Mar 9, 2011

Google Maps routes itself to v5.2, gets hotpot tweets, Latitude 'pings' and better search results

We're still waiting for someone to one-up Google Maps Navigation, but until that fateful day shines down upon us, it looks as if we'll have to once again point our attention to El Goog. Google Maps has just been updated to version 5.2, with three main additions to focus on. For one, the new edition allows users to tweet their reviews of places and share recommendations with Hotpot friends. Next up, there's Latitude pinging, which enables you to send a quick message to a nearby Latitude friend rather than having to use a text or call; they'll receive an Android notification from you asking them to check in at a place, and when they check in using your request, you'll get a notification right back so you know which place to go to meet up with them. Finally, a new 'Search More Places' button has been added under the standard list of places to check in at, which ought to prove helpful in highly congested cities with multiple places stacked atop one another. Hit that Android Market link below to get your update going, and if you're fixing to use that new ping feature, you and your friends will need v5.2 (or higher, if you're reading this in the year 2043).

Video - Motorola Atrix docks literally and figuratively torn apart, hack enables Webtop over HDMI port

Motorola's got a fine smartphone in the Atrix 4G, but a mildly unsatisfactory pair of modular docks. Good thing, then, that you can gain the most intriguing functionality they add without buying one! Fenny of xda-developers reportedly figured out a way to modify the phone's APK files to activate Webtop mode over a standard HDMI cable -- with no dock needed as a go-between -- allowing you to experience the Atrix's PC-like functionality when connected to any HDMI-ready computer monitor or TV. Of course, you'll need a rooted and deodexed phone to give it a try, but we hear those aren't monumentally difficult to come by. 

While Fenny's hack could potentially make the desktop dock obsolete -- assuming you've got a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard handy -- Motorola's LapDock is still something else. It's razor-thin, it doesn't require a separate monitor, and it charges your phone. So, before you write it off entirely, you might at least want to indulge your morbid curiosity about what's inside, and thus there's a complete teardown video after the break to show you what the guts look like. Enjoy!

Sprint announcing Nexus S 4G, EVO 3D, and EVO View tablet at CTIA?

The media -- yours truly included -- has been trying to figure out why Sprint has booked an insane two-and-a-half hour slot at CTIA later this month. That's not the kind of event you throw together just to rehash the devices you've introduced over the last half year -- something's up, and if our source is correct, they're up to something big. Hit read more for details.

Microsoft's Windows Phone 'mango' update to miss 2011 target?

Paul Thurrott has been a trusted insider on all things Microsoft for as long as we can remember. As such, it's worth paying attention to a recent article he published on Windows IT Pro that calls for Microsoft's first "NoDo" Windows Phone 7 feature update to hit as early as this week. Of course, Steve Ballmer said it was coming in "early March" so that's not much of a prediction. What really caught our attention are Paul's comments about "Mango" -- the big WP7 feature update that Microsoft says will bringmultitasking, IE9, and Twitter integration to Windows Phone handsets later in 2011. According to Thurott's sources, Mango won't be finalized until the end of the year making a release to consumers in 2011 a "near impossibility." Ouch. How this might affect Nokia's Windows Phone 2011 launch planshopes -- rumored to be waiting for Mango -- remains to be seen.  Mary Jo Foley, who's got a few Microsofties in her own back pocket, says that she's hearing that Microsoft recently promised OEMs and carriers Mango by "early fall at the latest" -- just in time for a holiday consumer launch. It's real life he-said she-said rumor flagellation folks!

Geeksphone Zero to sell for €189, pre-orders starting soon?

Geeksphone made a minor splash back in '09 with the introduction of the Geeksphone One, an Android slider that came out at a time when Android sliders (and really, Android phones in general) were still a tad on the rare side -- and it was all happening by way of an unknown independent European firm, to boot. Well, they're coming back for round two with the Zero, said to be launching soon -- and Android France looks to have a jump on pricing and specs. The phone's clearly on the low end of the range (Geeksphone says it's saving the flagship horsepower for the yet-to-be-introduced Two) with a 600MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, a 3.2-inch HVGA display, though it gets brownie points for a 5 megapixel autofocus cam and Gingerbread out of the box. Pricing looks aggressive, too: the site claims we'll see it for €189 ($265), though early buyers will get a €179 ($251) special and previous owners of the One will get it for €168 ($236). Pre-orders will allegedly kick off within a couple weeks.

