Communications

Apple envisions touch screen to control your car's key features

Apple is trying to integrate itself even further into your car with a freshly patented dashboard touch screen.

Granted Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent dubbed "Programmable tactile touch screen displays and man-machine interfaces for improved vehicle instrumentation and telematics" (patent number 8,482,535) describes a tactile-feel touch screen that would let you adjust several of the key features and functions in your car.

See also: "App store in the driver's seat: Here comes your next car"

The patent discusses such options as controlling the temperature, the wipers, and … Read more

iOS 7 beta hints at AirPlay for your car

Apple's upcoming iOS in the Car feature apparently will work via AirPlay, so you won't have to physically hook up your device.

Scouring through the "Accessory Developer" settings menu in the iOS 7 beta version, developer Hamza Sood uncovered two options -- one called "iOS in the Car over USB" and another called "iOS in the Car over WiFi." Revealing his findings in a tweet, Sood's conclusion was that iOS in the Car will tap into Apple's AirPlay.

Unveiled in June at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS in the … Read more

Delphi keeps track of your car

GM brands such as Chevrolet and Buick, along with most luxury automakers, offer their customers telematics services enabling connected features such as maintenance alerts, vehicle tracking, and even remote door unlocking. If you want these features, you don't have to buy a whole new car -- Delphi and Verizon have partnered to offer Vehicle Diagnostics, a plug-in module for adding advanced telematics to existing cars.

The Vehicle Diagnostics module, a little black box about 4 inches long, plugs into a car's OBD-II port, and comes packed with a GPS chip, a wireless data connection, and the ability to … Read more

SMSAlarm locates your muted Android phone

One of the great things about "smartphones" is that they are awfully hard to lose. In fact, there are countless apps that will help locate your phone from Timbuktu to Tippecanoe County. (And oh, how many times have I wished I could call my keys or wallet to find them?) However, if your ringer is on mute, finding it when it's wedged down in the couch cushions requires a keen ear for the buzz of vibrate mode.

Or, if you are a rational Android user, you will download and install the free Android app SMSAlarm, which offers … Read more

Apple promises iOS maps, messaging integration in cars

Confirming an earlier rumor, Apple announced heavy integration between iOS and cars during its WWDC 2013 keynote.

Details were sketchy at the keynote, but Apple Vice President Eddy Cue said that Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Ferrari, Hyundai, Kia, and Infiniti, among others, were integrating more features from iOS into their cars, making maps and iMessages available on a car's LCD.

Currently, many cars include integration with iOS music functions, letting drivers plug their iOS devices into a car's USB, then see and select music from the car's LCD.

A presentation photo at the keynote showed a mock-up of … Read more

BMW updates online services, supports Android

Almost every new BMW model will come with an integrated SIM card, enabling a dedicated data connection into the car. BMW also announced this week that it would release an Android version of its Connected app, currently only available on iOS, this summer.

This week's announcement comes as part of a larger reorganization of the connected components of BMW's iDrive cabin electronics.

As we saw in BMW 750Li, recently reviewed by CNET, the automaker currently includes music coming in through satellite radio, traffic data delivered as an FM radio signal, the BMW Online service, and the BMW Connected … Read more

QNX updates its CAR platform, wants your next ride to support Android apps

At the Telematics Detroit Conference today, QNX pulled the wraps off of a new version 2.1 of its QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

The new QNX platform builds on the provider's telematics and infotainment architecture to enable developers to adapt Android apps for use in the car and to create apps and interfaces based on the Qt 5 application framework. This builds on the CAR Platform's previous support for HTML5 and OpenGL ES standards, giving mobile developers an assortment of widely supported tools to build software for your next car.

The new version of the QNX CAR … Read more

Audi tells you where to park it

Looking for parking in city often leads to endless driving in circles, wasting gasoline, and polluting the air, and can lead many to reconsider their evening plans. But this is exactly the problem being targeted by new technology on both the automaker and infrastructure side.

Audi just announced the first parking assistance system, linking its built-in navigation system to the growing amount of information available from parking garages.

According to Pom Malhotra, director of connected vehicles for Audi, the new parking service will work seamlessly with the navigation system of Audi models equipped with Audi Connect. When an Audi owner … Read more

Skype your way to a new couch

Skype (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)--the free VoIP app that lets you voice- or video-chat with other Skype users across the world--has become an ubiquitous tool for everyone from grandmas and grandkids to multinational corporations.

Now, the VoIP software ventures into the realm of interior design, with a "Cool My Couch" photo contest that promises the winner a free couch and Skype-enabled TV. To enter, simply submit a photo of your couch along with a caption explaining why you deserve to win. That's it.

The photo contest is open to all U.S. residents who are members … Read more

New Gmail look blings up your inbox with tabs

Google continues to revamp the appearance of many of its services, this time turning its redecorating eye on Gmail.

The company unveiled on Wednesday the new look and automatic labels for Gmail on the Web, as well as in Gmail's Android and iOS apps.

The new default categories, based on Gmail's existing Label system, are Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. They appear as large tabs on the Gmail site, easy to use for touch screens and fully customizable. You can also drag-and-drop messages between them, and Google will automatically "learn" how you want them filtered. … Read more