Posts tagged with "google"

No Ecosystem Is an Island: Google, Microsoft, Facebook & Adobe’s iOS Apps

Apple doesn't make a single Android or Windows Phone app, and makes barely anything for Windows. But Apple's reluctance to develop on other platforms hasn't stopped Google and Microsoft from bringing their own apps across to iOS. That shouldn't be any surprise at all, given the different business strategies the three take. But what might be surprising is the extent to which Google and Microsoft have committed to bringing apps to iPhone and iPad users.

You are no doubt aware of the big apps from Microsoft (Word, Outlook and Minecraft) and Google (Gmail, Maps, Calendar), but the reality is that these two companies alone have over 150 apps available on the iOS App Store today. For good measure, I've also taken a look at the iOS development efforts from Adobe and Facebook, which are also significant.

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Google Acquires Timeful

Interesting acquisition from Google: Timeful was an iPhone app that combined events, todos, and 'habits' in a single calendar UI that could suggest the best time to schedule everything according to your patterns, location, and available times.

Here's how TechCrunch described Timeful last year:

From the user’s perspective, Timeful works like this: You link the app to any of your existing calendar apps, such as iCal, Microsoft Exchange, or Google Calendar. You then tell the app additional things you need to and would like to do, providing concrete things like “buy milk” and more fuzzy things like “exercise” or “cook dinner more often.” You also select a level of aggressiveness that you’d like Timeful to have when suggesting times and activities, from laid-back, to very ambitious. Timeful then provides you with a customized calendar that incorporates all of the things you need to do and want to do at the times that would be best for you to actually make sure they get done.

I remember trying Timeful when it came out and thinking that I didn't want to put all my events and reminders in a standalone utility for iPhone with no iPad or web counterparts.

Timeful seems to make more sense as an addition to Calendar and Inbox, the company's alternative take on email that features location and time-based reminders. Google could use Timeful's intelligence to predict when a user is most likely to tackle todos or suggest the best times to schedule a new event or meeting. According to a post on the Gmail blog, it sounds like Timeful tech will indeed be rolled out across several Google properties:

We’re excited about all the ways Timeful’s technology can be applied across products like Inbox, Calendar and beyond, so we can do more of the work for you and let you focus on being creative, having fun and spending time with the people you care about.

In the meantime, Timeful will be kept on the App Store, but it'll no longer receive new features as “the team's attention will be on new projects at Google”.

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‘What Does Google Need on Mobile?’

Fascinating take on Google by Benedict Evans from earlier this week:

Apps cut off Google’s reach, both to get data into its systems, since apps are opaque, and to surface data out to internet users, since any search in Yelp’s specialist app is a search that wasn’t on Google, and such apps are stronger on mobile than on the desktop. Apps reduce Google’s reach in both senses. This of course is why (like Facebook) it has been pursuing deep links, and is probably also one reason why it is keeping Chrome OS warm as a standby mobile platform. But it also means that Google has conflicting incentives - as a provider of services, should it try always to make things as part of the web, or embrace the new experiences that apps and everything else happening on smartphones can provide? What would the web search team say if Hangouts became a development platform, for example?

Just yesterday, Google announced a new search initiative on Android: now, users will be able to find content inside apps they don't have installed (powered by App Indexing), start downloading an app within search, and continue their activity directly into the just-downloaded app.

As explained by Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch:

Here is what all of this will look like in practice: say you are searching for a recipe and Google’s algorithms determine that there is an app that has just the right recipe for black forest cake for you. You will now see a carousel with relevant apps and a prominent install button right next to them. From there, you’re taken to the Google Play store to install the app. Once the app is installed, you simply click “continue” and the app will open with the content you were looking for.

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Google Updates YouTube for iOS with New Music Section

Following the announcement of YouTube Music Key earlier today, Google updated its official YouTube app for iOS with a new Music tab in preparation for the service's beta rollout next week.

