We were about to leave, and I said to her, “I really hope there are cabs in this area.” She looked at me and said, “You don’t have the Uber app?” I immediately pulled out my iPhone and download the app, within 5 minutes I signed up and had a taxi waiting for me outside the restaurant.

How it Works

Set up an account

First, you download the app to your iOS or Android device and create an account. You must enter a credit card in order to complete account set up. An email will be sent for you to confirm your information

Right now Uber can be used in the following cities: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Hamptons, London, Los Angles, Melbourne, Milan, Minneapolis-St Paul, Napa, New York, Orange Count, Paris, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Washington DC.

Select the type of vehicle you want

The types of vehicles are listed below; however, not every type of vehicle is available in every city. When you launch the app GPS will locate what city you are in and give you the vehicle options for that area.

Taxi: No flagging or yelling required! Use Uber to request and pay for a taxi, at standard taxi rates plus a $1 booking fee. A 20% gratuity is automatically added for the driver.

UBERx: The convenience of Uber at a lower price with hybrid and mid-range cars in a variety of colors. Seats up to 4 people.

Black: Classic black car option is the default. Choose this and either a high-end sedan or SUV will be curbside in minutes. Note: choosing “Black” and being picked up by an SUV will not charge you the SUV rates. Seats up to 4 people.

SUV: When you’re rolling with more than four people, request only SUVs, for a higher rate. Seats up to 6 people

Use the app to tell Uber where you want to be picked up

You can use the map and your phone’s GPS to tell Uber your current location so they can pick you up. If the GPS does not find the exact location, you can manually type in the address.

www.uber.com
www.uber.com

Wait for Uber to respond

Uber will send you a text notifying you of how long you’ll need to wait before you can expect to be picked up, along with the driver’s name. When your Uber ride arrives, you’ll receive another text to let you know.

Wait for your payment to be automatically charged

Your card will be automatically charged, with the tip already included. You don’t need to manually hand over some cash or your card to the driver before you leave. It’s that simple.

Pricing

Uber’s pricing is similar to metered taxis, although all hiring and payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally. If the Uber car is traveling at a speed greater than 11 mph, the price is calculated on a distance basis. Otherwise, the price is calculated on a time basis. Prices are higher than prices charged by conventional taxicabs and 20% gratuity is automatically added.

At the end of a ride, the complete fare (which includes a tip) is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card. Uber has said that its high prices are the premium that the customers pay for a cab service that is not only reliable but also punctual and comfortable. Check out Uber’s website for prices per city.

Once the ride is over…

A receipt is sent to your email address (great for those who need to expense the ride) along with a survey to rate your experience. I also received an email for $10 off for every friend I get to sign up using the link they provide in the email.

Conclusion

Overall, my experience with Uber was great. The price may seem a little expensive to some people who give it a try, but when you work it out with the tip and realize that you’re paying for more of a high quality and convenient driver experience, it’s actually well worth the cost.