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Cons Availability is limited Offline Maps need improvement. Critic Reviews In the past, you needed cutting-edge hardware to overcome some With v4. In fact, you're gaining features and perceived speed.


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And really, who wouldn't be into that? Read Full Review. You won't be left too far behind without it, but Android 4. User Reviews Google's new Android update takes everything that is great about Android and managed to kick it up a notch. Google Now presents itself as a better way to find information, like Siri it presents information A gadget unicorn - Engadget. Key Specs. Source model. Log in before writing a review.

Ease of use. Ecosystem apps, drivers, etc. Step 2: Write a detailed review. Make sure to include your initial thoughts on using the product, any observations and potentially any issues you might have run into while using it. Step 3: Without question, this is our favorite stock Android keyboard to date. In fact, we can see ourselves using it as our go-to option, which has been difficult to say in the past. Even the "Smart Punctuation" feature that SwiftKey touts in its third build is mimicked by Google's own offering, and it actually provides an even greater variety of punctuation options to slide to.

Google promised us earlier this month that its offline mapping solution would be coming soon -- just in time for Apple to debut its own mapping solution for iOS 6. Right in line with Jelly Bean's launch, offline Maps is now a reality for Android smartphones. It's exactly what you probably assume it is: The concept here is far from new; even in early , a Nokia device was pulling top honors in our smartphone GPS shootout thanks to its ability to operate offline. Fast forward a few years, and the Lumia's Nokia Drive app still remains a phenomenal option due to -- you guessed it -- offline support.

It's actually kind of startling that it has taken Google this long to join the party, and now that it has, we're left with mixed feelings. On one hand, Maps is still beautifully designed, robust and magically woven into the fabric of Navigation. For the avid traveler, it's indispensable, and the addition of offline just makes an already world-class product that much more amazing.

Maps ties in easily with searches for nearby eateries and businesses, and there's a wonderful amount of integration between searches and favorites on Maps for Android and Maps in the browser. The good news here is that offline Maps doesn't feel like a new product. It's still Maps, and it still works well. If you've downloaded a certain section of town and you're routing through it, it won't matter if you lose signal, dip into a tunnel or head underground for a bit -- at least, not any more than a conventional PND from TomTom or Garmin would.

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So long as you have GPS and downloaded maps, you're golden. Therein lies the problem. The actual process of getting an offline map is entirely too tedious, and thoroughly confusing in practice. Allow us to explain. When zoomed in around our test location in San Francisco, a tap into the Settings allowed us to select "Make Available Offline. But from here, you're presented with a situation that's just not You're asked to zoom in or out to select an ambiguous section of map that you'd like to download.

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How exactly are you supposed to know the precise road that you won't need to know about? How does Google expect its users to have that kind of knowledge if they're pre-downloading maps to a place that they'll soon travel to for the first time? And more importantly, why should Maps users need to know this? In our testing, we found it possible to download around 80MB of maps before running into a "This section is too large to download" error, which makes itself known even when connected to WiFi. If you get this pop-up, you'll have to zoom in tighter and download a smaller section. Pardon our terseness, but what a joke.

Compare this to the offline downloading situation in Nokia Drive. There, you go into a "Manage Maps" section, connect to WiFi and then select an entire country to download -- or, if you aren't feeling the entire 50 states here in the USA, you can download each state individually. For reference, the entire USA takes up 1. Why isn't a similar option available from Google?

As it stands, Google's implementation is practically useless for spontaneous road-trippers who aren't keen on spending a few hours zooming and downloading and rinsing and repeating in hopes of covering entire states that they'll be traversing. It really feels as if Google engineered this for urban dwellers who only intend to download maps for one city at a time. For those looking to download all of Montana in order to be prepared for those monumental coverage holes You won't find too many differences on the homescreen, but you will find a homescreen that's easier to get along with.

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When customizing the layout on each pane, it's simpler now to drag icons around until they're just so. It's designed to automatically accommodate your apps and widgets, but we still saw the unfortunate "There's no room for this widget" more than once. Of note, you can also remove any unwanted apps and widgets with a quick swipe up and off the home screen. Without question, this is the highlight of Jelly Bean.

