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Google Maps for iOS comparison to Android version – first look

Google Maps for iOS has just hit Apple’s App Store and already it appears to be a massive hit.  Of some 10,000 customer reviews of the app, over 9,000 have been 4- or 5-star, and my first impression of the app bears that out.  I was initially afraid I wouldn’t be able to write this review at all, since I don’t have any iOS 6 devices yet.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the app only requires iOS 5.1 and above, and supports iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S and 5, as well as 3rd, 4th and 5th generation iPod touch and all iPad generations (although it’s not optimized for iPad yet).

The look and feel of the iOS version of the app is lean, clean and necessary, like a samurai sword — or an app designed by Apple itself. Yeah, it’s that pretty.  The iOS version has a link with Google Earth that the Android version doesn’t have. Conversely, Android’s version has multiple layers, some of which are tied into the Google ecosystem and aren’t present in the iOS version.  The Android version also has the ability to make an area available offline, which the iOS version does not.

The first navigation test I gave the app was a bit of a trick question, to be honest.  I live in the Portland, Oregon metro area, about a mile away from a shopping mall with a light rail park and ride station. However, that mall happens to be Clackamas Town Center, which was the site of a tragic shooting a couple of days ago.  What that’s meant for commuters is that this particular light rail station has been closed since Tuesday afternoon and isn’t likely to re-open until the mall itself opens for business again.

I fed both versions of the app my husband’s work commute information, which usually consists of him driving to the park and ride at the mall, then catching the train into downtown Portland.  Both apps showed the TriMet alert about the closed station, but the Android version was quicker at first to suggest an alternate light rail station for the trip.  That said, the iOS app seemed to update within an hour or so, and subsequent downtown trips I threw at it gave me the same information as the Android version.  One other small aside is that the Android version helpfully lists the price of the light rail trip, which the iOS version did not.  That information is certainly helpful if you’re navigating a new city on your own, with only your faithful mobile device as a companion.

Since this is just a first look at the app, I didn’t take the time to fully road test the Navigation feature under driving conditions.  However, I did plug a driving route into both the iOS and Android versions of the app, and then walked out my door and towards my car.  The Android app’s pushy GPS voice piped right up about what the first maneuvers of the drive should be.  The iOS version, on the other hand, had nothing to say, and I was unable to find controls that would allow me to turn on voice guidance, even after verifying that location services for Google Maps was enabled and consulting the in-app help menus.  (And may I say that it should NOT take 5 taps to get to a damn help menu! That’s a fail for the iOS version, and Google should know better…).

On a side note… the app actually announces the directions over your Bluetooth connected speaker!

This is a good first version of Google Maps on iOS, and it’s not likely to strand anyone in the wilderness. It’s just not great yet and it has at least one glaring flaw that precludes its use for turn-by-turn directions.  I’m sure there will be updates aplenty, and soon, to rectify this.  It’s just unfortunate to have such a major feature not immediately work on one of the most iconic mobile devices in the world.  Google Maps for iOS is kind of like that cheerleader you had a crush on in high school — pretty to look at and totally put together, but not quite as smart as you’d like her to be.

 

 

 
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Trygger Introduces Camera Clip on Kickstarter

Published on December 12, 2012 by in Apple, iPhone, Reviews

Startup iPhone accessory manufacturer Trygger has followed up its successful Kickstarter launch of its iPhone 4/4S Camera Case with a new project targeted at Apple’s iPhone 5 users — the Trygger Camera Clip.

I sat down with Trygger creator Joel Kamerman to take a look at a prototype of the Camera Clip, a unique accessory that eliminates glare from your photographs, helping users make better pictures. The Camera Clip’s genius is in its polarizing filter that is adjustable depending on the needs of the scene you are shooting.

As you can see in the photos above, the Trygger Camera Clip not only reduces the annoying glare that many of your pictures may have, but actually improves color vibrancy.

I found the Camera Clip to be easy to slide on to my iPhone 5 and it even allowed me to continue to use the Sleep/Wake button. Once on, simply rotating the polarizing filter until your picture is clean and clear helps you create amazing photos, not possible by using any app.

Now, once you have a great original photo, all those photo editing apps, be it Instagram, Hipstamatic, Photogene 2, or any others, will have much better results.

The Trygger Camera Clip is looking for support on Kickstarter once again and is well worth a look for iPhoneography enthusiasts or users that just want better pictures. Get a black or white model for just $30 (a $10 savings off the planned retail price).

 
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Olloclip: Lens Upgrades for Your iPhone 4/4S

Published on December 11, 2012 by in Apple, iPhone, Reviews

As a pro-hobbyist fashion photographer for the last several years and lifetime digital technology nerd, I am always looking for innovations in digital photography for mobile devices. When the original iPhone came out in 2007 it’s camera, while technically operable, could, by no means, replace the popular digital cameras of the day.

In the years since, Apple has upgraded it’s iPhone camera to be somewhat spectacular (as far as mobile phone cameras are concerned) and the need to have a second device for candid snapshots has since relaxed … to a degree. The one thing the iPhone (and really any smartphone camera) is missing is the depth of lenses.

While megapixels can be increased to near infinity, the quality of a digital photograph, after a certain point, can only get better with better glass (the lens). For this problem, OlloClip has created an elegant solution for the iPhone 4/4S, and now the iPhone 5.

I did my tests using the iPhone 4/4S model with my iPhone and I have to say, the results are great. The 3-in-1 lens kit provides users with a macro lens for shooting objects extremely close (as in, almost touching), the fisheye lens gives a unique distorted view to a scene, and the wide-angle lens provides users a way to capture stunning landscapes or full scenes.

