Gmail Makes Email Fun Again

gmailpriority 490x238 Gmail Makes Email Fun Again

If their was one “social network” I hated most it would have to be email.

Despite the advances of Gmail over the years, more often than not I would be flooded with messages (between 100-200 daily) that while were not spam, were nonetheless annoying.

Fortunately it looks as if our Google overlords were just as frustrated as we were, and have launched a new beta feature called Priority Inbox which should make life easier for those on the go.

Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important—bologna, or “bacn.” So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules. (Official Gmail Blog)

While there are a few kinks to work out with the system (as it sometimes marks emails I loathe as “priority”), this one feature alone has brought me back to my inbox instead of relying on Facebook for the important messages.

Although this one feature will probably make Gmail the preferred email service for GTDer (or Get Things Done), I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s rivals mimic this upon their respective email platforms.

Bing! Hearts Android (Sort Of)

bingandroid 180x300 Bing! Hearts Android (Sort Of)After making its debut upon the iPhone, it looks like Bing! is expanding its mobile presence by (finally) embracing Android.

However it looks as if Bing! embrace of Android is half hearted.

Today we are happy to announce the first official Bing for Mobile Android App available to Verizon customers.  You can now download the free Bing App from your Verizon Wireless Android phones’ Marketplace.

The app homepage features the Bing image of the day, complete with clickable hotspots that you can explore and discover related trivia (Bing Community Blog)

Note: Emphasis mine.

While Bing!’s embrace of Android should help Microsoft steal some mobile momentum away from Google, truth be told launching the app only upon one carrier is baffling.

Although Bing! is still available for Americans only, Android has (more or less) been embraced by all US carriers, even AT&T (who also carriers the iPhone).

While we will probably see Bing! eventually be ported to other carriers (thanks in part to the numerous hackers available), Microsoft may want to rethink its approach at handicapping its own mobile search engine, especially if they want to dethrone Google as the king of mobile search.

Google News: Original Is Better

googlenewslogo Google News: Original Is BetterIn an effort to remove the chorus of a thousand voices saying the same thing, the Google News team is now allowing users to view news services from the original source, a move that will probably appeal to many news organizations.

Enter “duplicate detection.” Duplicate detection means we’ll be able to display a better variety of sources with less duplication. Instead of 20 “different” articles (which actually used the exact same content), we’ll show the definitive original copy and give credit to the original journalist. (We launched a similar feature in Sort-by-Date and got great feedback about it.) Of course, if you want to see all the duplicates on other publisher websites with additional analysis and context, they’re only a click away.

By removing duplicate articles from our results, we’ll be able to surface even more stories and viewpoints from journalists and publishers from around the world. This change will provide more room on Google News for publishers’ most highly valued content: original content. (Google News Blog)

By highlighting original news sources, blogs and media outlets that break the news will be able to receive the lions share of internet traffic from Google News instead of rival (which could have a greater page rank).

Although this change will probably result in a greater de-emphasis of blogs being highlighted on Google News (to the joy of a few media outlets), it should help Google compete against larger rivals in the future (like Yahoo News).

Google Does What Twitter Couldn’t (Relevant Real Time Search)

If there was one feature I wish Twitter would improve, it would be its live search feature (aka real time search). While the service works really well in tracking live discussions, its relevancy fades the further back in time one searches.

Fortunately it looks as if the boys and girls at Google are once again resolving this issue by relaunching their live search feature under a new location.

What makes this service truly remarkable is the ability to track events in the past, as well as receive email alerts regarding virtually every topic under the Sun (a tool that might be useful for businesses and marketers).

Unfortunately Google has yet to implement live search upon the iPhone, something their rival Bing! has done (albeit only for US users).

While live search is a feature that will probably not interest too many people outside of the geekosphere (as many people are fine with static news), it could give Google leverage over Facebook (the latter who could potentially launch a social search engine of their own in the not so distant  future).

Google Unveils Skype Killer Via Gmail

In their quest to challenge Skype for the VoIP crown, the search engine giant is rolling out Google Voice to Gmail lovers (provided they live within a few countries).

Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail.

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (seecomparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name. (Official Gmail Blog)

If you do not see the feature yet in your account, you can either wait 72 hours or activate it early by calling a number within your Gmail account (your results may vary).

Thus far, Google seems to be aiming at reducing Skype’s dominance in the world of VoIP by using its deep pockets to draw away Skypers (who have mocked Google’s attempts in the past).

Unfortunately for Google Voice, Skype current advantage lies with its video calling feature, not to mention the fact that the latter is available upon the iPhone thanks to iRage from Steve Jobs.

Is Google Giving Up On Native iPhone Apps?

googlemobilefinance3 229x300 Is Google Giving Up On Native iPhone Apps?Ever since Apple banned Google Voice from the iPhone, the search engine giant has not been too keen on releasing native apps for Steve Jobs greatest creation (after the iPad that is).

Take Google’s recent release of Google Finance for mobile. While the web app compliments the functionality of their main site, they seem to take a jab at the iPhone with their latest post:

Our new design gives you a unified experience across desktop and Android or iPhone phones, offering nearly all the same features and functionality on both. You can easily access the new site when you do a Google search for stock tickers or company names on your mobile device, or when you tap the “Finance” tab on the Google mobile homepage. [...]

