Google Maps for iOS Gains Quick-Access Traffic, Transit, and Local Info Tabs

Google has updated its iOS Maps app with three new quick-access options that Android users have had access to for over a year now. The new tabs sit across the bottom of the home screen and are called Explore, Driving, and Transit.



Swiping up on the shortcuts reveals further details. For example, in Explore users can find a description of the local area, dining choices, and options to search for gas stations, ATMs, convenience stores, drug stores, and other amenities.

The driving tab provides a traffic summary for the area, including information on possible delays that might add time onto a commute. This tab will also include current ETAs for the user's home and work addresses if they are saved in the app's settings. Finally, the transit tab offers estimated bus and train schedules at stations in the vicinity.

Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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Consumer Reports: Google Home Max and Sonos One Sound Better Than HomePod

Consumer Reports has conducted some early audio testing of the HomePod, and while the full evaluation isn't yet finished, the site believes that both the $400 Google Home Max and the $200 Sonos One sound better than Apple's new $349 smart speaker.

The HomePod received a "Very Good" sound quality rating, as did the Sonos One and the Google Home Max, but the latter two speakers also received higher overall sound quality scores.


Consumer Reports says that its speaker tests are conducted in a dedicated listening room, with experienced testers who compare each model with "high-quality reference speakers." In the case of the HomePod, testers found a few issues.

The bass was "boomy and overemphasized," while midrange tones were "somewhat hazy," and treble sounds were "underemphasized." Overall, Consumer Reports found the HomePod's sound to be "a bit muddy" when played next to the Sonos One and the Google Home Max.
The HomePod will serve many music fans well, but CR testers did hear some flaws. The HomePod's bass was a bit boomy and overemphasized. And the midrange tones were somewhat hazy, meaning that some of the nuance in vocals, guitars, and horns was lost: These elements of the music couldn't be heard as distinctly as in more highly rated speakers. Treble sounds, like cymbals, were underemphasized. But the HomePod played reasonably loudly in a midsized room.
All three smart speakers "fall significantly short" of other wireless speakers Consumer Reports has tested, like the Edifier S1000DB, priced at $350.


The HomePod's sound has been highly praised both by new HomePod owners and by media sites that tested the device ahead of its release. While Consumer Reports doesn't believe the HomePod outshines the Google Home Max and the Sonos One, other reviews have disagreed, including an extensive, in-depth review published by a self-professed audiophile earlier this morning.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

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Google ‘Embracing’ Notch Design in 2018 Android Update, Preparing for New Wave of iPhone X Clones

Google’s upcoming software update for its Android smartphone operating system will “embrace” an iPhone X notch-like design, according to people familiar with the company’s plans speaking to Bloomberg.

With the software, referred to as Android P, Google is readying a “new generation” of Android smartphones that will be “mimicking” the iPhone X’s front-facing camera cutout design.

Just like iPhone X, this cutout is believed to be where Android smartphone makers will be placing cameras and other sensors to help Android phones compete with Apple devices in the high-end market.

While Google controls the Android software, many other companies manufacture Android devices and have the ability to tweak the software as they see fit. Because of this, Bloomberg pointed out that “not all Android phones will have notches.”

In total, Google’s plan for Android P — shortened from Pistachio Ice Cream — is to convince more iOS users to switch sides by “improving the look of the software.”

While Android dominates the middle and low-end of the global smartphone market, Apple controls much of the high-end with users who spend more on apps and other services. Embracing the notch may help change that. The design will mean more new Android phones with cutouts at the top of their screens to fit cameras and other sensors. That will likely support new features, helping Android device makers keep up with similar Apple technology.

[…]building notch capabilities into Android suggests Google expects the iPhone X look to catch on more broadly.

Otherwise, Android P will reportedly focus heavily on Google Assistant and improving its abilities. Tighter software integration with the AI assistant will allow developers to integrate it inside of their apps, and Google is considering adding the assistant into the search bar on the Android home screen, but “neither of these changes are finalized for introduction this year.” Android P is said to also introduce improved battery life on smartphones and support new designs, including “multiple screens and foldable displays.”

