Google Maps launches labyrinth game called Cube

Google teased its upcoming Maps game, back in January with a demo video. The game was supposed to be released in February, but it seems Google needed more time. They've quietly released the game now and you can play it online at The game is essentially a tutorial for Google Maps, but some features integrated into it make it an addictive game even if you already know how to use Maps. The game is made up of eight levels, you navigate your marble by using your cursor and your time is recorded when you finish a level. Level 1 has you navigating around Manhattan in New York City, where your objective is to get to your friends at the Brooklyn bowl. Similarly other levels have you navigating through various cities to meet specific objectives. Embedded below is the teaser video from Google.

The game wants you to utlize the various features that Google Maps integrates, so for example, level 2 has you biking around San Francisco and Google wants you to use its bike feature to see which roads are safer for bicyclists. Level 3 has you navigating to the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Google wants you to use the traffic feature embedded in Maps. Level 4 has you in London where Google Maps wants you to use its public transport feature, showing you the various lines of the Tube and where they intersect so you can plan your journey. Level 6 and 7 move beyond the navigation features of Google Maps and include the integration of Places in Maps. For instance, in Level 6, you're in Las Vegas and you have to eat at all the 6 reviewed restaurants in as little time as possible. Level 7 has you go through the Mall of America and collect all the Google Offers on each of the four floors.

According to Fusible, Google registered a domain earlier last week called Whois. The site allows you to download the Google Maps Cube game, however, you can still play the game through your browser. Older versions of Firefox are not supported and Google, of course, wants you to play on their own Chrome browser. Have you played the game yet? What's your highest score? Let us know in the comments section below.


Google has lost control of Android

There was great news on the Android front this week. Samsung reported blow-out earnings, with smartphones -- the majority running Android -- accounting for nearly three-quarters of profits. Meanwhile comScore data spotlights the growing US Android tablet market. Additionally, Google started selling Galaxy Nexus direct, with no carrier contract, for $399. But all three share something in common -- what they foreshadow. Google has lost control of Android, and must swiftly act to regain it.

Forrester Research predicts that proprietary Android will surpass the Google Android ecosystem by 2015. Stated differently, Google's open-source mobile platform risks fracturing into multiple fatally fragmented Android ecosystems. Not one but many. There is little time for Google to demonstrate decisive leadership that can keep the ecosystem largely intact.

Only a miraculous Google I/O developer conference can take back Android, but challenges remain. Big ones. Google's problem: Two partners are overwhelming successful, while the majority limp along, and one hurts the entire Android ecosystem. Apple is now the least of concerns. Putting Amazon and Samsung in their place is more important.

Burning Platform

In February 2011, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop wrongly called Symbian (and Meego, too) a "burning platform". The term better applies to Android on tablets, where Amazon's Kindle Fire is in process of burning down the ecosystem. I've repeatedly warned this could happen. In December, I explained how Google's forthcoming tablet would be a year too late, as Amazon fills the leadership vacuum left by the search and information giant. In March, I focused on the Amazon problem in context of the broader Android platform. Earlier this month, I explained that, contrary to some popular punditry, Google's forthcoming tablet is more about Amazon than Apple.

comScore data released Thursday deeply troubles any future Android ecosystem analysis. Amazon started selling Kindle Fire in mid November. By end of December, the tablet already had captured 29.4 percent US share, putting it head of the Galaxy Tab family (23.8 percent). Over the following two months, Kindle Fire took sales from every other Android tablet, ending February with stunning 54.4 percent market share. Tab family ranked second followed by Motorola XOOM, with 15.4 percent and 7 percent share, respectively.

Other numbers also forebode. During fourth quarter, Android tablet share reached 44.6 percent, up from 32.3 percent three months earlier, according to IDC. Kindle Fire largely accounted for overall Android share gains. Looked at differently, two tablet makers, Amazon and Apple, accounted for 71.5 percent of shipments. Stated another way, the majority of tablets shipped during fourth quarter run iOS and Amazon Android.

I make an important distinction, because Amazon has largely customized Android, right down to the web browser and offers its own app store. The retailer is building its own ecosystem separate from the larger one Google leads. Amazon's objectives are contrary to Google's. For example, if I type the web address to Google Play into the Silk browser on my wife's Kindle Fire, Amazon's Android app store opens instead. On other Android tablets, Google Play is default but there is option to sideload from other stores, including Amazon's.

