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Hands On: The Official Google Voice App is Here

Google Voice official app

The heavens parted and the gods smiled upon tech fans this Tuesday, November 16. No, we’re not talking about The Beatles finally landing on iTunes (although that was also pretty cool) — Apple has finally blessed the official Google Voice app for the iPhone, and you can download it for free right now.

It’s a big year for Google Voice — the service finally went out of invitation-only beta and opened its doors to the public at large, followed by two third-party apps that take advantage of the service (GV Mobile+ and GV Connect) being blessed with admission to the App Store yet again. The only thing that remained was an official app from Google themselves, and now that wait is over.

Google Voice website

Google Voice: Why You Want It

First things first, let’s explain why this is such a big deal. Google Voice is a web-based telephone service that offers you a free phone number capable of ringing you anywhere. It’s not a replacement for your existing service, but rather an enhancement to it.

Let’s say you have a home phone and an iPhone — sign up for Google Voice and you’ll get a new phone number that, when called, can ring both of your actual numbers, allowing you to pick up from either place, transfer calls between handsets or screen incoming callers and voicemail (as it’s being recorded, and you can even join the call at any time).

But Google Voice doesn’t stop there: You’ll also get free SMS text messages to U.S. numbers (sorry, no MMS), online voicemail with transcription (and archiving) and free calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, not to mention “super low rates everywhere else.”

iPhone users could always access this goodness from the Google Voice website, including a mobile version of the site written in HTML5. But it was never quite the same as having a fast, dedicated app to get the job done.

Google Voice inbox

Google Voice on the iPhone

Fire up the official Google Voice app for the iPhone and you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Google address (the full e-mail, not just the username) and password. If you’ve already used Google Voice on the web or with a third-party app, you’ve likely got an existing number stored and you’ll want to select that on the next screen.

You can also enter additional custom numbers that you want calls to be routed to by entering a name and number. This will allow you to dial a call from the GV app on your iPhone, but actually use another line to connect the call. Note that the app doesn’t permit you to delete custom numbers from the app itself and you’ll have to visit your Voice settings online to verify these numbers before you can forward calls to them. It’s not an ideal solution, but thankfully you won’t have to bother with this too often.

Once inside the app, you’ll be greeted by your Inbox, which includes both incoming voicemails as well as SMS messages. If you want to see a specific folder, tap the Menu button and you’ll also have easy access to your Starred and History folders, as well as separate categories for Voicemail, Text, Placed, Received or Missed Calls and even your Spam folder (yes, Google Voice works hard to filter out junk calls!).

Text messages can be easily read and replied to right away; voicemails can be played right from inside the app, with the option to turn the speaker on or off. If you have voicemail transcripts active on your GV account, you’ll see them from the same screen, and as the voicemail plays back, the app will also follow along — a nifty touch, although in general Google’s transcripts tend to leave a lot to be desired.

From any of these folders, you can easily remove (or in this case, move to an archive) unwanted messages by swiping right and tapping Archive on individual messages. You can also accomplish the same task by tapping the Edit button in the upper right corner which will bring up the familiar red “delete” symbol for each message; tap that and you’ll have the option to Archive, but there’s currently no way to do this with more than one message at a time either way.

Google Voice dialer

Dialer and Contacts

To place a call through Google Voice, tap the Dialer tab at the bottom of the screen and you’ll be presented with a dial pad similar to the one built into the iPhone. Once a number is dialed in, you have the option to save it as a favorite by tapping the + symbol in the lower left corner (more on that in a moment), or tapping the Text or Call button. Third-party apps such as GV Mobile+ also include a quick Contacts button in the dialer — it’s strange that Google didn’t do the same here, but Contacts have a dedicated tab all their own for easy access.

With a number entered, tapping on Text brings up a large text field ready to accept an SMS message. Tap Send and your message is on its way, or tap Cancel to return to the dialer. Thankfully, iPhone autocorrection is in full force here, which was missing from recent updates to the GV Mobile+ app, making typing more of a chore than was necessary.

