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

Apple has launched @AppStore, a new Twitter account for its popular iOS and Mac App Store.

The new @AppStore Twitter account only made its debut a few hours ago, but it has already amassed more than 35,000 Twitter followers as of this writing. For comparison, its sister account, @iTunesMusic, has more than 680,000 followers.

As the accounts first tweet explains, @AppStore will feature new apps in Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores and provide exclusive offers for Twitter users. For example, the account’s second tweet provided a quick pitch and a link to Nike’s Training Club app.

Creating a Twitter account for the App Store seems like a simple and effective way to generate more buzz and more downloads about featured apps. It’s essentially the same thing Apple has been doing with its App Store Facebook Page, which has nearly 1 million fans. Apple also has five popular iTunes Twitter accounts tweeting about new films, music and TV shows.

Still, Apple is known for its lack of engagement in social media. The company doesn’t have official Facebook or Twitter accounts. While the @AppStore account is a refreshing addition to Apple’s social media roster, don’t expect Steve Jobs, Tim Cook or Apple, Inc. to be tweeting anytime soon.

More About: app store, apple, iOS, iOS App Store, iphone app store, itunes, mac app store, twitter

Using Google Cloud Print, Gmail users will soon be able to print documents from their iOS and Android devices.

Similar to Apple’s AirPrint and HP’s line of ePrint printers, Cloud Print is designed to help users print from multiple locations or devices without having to worry about setting up a printer or installing drivers.

Google Chrome gained Cloud Print support back in December. Right now, a computer running Windows is required for the initial setup; however, Google says that support for Mac and Linux is coming soon.

After connecting a printer to Google Cloud Print, users who access from iOS or Android will be able to print messages or attachments directly from their device. Supported document types include *.PDF and *.DOC files.

The neat thing about Google Cloud Print is that you can send documents to a printer even if you are in another location or not directly connected to the local network. That means that if you want to print some files on your home printer but are at the office or in the car, you can still initialize the print job from your phone.

If your computer is online, the job will process through without your intervention. If the printer is unreachable, Google will add the item to your print queue and it will be printed as soon as the device comes back online.

On the Gmail blog, Google says that Google Cloud Print for mobile Gmail will be rolled out in U.S. English over the next few days.

We hope Google releases an API for Cloud Print so that third-party mobile apps and websites can add support for this cool service.

More About: AirPrint, android, cloud print, cloud printing, eprint, gmail, Google, Google Cloud Print, iOS

The Social Analyst is a column by Mashable Co-Editor Ben Parr, where he digs into social media trends and how they are affecting companies in the space.

By almost all standards, Google is in great shape. It had a fantastic fourth quarter, increasing revenue by 26% from Q4 2009. It is the undisputed leader in search, YouTube is on fire and Android is giving Apple a run for its money.

Under the surface though, things aren’t all sunshine and roses. Google Buzz and Google Wave were failures. At the same time, Facebook has emerged as a legitimate threat to Google and has been stealing Google’s best talent. It’s gotten so bad that Google gave everybody a 10% raise in a desperate bid to retain talent.

Perhaps that’s why Larry Page is replacing Eric Schmidt as CEO. There was nobody accountable at the top, and now Google risks losing big ground to Facebook and Apple. This is Larry Page’s company now.

Thanks to Schmidt, Google is efficient, but it has also lost its ability to come up with a clear vision and execute upon it. What it needs now is a visionary leader to take Google to new heights, much like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have done with their companies.

Google needs its own Steve Jobs, and it had better hope Larry Page is that man. Here’s why:

Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs

The graph below depicts the history of Microsoft’s stock price, starting from its 1986 IPO to today. In its entire history, the company has only had two CEOs: Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. I’ve placed a line on the January 2000 mark to reflect when Bill Gates handed the reigns over to Steve Ballmer.

As you can see, Microsoft’s growth has stagnated since Ballmer has taken the helm. Gates, the visionary, was able to turn his company into a powerhouse by taking risks and creating groundbreaking products. Ballmer is an effective manager, but he is not a visionary.

