There’s a new way to search on your mobile device, and it comes from the king of search Google. It’s called Handwrite and the concept is simple: once enabled, Handwrite allows you to use your finger to draw letters to input a search query. Google says they “designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing.” Handwrite, still in beta but available for the gen pop to try out, is there for times when pecking at a virtual keyboard is tough–like when you’re a passenger in a bumpy taxi ride, for example. Here’s how to enable Handwrite: go to www.google.com on your mobile device, go to Settings, enable Handwrite, tap Save, and refresh the Google homepage. The Handwrite icon (a cursive “g”) will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen letting you know it’s turned on. Once enabled, you can start drawing letters near anywhere on the screen and you’ll see them appear in the search box. See your query autocompleted by Google in the drop-down list? Click it and your search is complete. It works surprisingly well. If you’ve got a device running OS5+, Android 2.3+ (phones), or Android 4.0+ (tablets), give it a spin today. Video demonstration after the break.
In this simple game named “Glowball” chip manufacturer NVIDIA demonstrates the bright future of mobile gaming by highlighting the world’s first mobile quad-core processor codenamed “Kal-El.” It’s a quad-core processor with a 12-core NVIDIA GPU that supports 3D stereo and allows for true dynamic lighting rendered in real time and brings more interactivity to a 3D environment. Watch the stimulating demo above to get a sense for the breathtaking games that will one day make it to our iPads and other mobile devices.
Today Google made good on their promise bringing the power of Google Instant search to the mobile space. When you access Google.com and begin to type your query, the search bar snaps to the top of the screen and Instant does its thing. The new functionality works over 3G and WiFi connections, but Google gives you the option to turn it off during those slow surfing times. There’s a turn on/turn off button located beneath the search bar on the home page for easy access.
Instant for mobile is currently in beta, and it’s available for iPhone and iPod (running iOS4) and Android (running 2.2 Froyo) users in the U.S. Additional country, language, and device support is in the works. Look after the break to watch a brief demonstration.
Google intros Voice Actions, Chrome to Phone; updates Gmail UI and contacts section, enables multiple account sign-in
On Thursday Google introduced a new app for Android devices called Voice Actions. “Voice Actions are a series of spoken commands that let you control your phone using your voice.” Sounds simple and yet it is extremely helpful. There are a total of twelve voice actions you can perform by speaking into the device’s mic. Including the already implemented method of performing a Google search with your voice, other actions include:
Here’s how a number of them work. You can complete a text message or email without touching the (physical or on-screen) keyboard simply by saying “send text to Bill Will” or “send email to Bill Will” respectively. The phone will take a second to understand your speech input and then present your message all ready for delivery. Tapping send will shoot your message off. Speak and send, it’s that simple. Voice actions extend beyond text messaging and emailing. Say there’s a restaurant you want to call to make reservations for dinner. You know the name and location of the restaurant, but you don’t have the business’ phone number handy. You could bring up the browser and find the number that way, but with voice actions you can more quickly and efficiently obtain and dial the restaurant’s number. The voice action “Call Sarabeth’s in NYC” will prompt your device to quickly search the Internet (using Google Maps) for the restaurant’s phone number by pinging the name and specific location. Within seconds of your voice action you’ll hear your phone ringing the restaurant or place of business. You can even use voice actions to find and listen to music. When you say “Listen to The Decemberists” your phone will search across your music library and any number of related apps (Pandora, last.fm, etc.) to start playing music from that particular band. “Note to self”, as cliche as it sounds, serves as another interesting voice action that’ll likely come in handy from time to time.
Voice Actions require Android 2.2 (Froyo) and they are currently available for U.S. English speakers only. Droid 2 owners will find the app preinstalled on their device. If you have an Android 2.2 device, search ‘Voice Search’ in the Android Market to find the free download.
Google also announced Chrome to Phone, a Chrome browser extention and Android app that communicate with each other to send browser-specific information from your desktop to your phone. Once you have Chrome to Phone installed on your desktop and phone, you can send websites, directions, and phone numbers from your desktop Chrome browser to your Android device. For example, say you’re catching up on national news at The New York Times website but you are interuppted and forced to leave home. Simply tap the new phone icon located at the top right corner of your Chrome browser window and the website will appear on your Android phone. Now let’s say you are planning a road trip using Google Maps in Chrome. Instead of wasting paper by printing out the directions, now you can send the directions from your desktop to your phone. The instant transfer will automatically open up the Google Maps app on your phone and you’re just a tap away from initiating a Google Maps Navigation route using the transferred location information. One more example. You want to make a reservation at Sarabeth’s in NYC and you found the restaurant’s phone number on your desktop. Ready to make the call? Highlight the phone number, tap the new phone button in Chrome, and the transfer will bring up your phone’s dialer prepopulated with the restaurant’s number.
