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Google gives Gmail YouTube previews, Search Autocomplete, more

YouTube previews in Gmail
Gmail Labs is Google's testing ground for experimental Gmail features. Some of the things that pop up in Gmail Labs are so awesome that after a bit of testing it becomes clear that they should become default features available to everyone using Google's email service. Others, not so much.

Last night Google announced that 6 features were graduating from Gmail Labs into Gmail proper while 5 others were being retired. If you were a heavy Labs user, this news won't really affect you at all -- unless you were using some of the freshly retired features.

But if you tend to just use whatever updates Google pushes your way, this means you now have access to previews of YouTube videos attached to your email, an autocomplete feature in the Search Mail box, and a Go To label feature that lets you quickly open labels/folders with a keyboard shortcut. For instance, typing "g" then "w" would open your "Work" label if you happen to have that label set up.

Gmail now also includes a forgotten attachment detector that will scan your email for keywords to determine if it's likely you meant to upload a file attachment. If there's no attachment, a message will pop up asking if you meant to attach a file.

Users can also now use custom label colors and set "vacation dates" for auto-reply messages when you're away from a computer and unable to respond personally to email.

The Labs features that are no longer available are:
  1. Muzzle
  2. Fixed Width Font
  3. Email Addict
  4. Location in Signature
  5. Random Signature
Anyone actually use any of those experimental features and sad to see them go?
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Skype kills off its Windows Mobile client... for now

Skype for Windows Mobile
Skype has removed the download links for Skype and Skype Lite for Windows Mobile devices. If you've already got Skype loaded up on your phone or PDA, you can keep using it. But according to Skype's FAQ, the company felt the Windows Mobile version was "not offering the best possible Skype experience."

Of course, pulling the software altogether instead of working furiously to provide an awesome update isn't necessarily the approach I would have taken.

But Skype's explanation does imply that a new and improved Windows Mobile client is on its way. Hopefully whatever new software the company releases will be compatible with the millions of Windows Mobile devices already on the market. But it's possible that Skype only plans to focus on the new Windows Phone 7 Series platform that Microsoft will launch later this year.

Skype continues to offer mobile clients for iPhone, Symbian, Nokia N800/N900 series devices and the Sony PSP.

[via WMPoweruser]
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D-Day for Windows 7 RC approaches

Windows 7 RC
Microsoft spent much of 2009 testing Windows 7 before officially launching the operating system. And that test involved thousands of beta and release candidate testers, who downloaded pre-release copies of the operating system which they were effectively able to use for free... for a limited time. Now that time is coming to a close.

If you're still running Windows 7 RC, starting March 1st your PC will shut down automatically every 2 hours. Your work will not be saved. But you can still use the OS, as long as you're willing to put up with periodic interruptions and reboots. It'll be kind of like using Windows 98 all over again.

Come June 1st, the OS fully expires. That doesn't mean it will stop running altogether. But in addition to the automatic shutdown every 2 hours, your desktop background will change to solid black and you'll have a message on the desktop letting you know the RC has expired. Windows 7 RC will also fail any Windows Genuine Advantage tests at that point, meaning you won't be able to validate software that requires a "genuine" copy of Windows and you won't be able to get Windows 7 updates from Microsoft.

You can avoid these issues by replacing Windows 7 RC with another operating system. We'll leave it up to you to decide whether that means Windows XP, a fully licensed copy of Windows 7, or something else altogether. ReactOS, anyone?

Update: Looking to figure out how to upgrade from Windows 7 RC to a full version of Windows 7? We've got you covered.
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Google Nexus One Review

Google Nexus One browser
Google first unveiled its Android operating system for smartphones in 2007. But the Google Nexus One, which was launched last month is the first phone with the Google name attached to the hardware. Google sells the phone through its web site and handles tech support for the smartphone, although mobile service is provided by T-Mobile (and soon Verizon) in the US.