Tap Call and the Google Voice app closes, then the iPhone’s call window opens — you’ll see a random strange phone number appear here that’s not your own, since Google is using its server-side voodoo (known as known as Direct Access Numbers) to connect your call. The search giant claims this is much faster than the dialback option used by third-party apps, allowing GV calls to be placed as quickly as real calls. Fear not, the caller on the other end will still see your Google Voice phone number on their Caller ID, and you can use the Calls tab setting on the GV website to make sure the same number is displayed for outgoing SMS messages as well.

One caveat: Google Voice still uses your cell phone minutes to make calls. It’s not a VoIP service like Skype, where you can use 3G data to save on your contract minutes. That said, if you have access to a phone with unlimited minutes (at home, for instance), you can easily route your iPhone outgoing calls to there and save a bundle.

If you want to access your iPhone contacts, simply tap on the Contacts tab, which is split into two categories: Quick Dial and All Contacts. The latter button does exactly what you’d expect, and if you have your contacts sorted into groups, you can tap the Groups button to access just the ones you’re looking for.

To add numbers to your Quick Dial list, you can either open a contact and tap their number (which will give you the option to Call, Text or Add/Remove from Quick Dial) or tap the + button from the Quick Dial pane, which oddly switches you back to All Contacts anyway. Removing a Quick Dial contact is as simple as swiping to delete, and you can tap Edit to change the order of your Quick Dial contacts or also remove them entirely.

By the way, the Contacts tab isn’t completely bug-free: We discovered that after accessing it a few times, the app mixed up our contact photos at
random. It cleared up after a device reboot, but we’re guessing this should be an easy thing for Google to fix with a future update.

Google Voice settings

Settings

Compared to third-party apps using the same service, the official Google Voice app is quite spartan when it comes to the Settings tab. At the top of the screen you’ll see your GV number and account, with the option to sign out if necessary.

Below that is your GV call balance — new accounts are given .00 calling credit to try out, but if you’ve added more, it will be shown here so you can keep tabs on when it’s time to refill. Since calls within the U.S. and Canada are free, you’ll only need to top this up if you’re keeping touch with friends or family overseas, and Google’s rates are quite competitive.

Last but not least, the Settings tab allows you to change the actual phone you wanted GV calls routed to (usually your iPhone) as well as an About screen to get help, send feedback and see the usual legal mumbo-jumbo related to the service.

Google Voice push notifications

Ahhh, Push It

Because there is no official API for third-party developers to tap into, the unofficial apps, while getting the job done, always left room for improvement. In one particular area — push notifications for incoming SMS messages or voicemails — they fell down completely.

You probably noticed when you first signed into the Google Voice app that it asked you to confirm receiving push notifications. That’s because the official app is capable of notifying you immediately of missed calls, voicemails or SMS messages, which third-party apps were unable to do without using a separate app like PushMail or Boxcar (neither of which were a very elegant solution in this case).

The Google Voice app works as expected with push — as messages pop up, you have the option to dismiss them or open the GV to read or respond to them, and the app supports iOS 4 multitasking and fast app switching to make things lightning fast. It’s not an intuitive as Google Voice on Android, but given that iOS lacks a polished notification system, it does a great job.

Google also hasn’t missed out on the little things — if you receive a push notification on your iPhone but choose to ignore it, then later read it on the GV website (or even from another device), the badge disappears almost immediately on your handset, exactly as it should be. We were probably more impressed by this one tiny feat than anything else in the app, and that’s saying something.

Google Voice text & voicemail

More Than a Year Late and Worth the Wait

If you’re already using the Google Voice service, the official iPhone app will make great use of an already convenient service. After just a short time of using it, we’ve almost forgotten the length of time it’s taken to get to this point — as you’ll recall, the official app was banned in the sunny summer of 2009, and there was almost a year between Google Voice being completely MIA from the App Store and third-party apps making a triumphant return.

