Quiet round these parts

Tumbleweed
[photo via jezarnold on flickr]

My poor little neglected blog. I haven’t forgotten you, but I must admit I’ve been seeing other sites, Google+ and Twitter if you must know. C’est la vie.

I’ll stick with Google Maps thanks

A quick comparison of central Wellington as depicted in Google Maps (on a Nexus S running Jelly Bean 4.1.1) and in the new Apple Maps (on a 4th Gen iPod Touch running iOS6) that got released yesterday.

First up, Google Maps:

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And now Apple Maps:

Well, if you like it simple I guess and don’t care about all that messy detail! :P

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OK, how about satellite imagery. Again Wellington, at the intersection of Molesworth St and Lambton Quay near the central bus station and Parliament buildings…

Google Maps (and not at full zoom I might add – I can enlarge this more, but chose this scale for a similar scale comparison with Apple):

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Apple Maps (close to full zoom before losing imagery):

Yikes – that’s a tad blurry!

Now since I had more layer info displayed in the Google Map, here’s the same area in Apple Maps with the Hybrid option turned on:

Hmmm, no thanks – terrible info overlay.

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So, I think that’s pretty convincing. Google Maps is an excellent offering. Apple, not so much! The new iOS maps lack detail while satellite imagery and the hybrid option both at full zoom are poor. And of course if you want Street View imagery you’re now out of luck with Apple Maps. :(

Needless to say, stories regarding the new maps are all over the tech news today, eg The Verge, Mashable, CNET, BBC

On a positive note however, this is Apple’s first release and Apple’s Maps will improve in time (hopefully soon!). In the meantime, I’d suggest using Google Maps in the browser – Chrome of course! ;)

And for some bonus reading, check out the following story from The Atlantic: How Google Builds Its Maps.

Nice 1st release Apple, but I’ll stick with Google Maps thanks.

Top 10 NZ Android Apps

That is, the top 10 NZ Android apps as judged and used by me!

Since I last posted a bunch of  New Zealand apps, lots of new ones have been released – some of which I’ve grabbed and use frequently. Here’s the 2012 list of my favourite NZ Android Apps…

MetService

Firstly, a disclaimer – I work at MetService! That said, the MetService app is fantastic and I use it every day. The app is focused on city forecasts with up to the minute current conditions overlayed on beautiful background photos to match the forecast. You can also view warnings, live radar imagery, rainfall maps or spot forecast data, MetServiceTV videos and traffic cams. And if you want to customise the app a little, you can set your own background photos then brag to the world by sharing your personalised forecast. :)

  

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Stuff.co.nz

Stuff remains my goto site for news and afaik the app hasn’t changed since I last posted about it. The default section remains “top stories” (which can’t be changed) but it is easy to get to the menu to swap to another section. When viewing an article, swipe left or right to navigate through that section. While the app is free, you can expect little banner ads mixed into the article list. My only real gripe is that it doesn’t have the “pull down to refresh” action – instead the refresh button is hidden in the menu (could easily be a button on the top menu bar).

  

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My Account – Vodafone NZ

Vodafone have made a nice job of this app – it presents everything I need to know about my account from current usage, to calling rates in both NZ and abroad along with other plan details. As you might expect it also lets you top up your account and has a handy store finder map in the event you need to visit a Vodafone retail store.

  

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PriceSpy

Great for the tech enthusiasts out there, or anyone about to buy some computer hardware, electronics, games, gadgets or devices! Before purchasing, I always use PriceSpy to get a roundup of prices from many retailers to ensure I’m getting the best deal. The app has a few ways of getting to a product listing – either via searching for a specific item, browsing categories, or scanning a barcode.

  

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Trade Me

The Trade Me app is new since I last composed an apps list around a year ago and following a few updates it now has most of the features people were looking for in early releases. There are plenty of options for both buyers and sellers including searching and browsing, watchlists, bidding, listing items, asking/answering questions, providing feedback etc. And to ensure you don’t miss out on that next bargin, the app also has push notifications for items closing soon, when you’re outbid or have a fixed price offer to review.

  

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Flicks.co.nz

Flicks.co.nz is a New Zealand movie guide with info, reviews and trailers for current and upcoming movies. As you might expect, you can also get session times per movie in your local area, or you can browse all movies screening at a particular theatre in the next few days with theatre listings including contact info and a map. While the app is free, you will see some little banner ads at the bottom of each listing.