Kindle Fire's continued success is good for driving up Android shipments against iPad, but it's bad broadly, coming at the expense of the larger Android ecosystem.

"The Barnes & Noble Nook tablets are another example of proprietary Android tablets, which don’t support all Android functionality and thus according to Google cannot be labeled an Android device," Forrester analyst Frank Gillette writes in report "Tablets Will Rule The Future Personal Computing Landscape", which published this week. . "The popularity of these content-driven devices will cause proprietary Android share to surpass the installed base of Google’s Android ecosystem in 2015. This further fragmentation will challenge Android developers, customers, and especially enterprises, and hamper the creation of a shared ecosystem". (See Forrester Research chart directly below.)

Blueprint for Imitators

Amazon's success is blueprint for other Android licensees, particularly as tablets spread across the planet. Forrester Research sees tablets displacing and eventually replacing PCs, with iPad market leader in most geographies, including China, for at least four more years. Tablet shipment compound annual growth rate will be 46 percent through 2016, when global number will reach 375 million, up from 56 million last year. The analyst firm predicts install base of 760 million tablets, compared to 2 billion PCs.

"Forrester believes that emerging markets will account for 40 percent of tablets sold in 2016, and that Apple will do well in these markets due to strong product and brand appeal", Gillette observes. "Despite Android plays from low-price local vendors such as eBen, as well as the retail footprint of Lenovo, Apple market share in China will remain above the global average. Even in 2011, 17 percent of metropolitan Chinese online adults 18 and older reported owning a tablet, versus 11 percent of US online adults".

What that means: There will be as much, if not more, competition among Android tablet makers than with Apple. That's good for customer choice but risks fracturing Android into multiple ecosystems. Microsoft prevented this with Windows by, for years, limiting how much OEMs can customize the operating system. Android's open-source license, and Google's listless leadership, allows OEMs incredible freedom, and perhaps too much.

Amazon uses that freedom wisely, as do other tablet makers -- and even more so smartphone OEMs (more on that in next section). Unlike other Android tablet manufacturers, Amazon takes complete control over the entire stack. Kindle Fire features the aforementioned Amazon-customized version of Android 2.x, its own Android app store, music and movie stores, ebook store, web browser and customized media consumption software and services. Sony is closest, followed by Samsung, among Android tablet manufacturers.

Amazon is creating a curated experience that matches Apple's and, in some respects, exceeds it. Consumers can buy Kindle books for Fire, but read them on their iPhone, Android handset or other device. Amazon allows movies and music on Kindle Fire or other devices. From Apple it's just devices supporting iTunes Store. People buying into the Amazon lifestyle get Kindle Fire plus something else. That's an added benefit not available from Apple or other Android tablet vendors -- okay, Sony is closest.

Amazon prioritizes features and pricing that matter for living one digital lifestyle around its cloud-connected services, rather than offering the latest, hardware and software. Like Apple, Amazon offers a stack of content and services. Kindle Fire isn't about techie features but a digital lifestyle around Amazon products and services.

Other OEMs are sure to imitate Amazon's success, which really copies Apple's, by doing much more than just skin Android, as Samsung does today on tablets and smartphones with TouchWiz UI. Samsung, not Google dictates, the Galaxy Tab user experience. Not surprisingly, many users upgrading Galaxy Tab 10.1 to Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) can't much tell the difference, because TouchWiz UI is so pervasive. Samsung also offers a curated experience, just not as deep or as leveraged (because of as Kindle Fire.

Samsung's huge success with Galaxy Note, first on smartphones and potentially tablets, is foundation for yet another vertical Android platform, with customized apps and competing ecosystem. That's great for competition and customer choice, but not necessarily good for Android.

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Still, Samsung is a bit player in the tablet market compared to Amazon and Apple -- even with first-to-market advantage over Kindle Fire. But in phones, Samsung is king. During first quarter, the South Korean electronics giant broke Nokia's 14 year reign as global handset market share leader, according to IHS iSuppli and Strategy Analytics. The latter firm puts Samsung ahead of Apple in smartphone shipments -- 44.5 million to 35.1 million.

Samsung offers three operating systems -- Android, homegrown Bada and Windows Phone. The majority of Samsung smartphones ship with Android, customized with TouchWiz UI, and led by Galaxy S II variants' stunning sales success. Next week, Samsung plans to launch its next flagship smartphone in London, presumably further outclassing iPhone 4S.

