Google Navigation is gone!?!

Wow, my phone gave me a little scare this morning!  I got up early to get ready for a day-trip we’re going on today to a place I haven’t been before, so I was going to check Google Navigation to see how long it will take to get there, and it was gone!!  After some digging and not finding the icon anywhere on my phone, I remembered that I was able to always get to it from Google Maps as well.  So then I looked for Google Maps.  Luckily, THAT one was still there.  And there it was, now apparently embedded within Google Maps.  Upon further googling, I found that it has ALWAYS been integrated in Google Maps, they just provided a separate icon to go directly to the Navigation feature.  Sheesh.  So why take away the icon?  Why not leave it and just have it launch the same app?  Nevermind, I use Nova Launcher so I can actually do that myself.

It looks good though.  I love the new features so far.  Since Google bought Waze (the only other navigation app I really like) it looks like they just integrated a lot of the features of Waze into Maps now.  I’ll see how it does today, on our trip.  I’ll be using it like crazy today.  Now I can’t wait to see if they include the “goodies” pickups and points from Waze over the holidays, and what they actually do with the Waze app itself!

UPDATE: 7/14/13 – Well, our day trip is over.  I used the new navigation in Google Maps a great deal yesterday, and I must say, something is wrong with it.  It’s “glitchy”.  The entire time, as I drove, the map objects were flickering and jumping from place to place on the screen.  This included the road and building text as well as some of the background graphic blocks, like grass sections.  Sometimes large blocks covering large chunks of the screen, like from top to bottom of the right third of the screen would just start flashing rapidly.  It made it very annoying and hard to use.  I tried a photo reboot, and also closed all other apps, but nothing helped.  I hope there’s an update soon to fix this.  It’s really intolerable, and I’ll have to go back to using Waze until they fix it.

DSub opens my eyes

Today I discovered a weird convergence of the two big issues I posted previously.  It started when I discovered DSub, an Android Subsonic client that ROCKS!  The regular Android Subsonic client–called simply “Subsonic” was decent, but lacked some crucial features and functionality that made me lean more toward Audiogalaxy when they were both excellent streaming music server options.  DSub is (and looks a lot like) the Subsonic client on steroids!  It’s open-source, so I’m guessing it’s the same client at it’s base, just customized to be much better.  It’s like the “full version” of the Android Subsonic client!  It costs $1.99, but it’s well worth it!  Anyway, one of the big features of this app that just punched me in the face and woke me up today, is an option in its settings called “Temporary loss of focus”.  It has 4 options under it: “Always Pause”, “Pause and lower volume when requested”, “Always lower volume”, and “Do Nothing”.  I didn’t realize what this weird function was until I clicked on it and saw these 4 options…. then it hit me–THIS is the feature than an audio-heavy app needs, to know what to do when another sound plays on the Android device!

So now I was on a mission.  I set it to “Always Pause”, threw on my winter coat, and hopped in the car for a ride around the neighborhood.  I turned setup Google Navigation to take me to work, started up my DSub music, then drove around the neighborhood while Google Navigation kept interrupting my song to give me directions.  It was FLAWLESS!  DSub paused every time when the Navigation started talking, and all is right with my (Android) world again!  So next I started up an Audible book and drove around some more… Bummer.  Audible isn’t working that way, and keeps playing now, blending the two voices of the book and the navigation into something very confusing (and potentially dangerous if I were relying on actual directions while driving).  So I came back home and send a support e-mail to Audible.  They responded very quickly to another question I had previously, so I am anxiously awaiting their response to this one.  Here’s what I wrote:

I listen to my audible books heavily on my Android phone during my daily commute, along with Google Navigation. I’ve been having a problem recently, however: The audible application no longer pauses when Google Navigation speaks–they both talk at once, which can sometimes make me miss a turn or direction unless I’m constantly watching the GPS directions on the screen.

After some research on the web, and finding other apps that still work ok and pause for the navigation, I have realized that it might be something that has changed in the Audible app.

I also found this explanation on Audible regarding a slightly different issue:

“We have received reports from users of the Audible for Android application, that the Audible application pauses at random. Upon further investigation, we have found that other applications may ‘steal’ the audio focus for no apparent reason when running in the background. The Audible for Android application respects audio focus requests to pause or stop playback. At the current time, the only means of resolution is to uninstall the offending application from your phone.”

To me, it seems like the Audible application used to respect the audio focus change, but now it no longer does. Can I get this ability back? Maybe if I uninstall and reinstall the app?? Or was something actually removed in the app so that it will no longer auto-pause like it used to?

