Google releases turn by turn navigation on Android phones in the Middle East and North Africa

It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally here. Google has finally enabled turn by turn navigation using Google Maps on Android phones in the UAE.  It was late last year that public transit information was made available on Google Maps, and you’ve also been able to get directions and map routes on Google maps for a while now. Now with voice assisted navigation, your Android phone becomes a full fledged GPS device.

In addition to navigating to search results in Google Maps, the dedicated Navigation app (which is likely to be pre-installed on your Android phone) lets you type in or ‘speak’ a destination. The engine powering Navigation is the same one that powers Google Now and all other things voice recognition on Android. Not only does it do an amazing job of recognizing what you’re saying, but the speech output is extremely natural too.

Navigation also lets you select a friend right from the app and navigate to their place – provided you or they have input their address.

It’s great to see Google show some love to the region.

 Update – The roll-out is actually for the entire Middle East and North Africa. Link to Press Release here



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I give my 2 cents on Cloud Computing

Gulf News had a supplement for GITEX with news and reviews of the annual technology exhibition. One of the sections was on Cloud Computing and its adoption among users in the region. I, and a few other users, were asked to write a short piece each on the role Cloud Computing has played in our lives.

Click the image to read the piece

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Why I’m supporting the UAE Blackberry ban

We’re just over 2 weeks away from the final decision about the Blackberry ban in the UAE and as we draw closer to the date, I find myself supporting the ban. Now I know this sounds absolutely ludicrous but hear me out, there is a (partly) sound logic behind this.

There is no doubt that the Blackberry does email like no other device and to businesses it is practically irreplaceable, but the reason it has picked up steam among end consumers – at least here in the UAE – is the Blackberry Messenger service. The instant messaging service has been a rage, especially among younger consumers, reducing their spend to a fraction of what it would be over text messaging. However, apart from these two capabilities, the Blackberry doesn’t put up much of a fight against the iPhone and Android devices. (The physical keyboard is fantastic but that’s hardly the decisive factor for end consumers) Bar a few, the applications on Blackberry don’t come close to matching those on the iPhone and Android, both in terms of functionality and a visual experience. More importantly the browser on the Blackberries (both OS4.x and OS5) makes browsing a chore and leaves a lot to be desired. Compare this to the speed and fluidity of the Android and iPhone browser and the Blackberry browser seems bloated and clunky.

Should the ban go into effect, a major chunk of the users who have tasted the mobile internet blood will move to a data enabled device; hopefully an iPhone or an Android. And with that happening, these users will spend more time browsing the internet on their mobiles and engaging with apps and games. This state of increased mobile web consumption is what I’m looking forward to so the region can move – albeit forcefully – towards being a more developed mobile audience.

Now I know that the Blackberry OS6 supports Webkit browsing and is a dramatic improvement over the previous versions but how many users can we really expect to make the jump? A survey by YouGov Siraj says about 2/3rd of the users will switch from their Blackberries should the ban come into effect.

At the end of it, I do hope that there is some form of a resolution, atleast for corporate users. But as consumers, I believe users stand to gain a lot more than they know, technologically speaking of course.

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Xperia X10 reviewed

I reviewed Sony Ericsson’s newest Android offering, the  Xperia X10 in Emirates Business 24/7

The moment you take the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 out of the box, you know you’re holding on to something expensive. With a smooth curvy back and excellent finish, the phone feels solid and fits well in your hands. In fact, it is a very good looking phone but that, of course, is not its only merit.

Click here to read the rest of the review

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Blackberry’s official Twitter application (beta) reviewed

I reviewed Blackberry’s official Twitter application – which is in beta – in Emirates Business 24/7

Click the image to see the full review.

Blackberry Twitter Application Review

Read the review on the official Emirates Business website

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Google’s hard fall reminds us of how big it really is

Gmail fail

Here I am, blogging live from the great Gmail crash of September 2009. Every single group column in my Tweetdeck window is filled with tweets about Gmail. It took about 10 minutes for ‘Gmail’ to become Trending topic #1 on Twitter. The number of tweets posted in those 10 minutes is just shy of 24000, and this is of course only the first batch of people who happened to be online when Gmail went down. I would think the number of ‘Gmail tweets/minute’ is likely to go up.

With all this going on, I can’t help but wonder Twitter really has a long road ahead of it if it wants to become the pulse of the planet. And with Google Wave on the horizon, things aren’t likely to get any easier.

(Image via @holaphil)

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