Like tablets, Samsung, not Google, controls the user experience on all but the Nexus series smartphones. At least Samsung adopts the newest Android eventually, unlike Amazon, but TouchWiz skinned. So those international Galaxy S II owners lucky enough to get Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades won't see much of it behind Samsung's skin.

Samsung does make Galaxy Nexus for Google, but shipments aren't great -- nor broader upgrades from this and other OEMs. According to official Google states, just 2.9 percent of Android devices, including tablets, ran ICS on April 2nd.

Updating is where Google's Android control is weakest, and where the company lacks leverage to offer uniform experience across devices or to assure they have the latest OS version. Verizon is shocking example of what's wrong. The nation's largest carrier started selling Galaxy Nexus in December, but has since fallen behind updating what's supposed to be a "pure Google" phone. The moniker refers to Android without alteration, and also promise of frequent and fast upgrades. Verizon Galaxy Nexus owners aren't getting them, unlike users of the HSPA+ international models.

This week, Google engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru put doubts to rest about who's to blame: "The part that blows my mind is that some variants of the Google-engineered flagship devices still haven't received Ice Cream Sandwich (or are stuck with older versions of Ice Cream Sandwich) because of delays introduced by operator approvals".

Samsung isn't exactly rushing either, based on Android 4.0 update schedules released this week -- nor HTC and Motorola. Samsung and HTC have little incentive, as they get more benefits from skinning Gingerbread and using that, additional apps and cloud services to differentiate phones between them, among other Android licensees and from iPhone.

Google Play to Win

Android 4.0 is many ways classier than iOS 5. ICS feels more fluid and modern, but few people get to experience it. What's that saying about a tree falling in the forest? Few people can appreciate Google's good work or ICS advantages if they can't get it, or if they do, have a skinned experience. Google is right to sell Galaxy Nexus direct, particularly with Verizon shunning updates and limited carrier adoption (here in the United States, no AT&T or T-Mobile).

Punditry fills the InterWebs about Android fragmentation. The problem is bigger: Platform fracturing into competing ecosystems. That's a scenario Google should seek to prevent, but the success of Amazon and Samsung push that direction.

Google could take full control of Android, by not releasing future versions to open source and changing licensing terms. The logic: Android is too big to fail, that OEMs would have no other choice but align their customized platforms with the broader Android ecosystem. But so doing also risks alienating Android licensees willing to go elsewhere. For example, Google wouldn't want to lose Samsung, which can fall back on Bada and Windows Phone.

I see the search and information giant moving down another path, and it's perhaps riskiest of all but with the biggest potential payoff. It's what the company should have done long ago. Renaming Android Market to Google Play, Ice Cream Sandwich's tighter ties to broader Google services -- G+ among them -- and greater cross-integration of cloud and search services, with social as center, is part of a larger, rebranding effort. What Amazon does right, like Apple, Google seeks to do: Sell a digital lifestyle.

All roads lead to a heavily branded, Google lifestyle around, search, social and mobile that's good for the company and the broader Android ecosystem. Another piece in place: Google Drive launched earlier this week, and the service is clearly primed for tablets.

Like Amazon and Apple, Google also increasingly offers a curated experience. Galaxy Nexus feels like an end-to-end device, even though Samsung makes the hardware. Now that Google owns Motorola Mobility the next Nexus phone may be homegrown. Certainly the Nexus tablet should be, whether or not it is.

Google may not unite the overall Android ecosystem but at least provide a place for the smaller licensees and swath of other partners to find stability -- even if Amazon and the like offer fractured platforms.

If CEO Larry Page and his top managers have any sense, Google will pull the digital lifestyle push together for the I/O developer conference in June. Already, some marketing is in place and really appeals, such as TV commercials for Chrome and Google Plus. What I'd really like to see for I/O:
  • Nexus tablet
  • Chrome 1.0 for Android
  • Chrome beta for iPad and iPhone
  • Android 5.0 preview for "pure Google" devices
  • Smartphone trade-in program, for unlocked, Galaxy Nexus -- for, say, $199
  • Co-marketing program for carriers and OEMs offering newsiest Android version

There is plenty more Google could do to excite developers and other partners, and lift the market to the newest Android version and in process take control by demonstrating more leadership. If not, Android's biggest enemy won't be iOS, but itself.