The new tab, available at the top of the main interface, doesn't bring Music Key functionalities, but instead showcases a selection of music based on popularity and your watching history on YouTube. In this section, YouTube is offering mixes (non-stop playlists based on songs or artists, like radio stations), recommended videos, a history section for music videos you've played before, plus trending and popular videos.

The selections in the new Music area of YouTube are solid when it comes to personal history and recommendations, but they feel a little impersonal as they lack any sort of editorial pick or curated content. The Music tab is very much user-centric at this point: music videos are either recommended based on your history and likes on YouTube or they're already part of your subscriptions and playlists. The execution is nice thanks to large previews, a clean interface, and the ability to quickly start playing a mix or a playlist, but, right now, YouTube's Music tab is obviously not meant to replace the home page of services like Beats Music or Spotify.

You can get the updated YouTube app with the new Music section on the App Store.


Google Announces YouTube Music Key

Widely rumored for the past several months, Google today announced YouTube Music Key, a premium service that, starting at $7.99/month, will offer ad-free videos, the ability to keep listening to videos as music in the background, offline downloads, and access to Google Play Music (the new name for Google Play Music All Access).

From the YouTube blog:

Thanks to your music videos, remixes, covers, and more, you’ve made YouTube the biggest music service on the planet. To turn YouTube into your perfect music service, we’re launching YouTube Music Key as a beta with our biggest music fans first, and then we’ll bring YouTube Music Key to the whole world together. So, if you see an invite in your app or email, try it out for six months for free.

YouTube Music Key follows a plan to revamp YouTube's entire music strategy with a new dedicated section:

Starting today, you’ll see a new home just for music on your YouTube app for Android, iOS and on YouTube.com that shows your favorite music videos, recommended music playlists based on what you’re into and playlists of trending music across YouTube. You can find a playlist to perfectly fit your mood, whether that’s a morning motivators playlist or Boyce Avenue YouTube Mix. Check out the newest songs from channels you subscribe to, like FKA twigs or Childish Gambino. Or quickly find the songs you’ve played over and over and over again.

The YouTube Music Key beta will start rolling out next week, and it appears that current Google Music All Access subscribers will get access to it immediately.

I'm interested in Google's plans with YouTube because the service has what other music streaming services have always lacked: a huge catalogue of videos from artists that go beyond albums and singles. As someone who regularly watches concert videos and demo recordings on YouTube, I'm curious to see how an ad-free experience with web and iOS access could improve content that I can't get anywhere else.

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The Future of Apple and Google

A thoughtful article by Steve Cheney. This point was particularly interesting:

New frameworks for devices to interact with the physical world have arrived and will further Apple’s lead. These are important to the growth of the platforms. These include BLE, iBeacon, NFC and other areas adjacent to discovery and the purchase funnel. These short range technologies (when made developer-friendly through APIs) allow phones to connect with the nearby world (the ‘edge’ or last 50 feet), much like GPS allowed phones to connect with the outdoor sky 10 years ago. This short range RF stack is maturing rapidly, but it’s still a little bit like GPS was 5-10 years ago. Back then the apps sucked—remember the first Garmin device you had to plug in to your cigarette lighter, which had no real apps or expansion capability? Or the first time you used maps on a Nokia series 40 phone? The applications were bad, the devices sucked, and the developer tools were non-existent. Now every single app you download uses location and you can get a car delivered to your house in 5 minutes, all enabled by GPS.

It took years for GPS to become widespread, but it has changed how we live. Seems clear that near-field discovery and communication will do the same.

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Google Buys Songza

In more music news, Google just announced they're acquiring Songza, a music streaming and recommendation service available in the US and Canada.

The Verge writes:

Google announced today that it's acquiring the streaming-music service Songza for an undisclosed sum. Over the coming months it will be integrating the company's smart playlist creation into Google Play Music and perhaps YouTube. Songza will remain an active and independent app for the time being. The purchase highlights the increasingly competitive landscape emerging around music, as Apple, Amazon, and Google all seek to differentiate their mobile products by offering top-notch streaming services.