The Google Chrome to Phone Extention is available (in English only) to download today. The free Chrome to Phone app requires Android 2.2 (Froyo) and can be found in the Android Market by searching ‘Chrome to Phone.’
Look after the break to learn about Gmail’s latest updates. There you’ll also find brief video demonstrations for Voice Actions and Chrome to Phone. (Click here for more…)
Microsoft’s Surface table is fairly large and very expensive. And those are two factors that don’t mesh well with the general consuming public. Microsoft gets that, so they’ve gone ahead and created a prototype version of their multitouch table called Mobile Surface. Like its older brethren, Mobile Surface uses a projector/camera combo that allows you to interact with on-screen images. Difference here is that the image projection can be displayed on any surface (making it portable) and it allows for in-air manipulation. For example, as seen in the video above, you can play the drums without physically touching the tabletop. Mobile Surface links up to a secondary device, like a cell phone or laptop, to indicate what you’re interacting with. Pretty neat if you ask me. Currently Mobile Surface is a Microsoft Research project and Microsoft did not comment on a potential mainstream release.
So this is what Wired is going to look like on the iPad. Pretty cool, huh? Wired teamed up with Adobe to create Wired Reader, a digital version of the real-life magazine. The UI looks stunning and the back-and-forth between pages, images, and video is very fluid. It runs on top of Adobe’s AIR app, allowing developers to easily convert the Reader to run on other mobile devices and even the PC or Mac. Will the iPad revolutionize the print media industry? Hard evidence like this points towards a resounding “yes.”
Google’s latest foray into the social networking business has everyone atwitter; so what’s all the buzz about? Google Buzz is a new way to share updates with friends. It goes beyond the standard “status update” from Facebook and breaks free from a 140-character tweet from Twitter, allowing you to quickly and easily share content across the Internet. Buzz is built into Gmail. If you have a Gmail account you are already set up for the service; your current list of contacts and people you chat with the most automatically become your followers. That last word strikes a familiar chord, doesn’t it? Buzz is very similar to Twitter; you follow people, people follow you, you post updates, and so on. What makes it different (and so much more expansive) is that there’s no character limit and the means of interaction with others is much more fluid. It fosters greater interaction with the ability to share links, photos, and video. YouTube videos can be embedded right into posts, along with pictures that can be viewed in full size and resolution. Besides sharing your own information, you will be alerted about new posts from followers and their group of followers; Buzz recommends posts from people you’re not directly following to promote a growing community of new friends and acquaintances. @-responses are supported, allowing you to specifically address a friend’s post. You also have the option to connect Buzz to other accounts like Picasa, Flickr, Google Reader, and Twitter and spread your posts, pictures, and breaking news that way. And don’t worry–you have the option to keep things private among friends or public with the Buzz community.
Google Buzz should be fully integrated into everyone’s Gmail account by now. You’ll notice a new small tab located under the Inbox tab labeled Buzz. Now what if you’re away from the computer and still want to buzz about stuff? Google’s created Buzz for mobile and it’s got some intruiging features. What’s unique about posting on your phone is that Buzz uses location-based services to pinpoint exactly where you are when you post something, allowing your followers to find you on a map. Tagged locations do away with long/lat numbers and display the actual names of places instead. There are four ways to access Google Buzz on your cell phone. (1) On an iPhone or Android phone go to buzz.google.com to access a Buzz web app; it has two views: “‘Following’ view shows buzz from the people you follow, just like Google Buzz in your Gmail; ‘Nearby’ view shows public buzz that has been tagged with a location near you, and might be from people you don’t follow. From Nearby view, you can also select a specific place from the list of nearby places and view posts attached to that place.” (2) Buzz on Google Maps for mobile, available only on Android phones, adds a new Buzz layer to the Maps application and “allows you to see buzz near you or anywhere on the map. You can post public buzz directly from the layer, and even attach a photo from your phone.” (3) Buzz Shortcut from Google.com allows any cell phone with a browser to access Buzz. (4) The Google Voice application, available on Android phones in the quick search widget and on iPhones in the Google Mobile App, “allows you to post buzz without typing anything. Just say ‘post buzz,’ followed by whatever you’d like to post.”
