Google just brought iPhone and Android phone users a holiday gift. Google Maps has returned to the iPhone, this time in the form of its own separate app, while Google Currents -- the company's Flipboard-style online magazine app for Android -- received a substantial update as well.
Besides the two big updates, about a half-dozen other apps for Android and Google TV received bug fixes and new features, according to Android Police blogger Ryan Whitwam. Here's a look at what to expect, and where the rough edges still lay.
Google Maps is back
It was technically never there to begin with; the iPhone simply had a "Maps" app included, which used Google Maps' data. But a few months ago, Apple switched from using Google's map data to its own, which caused no end of problems as Apple's data was incorrect much more often. These problems were sometimes hilarious, but in at least one case they were dangerous, as several motorists had to be rescued after becoming stranded inside an Australian national park (where Apple's maps said the town they were trying to get to was).
Google Maps has also received a thumbs-down from the Victoria police in Australia, but is regarded as more reliable overall. It's a completely new app this time, and while it has at least one "Android-ism" according to tech expert John Gruber (an Ice Cream Sandwich-style menu button), it's reported to work well and doesn't show ads like the YouTube app does.
It does, however, keep asking you to log in to your Google account so that it can track your location data.
Google Currents has a new look and new features
The update to digital magazine app Google Currents brings its features more in line with Google Reader, the tech giant's online newsreader app which can monitor almost any website for updates. Like Google Reader, Currents can now "star" stories to put them in a separate list, can show which stories you've already read, and has a widget to put on your Android home screen. Other added features include new ways to scan editions and stories, and filter out sections you aren't interested in.
Bugfixes and updates for other Google apps
Google Earth and Google Drive received miscellaneous bugfixes "and other improvements," while Google Offers (a Groupon competitor) now features a "Greatly improved purchase experience."
The Google Search app received a slew of additions to its Siri-like Google Now feature, including new cards to help while you are out and about and new voice actions (like asking it to tell you what song is playing nearby). The Field Trip augmented reality app now uses less battery life, and lets you "save cards" and favorite places you visit, as well as report incorrect data to Google. Finally, Google TV Search and PrimeTime for Google TV both received performance and stability updates.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics
- Google apps
- Google Maps
- Google Reader
- Google Earth