Google Maps Navigation for Android adds real-time traffic re-routing

Google Maps Navigation becomes more of a threat to the traditional in-car GPS business seemingly on a daily basis, and they're taking another stab at it today with the addition of traffic re-routing capability in the Android app (which, while technically still in beta, is pretty darn solid) in both North America and Europe. Of course, Maps has had access to traffic information for a long time, so this is a natural progression -- and just as Google uses an interesting combination of sources (including phones) to cull that data, it's employing some smart schemes for re-routing that take into account both current and historical information about your route. The update's available today.

Android Set To Dominate Tablet Market

The iPad 2 is grabbing column inches galore at the moment, but a new forecast from RBC Capital markets is taking a little of the shine off it already. According to their forecast the tablet market will explode over the next three years growing to some £42 billion by 2014 with Android taking an impressive 40% of the market.

That figure, according to RBC, will put Android in a dominant position in that market. That doesn't mean that Apple will be lagging behind or doing badly by any means as the analysis states "While Apple's iPad may continue to set the bar high for experience, we expect Android to dominate."

The main growth for Android in this amrket will probably come from the Chinese manufacturers who will cut costs to release cheap alternatives to the higher priced tablets being offered from the major manufacturers.

Jolicloud renames operating system 'Joli OS,' promises new web and Android apps

Well, it doesn't involve the company's Jolibook laptop, but it looks like some fairly big changes are indeed in store for Joliclould's upstart operating system. In addition to confirming that version 1.2 be released next week, the company has announced that it will be renaming the operating system "Joli OS" to avoid confusion with its online desktop, which will remain "Jolicloud." What's more, while that latter component is currently only available for Chrome, the company's announced that it will be adding support for Firefox 4, Safari 5 and the iPad (in an "experimental" HTML5 port), and it's even now announced plans for an Android app. Unfortunately, details on it are about as light as can be at the moment, with Jolicloud only saying that it's coming in the "future." More details and screenshots of version 1.2 are promised in the next few days, though.

Lenovo ThinkPad X220 and X220 convertible tablet official, 24 hours of battery life promised

Come on, you knew this one was coming! Yep, that leaked Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with all its SSD and display options is now the real deal, and it's one heck of an ultraportable. Just as we saw from that spec sheet, the new 12.5-inch (up from the 12.1-inch X201) laptop is configurable with that 1366x768-resolution IPS display, your choice of standard voltage Sandy Bridge Core i3, i5, and i7 processors, and up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM. There are no discrete graphics options, but you can opt to configure this one with USB 3.0 and a selection SSDs, including Intel's 80GB and 160GB offerings. The 720p webcam, dual digital microphones for noise cancellation, and the new buttonless touchpad (aka ClickPad) come standard. However, the real story Lenovo's trying to tell here is in battery life -- with the nine-cell battery the system is rated for 15 hours of endurance, but snap on the $179 ThinkPad external pack and it shoots on up to 24 hours. 

Thought Lenovo was going to leave the X Series tablet out in the cold without a refresh? Of course not, the X220T also sips from that same fresh Sandy Bridge well, though it doesn't claim that same 24 hour battery life feat -- the four-pound convertible is rated for 16 hours of run time when paired with the external pack. Oh, and did we mention that the multitouch screen is now available with Gorilla Glass? The X220 and the X220T start at $899 and $1,199, respectively, but won't actually be available until April. That said, our Core i5-2520M X220 and its extended battery just arrived in our "lab" so stay tuned for a full review with lots of endurance testing.

Olivetti launches OliPad tablet, second coming of the typewriter?

It's a sign of the times: a company originally known for typewriters, and struggling to find its place in a tech-driven market, turns to manufacturing tablets. This week, Olivetti announced the release of the OliPad, staking its claim to a slice of the slab pie, and repositioning itself on the enterprise PC market. Heralded (at least by Olivetti) as Italy's first tablet, the OliPad sports a 10-inch screen, 3G, WiFi, and Bluetooth connectivity, NVIDIA Tegra 2, Android 2.2.2, and a 1024 x 600 display. It also features USB and HDMI ports and a 1.3 megapixel camera, but perhaps most telling is the simultaneous launch of the Application Warehouse, "a virtual storehouse of configurable and customizable software applications designed by Olivetti specifically for business and government." Considering the vast and varied competition, we'd say sticking to what it knows -- and Olivetti knows business solutions -- is probably a safe bet. Now, if they could just make the thing look as good as the Olivetti Valentine... The OliPad goes on sale this Monday for €399. 


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