Let’s be fair, though: when Ballmer took over, Microsoft was in the midst of a brutal antitrust investigation and the dot-com bubble. Plus, Gates was still at the company as the chief software architect and the keeper of the “technology vision” of the company. Still, he wasn’t calling the shots; Ballmer was.

Perhaps this is the more telling chart, though:

This is a graph depicting the changes in Microsoft and Apple’s market capitalizations over the last decade. In Q1 2001, Apple was worth a mere $7.64 billion, 1/38th the size of Microsoft’s massive $291.74 billion market cap.

As of this Friday, Apple is worth $300.92 billion. Microsoft, on the other hand, has dropped all the way down to $239.73 billion in market cap. The change in fortunes is absolutely astonishing.

When You Need a Visionary CEO

While there are thousands of factors that contributed to the decline of Microsoft and the rise of Apple, nobody can discount the impact their CEOs have had in the last decade.

Why was Steve Jobs declared “CEO of the Decade” by Fortune Magazine? It’s because he triumphantly returned to the company he founded, gave it a clear vision, and transformed Apple into one of the world’s most successful companies.

You don’t have to look far for visionary CEOs who’ve had a monstrous impact on their companies, either. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Oracle’s Larry Eliason, and Groupon’s Andrew Mason are just a few examples.

And it’s not just recently that visionary leaders that have changed the fates of their companies, either: Ford Motor Company’s Henry Ford, Standard Oil’s John Rockefeller and General Electric’s Thomas Edison redefined business, technology and industry in ways few others have.

It’s true that many companies don’t need visionary leaders. Sometimes a visionary isn’t an effective manager at a time when a company needs to focus on efficiency and not new products. However, visionaries are the best choice to take the helm when a company is first starting out, when it is out to redefine an industry or when it is stagnating or in decline.

Zuckerberg turned a young company into a $50 billion empire in less than a decade. Steve Jobs steered a company on the brink of bankruptcy to new heights. Henry Ford single-handedly created the modern automotive industry.

Is Larry Page the Visionary CEO Google Needs?

Now what about Google? Here’s what I said late last year when I declared Google Buzz tech’s biggest flop of 2010:

“With Google’s biggest attempt at social now a mere afterthought, nothing stands in Facebook’s way. The social network will eventually surpass its Silicon Valley rival both in terms of net worth and dominance of the web. Google will become the next Microsoft, profitable but unable to grow, and Facebook will become the next Google whose influence will be felt for years to come.”

Now, more than ever in its history, does Google need a visionary leader in the mold of Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Eric Schmidt, while one of the best CEOs and managers of all time, isn’t a visionary. The vision has always been with the founders, especially with Larry Page, its President of Products and soon-to-be CEO.

Earlier this week, I answered a question on Quora on the potential impact of Google’s leadership shake-up. Here’s what I said:

“Larry Page is the visionary of the three. He’s been President of Product because he’s usually the one who comes up with the visionary product ideas and has ta plan to turn that idea into reality.

It was never quite clear who was in charge before, but now nobody can dispute that the buck stops with Larry Page. While he won’t be CEO officially until April (blame paperwork/bylaws/transition time/new nameplates), Page is already, in a sense, acting CEO.

How does this affect product development? It’s going to accelerate, based on Larry’s vision and Sergey’s hands-on approach. Sergey’s going to push more new projects off the ground while Larry is going to help define the overarching goals and strategies, while getting the right people in place.”

Google needs a clearer vision from the top. If it can’t find a way to limit the influence of Facebook soon, it will become the next Microsoft (or, even worse, the next Yahoo). It has an advantage most companies in its position don’t have, though: It still has its founders.

For Google’s sake, let’s hope Larry Page is the visionary CEO that the company so desperately needs.

More About: apple, Column, eric schmidt, Google, larry page, Opinion, Sergey Brin, steve jobs, The Social Analyst, tim cook

Nuance, the maker of popular speech recognition apps such as Dragon Dictation, is releasing the Dragon Mobile SDK to members of the Nuance Mobile Developer Program. The SDK will enable app makers to add speech transcription capabilities to their iOS and Android applications.

