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I was genuinely excited when my colleague Mark Gurman revealed iOS 9’s Proactive — Apple’s competitor to the Android assistant Google Now — because it sounded like something that would radically improve my daily iPhone use. “Like Google Now,” Mark said, “Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on the user’s data and device usage patterns,” details Apple confirmed when it officially announced Proactive at WWDC. Google Now’s success made an Apple response inevitable: who wouldn’t want an iPhone that correctly anticipated your needs, reducing your time spent manually hunting for information?

But unlike Google, which Apple CEO Tim Cook has portrayed as a miner of personal data for “God-knows-what advertising purpose,” Apple has positioned itself as a champion of user privacy. As such, Proactive apparently doesn’t use cloud servers to process your personal data, which Google has done to great effect. Instead, iOS processes data directly on your device, so its scope — whatever your device is holding — and utility are a lot more limited. Consequently, the iOS 9 beta version of Proactive doesn’t do much; its features could have appeared on the annual WWDC slide that flashes 50 new iOS additions on screen for less than a minute before disappearing.

Readers, I’d like to ask you a question. We’ve seen what Google and third-party developers are currently doing with Google Now cards, and it’s pretty awesome — everything from helping you manage commutes (like Proactive) and trips (way beyond Proactive) to finding TV shows, scheduling return taxi rides, and sending birthday greetings. My question: would you rather see Apple slowly iterate on Proactive as it sorts through each new feature’s privacy implications, or tackle Google Now with a bolder and more powerful Proactive, privacy be (mostly) damned? A poll is below…

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July 24

There aren’t too many cool apps that launch first on Android, but Google Spotlight Stories is one. It plays sweet, animated stories using a mix of 2D and 3D imagery – the cool part being that you can ‘look around’ the scene simply by rotating your phone.

Immerse yourself in a world of storytelling made just for mobile. Engineers and critically-acclaimed filmmakers are bringing stories to life using the latest advances in mobile technology. Using 3D and 2D animation, 360° spherical cinema-quality video, sound sphere audio and sensor fusion techniques, the screen is now a window into a story that unfolds all around you. Look anywhere, follow individual characters, watch it over again and again. It’s a little different each time. Google Spotlight Stories is your mobile movie theatre.

There’s some heavy-duty talent behind the creation of the stories, the debut story Windy Days being created by former Pixar animators, and Help by Justin Lin, director of The Fast and the Furious … 

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July 14

July 10

Google has quietly launched a new iOS app today called Ivy that it describes as an experimental big number calculator. expand full story

July 7

June 29

Google has updated Hangouts for iOS today with a handful of new features and what it says is an overall improved user experience. expand full story

June 23

Google announced today that it is adding a free tier to its Google Play Music service. The new feature provides non-subscribers with what Google is describing as an ad-supported radio option with curated stations. Google Play Music’s radio option will be available for users in the United States at launch with availability on the web starting today and support on iOS and Android following soon. Similar to Apple’s approach with Apple Music, Google says it has “music experts” creating these “curated” playlists: expand full story

June 11

June 4

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Google has been working with Adobe to improve battery life drain caused by Flash and today flipped the switch on a new Chrome feature that does exactly that. The new feature aims to detect Flash on a webpage that is actually important to the main content and “intelligently pause content” that isn’t as important. The result is to hopefully make the web experience with Flash more power efficient to improve battery life on your laptop. Here’s how it works: expand full story

June 3

Google I/O is behind us and brought along interesting integration for iOS users, but now WWDC 2015 is right around the corner. This week we’ll discuss some upcoming announcements and expectations including a native Apple Watch SDK and how Apple plans to take on Google Now in iOS 9. There’s also a new bug feature that made some important changes to the heart rate sensor on Apple Watch. The Happy Hour podcast is available for download on iTunes and through our dedicated RSS feed…

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June 2

While speaking at the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) Champions of Freedom Awards Dinner yesterday night, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a speech during which he addressed the ongoing issues that surround privacy in the technology space. Cook, who was not physically in Washington D.C. for the event but rather spoke remotely, commented on both the steps Apple takes at ensuring customer privacy and how other companies are failing at the same task (via TechCrunch).

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May 29

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Google Photos

My relationship with Apple’s hardware is simple: I’m happily locked in, and not changing platforms any time soon. But my relationship with Apple’s software is complex: I want to love it, but every time Apple decides to “throw everything away” and “start over” with an app, it’s disruptive — and for many users, unnecessary. From my perspective, users weren’t complaining that Apple’s popular photo apps iPhoto or Aperture were hopelessly broken or even deficient in major ways, yet Apple discontinued both of them last month to release Photos, a bare-bones alternative no one seems to love. On the relationship scale, I didn’t abandon Aperture; Aperture abandoned me (and a lot of other people).

So yesterday’s announcement of the free cross-platform photo and video storage app Google Photos couldn’t have come at a better time. Apple has struggled to explain why it now offers two separate photo syncing services, neither with the virtually unlimited photo and video storage Google is now giving users — notably all users, including Mac and iOS users. Moreover, Apple has offered no sign that it’s going to drop the steep fees it’s charging for iCloud photo storage. With WWDC just around the corner, Apple has a big opportunity to match Google’s photo and video initiative, thrilling its customers in the process. If that doesn’t happen, I’m moving my collection into Google Photos, and not looking back…

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May 28

Google just wrapped up the opening keynote for its I/O developer conference taking place this week, and not surprisingly many of the announced products and services are direct competitors to Apple’s. Android Pay gets an official coming out party to compete with Apple Pay, Project Brillo is Google’s answer to HomeKit, and the new Android M gets a focus on quality, much like what Apple has in store for iOS 9 at WWDC in June. The company also announced a new Photos app with unlimited photo and video syncing and iOS support, as well as a number of other iOS app announcements.

Head below for a roundup of everything Google announced today from 9to5Google: expand full story

As part of its Google I/O developer conference today, Google is offering some updates on its Google Places API for iOS as well as future updates arriving for its Maps app. expand full story

all-three-v4

Google revealed its new cross-platform Photos app and service today at its I/O developer conference taking place right now. The idea is similar to Apple’s own Photos app and iCloud Photo Library. Google is automatically backing up and syncing photo and video libraries using Google Drive storage and not local device storage, but Google’s killer feature for its version comes down to price: Google Photos is completely free. expand full story

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