Offline maps. This feature is something of an Easter egg. It’s undocumented, a feature inserted by Google engineers simply because they wanted it. You can access it only if you know the secret. But wow, is it worth it. This feature memorizes the map data for whatever area is displayed on your screen right now (up to a whole city in size). That way, you can use Google Maps even when you’re overseas and don’t want to turn on data roaming (because that’s insanely expensive), or when you’re in an area where there’s no cell reception. It’s very handy. To capture a map snapshot like this, tap in the Search box. Use the speech-recognition button and say, “OK Maps.” (It’s a riff on the command “OK Glass” that prepares Google Glass, the company’s “smart headband,” for voice commands.) A message quietly lets you know you’ve successfully stored the displayed area.
So the bottom line is all bad news. People who bought e-books from Barnes & Noble may wind up with libraries they can’t read. Amazon no longer has a competitor to keep it on its toes (and its prices low). The future of Barnes & Noble’s e-book business now looks murky, which means that even more customers will stay away, creating a vicious cycle of declining sales.
So I’ve just spent two weeks immersed in voice recognition. I carried an iPhone and a phone running Google’s Android operating system with me everywhere. I spoke to both phones simultaneously. I wanted to get to know the differences, the strengths, the weaknesses.