Google Drive For Chrome OS, Web, Windows, Mac & Android

Google Drive. Keep everything. Share anything.
The wait is over – after years of speculation, Google Drive is finally here, with Chrome OS, apps for Windows PC, Mac and Android available for download and iOS apps for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch coming soon. So what does Google’s long-awaited and much-anticipated cloud storage service have in store for you? Does it have what it takes to make a significant impact in today’s cloud storage market riddled with countless others? Read on to find out all of this and more after the break.

Register & Access Anywhere
To get started, go to official page and get access to your free 5 GB storage.
Store your files in asafe place.
Upgrade to 25  GB for less than $2.50 a month and you can store practically everything for next to nothing. Drive is everywhere you are – on the web, in your home, at the office and on the go. So wherever you are, your stuff is just...there. Ready to go, ready to share.

Install Google Drive On Your Devices

Once registered, go to the download page to install Google Drive client on your Chromebook, Mac, PC and Android devices. iOS users will have to wait until the app is ready.

Android will allow you to view documents and share them with anyone. You can also create new Google formatted files including Documents and Spreadsheet.

Mac has similar features to Dropbox, with relevant options when you click on the icon.

And the folder view too.

Windows view Sometimes it's just easier to right-click a file, then choose its destination from Windows' Send to menu.

Chrome Google built Google Drive into the latest developer release of Chrome OS

Google Drive On The Web
Once you have access to Google Drive, visiting it online will present to you an interface strikingly similar to the old Google Docs interface. There are your usual editable Google Docs as well as viewable files of other formats supported by Google Drive. This now also includes videos that play in a nice YouTube-like player when opened.

Everything you had in Docs is still available and accessible the same way in Drive now. You can upload files from the web interface the same way. You can still choose to convert certain file formats (documents, spreadsheets, presentations etc.) to Google Docs format automatically while uploading. You can even convert PDFs and image files to Google Docs format using the built-in OCR.

Files and folders can be public (anyone can search for and access them), link-only (only those with the link can access) or private (only those you have explicitly shared them with can access). Collaborators can also chat with each other while viewing or editing a file in a pane built right into the editor window. Furthermore, you can choose if collaborators get to have viewer, editor or owner level access. In the ‘Shared with me’ view, you can see all the files shared by others with you and if you want to grab a copy of your own, simply drag them over to ‘My Drive’ or one of its sub-folders.

In the left-side menu, there is a ‘More’ option that when expanded reveals a few additional options including the very handy ‘Activity’ view. In this view, you can see an activity log of all your recently accessed files sorted by last modified time, along with details on who were they last modified by. This is a handy way of keeping track of the edits and see if any of your files were recently edited by one of your collaborators.

But with the new Google Drive, you can change the view to ‘grid’ from the top menu.

Google Drive Search 
Google Drive on the web has search bar at the top of the page that also integrated with Google Goggles, and with this search, you can easily find your files by defining the type of files, or search based on text contains in a document or even photos and PDF files. Simply type any keyword and Google will list all relevant result based on your files on Google Drive.

The search feature is pretty elaborate as well, allowing you to search by document type, visibility and ownership, making the process of finding the files you are looking for.

Key Features Highlights

Those who want to try it out will have to use the developer channel of Chrome OS, which can be choppy going sometimes since it's got newer features that haven't been tested as well. To use the file manager interface on Chrome OS, type Ctrl-M.

Release highlights:

Google Drive integrated into the file manager
  • 29370 -Fixed issue where audio was not heard on video playback when multiple tabs are open
  • 25619 -Power button is sometimes unresponsive. Workaround: Long press the power button to shutdown the system.
  • 30060  -Unable to enter CJK or other complex characters
  • 29981  -Unable to connect to GSM network
  • 29316  -Two-finger click sometimes fails on Mario
  • 29738 -Occasionally machine fails to detect ethernet connection. Workaround: Rebooting the machine often clears the problem
  • 29744  -Cannot add hidden WEP/WPA networks
  • 29957  -Audio is not heard when playing certain media file types when files are saved to the Chromebook
Chromebooks so far haven't made much of an impression on an industry fixated more with tablets, mobile phones, and ever-slimmer Mac laptops. Google is beavering away on the project, though, most recently adding a new, more traditional interface to Chrome OS. That initially was available only for the Acer- and Samsung-built Chromebooks, but now it's available on Google's Cr-48 Chromebook prototypes, too.