The Nexus One has a faster processor than almost any phone on the market, which makes it incredibly responsive. And it runs Android 2.1, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. Because this is the first true "Google phone," it's also likely that the Nexus One will be first in line for new over-the-air updates to the operating system and Google's mobile applications such as Google Maps and Google Calendar. Earlier this month Google released one of the first updates for the Nexus One, which made the phone one of the first Android-powered devices to support multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom.

I've been a fan of mobile computing ever since I first realized that you could use a handheld device to manage your calendar, read eBooks, and play video games. My first PDA was a short-lived Philips Nino 300 Windows CE device, and between 2000 and 2005, I purchased at least a dozen different PDAs and handheld PCs including the Compaq Aero 1550, and HP Jornada 720, before settling on a Dell Axim X50v running Windows Mobile 2003SE which I've used for the past 5 years.

The Axim is a great little PDA with a 624MHz CPU and a VGA display. But the OS is starting to show its age and can't run many recently launched mobile applications. And the version of Pocket Internet Explorer that came with Windows Mobile 2003SE is all-but-unusable. Overall, I'm starting to get tired of carrying around a 5-year-old device, even if it does many of the things I need a mobile device to do.

So when Google contacted Download Squad and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing one of the newest, most hyped smartphones around, I jumped at the chance. I've tested the phone for the last few weeks, and there are a lot of things to like -- and some room for improvement.

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PocketGear buys Handango, consolidates the mobile app store space

PocketGear
Before Apple, Google, Nokia, BlackBerry, and Microsoft offered on-device app stores for mobile phones and PDAs, there were web-based stores including PocketGear, Handango, and MobiHand.

These stores are still alive and kicking, and allow you to browse, purchase, and download applications for pretty much any mobile platform except the iPhone -- including Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, Palm, and BlackBerry.

But it looks like that space is consolidating a bit, with PocketGear announcing that it has just purchased its number one rival, Handango. Buy bringing Handango into the fold, PocketGear now offers more than 140,000 free and paid applications for download.

Of course, downloading apps from the web and then copying them to your device isn't quite as quick or efficient a process as using an in-device mobile app store -- but PocketGear offers one of those too, at least for Windows Mobile.

[via Engadget]

Google Nexus One Review (touch input, battery life, conclusion)

Google Nexus One Keyboard

Finger v. Stylus


I know people love to complain about stylus input on PDAs and smartphones. They're small, easy to lose, and who can really get the hang of handwriting recognition software? And on-screen or hardware keyboards are generally easy to tap on with two thumbs than a stylus.

But there are a few things that stylus input is far better at than finger input. Aside from handwriting recognition software which is a mixed bag at best, there's the simple act of jotting down a note in your own handwriting -- without asking the software to bother converting it to text. And art and drawing applications are far easier to use with a stylus than a big fat fingertip.

I have lousy handwriting and I'm not an artist, so those things don't bother me much. Here's what does: It's generally harder to tap a precise point on a touchscreen with a fingertip than with a stylus. I find myself tapping the wrong link on a web page all the time on the Nexus One. This is partly a result of the fact that the web browser does show full desktop views of web pages. In a world where more and more web pages are designed for small screens, maybe we'll come up with a better way to create finger-friendly hyperlinks. But we're not there yet.

And when entering text, it's much harder than it needs to be to go back and fix a tpyo. See how I misspelled "typo" in that previous sentence. If I noticed that while typing on the Android at this moment, I'd have to tap at the screen with my finger and hope that the cursor moves to the right spot between the "t" and "p." With a stylus, this would be incredibly easy. With a finger, I'll be lucky if the cursor is near the word "tpyo" instead of the world "fix."

Look, I get it. The iPod has demonstrated that people would prefer to use on-screen keyboards and large, finger-friendly touchscreen buttons rather than fumbling with a stylus and Start Menu. But I really wish that every now and again I could tap on the screen with the back of my fingernail instead of the tip of my finger. Unfortunately, the Nexus One and most finger-friendly touchscreen smartphones simply won't recognize this kind of input.

I'd love to see someone come out with a phone with a touchscreen display that can handle either type of input. Unfortunately, I suspect there's really not much demand for this feature.

