Google Maps and Reader for Android Updated; Minecraft Now Available For Xperia Play

Google has released updates for two of its popular apps for Android – Google Maps and Google Reader. The Google Maps update brings with it some welcomed changes, including custom transit notifications.

The bubble buttons, which had mysteriously disappeared in the previous update, have also made a comeback. The Transit support has also made its way to the tablet version of Google Maps. The latest update (v5.9) is already available for download from the Android Market.

The Google Reader app for Android has also been updated, and brings with it some much-needed improvements. Most importantly, the Google Reader app finally supports Honeycomb. The tablet layout of the app is similar to the mobile/tablet version of GReader website. The ‘Mark as read’ function has also been improved, and users can now mark an item as read by long pressing on it.

While this update definitely helps in improving the overall usability of the GReader app, it still does not stand a chance in front of the competition.

In other Android apps and games related news, the highly popular and insanely addictive game, Minecraft from Mojang is now available exclusively for the Xperia Play. At the time being, the game will remain exclusive to the Play. Hopefully, the game should be available to other touch screen based Android phones, sometime in the future. Sony Ericsson has also stated that a bunch of new games are soon going to be available for the Play, including Fifa 2012, Death Worm and EVAC HD. The whole list of games can be found  here.



Google Maps 5.7 for Android Adds Transit Navigation, Offline Download And Better Search Suggestions

This is the biggest ever update in the history of Google maps app for Android.

Google Maps has released a new version of it’s Android app (5.7) which now supports better transit navigation, improved search suggestion and the ability to save map data locally on your Android device.

Yes, you can download the entire location of a map and save all the data of that map right on your phone. This map data can be accessed offline, regardless of whether you are connected to the internet or not. Brilliant!

Here is a complete rundown of the new features included in updated Google Maps for Android:

Download Map Data For Offline Viewing

To download map data for specific locations, first you will have to enable the Download Map datalabs feature. To do this, open the Google Maps app, hit the menubutton and choose Labsby clicking through the More optionsdrop down. On the Labspage, scroll down and activate the Download Maps datalabs feature.

You are good to go, now open a custom geographical location in Google Maps, highlight the name of the location and pull in the menu to see the option Download Map data for this locationat the bottom. The steps for enabling offline maps in Google Maps and downloading them on your phone has been shown below (in proper sequential order).


Tip: if you can’t highlight the name of the location, try zooming in a little more and then select Download Map data for this locationat the bottom.

Saving the location data and geographical information of a place locally on your phone is immensely useful, especially if you travel to the same city after every 3 months and forget the street directions to your new office or a favorite restaurant. There is no need to fetch the map details of the same place over and over again. With offline Google Maps, you can browse through a city from anywhere or export the map data to other phones or Android devices.

Step By Step Directions Are Just One Click Away

Google has also streamlined the driving directions UI and the updated version offers more comprehensive details to your destination in fewer clicks. If the route to your destination is supported by Google Navigation and you choose either walking or the driving option, Google Maps will show directions in   an algorithmic step by step way.

Here is an example:


Notice that Google Maps automatically highlights the terminal points and the stations in between your current location and destination. You can hop over from one point to another or hit the previous and next buttons to get walking and driving directions for reaching a particular place.

This is ideally suited for novice users, who have little expertise on handling Android apps and they prefer asking a passerby to reach their specified destination.  With the new Google Maps for Android, you will feel that a human is sitting next to you and guiding you to reach a specific location. As simple as that!

Better Search Suggestions

Google has improved the speed and the display interface for search suggestions in Google Maps updated Android app.

Instead of displaying the same icons and identifiers for everything, the new app helps you differentiate between different places through appropriate category icons. You’ll see a pin for a Google Places listing, a star for a starred Place or location, a clock for a previously used search term, a person for contacts and a magnifying glass for anything else’, which means you need to further search for that item.



If you have visited a nearby place before, Google Maps will pull in the data from your Google account and show the name of the same location in the search suggestion list. Google knows there is a chance that you are looking for a place you visited months ago, so this is really a welcome feature in the new Google maps app for Android.

It’s high time you update your Google maps app from the Android market


40ft Dick Drawn Around College Campus

Using a weedkiller, students at Fairfield College in New Zealand drew a 40-foot dick into the grass inside the college campus which was then captured by Google Earth.