Following the launch of the iPhone X, clones of the device began appearing around the world, including in China with the LEAGOO S9 smartphone and its notch-inspired design. Many users have disliked Apple’s notch design, and Android smartphone maker Samsung played into that criticism by making fun of the notch in a Samsung Galaxy ad posted on the weekend of the iPhone X launch.



While Android P is said to be a “dramatic” overhaul amid support for notch designs on a growing number of Android smartphones, Apple’s own iOS update in 2018 is believed to be focused more on stability. In January, it was reported that Apple has chosen to delay new software features until 2019 — like a home screen refresh, Mail improvements, CarPlay updates, and more — and instead focus on addressing performance and quality issues this year.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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Experimental Feature Pushes Google’s Arts & Culture App to the Top of the Free Apps Chart

Google's Arts & Culture app rocketed to the top of the free app charts over the weekend after one of its experimental interactive features went viral.

Better known for its relatively staid virtual history exhibitions and digitized artworks, the app's sudden popularity is down to the addition of an option near the bottom of its scrolling interface which asks users, "Is your portrait in a museum?"

On tapping the button, the app asks for access to the device's camera and then prompts the user to take a selfie. Their picture is then compared against thousands of digitized artworks in Google's historical database using facial recognition technology, after which a series of closest matches are returned.


The find-your-art-lookalike feature, which was actually added to the app in a December update with little fanfare, apparently drew interest only recently after some users and celebrities began sharing their results on social media.

The option only appears to be available to U.S. users at the moment, but if you'd like to give it a go, you can download the free Google Arts & Culture app from the App Store.

Tag: Google

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Android Pay and Google Wallet Have Merged to Become ‘Google Pay’

Google today announced it has merged Android Pay and Google Wallet into one consolidated payments service called Google Pay.


Over the coming weeks, Google said users will be able to use Google Pay online, in stores, and across Google products, and Google Wallet's existing peer-to-peer payment functionality will continue to be supported.

Google Pay is already available in select first-party apps such as YouTube and Chrome, and in Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, Instacart, and select other third-party apps and websites on Android and in Chrome.

Google Pay branding will be rolled out in apps, websites, and next to payment terminals in stores as Android Pay branding and decals are retired.

Google Pay along with Samsung Pay are Apple Pay's biggest rivals among mobile payment services. Google Pay also competes with Apple's recently launched peer-to-peer payment service Apple Pay Cash in the United States.


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Apple’s iPad Pro vs. Google’s Pixelbook

Back in October, Google released the Google Pixelbook, a portable laptop/tablet hybrid machine that runs Chrome OS. We got our hands on one of the Pixelbooks from Google, and we decided to pit it against the iPad Pro, Apple's tablet that's powerful enough to serve as a PC replacement.

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Priced starting at $999, the Pixelbook is more expensive than even the largest iPad Pro. Apple charges $649 for the entry-level 10.5-inch iPad Pro and $799 for the entry-level 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

For $999, the Pixelbook comes equipped with a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD, with all of the components upgradeable for a higher price tag. It has a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, putting it on par with Apple's larger iPad Pro, and it offers 10 hours of battery life.

The Pixelbook is just as portable as the iPad Pro, and it has the benefit of a 2-in-1 design with a 360-degree rotating hinge, which means it can be used as a traditional laptop or folded back for use as a tablet, complete with accompanying pen. As a laptop, the Pixelbook is on par with other ultraportable notebooks, but as a tablet, its keyboard is adding some extra thickness you won't see on the iPad Pro.

Though convertibility is a nice feature and wins out over the traditional tablet form factor, Google can't quite compete with Apple when it comes to software and performance due to issues with some unoptimized Android apps running on the Pixelbook. The iPad Pro's A10X Fusion chip is incredibly speedy, and optimizations like Metal 2 mean apps run super fast and super smooth on Apple's tablet.

The Pixelbook isn't slow by any means, and ChromeOS does offer increased security much like iOS, but the Pixelbook's high price tag, operating system limitations, and size are tough to swallow compared to the lower-priced and just-as-capable iPad Pro.