But you know what they say: Good things come to those who wait.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

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Fox the Latest Network to Block Content From Google TV

It’s been said that if something seems to good to be true, it most likely is. Such, it seems, is the case for Google TV. The slick-looking solution that promised to meld the best of the internet with all the entertainment glory your HDTV could muster had a strong start, boasting the ability to push all manner of web content including full episodes of your favorite TV shows from providers like Hulu, YouTube and a number of major television networks. For a while there, it appeared as though other content delivery systems like Apple TV, Roku and the Boxee Box might have some serious competition. However, in recent days things have been looking a little darker for Google’s latest creation. This morning we received word that Fox is the latest in a growing list of networks that have opted to block Google TV owners from accessing their wealth of free online content.

As of November 10th, Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC have all blocked Google TV users from accessing their online content. The reasoning behind this? Money. As it stands, online broadcasting pulls in significantly less money than traditional television does. With this being the case, the broadcasting powers that be are understandably hesitant about making too much of their most popular content available through any other means than where their primary revenue streams have traditionally been found. While it seems almost a certainty that in the future the line between the internet devices and television will be blurred, for the time being, innovators like Google have an uphill battle to gain acceptance with content producers on their hands.

Google Is Stuffing Your Stockings

That’s right, kiddies. Every year it’s the most magical time of the year when all the good little boys and girls who have to travel during the holidays are rewarded with wide open WiFi, free of charge, from those jolly elves in Mountain View.

Last year at this time, in an effort to not be evil, Google gave travelers the gift of free WiFi as long as they were on a Virgin America flight. We’re sure this made tense Thanksgiving weekend flights all that much more pleasant. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that Google is bringing it back for this year’s holiday season and they’re going even bigger according to their blog.

google holidays

Virgin America returns as a partner for Gogo Inflight WiFi on every domestic flight starting November 20th of this year and going until January 2, 2011. But they’re not alone, as AirTran and Delta have been added into the mix bringing the carriers up to three. There’s nothing like a little Farmville to cure air rage, so we hear.

Interestingly, we notice that last year’s free WiFi was touted as being from Google itself, while this year there’s a slight twist. This year, the offer is coming from Google Chrome. The change is slight and subtle, but interesting. Another interesting piece that many people might have forgotten is that Chrome OS is still listed as being released “late fall 2010.” Seems like there might be a little overlap going on here. Could this free WiFi expansion be doubling up as a nice little launch advertisement? Or has Chrome OS shriveled up and died in the face of Android?

Only one way to find out for sure! Take to the skies!

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Google Instant Comes To iOS

googleinstant

(Image courtesy of walyou.com)

Google and its merry band of features has slowly but surely been making its way onto iOS be it in the company’s actual app or other integrated features.  One that was announced today is the company’s Google Instant search can now be accessed on iOS.

Via Google’s Blog:

Like the desktop version of Google Instant, when you type on your mobile device you’ll see predictions of what you might be searching for. If you type [anse], for example, you should see [ansel adams] along with other predictions. Results for the first prediction appear automatically, and tapping on the other predictions will display those results. Pressing the enter key or the search button skips the predictions and will display results for exactly what you’ve typed. Check out our demo video:

Currently it’s available on Android 2.2 and above and for the iPhone/iPod you’ll need at least iOS 4.0+ and other devices should start to follow.  It’s only available in the US for right now, but should start rolling out across the globe in the coming weeks.

Follow this article’s author, Matthew Tilmann on Twitter

 

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Apple Joins Forces With Google Versus Paul Allen

paulallenveveryone

(Image courtesy of ibtimes.com)

Enjoy this combination of tech giants while it lasts!  Apple has joined up with Google, Facebook, and Yahoo among others.  The cause?  Trying to take down Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s patent infringement suit brought about last August.

If you’ll turn back the page a bit, we brought it to you that a Paul Allen-owned firm had originally claimed in a federal lawsuit that 11 companies, including the likes of Apple, Google, YouTube, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo, had all infringed upon four patents that had been awarded more than ten years ago.

One of the patents that had been described was a “news browser,” and another referred to technology that had alerted users of Web content that was related to whatever it was that they were currently viewing.