Go to Google Maps and search for Fairfield College, New Zealand. Zoom in and you’d be able to see the artwork :P Here are the coordinates -37.7633,175.2749 (Direct link to the map)

Dicks in Google Maps

The images were spotted by David McQuoid while searching for a property nearby. At first I thought it was a large piece of artwork,he said.

Acting Principal Gerhard van Dyk says he’ll contact Google to digitally remove the lawn loins.


Google Navigation Offline Mode Might Be Coming Soon

Google has announced the most substantial piece of news related to its mapping service for handheld devices after 3D maps. This is a translated piece of what appears on Allaboutphones and it reads,

According to an informed source from the Dutch telecom industry will soon be a Google offline version of Google Maps Navigation available. This makes it possible to also free to move abroad.


This is simply great and opens doors to a whole new world. This will blow away all concerns for Google Navigation requiring a fast and consistent Internet connection and will also put Google maps on the same chart as other mapping services with pre-loaded faster loading maps. Google Navigation has been available on mobile devices on many countries for over a year now and it is indeed a very competitive mapping and navigation service.

The Caching of Maps is Different This Time

Maps were being cached by devices earlier as well. However, those were strictly local maps of areas you were navigating. This time, Google seems to be talking of making whole city maps available to us for a rich and slick navigation. The map would be stored on your device locally and will be loaded up from there.  GPS navigation devices are in for a bad time, now that every cellphone with this navigation powered by Google Maps is killing their business fast.

When Will You Consider India for These Services?

Seriously Google, why opt India out of everything? India has a considerable number of people who use mobile web-services and would like to have navigation on their devices.

Google has done a great job with Google Maps and it was fun working with the Google Maps API for my final year engineering project. A video demo of the same is available on YouTube.

Google Maps For Mobile Updates With More Features

Google maps is undoubtedly a real hit among smartphone users.

Everyday, thousands of people use Google maps from their mobile device to get driving directions, search for local businesses, find places of interest, share locations and so on. Although Google provides a standalone Google maps application for both Android and ios devices, the experience and environment is not entirely the same; when compared with the experience of using Google maps from a desktop browser.

Not anymore, since Google has recently rolled out a couple of updates to Google maps mobile web app which now works much like the desktop version of Google maps. If this is the first time, you’re using Google maps from your mobile browser, you have to turn on location sharing from you Phone’s preferences panel.

Activate location tracking

Once you have shared your current location with Google maps, you will be able to use many of the same Google Maps features you have earlier used from a desktop browser. Just point your mobile’s browser to, select the checkbox Remember preferenceand hit Share location


Google maps mobile web app will automatically detect your current location and you can start enjoying some of the recently added features e.g finding local businesses, search for what’s nearby with suggest, auto complete and so on.

As an example, I used the driving directions feature of Google maps to find the shortest route between two cities and I was shown the following result:


Clear, concise and it feels as if I am on the desktop browser. Moreover, I can find nearby places, restaurants and businesses who have a listing on Google maps and then click the Directionsbutton to find the quickest way to reach that destination.

Another good use of Google maps mobile web app is to read user reviews and ratings of business and see some photos to decide whether you want to avail their service. A simple search for Chinese restaurantsshows a lot of businesses around my location, I can read user reviews, view photos and then use the phone number from the Maps page and place my order. Sweet !


If you’re signed into your Google account, you will be able to access My Mapsand starred locations directly from your Google account. This is handy, because you can skip the search box and quickly navigate through favorite locations, which you have earlier bookmarked from the desktop browser


Overall, this is a significant improvement to Google maps mobile web app and the best part is that it works out of the box. Unlike Google Maps app for Android or iPhone, there is no need to update your app and check whether new features are available or not. Regardless of the host device you’re using, you will be able to access all the good features of Google maps from any device, any browser.

Google Latitude Gets More Meaning with Check-ins, Better Late than Never

Google Latitude allowed users to share their exact location on a map until now. It was easy to keep track of where people were going but personally, it did not make sense checking into an exact location. Starting Google Maps 5.1 for Android, this has changed. Now, users can check in at real places instead of simple addresses.

The Check-in system works as an add-on to the Latitude automatic update system. Thus, while you are automatically updating your location with Latitude, you can additionally check in a place to tell your friends your whereabouts. Now, how is this different from Foursquare?

Google Latitude check-in allows you to check in automatically, has check-in notifications and checks you out of a place once you have moved out. Latitude has mentioned those three features and none are incorporated by Foursquare yet.