Update: As has been pointing out in the comments, the situation isn't as dire as I made it out to be on the Nexus One. There's a trackball beneath the touchscreen that you can use to move the cursor around while entering text. I'd used the trackball a bit while surfing the web to scroll through pages or scroll from link to link. Somehow it didn't occur to me to try it while entering text. Thanks Jon!

Battery

I didn't want to focus too heavily on hardware in this review, but battery life is important when talking about a mobile device like the Nexus One. I didn't perform any scientific tests, but let's put it this way: If you operate the Nexus One with Wifi and 3G enabled all day, you'll probably have to charge it every night.
Battery
If you plan to spend a few hours watching video or playing games, don't expect the phone to last through a full workday. It simply won't. But you can get reasonably good battery life when performing tasks that don't require the backlit display to be turned on. The screen is one of the biggest battery hogs, so you can probably spend much of the day listening to MP3s without killing the battery -- especially if you turn off WiFi and/or put the phone in Airplane Mode, which cuts off all wireless communication.
Nexus One battery
You can find plenty of phones that will provide longer run time than the Nexus One, but not many of them will have 1GHz processors.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things I like about the Nexus One and Google Android. And a lot of things I don't. It's fast, has a great web browser, excellent email application (especially for Gmail users), and blurs the line between web and local content in a way that my old Windows Mobile PDA doesn't even dream of doing.

But I'm disappointed in the selection of video players. And I'm still not convinced that the on-screen keyboard and finger-friendly controls are worth dropping stylus input altogether -- even though I know I'm probably in the minority on that point. I also miss physical buttons for controlling media playback. They also come in handy when playing video games where you don't want to actually have to put your fingers over the screen you should be looking at in order to control actions.
Nexus One apps
Despite my complaints, I'm thinking about picking up a Nexus One for myself though. And here's why: The Nexus One and Google Android in general have revived my interest in mobile apps. Most of the applications running on my Dell Axim were developed 4 or 5 years ago. That's partly because the PDA runs Windows Mobile 2003SE and can't handle most applications developed for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 in the last few years. But it's also because developers have largely moved to platforms such as the iPhone and Google Android that do a better job of integrating cloud and local elements.

Some of the coolest applications I've tested on the Nexus One so far include Google Listen, an on-device podcast manager that lets you download and listen to podcasts on the device, an NPR News app that lets you find podcasts and live streams of NPR radio programs and local stations, the WordPress blogging app, and the Seesmic Twitter client for Android. I also love the Aldiko eBook reader which lets you find and download thousands of free eBooks and read them directly on the phone.

Even more exciting, I found all of these applications by browsing the Android Market on my device. I didn't have to look them up online, download them to my desktop and then copy them to the phone. Again, I realize that Android isn't the only platform with an app store. In fact, pretty soon every major mobile operating system will have one. But after spending years complaining that I didn't need my PDA to be a phone, the Nexus One has convinced me that maybe that's exactly what I do want. And with Google Android shipping on 60,000 handsets a day, I have confidence that the platform will only continue to grow, which makes the Nexus One a pretty good choice for someone looking for a first smartphone.

Google Nexus One Review (Android Market, browser, multimedia)

Android Market
Android Market

If there's one thing I've gotten out of my time with the Nexus One, it's an appreciation for mobile app stores. Yes, I know Google didn't invent the concept, and the Android Market has less than a tenth the amount of applications available in the iTunes app store. But as I mentioned, I've never used an iPod touch or iPhone for any real length of time, so the Android Market was the first mobile app store that I spent any real time with. And I'm a bit amazed at how much I love it.
Android Market
Sure, Windows Mobile devices can run tens of thousands of applications available across the web and at numerous online stores. But you typically have to find these apps on the web, download them to your PC, then install them to your mobile device using Microsoft ActiveSync or Windows Mobile Device Center to connect the device to your PC. Some applications feature CAB installers, that let you download a file directly on your device, open it in a file browser, and tap the file to install it.