The patents had been issued between 2000 and 2004 to Internal Research, which was an Allen-funded Silicon Valley lab that closed for business in 2000.  Said patents were then transferred over to Interval Licensing, which Allen also runs.

Google got the counterattack ball rolling on October 18 as it filed a motion to dismiss the claims.  That motion made the assertion that Interval did not show exactly how Google had made the infringement, and it did not name any of the technologies that were used by or the services that were offered by Google that had violated the patents.

“Interval is not entitled to waste Court and party resources with a scattershot Complaint against multiple Defendants that fails to give any indication as to which products or services Interval contends are infringing and the factual basis for such a claim,” said Google.

“Interval’s Complaint is devoid of any facts to support its infringement contentions that it is impossible for Google to reasonably prepare a defense,” Google went on.

Apple then joined in on October 21st with a filing of their own.

“Interval has sued eleven major corporations and made the same bald assertions that each defendant infringes 197 claims in four patents,” Apple said.  “As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Twombly, it is in this type of situation in which courts should use their ‘power to insist upon some specificity in pleading before allowing a potentially massive factual controversy to proceed.'”

The suit is seeking unspecified damages, including injunctions that would prevent the accused corporations from continuing on to use the said patented technologies.

Whether the suit gets tossed or not, it’s certainly something to keep your eyes peeled on!

via Computerworld

Follow this article’s author, Matthew Tilmann on Twitter

 

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Google Announces Google Apps Premier, Mobile Editing, Retina Display Support for Google Earth

This morning, Google announced several updates to its widely used mobile services, including Google Apps, Google Docs, and Google Earth for iOS devices.

Google’s newest update in security may help convince skeptics to store their data in the cloud, after all. The search giant announced Google Apps Premier, Education and Government Edition for users that need that extra bit of heightened security. The Premier package will enable folks to sign in using their password and a one-time verification code that is sent to their mobile phone. The two-step verification process will enable stronger protections to help fend off phishing scams and password reuses. Google is making this feature accessible to organizations both large and small without making it too complicated to set up.

Google has also introduced mobile editing capabilities for Google Docs on the iPad and Android platform. Now, you can edit that expense report or finish writing that paper on the bus ride to work or school. Of course, we don’t suggest doing so if from a tiny-screened Android device, as the experience seems better suited for the iPad.

Lastly, the Google Earth app [iTunes link] has been updated for Retina Display support. The update also includes the new ocean content layer, as well as underwater bathymetry and ocean surface support. The app is free and works on all iOS devices, as well as Android, so download it if you haven’t already.

Follow this article’s author, Florence Ion, on Twitter.

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Google TV May Be Delayed

We know when the new AppleTV will be making the scene, and that the Boxee Box is now available for pre-order. But what about Google TV? At first we heard that it would be arriving sometime this fall. A while back, that date was narrowed down to October 3–a date no doubt chosen to allow for the device to gain some traction with consumers before the full insanity of the holiday shopping season began.

If a leaked internal document from Best Buy holds any water, we’ll have to wait until  October 17–two additional weeks from Google TV’s first projected release date–before anyone has a chance to get their mitts on Google’s next generation cable box-media streaming device mash-up.

Given that the FCC has already cleared Google TV’s Logitech manufactured hardware, the decision to launch the product later most likely has little to do with whether or not its ready for prime time, and more to do with Apple’s ‘hobby.’ As it stands, there is a lot of speculation on how well the revamped AppleTV will fare with consumers. While the interface and diminutive size of Apple’s hockey puck-sized piece of awesome will no doubt gain it some living room love, its inability to purchase content might well hold it back from gaining a larger following. The new Apple TV interface only allows rental purchases. Perhaps Google is living in the hopes that those extra two weeks might provide enough time for undecided shoppers to be swayed by potential poor reviews that the AppleTV might garner.

Only time will tell.

 Follow this article’s author, Seamus Bellamy on Twitter.