Prefer it in app form? Android users can also get the Google Finance app in Android Market. (Google Mobile Blog)

Note: Emphasis mine.

Google seems to be taking a “web app only” approach when it comes to iPhone users, as their recent launches of YouTube mobile as well as Gmail and Google Calendar (via the Google Mobile App) highlight web apps at the expense of native ones.

Even native iPhone apps that Google does maintain (like Google Earth) seem to play second fiddle to their Android brethren, which is probably a sign that Google iFans may not receive priority when it comes to new Google features, and may have to choose (more expensive) alternatives in the future.

Although the iPhone is too big for Google to ignore, we may not see much attention paid to the iDevice in the future, with Google choosing instead to give its best features to Android all the while giving web app scraps to the iOS.

HTC’s Windows 7 Phone May Have The Greatest Speaker Ever

htc t8788 490x367 HTCs Windows 7 Phone May Have The Greatest Speaker Ever

In their quest to take on Android and the iPhone, Microsoft is preparing to release a slew of Windows 7 phones later on this year.

While Samsung is rumored to come out with an “iPhone clone,” it looks like HTC went the creative route and instead outfitted the speaker.

In case you needed any more evidence that AT&T is going all-in with Windows Phone 7, take a gander at this little beast, a phone known only as the HTC T8788 at this point (rest assured, you’ll get a snappy, memorable, trademarkable name by the time it’s on shelves). Though it’s a landscape slider, it doesn’t slide to reveal what you’d normally expect — a keyboard, that is. Instead, you get a speaker, an unusual (though not unprecedented) concept that should make this a decent media device… and the kickstand around back should help with that, too. (via Engadget)

There is still no word on when HTC will release this phone to the masses, although thus far it looks like the company is making the same mistake as the Blackberry Torch by launching upon AT&T (the iPhone’s exclusive US carrier).

Carrier choice aside, the phone does look impressive, and hopefully we will receive some more tech specs in the future (either from HTC or Microsoft).

(via BGR, Image Credit: Engadget)

Yahoo! Welcomes Its Bing! Overlords (Search)

bingyahoo 490x160 Yahoo! Welcomes Its Bing! Overlords (Search)

After previously announcing plans to assimilate Google’s former rival, Bing! has confirmed that they are now powering Yahoo! search, ushering a new age of search duopoly for all.

Today I am happy to share that Bing is powering Yahoo!’s search results in the US and Canada (English only for now, the other languages will come in the weeks and months ahead).

So what’s next?  We continue to work hard on the migration to adCenter, and are optimistic about completing this phase later this fall.  As we have said all along, our primary goal is to provide advertisers with a quality transition experience in 2010, while being mindful of the holiday season. (Bing Community Blog)

While taking over Yahoo! will help benefit Bing! (who is trailing Google badly, especially in the mobile search department), users will now be forced to choose between two search engines backed by two powerful companies.

Although Bing! is overjoyed about its new conquest, Yahoo! seems to be ashamed at forfeiting its number 2 position as evidenced by the “powered by Bing” text at the bottom of the screen.

With Yahoo! losing its search soul in the US and Japan, it looks as if one of the mightiest tech companies known to the geek-kind is slowly fading away into irrelevancy (despite the companies awesome portfolio).

Google Updates Mobile App, Endangers Default iPhone Apps

gmail notifications Google Updates Mobile App, Endangers Default iPhone AppsAfter releasing a web app that made the native YouTube iPhone app irrelevent, it looks like the boys and girls at Google have (finally!) updated their mobile app with push notifications for Gmail and gCalendar fans.

Ever missed an appointment or important email because you were away from your desk? Now Google Mobile App can help with push notifications from your Google account to your iPhone — an icon badge shows you’ve got new mail in Gmail, and Google Calendar event reminders appear right on your home screen.

We’ve also added spiffy features to get you information faster — when looking for flight info, weather, stock quotes or currency conversion you’ll see answers before you even hit ‘Search’. (Google Mobile Blog) [Read more...]

Is Bing Really Powering Facebook Places?

googlemapsfacebookplaces 200x300 Is Bing Really Powering Facebook Places?Now that Facebook Places has finished rolling out to the masses (that is if you reside within the US), users are now able to “check in” and checkout where their friends are hanging out throughout the day.

However to my surprise, instead of seeing Bing powering Facebook Places, iPhone users are instead seeing Google Maps dominating the scene.

Bing however was able to provide an explanation as why iLovers were seeing their rival instead of them.

Chris Pendleton of the Bing Maps team offers this explanation: “Bing Maps is the map provider for Facebook Places on Facebook.com. Facebook is using the native Apple iPhone map kit within the SDK which fetches Google Maps for check-ins. Note, this is an Apple API that proxies to Google Maps and not a Google Maps API.” (via TechFlash Mobile)

Since Google Maps is the default maps program for the iPhone, Facebook had no choice but to utilize their frenemy’s application, despite their partnership with Bing.

While users can check in via Facebook’s web app, most users will probably use the native iPhone app instead, which (to Bing’s displeasure) will help push Google Map’s mobile numbers even higher.

Although a future iPhone SDK could change all of this, for now it looks like the Google has once again secured victory, this time against 3 of their biggest rivals (Facebook, Apple and Microsoft).