Other than that, it has an equivalent of Mayorships and allows you to get a turn-by-turn direction to the place. The feature is not complete yet and it will be a few days before you can see your history of activities with Latitude. The latitude service was long ignored and now that geolocation based services are catching up and Marissa Mayer is heading this area, we will see a rapid improvement in the sector.

See the feature in action in this YouTube video.

Pune & Bangalore Added To Google Maps Bus Transit Info.

Google Maps has really made it easy for people who are new in a city to find out places and how to reach at their destinations. Google Maps already had transit info for Chennai, Delhi & Kolkata metro. Now two more cities – Pune & Bangalore have been added to that list.

Commuters can now find out bus routes and timings for all Vajra, Vayu Vajra and Big 10 buses that play across the Bangalore city on the Google Maps application both on desktop and mobile platforms. This service is very easy to use and helps commuters find their way around Bangalore using buses easily. Shown below is the Google Maps route from  Airport to JP Nagar via a Bus:

In addition to Bangalore, Google has also added Pune’s city bus service information to Google Maps making it the fifth Indian city to have bus transit and route information on Google Maps app for both mobile and desktop. Commuters in Pune can now easily find out bus schedules and routes for over 300 Pune Municipal corporation buses via Google Maps.

Google Maps 5 Now Available For Download In Android Market

The highly anticipated update of Google Maps version 5 – has finally hit the Android Market. The new update brings with it tons of new features like 3D maps, new multi-touch gestures and offline maps. Here is the small change-log posted by Google in the Android Market :

  • Explore the map in 3D. Two finger drag down/up to tilt; twist to rotate on supported devices.
  • Use compass mode to rotate the map to where you’re facing. Center the map with My Location then tap again.
  • Improved map caching and offline Navigation rerouting if you lose your connection.


However, not all Android handsets will support the new features offered by Google Maps 5.

Here is the list of handsets that fully support Google Maps 5 :

  • Galaxy S
  • Droid
  • Droid X
  • Droid 2
  • Droid Incredible
  • EVO 4G
  • Nexus S
  • T-Mobile G2/ HTC Desire Z
  • HTC Desire HD

The upcoming high-end Android handsets will also be able to make use of all the features of Google Maps 5. Other handsets like Nexus One, HTC Desire won’t be able to enjoy the new multi-touch gesture feature offered by Google Maps 5 due to hardware restriction.

Here is the official blogpost from Google about Google Maps 5.

Google Maps 5 Will Add Offline Map Caching

Last night at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference – Andy Rubin announced that Google will soon be releasing Google Maps 5. The updated version of Google Maps will bring with it many goodies like dynamic map drawing, many multi-touch gestures like using two fingers to tilt and rotate and offline caching.

The update will also improve the performance of Google Maps and will make it much smoother and snappier.


However, not all Android handsets will be able to enjoy all the features which Google Maps 5 will bring with it. Only a few selected high-end Android devices will be able to take advantage of all the features which Google Maps 5 will offer.

The list of devices includes :

o Galaxy S

o Droid

o Droid X

o Droid 2

o Droid Incredible

o Evo

o Nexus S

o G2

The Nexus One won’t be able to make use of the new multi-touch gestures in Google Maps 5 because it lacks the required multi-touch capability. The update is expected to be rolled out in the coming days.


Google Admits Trespassing and Pays Pittsburgh Couple $1 for Street View Controversy

Google  Street View has been a bane of controversy since it launched. There have been several lawsuits and investigations against Street View in both the United States and other countries too.

In a recent court case against Google, a Pittsburgh couple claimed that Google had trespassed on their privacy by taking a photo of their house through the Street View service. However, Google was let away with an admission of guilt and $1 as compensation for the couple.

According to Associated Press, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon on Thursday signed off on a consent judgment, a mutually agreed-upon verdict, between the Mountain View, Calif. company and Aaron and Christine Boring, of Franklin Park.

Another Google product, Google Maps has also been in controversy rows several times with Google displaying incorrect borders between countries among other things. However, there was also a comical lawsuit about a woman suing Google for giving her bad directions, which was apparently thrown own.

Google was pleased with the verdict and the fact that they were only made to pay $1. However, there might be several more litigations coming their way considering how controversial their service has been. Nonetheless, the service is also very useful when it comes to finding information or navigating an area and though it is controversial it is definitely something which is really helpful for drivers.