Version 9.3 of Google Maps is here to lead the way: lets you share directions with others

Google has updated its Google Maps for Android app to version 9.3, bringing the ability to share directions, tweaks to location settings notifications, and some bug fixes.

The most prominent feature the update brings to the table is sharable directions. This means that any application accessible through the standard share function can now accept directions, which appear as a list of instructions, something which could be really useful especially when you want to share this information with someone who doesn’t have a smartphone and/or Google Maps installed on their device.

In addition, the updated app now lets you permanently disable the pop-up that appears whenever your location settings aren’t what the app wants them to be. Aside from these features, the update also brings along a few bug fixes.

Head over to Google Play to download the update – it is currently rolling out, so it may take a few days before it reaches everyone.

HERE Maps for Android is now available, iOS coming in early 2015!

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More than a million have already taken HERE for Android beta for a spin, with the most active downloaders coming from Germany and the USA. Today, the playground gets bigger with the beta version of HERE for Android arriving for free on the Google Play store across the world.

Installing the new version from Google Play is simpler and more straightforward than ‘sideloading’ HERE for Android from here.com. Google Play will also make sure that your phone notifies you to update the app, so you can be confident that you will always have the latest version. There is no need to uninstall the existing version, and there will be no need to reinstall downloaded maps or voices.

The app you can download from Google Play brings voice-guided navigation for 18 new countries and territories: Algeria, Angola*, Bangladesh*, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Iraq, Libya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nepal*, Paraguay, Saint Helena, Senegal*, Sri Lanka*, Suriname*, Zambia*, Zimbabwe*. The addition of these 18 new countries brings the total number of freely navigable countries to 118. Additionally, we improved the stability and performance of the app, and fixed a voice-related navigation bug.

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To help you get started with HERE for Android, we’ve posted a series of stories to take a closer look at the app’s voice-guided navigation, how to manage your offline maps and getting around the city with up-to-date public transit information. We often travel to meet colleagues, friends and family, which is why you can share your real-time location temporarily and safely with integrated Glympse messaging.

We are continuing our work to make HERE for Android even better. Your feedback has already helped us fix bugs and prioritize new features. Talk to us below in the comments section and on Twitter if you have any questions or feedback for the development team. And of course you can rate us in the Google Play store.

Nokia's HERE finally lands on Google Play, offers free offline navigation with audio prompts

Two more things: new here.com and an update on HERE for iOS

here.com also takes its spot in the limelight this week with a new design and cool features that some of you have already tested over the past few weeks. Read more about the new search, focused traffic view and other improvements.

Following the positive reviews of HERE for Android, a lot of people have expressed their interest in an iOS version of our app. We really appreciate this interest and demand. Our iOS app development team is working hard on this and we plan to officially launch HERE for iOS in early 2015.

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The Earth Is About to Be Bombarded By Two Solar Storms!

This is not your usual weather forecast. Big storms are brewing. Your umbrella won’t help, but you might want to keep a flashlight handy.

These storms are coming from the sun. It’s raining down a huge amount of radiation. We’re safe, but it could affect power grids, radios and satellites.

Experts say the combined energy from two recent solar events will arrive at Earth on Saturday, prompting the Space Weather Prediction Center to issue a strong geomagnetic storm watch.

Wait. What kind of watch? Basically, the sun is a giant ball of gas: 92.1% hydrogen and 7.8% helium. Every now and then, it spits out a giant burst of radiation called a coronal mass ejection.

These ejections are sometimes associated with solar flares, the most explosive events in the solar system. The sun has released two ejections in the past two days, and both are linked to solar flares. NASA says the second flare is an X1.6 class, putting it in the most intense category.

The energy from those two ejections is heading toward Earth.

Space weather experts aren’t sure what this solar storm will do.

“This is a pretty strong solar storm, and we just won’t know until it gets here” what it will do, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Earth’s atmosphere usually protects us humans, but you might want to keep a flashlight handy. Solar storms can knock out power, interfere with GPS and radio communications — including those on commercial airliners — and damage satellites.

“People on the ground really don’t have to worry,” said Lika Guhathakurta, a program scientist with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. She said solar storms don’t affect humans on the ground, although astronauts could be at risk.

And our technology.

But don’t worry too much. NASA can take steps to protect the crew members on the International Space Station, and satellite operators can turn off sensitive sensors on satellites to mitigate the risk to your smartphones and wi-fi connection. There may be temporary glitches, though, Guhathakurta says.