Is Google Buzz going to be a success? Will it catch on with the masses a la Facebook and Twitter? Buzz surely has the potential to replace Twitter as a social networking tool. At its core, Buzz is all about “start[ing] conversations about the things you find interesting” and it does it pretty well already. I agree with Mashable when they say “if Google Wave is the future, Google Buzz is the present.” The Google Wave beta made heads tilt in confusion, and Google thinks Buzz is an appropriate stepping stone to it. Buzz goes beyond email and IM but it does not overstep its boundaries (aka the craziness that is Wave). Thing is, Buzz does not feel like a transition service because it comes off as Twitter on steroids–something we’re used to, just beefier. Buzz is already making noise; today Facebook and AOL have joined forces to allow IM users to chat with Facebook friends over the AIM client. And Twitter should be scared, too; their 140-character limit and lack of expanding services may start to wear thin with Buzz lurking around the corner. A potential issue for some may arise in the fact that Buzz requires Gmail sign up but to these naysayers I say so what? Gmail is the best Internet email client out there anyway; now’s a better time than ever to jump on the bandwagon and join the Gmail community. Because that’s what it’s becoming thanks to Buzz–one giant place to share the things you find interesting with others.
Google Buzz in Gmail, for mobile, and the launch event can be found in video form after the break, you know, if you’re into that stuff.
Today Apple announced its latest technological advancement, the Apple iPad. Before I jump to my initial reactions let’s break down all the announcements from the keynote event led by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
The specs: The iPad features a 9.7 inch (1024×768 VGA) LED-backlit glossy fully capacitive multi-touch display with ISP technology (allowing for a wide 178° viewing angle); it’s powered by Apple’s custom-designed 1GHz Apple A4 chip (it’s a system-on-a-chip, packing the processor, graphics, I/O, and memory controller); it also includes a built-in accelerometer and ambient light sensor, AGPS, a digital compass, WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1, and 3G (more on that later). It will ship with 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB solid state drives. Input and output includes a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, a 30-pin dock connector, a microphone, built-in speakers, and a SIM card tray. It supports the usual video, mail attachment, language, and accessibility extensions. It packs a built-in rechargable lithium-polymer battery that lasts up to ten hours with usage and supports over a month of standby life. It’s also environmentally friendly. It has a very minimalist design; the external controls include the on/off (or sleep/wake) button at the top, mute and volume up/down switches to the right, and the home button at the bottom of the face. It’s dimensions are 9.56×7.47, 0.5 inches thin, and it weighs 1.5 pounds.
The software: Although it was not specified, the iPad runs an updated and iPad-optimized version of the iPhone OS software, presumably version 3.2. When you press the home button you enter an all-touch experience that is extremely similar to what you find on an iPhone or iPod touch today. After you get passed the lock screen, you are brought to your customizable home screen. Jobs noted that users will have the option to change their background images with preloaded screens or their pictures. The iPad will ship with the following apps: mobile Safari, Mail, Photos, Calendar, Contacts, Notes, YouTube, iPod, Video, and Maps (powered by Google). All of these apps are similar to their iPhone/iPod touch counterparts; they have simply been modified and enhanced by Apple to perform on a larger touch-based device. Two noteworthy enhancements include menu popovers and split-view workspaces that really take advantage of the larger display. And thanks to the built-in accelerometer, all apps support landscape and portrait modes. Side note: If you own a Mac and use iPhoto, the iPad will recognize this and further organize your photos into events, faces, and places categories. Most apps support an “almost life-size” virtual QWERTY keyboard that pops up when it’s needed.
The iPad comes with modified but familiar iTunes and Apps Stores. It will run “almost all” of the current 400,000 apps that exist in the App Store today. It runs the apps unmodified in two ways: you have the option to use them in a tiny format (so you don’t lose pixel quality) or you can tap a “x2” button that expands and scales the app full screen by automatically doubling the amount of pixels. Apple was quick to note that an updated version of the iPhone SDK (available today) will give developers the tools to modify and enhance their apps for the iPad. This will allow devs to take advantage of the larger screen and more powerful internals the same way Apple did with their apps. The keynote featured modified apps from Gameloft (Nova), EA (Need for Speed: Shift), MLB.com At Bat, The New York Times, and a paint app with Photoshop-like capabilities called Brushes.
