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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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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Android will be the Winner!

I was watching the live stream of the last TWiT which featured Robert Scoble, John Dvorak and Dwight Silverman as guests along with host Leo Laporte. They were discussing mobile phones and platforms and Scoble said he didn’t see Android being #1 in the future.

I think he’s wrong. A huge reason for the iPhone’s success has been it’s application platform development. The applications available on the App Store have resulted in a multi fold increase in the utility of the device, both for productivity as well as entertainment. A pre 2.0 iPhone looks practically naked now. But this is just one device.

Google’s Android platform is available to , and will be used on many devices. The G1 is only the beginning. With Samsung, Lenovo, Sprint and AT&T poised to bring Android devices in this and next year, Android’s reach is going to spready increasingly. Soon enough a user won’t be stuck with one form factor. Devices with QWERTY keyboards, Numeric keyboards, No Keyboards, Large Screens, Small screens, slide devices, flip devices etc will be available in Android flavour. All this choice will result in increased adoption among users.

This increased adoption of Android will make development for Android increasingly lucrative as developers will now have access to a much much wider consumer base which in turn will result in an increase in the number of applications and attract even more consumers. It’s a cycle right there.

Android’s greatest strength lies in the openness of the platform. Wonderful things will be done with it in the future. One needs to remember the first device was launched only 3 months ago and Android’s is still in the infancy stage. 2010 is going to be a huge year for Android. You can quote me on that.

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Android SDK Refresh looks sex-eh!

Google has released a refresh to the Android SDK. The improvements are most noticeable in the GUI which now look a lot more acceptable. I still think they’re very candy-ish but it’s a huge improvement from what we saw recently on the dull palm-esque devices. Developers will now also be able to create their own animations for their applications. In addition the platform now supports OGG among other media codecs. This is a big step forward in maintaining the same concept the platform is built on, openness. While Microsoft may boast of the big depth of 3rd party applications available for it’s products, the WM platform’s openness is limited. Apple at this point is not even worth mentioning. But they should take a page from Google’s book and the direction it has taking the Android platform in. I believe the platform will take off even more once the initial wave of devices start coming out this summer.


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