Here is a summary of all Google Drive has to offer:
  • 5 GB of free storage (Paid plans for up to 16 TB available)
  • 10 GB maximum file size limit (Of course you are still limited by your total storage plan)
  • Apps for Windows PC and Mac OS X with full Dropbox-like folder syncing support
  • Selective Sync for PC and Mac clients, allowing you to only sync certain folders
  • Android app for online access to your files, with the ability to make files selectively available offline
  • Access your files from anywhere in a web browser using the web interface
  • Web interface also allows you to upload files
  • Direct access to your photos and videos in Google Drive from Google+ for easy sharing
  • Search your Google Drive files by type, owner and more, and even by text or objects in images and scanned documents
  • Directly view over 30 types of files online in the web interface, including MS Office and OpenOffice documents, spreadsheets, presentations, HD videos, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, SVG, PDF, TTF and more.
  • Create, open and share files directly in Google Drive from certain compatible web apps and web apps, with a section in Chrome Web Store listing all web apps compatible with Google drive
  • Share and collaboratively edit files with others from anywhere in real-time with Google Docs, choosing whether collaborators can view, edit or comment on your files
  • Access up to 30 days old versions of your files, with the ability to revert back to any of them anytime
Edit Files On Google Drive
Now with Google Drive, you can edit many types of files among others including AutoCAD, on the go from your Chrome browser without having to install specific software on your computer. To be able to edit various file types, Google has prepared Google Drive’ Chrome extension page just for this purpose, so head over to the page and install required extensions to your Chrome browser.

Not having to install specific software on your computer also means that you can only edit files on your Chrome browser, and connected to the Internet.

Create New Files, Different Types
Google Drive now allows you not only to edit many different types of files, but also to create new ones right from the cloud. To create new file, click on the red ‘Create’ button on the left menu and select the file types you want to create. Select ‘More’ if you want to create file other than Google formatted document, and you will have more selection once you installed more extension for your Chrome.

Access And Edit Files Offline
To be able to access your files from Google Drive when you are offline, make sure you download Google Drive client for your Mac, PC or Android. There are however some limitations when you are using Google Drive, knowing Google has its own formatted file types known as Google documents, spreadsheet, presentation, forms and drawings.
  • You can open non-Google Docs files, view and edit them offline, provided you have the specific software installed on your computer following file types.
  • You can view, but editing is disabled for Google documents and spreadsheet.
  • You can’t view Google presentations, forms and drawings while offline.

When you edit files offline, changes will be sync automatically when you connect your device to the Internet and Google will place a time stamp for your reference.

Access Google Docs And Spreadsheet Offline
You can access Google documents and spreadsheet while offline via Chrome browser. To enable this feature, make sure you are connected to the Internet and follow these steps;

  • Launch Chrome and go to Google Drive homepage.
  • Click the gear dropdown at the top right corner of the page and select Set up Docs offline.

  • In the dialog window that appears, select Allow offline docs.

  • Click Install from Chrome web store.

  • Click Add to chrome to install from Chrome extension page to your browser.
Now when you click open Google documents or spreadsheet while offline, it will be open in a new tab on your Chrome browser. You can access the file but you will not be able to edit.
Although the arrival of Google Drive is late, it is still beneficial for many, considering the usage of Google Docs, which previously you can only access on the web, now you can access them locally on your computer. Also, with more file types supported by Google Drive, it will be much easier for you to work anywhere on any devices since you can now edit 30 different file types from your Chrome browser. Knowing Google Drive is the cheapest in the market in comparison with many other players, perhaps there’s some catch, what do you think?


First app for Google's Project Glass: Sharing photos

Sebastian Thrun, who works on Google's Project Glass, shows how to operate the wearable computer glasses by taking a photo of Charlie Rose and sharing it on Google Plus

Sebastian Thrun of Google X operates Google's wearable computer glasses during an interview with Charlie Rose.
Sebastian Thrun of Google says that the company's Project Glass glasses are best doing what a smartphone does but in a hands-free way.

The company executive, who works on Project Glass at Google X Labs, wore a prototype of the now-famous glasses during an interview with Charlie Rose which went online today.

He showed how they are operated when he took a photo of Rose by pressing a button, then nodded his head to apparently share the photo with his friends on Google Plus. Two weeks ago, Google founder Sergey Brin was seen at a charity event sporting the glasses as well.

Google caused a stir when it announced Project Glass earlier this month and released a video from the user's perspective of how the glasses can display information onto the person's field of view, allowing him to communicate with friends and pull up information from the Internet as he walks around town.

But Thrun said that the idea of augmented reality, or superimposing digital images over the physical world, isn't the best use for Google's glasses. Instead, it's a good hands-free way of interacting with technology services, he said.