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Google Voice to Become Comeback Kid In App Store

GV Mobile, the unofficial Google Voice application, may actually make it back to the App Store after all. After the GV Mobile application was pulled by Apple almost 2 years ago, along with the Official Google Voice application (which never made it past the approval process), many Google Voice users wondered if they would ever see the Google Voice functionality in an app on their iOS devices. But a recent tweet by GV Mobile application developer, Sean Kovacs, revealed that Apple has finally broken their silence about Google Voice on the App Store.

Good news: I did get confirmation back from Apple that it will most likely get back in once I resubmit,” tweeted Sean Kovacs.

This definitely is good news for the many Google Voice users who patiently await either an official or unofficial solution for dialing numbers through Google Voice. GV Mobile allows you to call contacts in your Google Voice address book or your iPhone address book through your Google Voice number, send and receive text messages through your Google Voice number, and retrieve your voicemail.

There’s no word yet on when (or even if) Apple will approve the app for the App Store, but Kovas remains hopeful that the application may be back on the App Store in a week.

Apple’s change of heart may be linked to the new developer guidelines that were published yesterday, but there’s no word yet on if this is the case.

via Geek.com


Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter
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Apple Spends A Cool Million on Google AdWords

Understanding Google AdWords

Apple and Google may rattle their sabers every so often over browsers, cell phones and operating systems, but they appear to remain cozy pals when it comes to the ad dollars Cupertino is dropping into AdWords each month.

AppleInsider is reporting that a leaked internal document from Google has shed some light on just how much cold, hard cash big companies are dropping into the search giant’s AdWords service each month — with competitor Apple throwing nearly a cool million bucks into the service over the span of a month.

The leaked document was obtained by AdAge, who offers an insider glimpse into the value of search-related advertising through Google. Nearly matching chip maker Intel, Apple is said to have spent “just under million” on Google AdWords in the month of June alone. If that’s on average, it means that Cupertino is potentially dropping million (or more) into Google search ads every year.

Despite Apple’s payout, there were 47 advertisers in June who spent more than a million bucks. 71 companies clocked in between 0,000 and million, while an additional 357 spent between 0,000 and 0,000 during the month. The majority of advertisers appear to spend between ,000 and 0,000 — 1,356 of them, to be exact.

The big kahuna for the month of June is none other than Apple’s carrier partner in the U.S., AT&T, which used AdWords to make a big push for Cupertino’s new iPhone 4. They spent a whopping .08 million on AdWords advertising alone in the month of June, but are actually only the third largest advertiser on the service (at least in the U.S.), having spent a total of .8 billion last year. On the lower end of the scale, a major brand like Disney actually spent less than 0,000 via AdWords in June of this year.

Google AdWords appears to be a small part of Apple’s overall advertising budget — in their 2009 Form 10-K filing with the SEC, the company revealed that it had spent 1 million in all of last year for advertising alone. That figure is actually much less than competing tech companies such as Microsoft, but Apple tends to get a lot more bang for their advertising buck as well.

Google had no comment on the leak of the figures, and is busy trying to figure out exactly how it happened to they can presumably plug that hole for good.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

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Google to Offer Open Source "Wave in a Box"

The Wave is not over–er, the Google Wave that is. Sure, Google announced a while ago that development on Google Wave is no longer, but that was just for the standalone product. Actually, Google is thinking it will expand up to 200,000 lines of code they’ve already open sourced on the Wave and offer it up in “Wave in a Box.” Yep.

So, developers, what does this all entail? The box will have an application bundle with a server and a web client that supports real-time collaboration (like that in Google Wave), a full-featured wave panel with support for threaded conversations, client-server protocols, support for importing wave data from wave.google.com, and gadget, robot and data API support. Oh, there’s more than that, too.

The project will not be the Google Wave that users have all come to, well, ignore. Instead, it will give developers a way to run wave servers and host “waves” on their own hardware. And here we can’t help but imagine a bunch of developers riding a surfboard across a sea of binary and Ajax code.

Anyway, if this is your sort of thing, check out more in the Wave Protocol Forum. As Google says in their blog, “Wave on.”


Ride the wave with Florence Ion, on Twitter.

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