Rickshaw in India

Travel Tech News, July 2019: Google Giveth, and Google Taketh Away

By Dave Dean NewsNo Comments

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Google’s added a new safety feature to let you know when your taxi is taking an unexpected detour, and with almost the same breath, announced the end of its popular travel planning app. Huawei’s foldable smartphone is delayed (now there’s a surprise), while Oppo is fixing a non-existent problem with selfie cameras by making them worse.

That’s all in the July 2019 edition of Travel Tech News!

Google’s New Maps Feature Tells You When Your Taxi Goes Off-Route

Google Maps off-route alert

As I mentioned in last month’s email, Google has started paying more attention to large developing nations like India. Rather than shoehorning existing products into very different markets, the company is developing unique features to address specific requirements.

That’s particularly obvious with something like Google Maps. Navigating the clogged mass of cars, motorbikes, rickshaws, and cows on the streets of major Indian cities, for instance, is very different to driving around a suburban neighbourhood in the United States.

The latest Maps feature to be rolled out in India addresses the safety concerns of taxi passengers. Enter your destination, get driving directions, and tap the new “Get off-route alerts” button. From there, you’ll be notified whenever your car gets more than 500 metres (1600 feet) off the set route.

Your phone will buzz and show a notification on the lock screen when it detects a detour, and tapping it will show where you are compared to the original route. You can then choose to quickly share your trip in real time with friends and family, so they can take action if needed.

As well as the safety aspect, this new feature is helpful for travelers unfamiliar with a new city. Hopefully, it’ll go some way towards avoiding rip-off taxi drivers taking the longest possible route to your hotel.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it available elsewhere in the world before long.

Surprise Surprise, Huawei’s Foldable Phone Is Delayed As Well

Huawei Mate X

In news that shocks precisely nobody, Huawei’s following Samsung’s lead and delaying the release of its foldable phone. Announced back in February and tentatively scheduled for launch last month, the Mate X has now apparently been pushed back to September. Honestly, I’ll be surprised if it even manages to ship then.

The official line is that the launch is being delayed so that Huawei can do extra testing with mobile carriers and developers. Behind the scenes, there’s almost certainly more to the story than that.

After multiple early reviewers complained of the Galaxy Fold breaking in a matter of hours or days Samsung indefinitely postponed its launch. As a result, it was inevitable that other companies trying to create foldable phones would be more cautious.

With the Mate X slated to cost a staggering $2600, Huawei will be desperate to avoid the same PR debacle after what has already been a very difficult year.

Foldable may be the future, but it sure isn’t the present.

Do You Use Google Trips? Bad Luck, It’s Going Away

Google Trips app

Google’s been increasingly getting into the travel space in recent years, and its Trips app was a good example. Popular with frequent travelers, the app grabbed reservation confirmations from your email and created a trip outline with the details.

From there, it would use Google Maps information to suggest nearby attractions and restaurants, and save everything to your phone for offline use. The app had over five million downloads, but in Google’s world, apparently even that kind of scale isn’t enough to make a product worth keeping.

The company recently announced that Trips is going away in early August. While some of its features will still be available on the rather terrible Google Travel site, the useful ones like offline access will disappear entirely.

Google shutting down products people actually use is so depressingly common that there’s even a website devoted to tracking them. Like anything else you’re not directly paying for, there are no guarantees any service will be there for the long term.

If you’re looking for an alternative, I’ve used Tripit for many years. It’s not an exact replacement, but includes the important bits like automatic itineraries and offline support. There’s also a paid tier aimed at business users, which hopefully helps keep the business afloat.

Oppo’s Here to Fix the Phone Camera Problem That Nobody Has

Woman taking selfie with dog

Oppo, the smartphone maker that’s popular in Europe, China, and elsewhere, but barely heard of in North America, has often experimented with unusual phone designs.

It’s continuing that approach with one of the stranger “features” I’ve seen announced this year, a front-facing camera that sits underneath the glass display.

The company seems to think that selfie cameras contained inside notches, teardrops, pinpricks, or pop-ups just aren’t what customers want. No, apparently we all want is to trade a small cutout or slightly thicker phone for a weird pixelated section at the top of our screens, and blurry selfies with unnatural colours.

Sign me up. Or don’t.

Oppo says the technology will be coming to one of its phones “in the near future.” If this is what a notch-less, bezel-less smartphone looks like, let’s just say I won’t be at the front of the line on launch day.

Images via Devanath (rickshaw in India), Google (off-route screenshot), Huawei (Mate X), Google Play Store (Trips app), and Ogutier (woman taking selfie with dog)

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

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