Laypeople will refer to it as Google's version of Siri, and in some ways, it certainly acts as a personal assistant. But in some ways, it's more than Siri. Google Now can be activated by holding down the "Home" key and swiping up or just swiping north from the lock screen. But unlike Siri, which simply requires you to start speaking, this action in Jelly Bean brings up an entirely new portal. Now unfolds, revealing a scrollable list of "Cards" that are just beautiful. Unlike those from the webOS days , these scroll down rather than across, and don't swipe up or down as the images in the new Gallery do.

The fonts, textures and borders on these things are truly gorgeous. It's a fun place to fix your eyes within Android, because truthfully, it's lovely to look at. Beyond that, though, it's also highly informative.

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The cards that emerge will become better with time -- assuming you opt into Now from the get-go. You see, Now makes no bones about how it gains intelligence: It remembers what you frequently search for. It looks at your current location. It recalls which flights you've been searching for. It's kind of creepy, but honestly, that's what makes it wise.

It's also worth noting just how natural the robotic voice is whenever you are lucky enough to ask Now something that it can reply to. It's entirely believable, unlike the very humanoid-y Siri. The best way to customize Now is to simply be you. Use your phone. Do things that you'd normally do. Before long, Now will feel intensely personal. Just to let you know what areas Now covers, you can find Cards for the following: Some of these auto-populate -- yes, automagically -- based on current location Weather and frequent searchers Sports.

Others don't truly come alive until you're on the go. If you're near the Astor Place subway stop in New York City, the card can be configured to show you what trains are coming up next, how long you've got until they arrive, and where they're headed. The longer you use the phone, the more cards it magically puts there with information that's magically useful to you.

Like, scores you'd search for anyway. Or flight details that you'd search for anyway. Or subway routes you'd search for anyway based on what subway station you're standing by. Absolutely brilliant in every sense of the word. The same goes for Traffic -- you can rely on Now to look into your frequently traversed commuting routes and find alternatives in the event that a blockage has occurred during the moments before you usually depart. Google's also ramping up notifications, enabling them to be delivered before, during or after an ongoing event.

Voice search now acts as an extension of Now, but it does so with hugely mixed results. For example, when telling our Nexus to "Make an appointment for lunch tomorrow at noon," it set a reminder for 12am, despite showing that it comprehended our request word-for-word. That said, our request to "Remind me to get the clothes in 30 minutes" perfectly set an alarm that did just that.

In case you're wondering, that's the pinch of personal assistant showing off.


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When we tried to ask if we had any appointments at 2pm the following day, the Nexus simply made an appointment for 2pm the next day instead of taking a peek into Google Calendar. That's indicative of the crapshoot nature of the whole "assistant" thing. It's obvious that Google's voice search is nowhere close to being able to act as a true assistant, but at least we're seeing signs of progress. It's also a bit hard to grasp what kind of answers Now can populate, and which ones fly right over its head.

For instance, asking for the "distance between San Francisco and Daly City" simply brings up a Google search of that phrase, but asking for "directions between San Francisco and Daly City" activates Maps. Clearly, the natural language recognition needs to be worked on. We expected Maps to draw the lines between the two locales and report back a mileage figure for question one, but it simply overwhelmed the system.

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All that said, the silver lining is obvious: Google's powering the results. If you're even remotely familiar with the kinds of things that you can type into Google. Asking "What time does the sun rise tomorrow in Tahiti? Asking Now to "convert 47 euros to South African rand" led to yet another answer. Asking even complex math questions led to even more answers. Asking about the filming locations for "Prometheus," however, resulted in a typical list of links rather than a beautifully sorted answer from IMDb's database.

Can you tell what we're dreaming about? Moreover, we're huge fans of seeing searchable, copy-and-pastable results even when it's the best the system can do. Having Siri return a static image from Wolfram Alpha -- an image that cannot be read aloud by a robotic voice -- is tremendously underwhelming. Google Now won't read back search links yet, but given that it fetches actual text, the potential is certainly there for this to change down the road.