And if there is a major issue, scientists are taking precautions to make sure all the important parties are prepared.

“FEMA has been notified of these events just in case,” Thomas Berger, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said at a Thursday news conference.

On March 13, 1989, a solar storm knocked out power for the entire province of Quebec for 12 hours. Power grids in the United States were affected but didn’t have blackouts. NASA says some satellites tumbled out of control for hours during what’s known as the Quebec Blackout. The space shuttle Discovery was in orbit at the time and had a mysterious sensor problem that went away after the storm, NASA says.

On the upside, solar storms also create beautiful aurora. Aurora watchers in the northern United States who are outside major metropolitan areas should be watching the skies on Thursday and Friday nights.

People in the southern part of the nation are less likely to get the kind of splendid aurora sights that people in the Northeast and Alaska will see, but it might not hurt for them to take a glance at the sky anyway, just in case.

Although it won’t be as intense a view as the one northerners will get, “if you want to take a look on Friday night, why not?” Berger said.

Leaked screenshots of Apple’s ‘iOS in the Car’ surface!

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Developer Steven Troughton-Smith posted several images on Twitter this afternoon of what looks like Apple’s iOS in the Car project. The screenshots don’t show the entirety of the feature, but if legit, they do offer some insight on what the Maps app will look like when in use.

For those unfamiliar with iOS in the Car, it’s an interface that deepens the integration between iOS devices and cars far beyond playing music. First introduced at WWDC, the feature will allow users to view and manage many iOS applications using their in-vehicle hardware…

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Troughton-Smith didn’t give any indication as to where he obtained the images, but it’s possible they were bundled in with the just-released version of iOS 7.1 or an earlier beta. The feature is expected to be one of the many changes and improvements made in the next iOS update.

Also worth noting is how different these screenshots look compared to the ones Apple showed off last summer, or even those on the company’s website right now. So it’s unclear if this iteration is set to be the final release version, or if it’s a barebones interface built for testing purposes.

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Tim Cook has stressed the significance of iOS in the Car in the past, calling it a “key focus” and an “important part” of Apple’s ecosystem. And many automakers have pledged to support the new feature in future car models with custom hardware including Audi, Honda, Acura and BMW.

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Apple’s website lists iOS in the Car as ‘Coming soon.’

YouTube paid subscriptions now live, starting at 99 cents per month

We knew it was in the works and today marks launch day for YouTube’s paid subscription pilot program. Users were worried that their favorite YouTube channels would be switching to the paid model, but from the looks of the pilot channels, there isn’t too much worry about that. Instead, the paid subscription channels are dominated by names you wouldn’t expect to see (legally) on YouTube, like Sesame Street.

The current lineup of channels in the pilot program fall mostly into a few major categories. Of the 53 pilot channels, most seem to be either children’s programming (Jim Henson’s Family TV, National Geographic Kids, DHX Junior/Kids, Franklin), or sports/fitness (TNA Impact Wrestling, UFC Select, PGA Academy, Primezone Sports with Deion Sanders, iAmplify, Cars TV). The rest are a smattering of genre channels covering documentaries, comedy, Spanish language, LGBT, and even a woodworking channel.
Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and afterwards the channels either offer a subscription fee starting at 99 cents per month, or purchases. For example, you can subscribe to Jim Henson’s Family TV for $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year (which includes Fraggle Rock, but not Sesame Street); or, you can buy individual episodes of Sesame Street ($1.99 for SD, $2.99 for HD) or purchase full seasons ($17.99/$27.99).
YouTube plans to continue rolling out more subscription channels with partners that will be adding more “TV-like” series.
Many people get angry at the idea of paid channels on YouTube, but we’ve defended the idea before, and we’ll continue to do it. As you can see with the pilot program, paid subscriptions are bringing in big name content creators like Jim Henson productions, a channel presented by Deion Sanders, and HDNet. Big names like this are only a good thing for YouTube. They won’t be crowding out the ad-supported channels, just adding a new tier of premium content.
As we’ve said many many times before, it’s just like online news. Only the top 5% of the most popular content on YouTube will be able to switch to paid subscriptions and end up making more money than with ad revenue. Just like only news sources at the very top, like NYT and WSJ, can put up a paywall and make it work. Everyone else has to stick with ad support.