Garmin has finally created a navigation app for the iPhone, and now StreetPilot for iPhone is available in the App Store for $40. Here’s a review where we compare the iPhone version to another Garmin hardware GPS navigator, the Nuvi 1690.

I’ve been using Garmin GPS navigation since the days when the hardware cost $800, and so I was interested in seeing if Garmin could translate the excellent user interface and responsiveness of its hardware navigation units to the iPhone.

Delayed for years because of Garmin’s foray into its own smartphone hardware, the company’s done a respectable job of moving its software onto the iOS platform. A big plus with the software is its continuously updated maps, where small parts of the map software reside on the iPhone’s hard drive, but most are downloaded via the 3G network.

This can be good and bad. While the maps are the freshest available, if you stray outside AT&T’s 3G network, you might not see a map until you get closer to a 3G tower. However, in my testing in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, this wasn’t a problem at all.

Most of the features you’ll get on Garmin hardware units are there in the software, including extensive points of interest such as gas stations and restaurants, helpful lane assist capabilities, and spoken street names.

In my testing, this iPhone version offered more information, and sooner than its hardware brandmate, a Garmin Nuvi 1690. In some cases, the iPhone version was slower, but as you can see in the video below, the speed difference was slight, and didn’t matter as much as the iPhone version’s useful tendency of offering additional street names in advance.

On the left of the navigation screen, there’s a small iPod icon, and when you select it, you can pause your music, skip to the next song, and go to your iPhone’s music player to select different playlists and songs. Unfortunately, it’s not as friendly with Pandora Radio, where if you try to listen to Pandora music, as soon as the voice kicks in, Pandora is gone for good.

Some users have complained about the sound quality of the voices in the iPhone StreetPilot, but that’s been improved with the recent update, although the sound quality of the voices is still not as good as that of the hardware versions. This seems like it would be an easy thing to fix, but in my testing, the voices were still clearly audible. You can hear the difference in the video below.

Overall, Garmin has done an admirable job of bringing its elegant user interface to the iPhone. The software’s $40 price is reasonable, especially since it includes live updates of road conditions and the freshest possible maps. However, given the unpredictability of AT&T’s network, taking a long trip with its constantly updating maps might be a problem if you’re traveling through sparsely populated areas. In addition, I’d like to see better integration with Pandora, and higher-quality voices.

To get an idea of Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone’s performance, take a look at this video where you can see which device won my informal and unscientific competition, and then don’t miss the gallery where I’ve made additional comments and observations.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

Here’s the main screen, and it looks a lot like the hardware Garmin.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

the map presents in 3-D, notice the iPod icon on the left.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

Tap that icon, and audio transport controls appear.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

You can navigate through spaghetti bowl of roads with ease.

[This graphic courtesy Garmin]

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

The Lane Assist feature is particularly useful.

[This graphic courtesy Garmin]

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

This is the screen you get if there are no traffic problems in the area.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

Here’s the list view.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

There are plenty of points of interest to which you can navigate.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

There are even more points of interest.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

Here, I’m looking for the nearest gas station.

Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone

There’s a handy weather forecast available.

More About: apps, Garmin StreetPilot for iPhone, gps, hands-on, navigation, reviews, trending

Discovr is a new music discovery app for iPad that shows connections between bands, and with a quick double tap, you can see the musicians’ videos on YouTube and a lot more.

Launched today, the $2.99 app is described as “interactive map of the world of music for iPad,” and we took it for a spin. Take a look at the video above, and you’ll see the graceful graphics showing connections of the bands that you can drag around the screen.

Discovr is like a visual version of Pandora radio, where you can read about all your favorite artists and study the relationships between them. Search for a band or artist, and you’re presented with a diagram of that band or artist depicted as a hub, with related artists connected as circular pics resembling spokes to that hub.

By double-tapping on one of the bands, you’re presented with a wealth of information about each one, including a biography, links to blog posts, places to buy the music, and a variety of YouTube videos of the band (if it’s popular enough). As you get down to third-tier bands and musicians, biographies and videos are not quite as frequent, but even so, the depth of this application is remarkable.

Staying in its diagram mode, it’s surprisingly smart, able to make connections between different hubs, and letting you continue to drill down as the bands get more and more obscure. As I continued exploring, I was able to create a huge tangled web of musicians, with the app often making connections between them that surprised me.




I tried looking up lesser-known jazz musicians, and it was interesting to see the relationships between various soloists. Who played with who? You can often find the answer, and the results were accurate.

Another nice touch is the way Discovr finds songs you have loaded on your iPad, and includes a strip of pictures of them across the bottom of the application, inviting you to start searching your favorite musicians right away.

The application crashed a couple of times when I taxed it too much, and I’m hoping the developers will get to the root of that and fix it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, I found this to be a fascinating application that helped me understand the relationships between bands, and assisted me in finding new music according to bands that I already like. Fix the instability, and it would be an A-list app.