Check out my photo tests (with no editing):

OlloClip Wide Angle Lens:

OlloClip Macro Lens:

OlloClip Fisheye Lens:

 

The easy, clip-on manufacturing of the Olloclip fits the lens snuggly in place, disallowing any light leakage and giving the built-in iPhone lens a better quality experience. The Olloclip even comes in a lovely microfiber carrying case, so users can easily store their lenses.

While the Olloclip is not an always-on accessory, the benefits it provides for iPhoneographers is well worth the extra bulk in carrying it. Whether you’re a pro and want better quality photos on the go, or just an Instagrammer looking for better images to add filters to, the Olloclip is a great accessory.

You can purchase the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4/4S OlloClip online for just $69.99.

Apple Approved rating of 7 of 10 — for any user looking to seriously upgrade their finished photos.

 
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Sensu Brush for iPad: A Great Tool for Digital Artists

Published on December 11, 2012 by in iPad, Reviews

As a life-long artist and big-time fan of all things digital, I am always on the lookout for tools that will assist in the creative process. Enter the Sensu portable artist brush and stylus for touchscreen devices.

Delivering on its promise of offering a realistic painting experience for your iPad (or other touch-based device), the Sensu brush makes creating paint-like creations on your iPad a pleasure. The bristles look and feel just like a normal paint brush, but when applied to a touchscreen device running certain art creation apps, acts as a digital painter’s tool.

Compatible apps include: ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro, Paper by Studio 53, Procreate, Auryn Ink, and SketchTime.

The Sensu brush is also an effective stylus for everyday use on your touchscreen. The brush hides inside the cap and the cap is touch-sensitive. Pretty nifty!

The Sensu brush can be purchased online for just $39.99 and until December 24th, you can get Free Shipping and a $5 instant discount using the code BLITZEN at checkout.

Apple Approved rates the Sensu artist brush an 8 of 10 — buy it if you’re an artist and looking for a great stylus/brush combo.

 
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smarTouch Isotoner Touch Screen Gloves- Surprisingly Accurate, But Make Sure They Fit!

 

smarTouch by IsotonerSeveral days ago, I was passing through Marshall’s (a local department store) when I noticed these gloves, the Isotoner SmarTouch 2.0.  I was thinking I could use a new pair this year, either because something happened to my old ones or because I was certain to lose them this year- it’s my annual winter ritual!
My first question was what made them “2.0”- as far as I can tell from the SmarTouch web site, the difference from the original Smartouch gloves is a third finger of touch screen compatibility.
The recommended price on these gloves is $44.00, which is not a price I would be willing to pay for gloves (unless they were iGloves with an iCloud-based Find My Gloves connection- hey there’s an idea for a new device for Apple, a Find My Stuff iCloud-connected tracking beacon. That’s a freebie guys, you can thank me in your next keynote!) but Marshall’s was selling them for $16.99, which I found perfectly reasonable.
I’ve seen gloves made for use with touch screens, I’ve tried one or two in the store and found them lacking- most touch screen gloves seem to be without a very key feature: some sort of grip surface. Yarn or fleece, the materials you often see gloves made of, tend to be far more slippery than the skin on your hands. This translates to constant danger of devices slipping and dropping- which will really put a  damper on your texting. These gloves do have a grippy surface across most of the palm and around the thumb. It actually feels almost sticky to the touch but without leaving a residue. It definitely held onto my iPod touch, but on the area of the where

 there is no grip, the device still slips around more than I’d like. Would if be too much to ask for the grip to cover the entire palm and fingers- the parts of your hands that are actually holding onto the device?
The other important part, of course, is the touch screen-compatible fingertips. Embroidered with a thread that supposedly is conductive of electrical impulses, I was skeptical. I put on the gloves and turned on the iPod. Swiping across the slider to access the home screen took a few tries, as did entering my passcode and opening an app.
When I modified my movement to be a bit more deliberate, and made a much more pointed effort of tapping on the screen, it got a little better. This gave me an idea. The gloves are a little big for me- the small ones were far too short in the fingers, the medium-large are just a bit too big overall, leaving them loose everywhere and my fingertips not in proper contact with the thread. Pulling the finger back so that they were snug against my skin, I tried again.
The typing was a little awkward but I was pleasantly surprised to find its accuracy comparable to typing with my bare hands. This has stood consistent through several typing sessions over the last few days. I’d  include a typing sample, but for autocorrect. The same is true when I try other functions- swiping, zooming in and out, flicking.
It is important to note that the touch-conductive thread only appears on the thumb and first two fingers so these gloves would be pointless for anyone making use of the VoiceOver function. I also just wish it was on the other fingers myself because I use them a lot.
The gloves themselves are made of a fuzzy, warm micro fleece, speaking strictly as gloves, I have no complaint aside from the way they fit my hands- nothing I can much blame on Isotoner. Checking over the Isotoner website, they are available in a dizzying array of styles and colors for both men and women, with suggested prices ranging from $35-$88. My particular pair is the fleece lines Tech Stretch variation in Lapis

My overall assessment is that these are good for sending or checking and occasional messaged when you’re out in the cold but I wouldn’t be using them for any extended iMessage sessions. I’d like to see more coverage of the grippy surface and for the touch-conductive thread to appear on all fingertips. It would also help a lot if it were to extend a bit farther down, instead of only being placed on the tip. I don’t personally find them worth the $44 price tag- not by a long shot- but the $16.99 that I paid for them was well enough spent.
For a better understanding of the grip/touchscreen features of these gloves, I’ve added my own color-coded photo diagram!
 
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