"The thing we like is picture taking," he said and then took a photo of Rose. "I nod and the picture is now visible to (my friends)."

Google has also done experiments with making phone calls with the device, notifying the user of events on a calendar, or having e-mails spoken to the user.

"I can have e-mails read to me, so overall it's very liberating to me," said Thrun, an artificial-intelligence expert who also worked on Google's driverless car. "The hope is to get things out of the way. This is a display that's with you all of the time."

Even with the device on his head, Thrun looked comfortable having it on. He said that the small screen above the right eye provides a window into the Internet, but is not distracting.


Google Search Algorithm Update - No This Time it's not another Panda Sequel

Websites are finally forced to say bye-bye to webspam tactics. Google is on the verge of releasing yet another brand new update which might as well be called as Papa Panda

Starting at the very base of search quality enhancements Google has been targeting low quality sites since the conception of the Panda algorithm and no sooner were we getting acquainted and adjusted to the various Panda versions Google goes ahead and gives away yet another algorithm announcement (that takes away all of the black hat techniques from search results).

I do not know what to confer of this update as Google does not share enough information about it on its Inside search blogspot, but something tells me it has got to do with those trying to tamper with social signals to a site as well. A lot of changes in the Google algorithms have happened lately and SEOs have been trying side-by-side to manipulate this keeping a close watch on this search engine God's next move. My theory is backed by a recent comment made by SEOmoz's Rand Fishkin on his twitter page where he was ranked way higher for his +1 on a content created by another site, which was then followed by three other third party sites with the same keyword and finally the original content on the fifth search result position. Although the scenario is changed now and there is no real time proof for the same, it did still happen, take a look below. 

Probably this is one of the reasons that Google has added a new button to Google+ that allows you to share content instead of recommending the content publicly. Got to wait and watch how this would affect the search results now. 

There have been many such search goof ups by Google search in the recent past, unsure of what the real reason is, it sure seems to look like Google is experimenting a lot of stuff on their search algorithms and most are going wrong (thanks to the many blackhat outdoers that manipulate the search engine bots). 

Whatever the case may be, search results are soon going to be refined even more and emphasis continues to be focused on the user. Optimizing a website is not going to be a piece of cake anymore, cliched as it may sound, it is just getting to be the hardest fact for all those SEOs out there.

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan has had a one-on-one chat with Matt Cutts on the Webspam algorithm, which by the way is not going to be tagged with a fancy name this time. Matt has clearly drawn a line of distinction between the 'over-optimization' penalty and the webspam algorithm update. 

In conclusion, it is now made clear that atleast 3% of queries at Google search wiil be affected with the newest anti-webspam algorithm as opposed to the 22% affected during the Panda updates fiesta. 


Gmail gets 10GB bump plus Google Drive bonuses

Google has boosted storage for Gmail users, upgrading free email accounts to 10GB of storage at no extra charge as well as throwing in more space for paid Google Drive users. The free email service had previously been offering around 7.7GB of service to regular users; now, with Google’s Dropbox rival on the scene, that’s been increased automatically.

If you want even more Gmail storage, it may be worth considering boosting your Google Drive account. Those who opt for the 25GB package – priced at $2.49 per month – automatically get an upgrade to 25GB of Gmail capacity too. The same amount is included with the 100GB Google Drive option, priced at $4.99 per month.

Those with paid Google Apps accounts seem to still have the 25GB of Gmail capacity as before, with no sign of a free boost. If you attempt to upgrade to one of the paid Google Drive plans, there’s no sign of any change to Gmail storage.

Officially announced today after years of speculation, Google Drive is already providing to be a head-turner with its competitive pricing. Dropbox, for instance, charges $9.99 per month for 50GB of cloud storage, where the same amount gets you 200GB with Google Drive.


The Android Update Trap

Updating your version of the Android operating system can cause more problems than it solves. Be careful what you wish for.

The Samsung Galaxy S II was supposed to be David Petty’s dream phone. He'd watched the smartphone market for a couple of years, and finally pulled the trigger on his first Android handset when AT&T launched the Galaxy S II last October. For the first few months, it was perfect.
Everything changed when AT&T delivered Android 2.3.6--a minor update that included some tweaks to the user interface, but little else--to Petty’s phone in January.

Suddenly, his phone wouldn’t last more than 6 hours on a charge, even with light use. As Petty learned from fellow Android users online, a Wi-Fi bug was thrashing the Galaxy S II’s battery life.