Related Roundup: iPad Pro
Tag: Google

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Google Hangouts for iOS Gains Support for iPhone X

Hangouts, Google's dedicated messaging app, was today updated with support for the iPhone X. With the update, the Hangouts app is able to take advantage of the full display of the iPhone X, without black bars at the top and the bottom.

With the iPhone X update for Hangouts, all of Google's major iOS apps now offer support for Apple's new flagship device. Google previously introduced iPhone X updates for Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, and Google Maps.

According to Google's release notes for today's Hangouts update, the only new feature is iPhone X optimization.

Google Hangouts can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Google

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Amazon to Resume Selling Apple TV and Chromecast

Amazon has decided to once again sell the Apple TV and Google Chromecast in its online store, reports CNET. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the company is officially offering the two products as of today.

"I can confirm that we are assorting Apple TV and Chromecast," CNET was told.


There are new product pages for the 32GB fourth-generation Apple TV, the 32GB Apple TV 4K, and the 64GB Apple TV 4K. There are also two listings for the Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra.

All of the products are listed as "Currently unavailable" right now, but that is likely to change soon after the listings are completed and propagated to Amazon's site.

Amazon first stopped selling the Apple TV and the Google Chromecast in its online store in 2015, claiming the reason for the removal was incompatibility with the Amazon Prime Video streaming service.
"Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime," Amazon said in the e-mail. "It's important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion."
Since then, the Apple TV has been unavailable on Amazon's site, but Amazon's original reason for not selling the Apple TV was invalidated with the launch of the Amazon Prime Video app for Apple TV.

Amazon last week introduced a long-awaited Amazon Prime Video app for the Apple TV. The new app is available on third, fourth, and fifth-generation devices.

The return of the Chromecast to the Amazon site comes after Google once again removed YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show and the Fire TV. Google said Amazon's refusal to carry the Chromecast and Google Home and its refusal to make Prime Video available for Google Cast was a key reason that it stopped supporting YouTube on Amazon's products.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Tags: Google, Amazon
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

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iPhone 8 Was Nearly World’s Top Google Search This Year

Hurricane Irma, iPhone 8, and iPhone X were the world's three most popular search terms on Google this year, according to the company.


While the results make it look like the iPhone 8 is more popular than the iPhone X, it's important to consider that Apple's flagship smartphone was more commonly referred to as the iPhone 8 in rumors until a leaked version of iOS 11 essentially confirmed its stealthier name back in August.

In the consumer tech category, the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were the most popular search terms in 2017, ahead of the Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X in the top five globally. In the United States in particular, the iPhone 8 Plus was the sixth most popular search term.

Google Trends outlines other popular search terms in its Year in Search 2017 categories, including actors, athletes, car brands, exercises, movies, recipes, songs and lyrics, sports teams, TV shows, and world events.


The results are similar to last year, when the iPhone 7 was the most searched smartphone brand on Google, but the second most popular search term overall behind smash-hit game Pokémon GO.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: Google
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 8 (Buy Now)

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iPhone 8 Was Nearly World’s Top Google Search This Year

Hurricane Irma, iPhone 8, and iPhone X were the world's three most popular search terms on Google this year, according to the company.


While the results make it look like the iPhone 8 is more popular than the iPhone X, it's important to consider that Apple's flagship smartphone was more commonly referred to as the iPhone 8 in rumors until a leaked version of iOS 11 essentially confirmed its stealthier name back in August.

In the consumer tech category, the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were the most popular search terms in 2017, ahead of the Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X in the top five globally. In the United States in particular, the iPhone 8 Plus was the sixth most popular search term.

Google Trends outlines other popular search terms in its Year in Search 2017 categories, including actors, athletes, car brands, exercises, movies, recipes, songs and lyrics, sports teams, TV shows, and world events.


The results are similar to last year, when the iPhone 7 was the most searched smartphone brand on Google, but the second most popular search term overall behind smash-hit game Pokémon GO.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Tag: Google
Buyer's Guide: iPhone 8 (Buy Now)

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