Find out more about Discovr here.

More About: bands, discovr, hands-on, ipad apps, music discovery, reviews, youtube




This pocket-sized rechargeable speaker attempts audio alchemy, trying to create a big sound with a package about the size of a deck of cards. Does it work?

WOWee ONE Slim is a rechargeable speaker, the company’s second product that attempts this trick, and it’s even smaller than the original WOWee ONE Power Bass Speaker released early last year. The idea is to stick this smartphone-sized device against a flat surface, and it’s supposed to deliver “room filling sound.” Because it costs $90, our expectations were high.

It’s extremely easy to use. I plugged it into my iPhone 4′s earphone jack, and its blue power indicator immediately lit. There is an onboard speaker that handles the midrange and highs, and as soon as I placed the device on a glass door here in the office, there was a noticeable increase in bass response. While it sounds much better than the iPhone speaker, I wouldn’t call it “room-filling.”

As you can see the video below, the speaker won’t stay attached to any vertical surfaces. (Update: Its manufacturer told me after my review was published that it’s not designed to stick to vertical surfaces as we tested it — the company’s offering an accessory called the “WOWee hug” that can hold the speaker in place properly against a wall.) Its gel backing isn’t strong enough to hold its weight, so you’ll have to set it on a table if you want to listen to it for more than a few seconds. I will say one thing, the device is not the least bit fragile. It survived a couple of hard drops to a wood floor and was no worse for wear.

An interesting characteristic is the different sounds the speaker produces when pressed against various surfaces. I found it sounded best and warmest with wood, but large glass surfaces spread its sound out more for a equally pleasant effect. When pushed against drywall surfaces, its bass was more boomy.

The WOWee ONE Slim rechargeable speaker is fun to play with, and if you like to take your tunes on the road and travel light, it’ll let you listen to music with a better fidelity than you’ll get from your smartphone’s speaker.

Or, you could save yourself $90 and use earphones.

WOWee ONE Slim

It’s about the size of a typical smartphone.

WOWee ONE Slim

Here it is compared to my iPhone 4. As soon as you connect the WOWee Slim to your music player’s earphone jack, it turns on and starts playing.

WOWee ONE Slim

That gel on the back is just not sticky enough to hold the device up, even on glass.

WOWee ONE Slim

Charge it up via its USB port, connects to any music player.

WOWee ONE Slim

The one’s white, you can also get it in shiny black.

More About: audio reinforcement, hands-on, iphone accessories, music, rechargeable speaker, review, sound, speakers, WOWee ONE Slim




This week, I had a chance to review the Nomad Brush, a beautiful, handcrafted stylus designed for painting and sketching on the iPad.

The stylus feels and looks like an actual paintbrush, complete with a 5.5-inch wooden handle and a mix of natural and synthetic fibers selected for their conductive properties. When I first came across this demo video of the stylus last week, I was skeptical that the iPad‘s touchscreen surface would be able to pick up the stylus’s soft bristles, but I’m happy to report that the iPad easily responds to the touch. It allows for free-flowing brush strokes much like a real paintbrush, and an elegance of line I was previously unable to achieve using my fingers or a regular stylus.

Since we’ve only used the brush for a day, we can neither guarantee that it will work a year or even a month from now with heavy use, nor whether the bristles will hold their shape. (As a side note, we’re still looking for a way to keep those bristles intact while traveling; I plan to use my standard canvas brush holder in the meantime.) Given how much we plan to use the thing, we should have a pretty good idea of how it holds up by the time the brush goes on sale in early February.

The Nomad Brush was conceived by Don Lee, a 39-year-old architect based in New York. After 14 years as an architect, Lee decided to take a year-long break from his profession “to rejuvenate [his] creative side,” he explains.

As part of the rejuvenation process, Lee took up sketching on the iPad. “The finger is by far the most efficient way to navigate the iPad, but when it came to sketching, I just couldn’t get used to it,” Lee says. “As a problem solver by nature, I started to tinker and found a solution, and that’s how the Nomad Brush came about.”

At launch, only a black version with a 5.5-inch handle will be available for purchase, followed by a version with a white handle. In the future, Lee plans to create additional versions with varying brush head sizes and handle lengths. Pricing has not yet been disclosed, though given that each stylus is hand made, we expect it will be a bit pricier than the typical stylus.

In the meantime, check out our hands-on video below.


Video



More Gadget Demos from Mashable:


HANDS ON: 10 New Tablets Ready to Challenge the iPad [VIDEOS]
Hands On With Vizio’s Android-Powered Devices [VIDEO]
DEMO: BlackBerry Playbook Tablet [VIDEO]
Hands On With Vizio’s Android-Powered Devices [VIDEO]
Nintendo 3DS: Hands-On and First Impressions [PICS]

More About: apple, demo, Gadget, hands-on, ipad, ipad stylus, nomad brush