“It’s at a point where, if I have Wi-Fi on, I have a battery widget on the front screen, and I can watch the battery drop, just sitting here,” Petty, an environmental researcher based in Indianapolis.

Petty isn’t alone in his problems, and the Galaxy S II isn’t the only Android phone burned by a bad update.

Here is a sampling of complaints we found in various online forums about Android phone OS updates gone wrong:

We counted 13 instances where phone makers or wireless carriers have suspended an update due to serious bugs. And that’s only part of the issue. In many more cases, wireless carriers and phone makers are slow to notice problems after releasing updates--or they don’t notice them at all, leaving their customers in the dark.

It’s a hassle that Petty came to know firsthand, as he tried to bring his phone’s problem to Samsung's attention. After making two calls to technical support representatives, both of whom said that they had never heard of the Galaxy S II’s battery issues (despite widespread complaints in Android user forums), Petty mailed a letter to Dale Sohn, president of Samsung Telecommunications America.

“To have suffered this issue for this long, let alone have it ignored or denied by support, is intolerable,” Petty wrote in his letter, dated February 13, 2012. Sohn never responded, and Samsung declined to comment for this story. (HTC, LG, and Motorola would not comment, either. Google declined an interview and promised to issue a prepared statement, but never sent one despite several requests.

Why Android Update Problems Happen

No software platform is completely bug-free. Given the sheer amount of code involved, and the need to update that code to stay competitive, glitches are inevitable with any operating system. (Users of Apple’s iPhone 3G, for instance, reported sluggish performance after updating to iOS 4, a problem that took Apple more than three months to fix. Some owners of the iPhone 4 have also complained about performance issues with iOS 5.

Android, however, has two particular factors working against it. First, unlike iOS, which is designed for one kind of smartphone, Android must accommodate a wide variety of phone models, with potentially different screen sizes, screen resolutions, processors, RAM, storage capacities, and other specs.

Second, wireless carriers and phone makers tend to modify Android with their own user interfaces and software, complicating the issue. The companies enjoy much more latitude with Android than they do with the iPhone or with Windows Phone, so features found on one Android phone--such as Motorola’s battery-saving Smart Actions or HTC’s Sense widgets--may not be present on another. Although such tweaks can improve the user experience, they also put an extra burden on phone makers and wireless carriers to try to keep the software running smoothly.

The members of XDA-Developers, a community of hackers who modify the Android software for their own phones--and who often work to undo the damage that bad updates cause. Several of these developers say that when phone makers and wireless carriers meddle with Android, they risk wreaking havoc on users’ phones, even if those phones haven’t been rooted or modified in any way.

“From what I have seen, and from talking to other users and developers, a lot of the problems that users have come from the customizations that the carriers want to put into the ROM,” says Mark Dietz, an XDA-Developers member who specializes in Samsung hardware. Carriers tend to preload their phones with software that users can’t remove (known as “bloatware”), as well as other monitoring software that can introduce bugs, Dietz says.

Another developer, who uses the screen name “attn1,” agrees that companies’ modifications to Android can lead to more bugs. Phone makers are under pressure to develop and update their software quickly, says attn1 (who answered questions by email but declined to give a real name), and as a result the companies may take shortcuts, such as using deprecated APIs or performing inadequate testing.

Fared Adib, Sprint’s vice president of product development--and the only wireless carrier executive who agreed to an interview for this article--defended his company’s testing process for Android phones. Each new software update is tested in a lab, and then it goes out for field testing by about 1000 employees, Adib says. Sprint also rolls its updates out slowly, starting with about 10,000 users at a time, so that the carrier can put the brakes on an update if users report critical bugs.

Adib says that the number of Android devices on the market can lead to a perception of more problems with software updates, but he acknowledges that the carrier can’t stop every bug from getting through. “It’s almost impossible for a carrier or for an OEM … to 100 percent test every use case of what we think the device will see once it receives that update out in the field,” Adib says.

Undo the Damage

Getting a bad update might not be so tragic if wireless carriers fixed problems quickly; but as many Android enthusiasts know, waiting for new software releases can be a test of patience.

That’s why Jimmy Bellerose of Kissimmee, Florida, wasted no time replacing his Samsung Fascinate on Verizon Wireless after a disastrous update to Android 2.3 last December. “Battery life dropped, and the phone would lock up, so I would have to reset it,” Bellerose says. “It would vibrate in my pocket, and I would think I had a message, but when I pulled it out, it turned out it was resetting itself.”