The SDK is free of charge and lets developers add speech-to-text translation capabilities in eight different languages, as well as text-to-speech functionality in more than 35 languages.

Nuance’s suite of Dragon Mobile applications is widely recognized as best-in-class when it comes speech transcription, and the SDK is already being used by companies such as The SDK should help robust speech-enabled apps become more prevalent, and we look forward to seeing what developers can dream up.

Nuance has been working on speech-based services since the early ’90s. The veteran company has made a number of acquisitions in recent years, including startups like Jott and SpinVox.

More About: dragon dictation, dragon search, nuance, SDK

The entire back catalog as well as new issues of Playboy magazine will become available on the iPad in March 2011, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner revealed via Twitter.

Furthermore, Hefner confirmed on Twitter that Playboy will be coming to iPad in its uncensored form, which makes sense, as we doubt many would be ready to pay for a watered-down version of the magazine.

However, Apple is notorious for its strict policy of not allowing adult content on the iOS platform (Playboy‘s official iPhone app, for example, has no full frontal nudity), which makes us wonder how exactly Hefner and Playboy plan to pull this off.

Steve Jobs once said very clearly that he doesn’t intend to allow porn on the iOS platform. Allowing full frontal nudity on the iPad would definitely blur the line between innocuous adult entertainment and pornography; we’ll have to wait and see how Apple feels about Playboy‘s plans.

When you’re a publication as big as Playboy, you can try to persuade Apple to place additional measures of protecting minors from accessing adult material, and it’s quite possible that we’ll see something along these lines in March. Such a move by Apple would open a Pandora’s box of questions: would Apple allow other adult apps and magazines on the iOS platform under the same rules? How far would it go in terms of nudity and adult content?

What do you think, should content such as Playboy be allowed on the iOS platform? As always, share your opinions in the comments.

[Twitter via Engadget]

More About: Adult, apple, hugh hefner, iOS, ipad, magazine, nudity, playboy, publishing

What kind of impact has Apple’s iPad had on the tablet market? In just one quarter, the iPad helped drive up sales of media tablets by 45% and took nearly 90% of the market.

A new report from IDC shows that both the media tablet market and the e-reader market made big leaps in 2010. The market for media tablets grew from 3.3 million in Q2 to 4.8 million in Q3, an increase of 45.1%. That growth was fueled almost exclusively by the iPad. In Q3, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads, representing over 87% of the media tablet market.

IDC defines media tablets as devices larger than five inches and less than 14 inches running “lightweight operating systems,” primarily iOS and Android.

E-readers experienced rapid growth as well, led by the Amazon Kindle. 1.14 million Kindles were shipped in Q3, representing 41.5% of the e-reader market. Unexpectedly though, the Pandigital Novel (440 million) beat out the Barnes and Noble Nook (420 million) for second place.

The most interesting part of the report though was the overall forecasts for 2010, 2011 and 2012. For 2010, IDC predicts that about 17 million media tablets will be shipped (they’re still counting up the numbers), but that it will grow to a whopping 44.6 million in 2011 and 70.8 million in 2012. If devices like the iPad 2 and the Motorola Xoom succeed though, then IDC might have to revise its numbers.

Will Apple be able to sustain its massive lead in the tablet market, or will Android start eating into that market share? We’re going to find out soon.

[via paidContent]

More About: amazon kindle, apple, idc, iOS, ipad, Kindle, Tablet

We now know the first rule of Apple earnings calls: you don’t ask about Steve Jobs.

Apple has rocked Wall Street twice in just two days. Yesterday, Apple announced that CEO Steve Jobs was taking another leave of absence from the company, citing unspecified health reasons. When the markets opened the next day, Apple stock tanked by more than 5%.

Earlier tonight though, Apple wowed the markets with a record-breaking quarter, earning more than $26 billion in the most recent quarter. We expect the company’s stock to bounce right back when the markets reopen tomorrow morning.

