Google Maps desktop app adds 3D ‘Earth Tours’, real time traffic reports, & StreetView improvements

Find imagery coverage with Pegman

Google just announced a few updates rolling out to the new Google Maps desktop app today. Users will now be able to highlight StreetView imagery, user-uploaded photos, and PhotoSpheres on the map by clicking a new pegman icon in the lower right corner of their screen (pictured above). StreetView imagery will be highlighted in light blue, Photo Spheres as darker blue circles, and indoor imagery as yellow circles.

In addition, the update brings a touch of Google Earth over to the Maps desktop app with new bird’s-eye view 3D Earth Tours for all WebGL-enabled browsers.

Explore beautiful, 3D imagery of buildings and terrain for thousands of locations from above with Earth Tours available right in your browser.* Wherever you see the Earth Tour icon, you can click, sit back, and get a virtual tour from a soaring angle. Dive into Boston or circle the Alps.

Google is also rolling out a new preview UI for directions. Now, when viewing individual steps for directions you’ll see StreetView imagery on each step where available, allowing you to get a better sense of your surroundings for an upcoming turn or exit. Google also notes that it has integrated real time traffic incident reports from its Waze acquisition like it recently did in its mobile Google Maps apps.

The new Google Maps desktop app is rolling out to all that opted into the new Google Maps preview today and to everyone else in teh coming weeks. Google also just released a video preview for the new Google Maps desktop experience that shows off some of the new features in today’s update: Read more

Nexus 5 vs. iPhone 5s Photo Poll: You be the judge!

To check the validity of claims that the Nexus 5 has a poor shooter, we took 10 different pictures with both a Nexus 5 and the reigning champ of smartphone cameras –  the iPhone 5s.  We even split the test over two different Nexus 5s and iPhone 5s devices.  The comparison test is below. We’ll publish the results tomorrow.

Let’s see how the Nexus 5 fares against the champ:

Read more

Google engineers less polite than Eric Schmidt over NSA intrusions


Following a report from the Washington Post exposing an NSA program called MUSCULAR that saw the organization secretly tap into Google and Yahoo severs and collect data, Google employees have taken to social media to express their frustration.

GigaOM has gathered comments from a couple Google employees with some being engineers that actually worked to protect the security of Google’s servers. Their comments aren’t exactly as tame as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s comments about the situation:

I now join him in issuing a giant Fuck You to the people who made these slides. I am not American, I am a Brit, but it’s no different – GCHQ turns out to be even worse than the NSA.

We designed this system to keep criminals out. There’s no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we’ve got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.

Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement,  we therefore do what internet engineers have always done – build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined. — Google Engineer Mike Hearn referring to the leaked NSA slide above.

Another comment from Google employee Brandon Downey who says he “spent the last ten years of my life trying to keep Google’s users safe and secure”: Read more

Moto G to be unveiled in Sao Paulo, Brazil, mid-range specs global/BRIC incoming?

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When the clock strikes November 13th, all eyes will be on Motorola and the announcement of their upcoming Moto G. We’ve just learned via Motorola’s Twitter and G+ pages that the device will be launched from Sao Paulo, Brazil. What that might indicate is that it is a mid-range smartphone meant for global emerging markets. Sao Paulo is an unusual venue for a high-profile smartphone launch and we’re hypothesizing that means the specs won’t be blowing anyone away. The tweet from Motorola this morning informed the world of the new launch details and provided a link to a Google+ page where it’s likely more information will be released as the announcement goes down. Read more

Samsung leads U.S. smartphone growth, with a 1.2 percent quarterly rise


Samsung’s market share in the U.S. smartphone market grew by 1.2 percent last quarter, to reach 24.9 percent. While its flagship S4 models got all the attention, Samsung advised last month that most of its global growth was in lower-end handsets.

Apple retained its lead at 40.6 percent, helped by ten days of sales of the iPhone 5s and 5c, but with slower growth. LG‘s share remained flat, while both Motorola and HTC lost out.

In platform terms, Android experienced a slight drop of 0.2 percent, but remains the clear leader … Read more

Samsung concedes its software needs work, says half of R&D is now focused on improving


Speaking at Samsung’s analyst day in Seoul, South Korea, the company’s Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun admitted that they need to work on improving their software. “Even though we’re doing the software business, we’re not as good as we are in hardware.” Kwon didn’t specify which aspect of his company’s software he believes needs help, be it the software on the company’s televisions or its TouchWiz software that graces its ridiculously large Android lineup of devices. Read more

Google announces new caller ID features coming in 2014, Google+ profile image integration

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Google’s plan to throw Google+ into every single aspect of your Android and Google life continues with some newly announced caller ID features coming in 2014. Beginning early next year, the company plans on linking Google+ profile images with mobile phone numbers. The “good news” is if already have a verified phone number with el Goog, you’re automatically opted in! In other words, if you are using Android to make a call or receive a call from a number linked to a Google+ account, you will see a profile image automatically without having the persons contact information stored.