But the Market/App Store paradigm makes things so much easier. Want to find a task manager, eBook reader, or chat client for your Nexus One or other Android phone? Just fire up Android Market and enter a query in the search box.

Bored, and want to just see what apps or games are new? Hit the Apps or Games tab and sort by category, paid, free, or new applications.

Android Market
Items in the Android Market are rated by users. So it's easy to tell the good apps from the... less good at a glance by the number of stars. You can also read reviews left by other users, and many apps feature screenshots to help you decide whether it's worth downloading and installing the application.

You can also use the Android Market to check for updates for installed applications and you can click the downloads tab to see a list of programs you've already downloaded and installed. You can also uninstall them from this window.

You're not limited to installing apps available in Android Market. But it's by far the easiest way to find and install new applications.

It would be nice if there were better options for sorting results. For instance, you can't sort alphabetically, or by price. So you may have to do a lot of scrolling to find the app that's right for you.

Web browser

Having spent the last few years using Pocket Internet Explorer and early versions of Opera Mobile on my Windows Mobile 2003SE PDA, I was actually a little shocked when I started using the Android browser. I knew that modern mobile browsers did a pretty good job of rendering full web content and allowing you to navigate by zooming in to read text and zooming out to see the whole page. But I wasn't expecting the Android browser to be so fast.
Android browser
In fact, over a WiFi connection, the Android browser is almost as fast as a desktop browser. That's at least in part due to the snappy 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor powering the Nexus One phone. But the fact that the Android browser uses the same WebKit rendering engine as Google's desktop Chrome browser certainly doesn't hurt.

At first glance, the browser is all screen and little of anything else. At the top of the screen is a URL/search bar. But once you've entered a web address or search term, you can scroll down and make that bar disappear altogether. That's important, because you need all the space you can get on a browser designed to show you full web content on a 3.7 inch display.
Google Nexus One browser
Many web pages are automatically formatted for small screens, including Google applications such as Google Reader and Google Docs. But thanks to the browser's impressive speed and sturdy rendering engine, you can view pretty much any web content that's available in a desktop browser on the Nexus One -- with one major exception: Flash.

Adobe Flash 10.1 is coming to Google Android soon. But it's not here yet, which means that you won't be able to view Flash video or play Flash games on the Nexus One. You can watch YouTube videos, either using the dedicated YouTube browser or by visiting YouTube.com in the browser and tapping a video to open up the standalone YouTube video player. But don't expect to wile away the hours watching Hulu or playing Farmville on this phone... yet.
Android browser windows
You can open links in a new window by pressing and holding them to open a dialog box. And you can create new windows by hitting the settings button, and pressing "New window. " You can also close windows or flip between open windows using the Windows button in the settings menu. The system's not quite as simple or elegant as the tabbed browsers you'll find on desktop computers, but it does keep the browser window free from clutter.

Like Google Chrome, the Android browser does a pretty good job of keeping track of your history so that if you start to type a web address that you've visited before, it will offer suggestions. Just tap on the suggested link and you can save yourself the trouble of typing the whole thing over again.
Android browser bookmarks
You can also use the bookmarks window to add the current page as a bookmark or visit pages you've previously bookmarked.

Google and T-Mobile recently issued a firmware update for the Nexus One that enables pinch-to-zoom functionality in the browser, which makes it easy to zoom in and out of web pages quickly without pressing the magnifying glass icon in the corner -- which is slow and clunky by comparison. Unfortunately that's still the primary method for zooming in the Android browser on most Google Android handsets.

There are third party web browsers available which offer a handful of different features. For instance, Dolphin makes it easier to flip between open windows by giving you desktop-style browser tabs. And the upcoming Opera browser gives you a "speed dial" home screen with quick access to your favorite applications, plus the ability to quickly zoom in and out of web pages with a simple tap -- no multitouch required, as far as I can tell.

Multimedia

The Gallery application that comes with Android is a nifty little photo viewer. One of the things that surprised me most was that it automatically added photos from my Picasa Web Album galleries.
Gallery
Since Google owns Picasa, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. But it was still pretty cool to turn on the phone for the first time, login to my Google account and find that not only did I already have all of my contacts and email accounts set up, but I could also look at photos from my photo album without copying them to the phone first.