He assumed that either Verizon’s bloatware or Samsung’s TouchWiz interface was to blame. Bellerose then bought a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. He says he has had no problems with that handset so far.

In many cases users can resist updating their phones, but at a price: The phone may pester the user with notifications and reminders to download the latest software. Besides, refusing an update means missing out on new features--or, perhaps, other bug fixes--so staying with an old version of Android isn't necessarily the best option.

The challenges in updating Android are entwined with a broader issue for the Android platform: Google, phone makers, and wireless service providers all have a hand in updating and testing Android phones. That means users might wait months to receive new software as it works its way through the system. For instance, Android 4.0, nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich, was released in December 2011--but as of this writing, only 3 percent of Android devices are running it.

Andy Dodd, another active XDA-Developers member, believes that wireless carriers are a major bottleneck for the upgrade process. Dodd, who has been following the Galaxy S II battery-drain issue closely, notes that Samsung has already delivered a fix for the carrier-unlocked international version of its phones, while the AT&T version remains unpatched.

“There’s no sign that AT&T is even aware that there’s a problem, because I see people just getting offered replacement batteries when they complain,” Dodd says. Given that the Galaxy S II's problems began months ago, AT&T is likely aware of the situation by now.

Even when a problem is identified, wireless carriers may not deliver a fix right away, as they run the phone through more testing. Sprint’s Adib says that the carrier can correct some problems in a day or two, but others can take weeks, especially if a security issue is involved, or if just a few users are having problems. Another carrier source told that some issues are so severe that they require a restart of the entire testing process, which can last between 8 and 12 weeks. During the testing process, Google may issue its own updates, which also sets the process back.

“We evaluate the impact any software upgrade could have on the customer experience. The testing process can be shorter or longer, depending on the device,” AT&T spokesperson Emily Edmonds said in a statement.

In other words, be prepared to wait a while.

What to Do When Updates Fail

If a bad update makes your Android experience unbearable, it can be hard to know where to turn. Some users air their grievances on Google’s official help forums, but that’s not always the best place to troubleshoot, given that Google isn’t responsible for what phone makers and wireless carriers do to the phones they sell.

Instead, you can seek solace in online forums such as and, where users tend to be more tech-savvy. Search those sites for the name of your phone and the problems it’s having, and you might find forum threads with possible fixes--or at the very least, a place to commiserate. Some wireless carriers keep an eye on forums and blogs, so the more people making noise, the better your chances of getting a fix.

Ultimately, your wireless carrier may be your best resource. In the United States, carriers are usually the ones who deliver the updates, and if you visit a store, you may be able to get the phone reverted to an earlier version of Android, or obtain a replacement phone if all else fails. Reaching out to a company on Twitter might also help to call attention to your problems, but you're not likely to receive personalized support that way.

Of course, enthusiast Android users might suggest rooting a buggy phone to install entirely new firmware. But for average customers like David Petty, becoming a software hacker isn't a viable option. “I'm a fairly decent technology person,” Petty says, “but that's kind of where I stop.”

LogMyCalls Launches Google+ Page

LogMyCalls has officially boarded the Google+ train. LogMyCalls launched their Google+ profile earlier this month, and has consistently posted articles and blogs related to marketing analytics, call tracking, SEO, PPC, mobile marketing and landing page optimization.

“We’ve actually been very pleasantly surprised with the level of engagement on our Google+ page so far,” Jason Wells, ContactPoint, CEO said. “Our goal is to provide valuable advice on call tracking, SEO, PPC, mobile marketing, internet marketing, landing page and marketing analytics. Google+ gives us another way to engage with people and companies that care about these things as much as we.

“Even though LogMyCalls is still in Beta, we are still gaining major traction online,” Carlton van Putten, ContactPoint Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said. “Focusing on Google+ in addition to our already strong Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube presence is going to bolster our brand and add to our aura of marketing awesomeness.”

LogMyCalls posts and shares several articles a day on Google+

About LogMyCalls

LogMyCalls is a product powered by ContactPoint. LogMyCalls, is a call tracking, lead scoring, marketing automation and mobile marketing tool that measures marketing performance and sales results. Replete with marketing reports, call recording data and powerful telephony features, LogMyCalls allows businesses to determine which advertising methods are effective and transform their ability to secure business over the phone. For more information find us on Google+, visit or call 866-811-8880.

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