Star Apps: GigaOM's Om Malik

Award-winning journalist Om Malik leveraged years of tech and business media experience -- senior editor at, senior writer at "Red Herring" and later "Business 2.0," and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal," "The Economist," and "MIT Technology Review" -- to found leading indie tech blog GigaOM, back in 2006.

Offering news and opinion on startups, social media, cloud computing, mobile gadgets, and of course, software, Malik's CNET Blog 100-recognized Web magazine has since spawned numerous conferences such as GigaOM Structure (cloud computing and Internet infrastructure), GigaOM … Read more

Mercedes-Benz integrates Google Maps features

Mercedes-Benz announced it would demonstrate Google local search, Street View, and traffic integrated into the dashboard of one of its vehicles during Google I/O. These features will be introduced soon as part of Mercedes-Benz's DriveStyle app.

Local search will let drivers enter any term to begin a search, resulting in a list of nearby place names. Each entry can be selected as a destination for navigation. The Street View feature will let the driver see a 360-degree view of any destination, as long as Google has covered it.

Traffic data is similar to what can be found on … Read more

Tesla's path to the upgradable car

At Tesla's sunny headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., I asked CTO JB Straubel when to expect the next model upgrade for the Model S. He quickly dismissed the automaker cliche of updates based on model years, saying that Tesla would release new features for the Model S as his team finished creating them.

One of the Model S' great strengths, beyond its zero emissions, minimal running costs, excellent driving character, and luxury appointments, is that Tesla can deliver over-the-air updates to its cabin electronics.

And those updates can be very extensive, as the Model S features few hard controls. … Read more

Smartphone mounts for your car

Many drivers rely on smartphones for navigation, music, and calls in the car, but holding the phone while performing any of these tasks impairs driving ability and is illegal in some states. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that manually operating a phone greatly increases distraction while driving, where engaging in a hands-free call showed no increased crash risk.

To more safely use your phone in the car, get a mount that will keep its voice command button in easy reach and its screen viewable at a glance.

Mounts can stick to windshields and dashboards, clip to … Read more

Gmail updates for iOS

If the next Gmail message you receive on your iPhone launches YouTube or Google Maps, don't be alarmed. The Internet giant enhanced its official Gmail app for iPhone and iPad today, adding two small but appreciated features for heavy users of the Web-based mail service.

First, the default behavior for opening YouTube, Google Maps, or Web links has changed. Now, when you click on any of those kinds of links, Gmail will spawn the respective native YouTube, Google Maps, or Google Chrome app for iOS to handle it. Formerly, such links were instead handled by the relatively inelegant built-in … Read more

Text- and app-blocker keeps eyes on the road

When your teen driver can't keep his eyes on the road, who ya gonna call? TextBuster! Gave your kid the keys, but wanna keep Facebook on hold? Who can you call? TextBuster!

Sorry, I simply had to get the obvious jokes out of my system.

TextBuster is a product that promises to eliminate driver distraction by blocking text messages and inappropriate apps when a phone is used while in the car. It's got a clever name and makes lofty promises, but I've seen both before, so I installed the TextBuster in my car to see if the … Read more

Kinivo Bluetooth car kit adds hands-free calling, wireless music

The advent of Bluetooth systems in cars became a boon for drivers, enabling hands-free phone calls and wirelessly streaming music from a smartphone. But if your car is more than five years old, it likely does not feature this technology. The Kinivo BTC450 makes for an easy and inexpensive way of adding Bluetooth to an older car.

The Kinivo BTC450 is a Bluetooth adapter. Lacking its own speaker, it is designed to plug into a car stereo's auxiliary input.

And therein lies its biggest limitation.

The majority of cars equipped with an auxiliary input but no Bluetooth system were … Read more

Apple envisions ways to find and start your car with your iPhone

Those of us who can never find our cars in a crowded parking garage may one day get a helping hand from Apple.

Published Thursday by the U.S. Trade and Patent Office, an Apple patent application called "Method for locating a vehicle" describes a technology in which your mobile device can talk to your car through a Bluetooth connection to confirm that it's parked somewhere nearby. The parking garage itself would also have its own wireless system to pinpoint the exact location of your car.

A map would then display on your phone to lead you … Read more

VW integrates iPhone with new iBeetle

Old rumors about Volkswagen and Apple collaborating on an iCar will come the closest ever to realization next week, when Volkswagen unveils its iBeetle at Auto China 2013 in Shanghai. The iBeetle announcement consists of a special-edition Beetle, a new iPhone dock, and a Volkswagen iPhone app.

The special-edition Beetle, coming out next year, will feature color schemes inspired by the iPhone. Available in hardtop or convertible form, it will also come with unique wheels.

An iPhone dock in the iBeetle sits at the center top of the dashboard. Volkswagen writes in a press release that "all iPhone functions … Read more

SmartMini Aux adds Bluetooth to cars on the cheap

Most cars these days come with Bluetooth, supporting both hands-free calls and audio streaming. For older cars, GoGroove's SmartMini Aux works as a relatively cheap means of adding these wireless features.

However, the car needs an auxiliary input or adapter for running audio to the stereo.

The SmartMini Aux, constructed of black plastic, looks like an ultramodern drawer pull. Its offset T shape includes a flared base fitted with a Velcro pad for mounting in a car. A long wire tipped with a 1/8-inch audio jack leads out of the base.

The business end, a short, curved bar, … Read more