Please let me know if there’s anything I, or Audible, can do to resolve this issue. I’m afraid I would no longer be able to safely listen to audiobooks in my car (with Audible) if this can’t be fixed, and I’d have to seek another alternative.

Thank you.

That’s it.  I’m pretty sure they took this ability out of their app, but we’ll see if there might be a way to correct it’s behavior and make it work.  It worked properly ever since I first subscribed to Audible and started listening to books in the car.  I’ll post the response I get.

UPDATE: 

Wow, Audible is quick. About an hour after sending that support message to them this evening, they responded. They gave me a $10 coupon for my trouble, apologized, and said there’s an update for the app, and I need to completely uninstall, delete the Audible folder, then install the updated version. So I did all of this, but was unable to completely remove the application, since it came pre-installed on my phone. I could only uninstall the updates. So I did that much and deleted the folder. Then ran Audible, signed in and downloaded a book. I played the book, then started Google Navigation. Sure enough, it worked great by pausing the book when driving directions were spoken, then resumed the book again right after. Next I installed the latest update from the app store and did it again. Crap! It went back to having the issue again by completely ignoring the driving directions and playing the book right through them. Back to the drawing board!

This definitely proves it’s something in the updated versions though, so it helps. I e-mailed support again, as a reply, so they have the entire history of the issue. I asked that, if they don’t want to have the auto-pause feature due to a lot of users having the “random pausing issue” they talk about on their help page, why not add it as an option that the user can toggle in the app’s settings? I’ll let you know what they say.

For now though, I’m back to listening to my books in the car–I just can’t update my Audible App beyond the version that came with my phone.

App Crap

What’s with all of the Android app issues all of a sudden?? First, Google Navigation–the absolute best (and totally free) navigation app available for Android–pretty much threw in the towel recently by removing the ability to control the voice volume for the navigation while integrating a very natural and human-sounding internal speech engine.  Now, whenever I use it I can’t hear any of the navigation announcements because my music volume is apparently louder than the new voice engine!  And since the eliminated the separate volume control for the navigation, there’s no way to control it!  Turning down the volume turns down both the Navigation volume as well as the music, so I end up having to choose a no-music (or audiobook) drive or a music-only drive without navigation at all.  Unacceptable, Google!!  I’m trying to work with Waze right now, which has made some big improvements lately, from what I’m seeing.  It does pretty good navigation and includes “crowdsourcing” features, constantly including traffic, accident and other updates instantly as you drive, from all of the “Wazers”.  You even earn points for everything to report in the app, to increase your Waze score and earn better ranks.  It has it’s issues, doesn’t look as “Pro” as Google Navigation, and the voice navigation is a bit muffled…but at least it has a separate voice navigation VOLUME CONTROL!!! Are you listening, Google?!?!?!? It works ok for me for now, until something better comes along (or Google fixes theirs).

Then today I find out that Dropbox acquired Audiogalaxy!!  Now Audiogalaxy isn’t accepting any new accounts, and their “Mixes” subscription service is ending on 12/31/12.  Yikes!! They go on to say “previous users with accounts can continue to stream their music collections”… but for how long?!?!  Audiogalaxy is the best Android music streaming server I have ever found, and nothing compares to it!! I sure hope they eventually decide to keep streaming and start accepting new accounts again, even if it becomes branded as a Dropbox Music Streaming app–as long as they DON’T start requiring everyone to upload their music collection to Dropbox though–THAT would suck!  I have such a huge collection of music, it would cost me quite a bit of money each month for a dropbox account big enough to hold my entire music collection.  Hmmph.  Time to start looking for something better anyway, I guess.

Google Maps 5 coming soon to Android devices

Version 5 of Google Maps has just been announced for Android.  It will be released “in a matter of days,” and most Android users should be able to download it free, at that point.

Coming with the Maps update will be the end of tiling.  Whoohoo!  It will use vectors, which brings the ability to see maps in 3D (see screenshot). For anyone who has used Google Earth on their Android device knows, Maps will now let you tilt and rotate any map with your fingers.

Equally as notably is the addition of offline caching, making those long trips to areas with data deadzones less scary. Besides keeping the map/route on file, the offline cache will also be able to reroute if you miss that exit and don’t have continuous data. The update will be available for all Android devices with 2.2, and possibly for all with 2.1, as well. I have a 2.1 device, so I’m a little nervous at this point… I REALLY want to be able to use this update!! I use Google Navigation daily.