Here's the Google announcement:

They’ve built a great service which uses contextual expert-curated playlists to give you the right music at the right time. We aren't planning any immediate changes to Songza, so it will continue to work like usual for existing users. Over the coming months, we’ll explore ways to bring what you love about Songza to Google Play Music. We'll also look for opportunities to bring their great work to the music experience on YouTube and other Google products.

Songza also notes that “no immediate changes” are planned, although that usually means that specific features will be integrated into other Google products or that the acquired app (Songza is available on both iOS and Android) will be removed from sale:

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re becoming part of Google. We can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack for everything you do.

Songza went through several iterations, and in 2011 it relaunched to focus on curated music recommendations provided by its own team of music experts; in 2012, the company launched a Concierge feature to recommend music based on situations and moods, with filters to refine selections and vote songs. Here's a Billboard article with a review of Concierge from March 2012.

There are many parallels with Beats Music, which seems to confirm that human music curation as an aid to algorithms and traditional search matters.

Music curation is one of themes of 2014 at this point – even Spotify revamped their app homepage to prominently feature curated playlists and recommendations based on mood and time of the day. It'll be interesting to see what Apple and Google will do with their acquisitions.

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Google Brings Lane Guidance, Uber Integration, New Filters and Offline Mode To Maps for iOS

In a major update released today and detailed on the official Maps blog, Google has announced a variety of new features for Google Maps for iOS, available for iPhone and iPad.

For users in the United States and "parts of Canada and Japan", Google has added lane guidance, a turn-by-turn navigation feature that allows the app to show the lane to stay in or move to; lane guidance is often found on dedicated GPS devices, and it should enable Google Maps to provide drivers with more precise directions.

Previously available only through a hidden command, Google has added a new offline mode to Maps that lets users easily store multiple areas as offline maps for usage in areas with no cellular or WiFi coverage. In the new version of the app, a new "Save map to use offline" is featured in the detail screen of a location (or dropped pin); offline maps can be given a unique name, and they can be viewed in a new list of the Profile view in the app. When offline, Google Maps will allow to zoom and pan on saved maps, but search and directions won't be available.

Alongside improvements to public transit directions (which now include total walking time and next scheduled bus or train), Google has also revamped the filter functionality of nearby search results:

With new filters, you can browse through restaurants, bars and hotels by opening hours, rating, price, and more—where available—to find just what you’re looking for, right when you need it.

The other big addition is Uber integration inside the Google Maps app. For users who have the Uber app installed on their devices, Maps will allow to compare their ride with other directions and, through a "Get an Uber" button embedded in the app, it'll be possible to switch directly to the Uber app with one tap. Notably, Google's investment arm Google Ventures is an investor in Uber.

Google added other functionalities for iOS users in version 3.0 of the app as well. iPhone and iPad contacts can be accessed directly from the app, and Voice Search (a feature previously available in the Chrome and Search apps for iOS) has been integrated in the app's search box to look for locations without typing. A scale bar to estimate distances is now visualized on the map, and the process of saving and sharing locations has been refined; recently saved places and searches will be available in a "Places to review" list (requires sign-in).

Version 3.0 of Google Maps for iOS is available on the App Store.


GAget for iPhone

First released in October, GAget is my favorite Google Analytics app for iPhone because it makes it easy to look at stats for the current day and past 4 weeks with a clean design. Most Google Analytics clients tend to display as much information as possible at once, whereas GAget is a dashboard for your Analytics account – readable and with just the right amount of numbers and charts.

The latest 1.1 version adds support for traffic sources, platform data, and social stats that are displayed at the bottom of the screen with icons and percentages. Developer Zoltan Hosszu also makes GAget for Mac (which we covered in 2011), and the iPhone app is useful for quick overviews. GAget is $1.99 on the App Store.

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