The music player lets you sort your audio tracks by artist, album, and song titles. You can also create and manage playlists. And one neat feature is that you can tap and hold any artist, album, or song title and click the search button to search the web, YouTube, or Amazon MP3 store for more information or songs. If you have other music applications such as Pandora internet radio player installed, you can also search them from this menu.

When a song is playing you'll visit a sort of now-playing page, where you can tgggle the repeat and shuffle settings an see album art and other information about the song.

During playback, you'll also see a music icon show up in the status bar at the top of the screen. So if you're surfing the web, reading an eBook, or doing something else while listening to music and want to quickly jump to the music player to pause or skip a track, you can just drag down the notification bar, click the music player notification and open up the music player.
Android music player
One thing that bugs me about touchscreen music players is the fact that you generally need to look at the screen in order to pause playback though. I tend to listen to podcasts or music while taking the subway, shopping for groceries, and performing other daily tasks that require stopping and starting the music, or rewinding a bit to hear something I might have missed in a podcast due to loud street noise.

The Nexus One does ship with a set of earbuds with play/pause, skip controls. But if you're using another set of headphones (such as noise canceling headphones), you need to pull the phone out of your pocket, turn on the backlight, unlocked the screen, and tap the controls on the screen to pause, skip, or rewind.

Old fashioned MP3 players, and even my Dell Axim X50v have the edge here, because they have physical buttons. I can reach into my pocket and detect the right button to press to pause, stop, play, or skip content just by feel. I miss that with the Nexus One, which only has a power button and volume dial.

Video playback is a much more complicated story. One of my favorite applications for Windows Mobile is TCPMP, which supports playback of a wide array of media formats including MPEG1/2/4, WMV, DiVX, Xvid, OGG, Matroska, and Flash video.

There's no TCPMP for Android, and I could only find one media player that can handle DivX and Xvid movies on the Nexus One -- and it could only handle some of the files I tried. Most Android phones should support H.264 and MP4 video playback out of the box.

But since most of my video collection is in DivX and Xvid formats, I didn't spend much time watching video on the Nexus One.

The Nexus One doesn't have a standalone video player, but you should be able to watch movies using the Gallery application. There are some third party video players, but I wasn't that impressed with the ones I tried. There's definitely room for improvement in the video playback area.

Google Nexus One Review (settings, keyboard, file management)

Settings
User Interface - Settings

The Android Settings menu is one of the most thorough, yet complicated things I've ever seen on a mobile device. On the one hand, you have control over a huge number of features and settings. On the other hand, it can take a pretty long time to find what you're looking for if you're not sure where to look -- and it can take a while to get used to where things are hidden. Even once you do get used to the Settings screen, it takes a lot of scrolling and clicking to do some simple tasks such as fine-tuning the screen brightness or checking the exact state of the battery. Fortunately there are quicker shortcuts that you can use for both of these tasks.
Settings
In order to bring up the Settings menu, you click the Settings button from the home screen and then tap on Settings (as opposed to the icons for adjusting your notification settings, desktop wallpaper, or other features).

You're greeted with a screen broken down into 15 different section. Yes. I said 15. I won't bother listing them all here, but basically you can adjust the Wireless and network settings, Call Settings, Sound & display, Accounts, Language & keyboard, and Date & Time.

Settings
If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you'll find the "About phone" menu, where you can check your phone's status to see your battery level. As I mentioned above, there is a faster way to check your battery level.