  

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GeoNet

This is another new app since my original list and is the official app from GeoNet using data from their Rapid (Beta) service which is automated and very fast following a quake. The app has options to let you filter quakes based on location or intensity and you can also change notification settings. In addition to a listing of recent quakes for your settings, you can also view quakes on a map with links through to the GeoNet website for for details.

(at time of writing the app appears to have a bug on Jelly Bean preventing scrolling and/or pulling up more info on the main quakes list. I’ve emailed GeoNet who will hopefully respond and/or fix it!
UPDATE, 20 Aug: Richard Guest, GeoNet Senior Software Engineer, has advised there is indeed a bug that is now scheduled for a fix with the next release. Yay!
)

  

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Wellington Airport Flight Info

This one is a simple app to view arrival/departure info for both domestic/international flights at Wellington. Handy if you need to drop off or collect someone to see if flights are running to schedule, but also to answer questions from kids when plane spotting! The app is free but plugs parking services with little banner ads interspersed with the flight info.

  

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Countdown Shopping

Another newcomer to my list, and personally handy as I chose to shop at the local Countdown Supermarket. This app takes a fair amount of time to set up in that you’ll need to populate your shopping list(s) by either searching, browsing or scanning to find items – scanning barcodes is by far the fastest for getting items into a list. Once you have a master list, you can then change the number of items you want for the pending shop, with the list automatically sorting to match the local store layout. The app also has a few other features including specials listings, Onecard integration for your points balance and of course there is a store finder.

  

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Snapper Mobile

This one is pretty specialised in that you need to be a Snapper user, with a NFC enabled phone, and preferably with a Touch2Pay SIM from 2degrees! If you can tick all those boxes, then you can use the app and your phone just as a regular Snapper card. I’m not a 2degrees customer, but I still find the app useful for both checking my Snapper card balance and topping it up.

  

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But wait! There’s more! Here’s my bonus app…

Air NZ mPass

The sole reason this isn’t in my top 10 NZ apps is that I fly infrequently so rarely use the app. That said though, when you are flying Air NZ this is a great app for access to all your flight info including digital boarding pass, seat/gate numbers, Airpoints balance along with airport info and maps.

  

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There are of course lots of other NZ apps on Google Play, but the above have earned a place on my phone for regular use. If you’ve read down to here and have your own favourite NZ app that’s not mentioned above, give it a plug in the comments…

Note, screenshots above were taken today on a Nexus S running Jelly Bean 4.1.1 – except for the Air NZ mPass screenshots that were snapped on the same phone running ICS earlier in the year.

Safari vs Chrome on iOS

A little comparison on my 4th gen iPod Touch – Safari on the left, Chrome on the right:

Safari vs Chrome on iOS

Safari 0, Chrome 1. More page real estate ftw! ‘Nuf said.

Happy New Year

Yup, 2011 is done! And to celebrate Google has the following doodle up today:

And being 2012, I suppose it’s time to cue the end of the world/calendar cartoons…

From Bizarro Blog:

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From WebDonuts:

From Scientific Madness:

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:D

No Carrier IQ on my Samsung Galaxy 580

Last week there was a bit of media kerfuffle about “Carrier IQ” – a hidden application installed on some phones that can log all sorts of things for the phone company (see this Lifehacker article with links to Android developer Trevor Eckhart’s posts here and here - the dev who discovered the app).

While I’m not overly concerned about the app, given that Vodafone NZ deny using it and as it turns out the logging/spying appears to have overblown given this post by security researcher Dan Rosenberg, I thought I’d try out one of the detector apps to satisfy my curiosity. The app I tried was the Voodoo Carrier IQ detector and it came up clean for me:

Part of the reason I wanted to check myself is that I’m not running the phone+software as purchased from Vodafone NZ. I rooted my phone and installed a new Froyo ROM on it (see this post) and as such is not running fully vetted/authorised by Vodafone NZ.

So, despite a lack of concern it’s nice to see it’s not on my phone. :)

For completeness, my phone is a Samsung Galaxy 580 (aka Galaxy 3 or GT-I5800) running Froyo 2.2 (an XXJPM build) on the Vodafone NZ network. Here’s my about/status screens:

 

I’m a Samsung

A brilliant ad from Samsung taking a pot-shot at the Apple fanboys:

 

The best line in the ad would have to be: “If it looks the same how will people know I upgraded?” followed closely by “I could never get a Samsung, I’m creative”. LOL! :D

Nice one Samsung. I’d like to think that S2 will be my next Galaxy phone…

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