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Travel tech news: July 4, 2012
On this day of independence in the USA, most people are focused on important matters like bbq, beer and fireworks. To be fair so are we, but we’re taking time out of our busy schedule to bring you this news roundup as well. You can thank us later.
The big event of recent days was Google’s I/O2012 conference. While (thankfully) not as polished or stage-managed as an Apple event, there were some announcements that could have some big impacts on travel tech in the months and years to come. There’s also paintable batteries, and a small but vital addition to Google Docs.
Android 4.1 announced. Cue Jellybeans.
Due the middle of this month on Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Nexus phone range, the next version of the Android operating system – codenamed Jellybean – boasts more new features than you’d typically expect for an incremental release like this.
Of particular interest to travellers is the addition of Google Now, a location-sensitive app that presents you with information based on where you are and what you’ve been looking at. One example I’ve seen is that if you look up the time for a baseball game at some point, it’ll tell you the final score when the game is over.
More usefully when you’re travelling, you’ll get local weather forecasts, currency conversion, travel times, translation advice etc, without having to search for it. You’ll still need a data connection, however.
Android Beam has also been updated, so now if two people have NFC-enabled Android devices, they can tap them together to transfer photos and videos. Now that’s a cool way of sharing your pics from the pub!
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this update to roll out across the board, given that nearly 90% of Android devices aren’t even running ICS (ie, version 4.0) yet.
Asus Nexus 7" tablet due in two weeks. The market heats up…
The pressure at the lower end of the tablet market continues, with Asus and Google also announcing release dates for the Nexus 7 tablet. Also due in a couple of weeks, it will be aggressively priced at $199 (8Gb version) and $249 (16Gb version) via Google Play. Initially it will also come with $25 credit to spend in the Play store.
There’s no doubt that these new tablets are aimed to extinguish the Kindle Fire, with higher specs and similar pricing. With Amazon rumoured to announce new versions of the Fire shortly, the battle for dominance of the small, cheap tablet market is well and truly on.
Need more battery power? Sure, just paint it on.
Researchers have recently announced the successful prototyping of paintable battery technology, which can be sprayed onto almost any surface.
Essentially the ingredients in existing lithium-ion batteries were separated, then sprayed onto ceramic tiles and connected in parallel. The tiles consistently delivered 2.4 volts over six hours, and lost only 2% of their capacity after 60 recharge cycles.
While it’s obviously only at the developmental stage currently, in the future we could see batteries painted onto our gadgets rather than being a solid rectangular lump on the inside. The result? Longer charges and lighter devices. We like.
Google Docs, now with offline mode. Finally.
The latest version of Google Docs, available now, finally (re)introduces the editing of documents without an internet connection. If you’re a traveller who uses the service, this seemingly-small change will have you breathing a large sigh of relief.
Like other offline services, you can now open the document (from the newly-integrated Google Drive service), work on it without an internet connection and then watch as it syncs up in a second or two once you’re back online.
Nothing ground-breaking from a technology perspective, but if you use Docs regularly on the road, it’s extremely useful. Google says that the Spreadsheet and Presentation apps will have the feature added in due course.