The meter in the status bar at the top of most windows gives you a rough battery gauge. And if you run the Clock application, you'll see the time, temperature, and battery status. Throw a shortcut on the home screen to the Clock, and you can get your battery status much faster than you would be opening the Settings menu. But seriously, does is strike anyone as odd that you have to scroll past 14 menus and click "About phone" and then "Status," to check the battery level in settings menu?
Settings
Likewise, adjusting the screen brightness is kind of a chore. You have to open the settings dialog, click Sound & Display, and then scroll down near the bottom of a fairly long list of menu options before you get to "Brightness." This really seems like something that should be near the top of the settings menu.
Power widget
The workaround here is to add the "Power Control" widget to the Android home screen. Just tap and hold an empty space on the home screen and click "Widgets." The Power Widget lets you turn the WiFi and Bluetooth on and off with a single click, toggle synchronization with Google services, and adjust the screen brightness -- to an extent. Basically there are three settings: dark, somewhat bright, and very bright. You can't adjust the display brightness with a slider using the Power Widget. You can just tap three times to flip through the three brightness settings.

While the settings dialog is a bit long in the tooth, making simple tasks such as these more difficult than they need to be, you do have a lot of control over your system.

For instance, you can get a list of running services, even seeing how long each has been running for and how much memory each service is using. You can check a box that will allow you to install applications from "unknown sources" rather than only sticking to the 99.99% safe material found in the Android Market. You can adjust your security and privacy settings, and even toggle between US and European date formats and 12 or 24 hour clocks.

Given the choice, I suppose I'd have to say I'd rather have more control and a less intuitive interface than vice-versa. But I'm also a big ole geek. This might not be true for everyone. And in case you couldn't tell, I do get annoyed when it takes 4 clicks to do something that should just take 2.

On-Screen Keyboard

Like the iPhone, Google Android is a no-handwriting-recognition zone. While some Android devices are stylus-friendly thanks to resistive touchscreens and others are finger-friendly due to capacitive touchscreen displays, you're pretty much always going to find an on-screen keyboard instead of handwriting recognition.
The Nexus One is a bit thin for two-thumb typing in portrait mode. I found I fairly regularly hit the wrong key. But if you turn the phone on its side and type in landscape mode, the keyboard is actually quite comfortable to use.

My typing speed drops from about 100wpm on a full sized keyboard to around 15-20wpm on the Android keyboard, so it's not exactly my preferred method of text input. But it suffices for entering short search queries, email messages, and URLs.

Nexus One keyboard
In portrait mode, I found the on-screen keyboard wasn't all that bad if I resorted to one-finger typing, which is even slower. But sometimes you're just too lazy to tilt the phone on its side, you know?

Typing accuracy is assisted by some pretty good predictive text software. If you type a commonly used word with a letter or two wrong, Android will probably make an automatic correction for you. Or if you start tapping out a long word and see that the phone is predicting the correct word, you can just tap it and save yourself some typing.


Program and file management


While Google Android supports true multitasking, allowing you to run as many applications as you want, once you have a dozen or so more programs running simultaneously, the system might begin to slow down. Android does a reasonably good job of closing unused apps when it needs more memory, and for most users that's probably good enough.
Running Services
If you actually want to take a little more control, you can visit the "Running services" menu I mentioned above. It's available in the settings menu under "Application settings." You can can tap on any service to bring up a dialog asking if you want to stop it. You can also uninstall applications from this area using the 'Manage applications" dialog.

There are also third party applications that make it easier to kill running programs. But there's a reason Google doesn't make it easy to do this: Most of the time it's just not that necessary.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a built in file manager. If you want to find and delete eBooks, music, videos, or other files you're going to either need to connect your Nexus One to a computer and use its file browser or install a third party application.
Mount SD card
Connecting the Nexus One to a PC is a fairly simple process. You just plug in the USB cable and drag down the notification icon from the task bar and click the "USB connected" item. Anrdoid will ask if you want to "mount" your SD card, and if you say yes then your SD card will show up on your Windows, Mac, or Linux machine as if it were a USB flash drive. This makes it easy to drag and drop files to and from your phone. There's no synchronization software like iTunes for keeping your music and programs synchronized though. You can decide whether that's a bad thing or good.

Google Earth for Android now available in the Android Market

Google has released a mobile version of Google Earth for the Android smartphone platform. The application is available as a free download in the Android Market, but you'll need to have Android 2.1. The Android version of Google Earth offers much of the same functionality as the desktop (and iPhone) versions of Google Earth.