Apple introduced a few new apps themselves. iBooks is Apple’s new e-reader app that serves as a place to read your collection of books and a portal to Apple’s brand new iBookstore. Here you can browse, preview, and purchase books from HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillian, and Hachette Book Group. Apples notes that they welcome all book and textbook publishers to join this new outlet for readers. Pricing details were not enclosed, but a demo revealed a number of books costing $12.99 and $14.99. The eBooks support the popular ePub format and are a visual treat. Once you purchase a book it is placed on your Bookshelf. Simply tap a book’s cover to start reading. You can change the font, font size, and search the text for keywords. The sleek UI includes tap or swipe gestures for page turning. Apple also intro’d a new version of iWork, built from the ground up for the iPad. iWork’s Keynote, Pages, and Numbers can be used to create slideshows, documents, and spreadsheets, respectively, right on the iPad. They will be sold separately at $9.99 each in the App Store.
Syncing the iPad to iTunes with a PC or Mac is done just like an iPhone or iPod does it. You can sync photos, music, movies, TV shows, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, and apps to it via the included 30-pin connector to USB cable.
Internet access: Apple is giving the user two options here. You can buy the iPad with built-in WiFi or you can opt to purchase an iPad that packs both WiFi and 3G service. The 3G service will be provided by AT&T with two different plans: (1) up to 250MB of data per month for $14.99; (2) unlimited data for $29.99. AT&T also throws in free use of designated WiFi hotspots. The AT&T plans are prepaid with no contract, so you are free to cancel a plan at any time. You also have the leisure of activating the 3G service on the iPad without going to a store or calling a company. It was noted that international deals should be sorted out by June, all iPad 3G models will come unlocked, and they use “new GSM micro SIM cards.”
Pricing and availability: There will be a total of eight different iPad models on the market. The first group of three are WiFi only and include 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities priced at $499, $599, and $699, respectively. The second group of three are WiFi +3G and include the same capacities, each with a $129 price increase (so $629, $729, $829). The WiFi models will be available for purchase in about 60 days (late March) and the WiFi + 3G models will come soon after in about 90 days (sometime in April).
Accessories: Apple unveiled four accessories for the iPad. The first is a standard charging dock that doubles as a digital picture frame. The second is a keyboard dock ($69); it charges the device and also includes a full-sized physical QWERTY keyboard that attaches to the iPad via the 30-pin connector. The third is an Apple designed black case ($39) that can also be used as a stand for watching video. The fourth is a camera connection kit ($29) that allows you to import photos to the iPad via your camera’s USB cable or directly from an SD card.
What’s missing: Multitasking, camera(s), Flash video support, and HDMI out, for starters. We’ve come to accept that the iPhone and iPod touch cannot do multitasking, but there is no reason that the iPad cannot support at least two applications running at the same time. The powerful 1GHz chip can beautifully render HD video, load up and present pictures extremely quickly, and run graphics and power intensive games. For a processor that’s described as “a screamer,” the lack of multitasking capabilities is a real shame. How about a camera? Though rumors pointed to front-facing and standard webcam implementation, there should at least be one backfacing camera installed for video chat. And don’t tell me the the processor can’t handle that. The lack of Flash video support in mobile Safari is a real bummer; forget about watching Hulu videos on it. (This is Apple’s decision; Adobe is able and willing to share Flash software.) The inclusion of HDMI out would have made perfect sense. The device can play HD videos downloaded from iTunes; why not give the user the ability to extend their viewing experience to the TV? What of the newspaper/magazine digital revolution? I expected Apple to make a big push with partnerships with Time and The Wall Street Journal, formulate subscription-based models, and so forth. I guess things will start small with the intro of updated apps and this will eventually lead to more significant changes. Lastly there’s the decision to go with AT&T for data, again. The latest round of rumors were really pushing for an Apple-Verizon Wireless partnership for the iPhone and the tablet. Guess we’ll have to wait on that, too.
And that brings me to my initial reactions. Rumors of an Apple tablet have been swirling for years, nearly for a decade, in fact. All of us highly anticipated and theorized its pending existence as the never-ending rumors continued to pile up over the years. I imagined the mysterious Apple tablet to revolutionize the portable computer industry just as Apple forever changed the landscape of the mobile phone arena with the iPhone. Having watched today’s keynote in its entirety I was left surprisingly underwhelmed by the announcement of the iPad, though I do see a bright future for it. (Click here for more…)