Attila Bodis, an Android software engineer whose team is working on the new caller ID feature announcing the changes on his…wait for his, his Google+ page:

“Coming in early 2014, users who have verified their phone number and have discovery turned on will have their names and Google Profile photos display whenever they call you, or you call them (it’s great if a new friend who hasn’t been saved in your contacts yet calls you). Check your Google Account to make sure you are happy with how you appear on caller ID by Google:”

Some of the initial caller ID improvements are already live with the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, but the photo integration won’t come until “early 2014.” Thew new phone app in KitKat will help you find the right number, even if it isn’t in your contact list by letting you “search nearby places or even Google Apps accounts directly from within the app — just start typing and the results show up!”

If you want to avoid Google showing off your Google+ profile image to the world, you can disable the “help people who have your phone number find you on Google services and connect with you” option available in your Google account settings.”

Verge via Google+ Attila Bodis

The terrorism memorial made for Google Maps


What you’re looking at is not a graphic, but a memorial built by relatives and friends of a DC-10 airliner brought down by a bomb in 1989, killing all 155 passengers and 15 crew on board. The memorial was constructed some eighteen years after the tragedy.

Flight UTA 722 was flying from the People’s Republic of Congo to Paris, France, when an explosion caused it to break up over the Sahara Desert. An investigation found that the cause of the explosion was a bomb in the forward cargo hold …  Read more

Google+ narrowly edges out Twitter in marketing satisfaction poll

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A new Forrester Research poll conducted with 395 marketing professionals in the US, UK, and Canada is likely giving the team at Google’s Plus service something to smile about. Google’s social media service, which is now integrated into every.single.thing Google does, narrowly edged out Twitter for marketing satisfaction by a single point at 56% of marketers satisfied against 55% with Twitter. Sure, it’s just a single point, but given that so much has been written about Google+ being a wasteland comparative to Twitter, it’s notable that the service edged out one of its biggest rivals.

Of course, if we took a poll with a completely different group of 395 marketing professionals, the results might be wildly different. Still, it’s good to see that Google+ is making waves, and while it may be for entirely different reasons than Twitter or Facebook, I’m sure Google will take every bit of good news that puts emphasis on Google+ over its rivals.

Google+ aside, the real question here is why so many marketers are using these channels incorrectly? Social media provides a unique opportunity to connect with both existing and potential customers and that there is more emphasis on old school tactics like Email and word-of-mouth is concerning.

Where are you most likely to engage with a company? Twitter or Google+?

via Mashable

Google’s making it easier to book hotels from your mobile device

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Google’s Hotel Finder is now a little more mobile as the company has ported its desktop site to mobile-ready. Visit and search for your destination by price, hotel class, user rating and distance. You can also look up hotel amenities, photos, reviews and locations on a map. Once you find the perfect match, you can jump right into any of Google’s booking partners and seal the deal.

You want to save more time you say? Well fine then, how about using Google Wallet to complete your reservation by looking for “Buy with Google” for any Google Wallet-ready partner. If you don’t have Google Wallet, have no fear as you can enter the payment info once you book your first hotel and Google Wallet will save your information so you don’t need to enter it back in every time.  Read more

HTC looks to introduce low-cost handsets, slash costs in hope of finding profit


Poor HTC, they just can’t catch a financial break as the company warned its fourth quarter revenue will fall up to 15 percent below analyst estimates. The company briefed investors earlier today as it struggles to increase its estimated 2.6 percent of the global smartphone market.

HTC says they will look at releasing a broader product line, including more low-cost handsets as it aims for higher profitability into next year. “We’re looking at broader products in this quarter…we aim for higher volume into 2014 that will give better profitability,” company financial chief Chialin Chang said in the briefing, referring to more affordable smartphones. That move would be a sharp turnaround from HTC’s previous strategy of attempting to capture 20 percent of the high-end smartphone market in China.

Let’s be honest about HTC’s future and say that among other problems are marketing misfires that have cost the company mindshare. “Perhaps in the past we have not marketed ourselves that well,” Ben Ho, HTC’s chief of marketing, told Reuters in an October interview.

Is there anyone who ran out to purchase a HTC device based on the fact that Robert Downey Jr was peddling their products? I mean a tinfoil catamaran doesn’t exactly strike me as a winning formula for increasing sales. Ho would not rule out an increase to the marketing budget however, currently set around $1 billion. “We are in the process of tightening up and revamping a lot of things that we used to do.”

Unfortunately with the fourth quarter not looking to make things any better, HTC will need to explore more than just low-cost handset sales to try to win back the hearts and minds of customers flocking to Samsung products in droves. I’m not quite sure Iron Man is up to the challenge.

via Reuters