Google Earth for Android lets you see satellite imagery from around the globe. You can zoom in to see close-up details of trees, buildings, and other structures by double-tapping the screen or using pinch-to-zoom controls on phones with multitouch displays.

You can also use several Google Earth layers to check out places, businesses, roads, borders, and Wikipedia articles. There's a search tool, so if, for example, you're looking at mid-town Manhattan in Google Earth and you want to know where the closest library or coffee shop is, you can search for it and see the results plotted on the map.

Google first showcased Google Earth at the Nexus One smartphone launch event last month. But the application wasn't available in the Android Market until today.

[via Sizzled Core]
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Find products by scanning barcodes, cover art with Google Shopper for Android

Google Shopper
Google has just rolled out a new application for Android called Google Shopper that lets you comparison shop for items by scanning a barcode or cover art of books, music, movies, and other objects with your Android smartphone's camera. You can also use Google's voice search capabilities.

In other words, if you see a book in a store and want to know if you can get it cheaper online, you can grab your phone and point it at the barcode or cover, or while nobody's within earshot, you can speak the title into your phone. Google Shopper will attempt to find the correct book and hook you up with the prices at various web retailers... presumably emphasizing those that use Google Checkout for payment.

The search results pages don't just have prices though. You also get reviews, item specifications, and much of the other image available at Google Product Search.

Google isn't the first company to put out a product that offers this kind of quick, scan-based shopping comparison ability. The Amazon application for Google Android also lets you search for products by scanning barcodes or snapping pictures. But that app obviously only searches Amazon.com. And it's also not quite as fast or efficient.

That's because you have to sign into Amazon, snap an actual picture, click a button confirming you want to use that image, and then see what results pop up. If the picture was out of focus or at an awkward angle you have to start over again with the Amazon app. Google Shopper continues scanning the image art or barcode until it's got a lock on the product and then automatically opens a results page. You don't have to click the camera button to actually snap a photo. Google does all the heavy lifting -- which actually makes Google Shopper a little easier to use than Google's other Android image-based search toy, Google Goggles as well.

Google Listen 1.1 for Android syncs podcast subscriptions with Google Reader

Google has released an updated version of podcast manager Google Listen for Android. Like the previous version, Google Listen 1.1 lets you find and subscribe to podcasts from your handset. But the new version also lets you save your subscription data to the cloud using Google Reader, which makes it easy to synchronize your podcast subscriptions across devices and make sure nothing happens to... Read more »

TAT Home adds a lot of eye candy, a little utility to Google Android

One of the things I like about the Google Android home screen is that it's easy to customize. You can arrange program shortcuts the way you like them and insert widgets for news, weather, search, and other functions. And if you run out of room or just want to use separate spaces for work tools, games, and phone-oriented apps, you get a few virtual workspaces. Just swipe to the left or right to... Read more »

eBay launches an app for Google Android

There are a handful of unofficial eBay applications for Google Android that allow you to track auctions, place bids, and complete purchases from your phone. But now there's an official app as well. eBay has launched its own utility for Google Android, and it provides most of the functionality you would want from a mobile eBay app. The home screen presents you with a search box for finding... Read more »

Amazon introduces Kindle eBook app for BlackBerry

Amazon is taking another step at showing that Kindle is a platform rather than simply a piece of hardware for reading eBooks. The company has already released Kindle eBook software for the iPhone and Windows PCs. And today Amazon launched a beta version of a BlackBerry Kindle application. In other words, you don't need an Amazon Kindle in order to find, purchase, download, or read eBooks from... Read more »

S^3 smartphone OS gets the video preview treatment

With all the hubbub over Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Congress this week, you'd think it was the only upcoming mobile OS previewed at the event. And you'd be wrong for thinking that, because the folks at Symbian gave us the first look at the upcoming Symbian S^3 platform as well. Symbian S^3 will be the first version of the platform to be fully open source. Any handset maker will be... Read more »