Google Maps for iOS is back…sort of

Find my full review of the new Google Maps app over at Gadget Beats, the latest in tech news and reviews.

Google Maps, sorely missed from the latest iOS upgrade, is back in the App Store, but quickly unable to be downloaded potentially due to overwhelmed servers.

Mac Rumors broke the news with a direct link for the download, as it does not appear to be available when searching the store.

The mapping service is back with a redesigned interface and, drum roll please…voice-activated turn by turn directions!

Oh, and a personal favorite of mine, public transit directions have returned and are slicker than ever. Traffic, satellite view and an external link to the Google Earth app are also included in the new version.

It’s more of a lookalike to the built-in maps app for iPhones running iOS 6 than it is Google’s last iOS iteration or even it’s current mobile web app available at maps.google.com.

Within 30 minutes from this news breaking, the app is already unavailable, at least temporarily. Users are getting the error message “the item you tried to buy is no longer available.” No word as to why exactly it’s no longer downloading or why it wasn’t searchable right away.

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A pocket-sized Instagram projector, now on Kickstarter

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Everyone’s a photographer with a smartphone in their pocket. And despite the incredible quality that can be pulled off affordable, semi-professional equipment these days, I’m a firm believer that the best camera is the one on you.

For me, that’s all 8 megapixels of my iPhone 5.

With digital photography comes digital files, and it can be a pain to show those off on anything larger than the device you have on you.

So it’s no surprise that someone has come up with a portable solution, albiet one that works best with the lights off.

A British entrepreneur named Benjamin Bradford hopes to change how you show your photos just a little bit with something his company Mint Digital is calling Projecteo.

Projecteo is a pocket-sized Instagram projector.

Find out more from the full post over at Gadget Beats, a new tech blog I’ll be working with.

2012: the year of the smart watch

UPDATE: Walt Mossberg of All Things D just posted his take on one smart watch after spending a week with it. See “Sony’s SmartWatch Not Ready for Primetime“.

http://vimeo.com/user6295201/im-watch-the-first-real-smartwatch-in-the-world

Mark my words.

Wearable technology is it.

As the digital world starts to overlap and sometimes, overshadow the physical world, it seems inevitable for those two worlds to merge a little more seamlessly.

Google’s Project Glass, a pair of sci-fi specs that layers notifications and interactivity over your standard vision, may look silly right now. By 2015 it’ll be right on target.

Right now, you need to consciously use a device to unlock the online universe. Whether that be smartphone, tablet or computer, we have to pull something out of our pocket, unlock the screen and tap.

What if you could reduce those three steps to just one? Tap.

Until we start using Google’s goggles, we have a new wearable innovation in “smart watches” — new-age wrist straps for geeks like me who think having all that tech a glance away is pretty cool.

While not everyone is into that whole interconnected, online all the time lifestyle, many people have forgotten how to exist without the Internet. Without convenient, online access people go bonkers. I’ve seen it at the Genius Bar.

They’re just jonesing to connect and get back their email. I try to keep calm and compute on, but even 10 Mb/s makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes.

But that’s neither here nor there.

This invention is really starting to pick up steam with some serious startups and even a tech juggernaut (think, the Walkman) stepping into the game.

HERE ARE 3 SMART WATCHES TO KEEP AN EYE ON:

First off, hot on Kickstarter right now, Pebble. e-paper watch, a device that lest you connect to your smartphone for notifications, caller ID, weather and of course, time.

Next up is i’m Watch, from an Italian manufacturer. This one starts significantly higher at $469 for a multi-touch, multi-tasking digital timepiece that claims to be “simply the first” of its kind. All of the above are included in a bright, LED glass square strapped to your wrist. Check email, take calls, tweet. One-handed. Er, wristed.

Sony is joining the startups in the competition with its own, aptly named SmartWatch, price TBA.

Sony's aptly named "SmartWatch" is coming soon and doesn't have a price listed. It is compatible with most standard watchbands for inexpensive customization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with i’m Watch, Sony’s take is a dead ringer for the ultimate product + accessory that planted this seed: Apple’s iPod Nano + a “watchband” from LunaTik or iWatchz.

That little duo can be had for as little as $129 for an entry-level 8GB nano and $24.95 for the cheapest strap from iWatchz, totaling just under $170. But the Nano doesn’t connect to your iOS devices just yet. And it can’t take calls. Yet. As soon as Apple releases an update for the software running these wafer-sized gadgets, it will be a well-poised competitor again.

Until then, these new smart watches are essentially wrist displays for smartphones, connecting to both the phone and the Internet via a wireless Bluetooth connection.

While both a cool fashion accessory and useful tool (and toy), naysayers will call it “frivolous”, “overkill” and “unnecessary.”

If any of that is true now, it won’t be for long.

Facebook just bought Instagram…don’t flip out just yet

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My jaw just dropped with the news I received from MacRumors that Facebook, the social network, is buying Instagram, a photo-sharing app and the rising star of the social media world.

I know what you’re thinking…

W…T…F?!

Another media giant buying out a smoking hot tech start-up, turning the cool new indie thing into the latest corporate toy.

Luckily, Facebook appears to be taking a very smart approach here: become the financial backbone of what’s already become an established sensation, and one that’s here to stay.

So, hopefully, that means we don’t see INSTABOOK anytime soon.

Just last week, game developer Zynga purchases OMGPOP, the company behind the latest buzzworthy iOS game Draw Something.

And it wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft, the biggest kid on the tech playground, bought Skype. Another shocking moment in tech buyout history.

Now think about the two players in a buyout like that: people love Skype, and everyone hates Microsoft. Skype brings us closer to our relatives afar through free or inexpensive international phone calls and video calls. Microsoft makes Windows PCs! Blegh. Viruses, nerds and Bill Gates.

But so far, Skype is still Skype. Big bad Microsoft hasn’t closed up Skype’s shop and rates haven’t changed (as far as I know). For once, a merger has gone smoothly, and independence reigns, while corporate parents Microsoft still gets the perks. In this case, that’s Xbox Kinect integration.

For previous tech mergers gone really bad, we can always look to AOL Time Warner.

And more recently, AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post has been a learning experience for both sides. More on that from TechCrunch.

Here’s to hoping Facebook keeps its promise and Instagram remains great.