One thing was noticeably absent from the call though: Steve Jobs. The company’s visionary leader left it to COO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer to lead the call and answer the questions of Wall Street’s analysts.

While they asked about everything from Android to Apple’s long-term strategy, not a single analyst asked about Steve Jobs or his health. How could they have not asked about something that has such a profound impact on Apple’s bottom line as the uncertain condition of its high-profile leader?

Perhaps the analysts knew they wouldn’t get any sort of answer from the tight-lipped company. Perhaps they feared that Apple wouldn’t invite them to any more calls or give them any more information if they treaded into the forbidden territory of Steve Jobs.

Regardless, the result is that we know absolutely nothing new about the Apple empire without Steve Jobs at the helm. And that’s exactly how Apple likes it.

More About: apple, iOS, ipad, iphone, iphone 4, steve jobs, tim cook, wall street

Ahead of its earning call for the first quarter of fiscal 2011, Apple announced record-breaking earnings, led by strong sales of the iPhone, Mac and iPad product lines.

The iPad in particular had a phenomenal holiday season, with more than 7.3 million units sold. That’s an increase of more than 85% from the fourth quarter. Since launching the iPad in April 2010, Apple has sold almost 15 million iPads.

The success of the iPad hasn’t cannibalized Mac sales — to the contrary, Apple had its best quarter ever for the Mac, selling 4.19 million units in the December quarter.

Apple: We’re Not Sitting Still

As we saw at CES, tablet fever has taken over the consumer electronics industry, with would-be iPad competitors appearing at every turn. Everyone (and we do mean everyone) has a tablet or is working on a tablet.

The fact that Apple has established a user base of nearly 15 million in just nine months makes Apple a formidable competitor in this emerging space.

For comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab — one of the few high-profile non-Apple tablets to hit the retail market before the end of 2010 — managed to sell more than a million units in its first 60 days. By comparison, Apple is averaging a little more than 2 million iPad units per month, with that figure rising every month.

We should note that these sorts of leads are not insurmountable. After all, Android as a device category is now eclipsing iOS in terms of sales. Still, individual phone models from companies like HTC, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung aren’t matching the figures Apple continues to turn out with the iPhone.

Apple COO Tim Cook (the man currently taking over day-to-day operations for Steve Jobs) commented on the current competition during Tuesday’s earnings call. Cook made it clear that Apple doesn’t believe the Android-based tablets on the market are competition. He called these devices “scaled up smartphones” and continued to opine that he sees them as “bizarre product[s]” that don’t offer the “real tablet experience,” and he asserted Apple’s belief that it has a “huge, first-mover advantage.”

Cook acknowledged that future tablets running Google Honeycomb or from RIM may provide some competition, noting that Apple will “assess [the competition] as [it is] coming;” Cook made it clear that Apple isn’t sitting still.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer noted that 80% of the Fortune 100 is either deploying or piloting the iPad in the enterprise. That’s up from 65% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

With this level of penetration on the consumer and business side, unseating Apple in this space won’t be easy. It will be interesting to watch what Google, Microsoft, RIM and HP do in the future.

More About: android, apple, apple earnings call, iOS, ipad, sales, tablets

In recent quarters, Apple has seen sales of iPod fall flat, a signal to some that iPhone is starting to cannibalize sales of standalone mp3 players.

However, on its earnings call this afternoon, Apple noted that sales of iPod touch are continuing to grow. In fact, the company says that iPod touch now makes up more than half of total iPod sales, up 27% year-over-year.

That means that the company sold roughly 10 million of the device in the quarter (versus 16.2 million iPhones and 7.3 million iPads). Beyond helping Apple’s bottom line, that’s important because of the impact it has on the total size of the iOS ecosystem, which now totals 160 million devices.

The latest iteration of the device, which was revealed back in September, does just about everything that one can do with an iPhone 4, including run apps, use Facetime and record HD video (or what Steve Jobs joked is an “iPhone without a contract”). Given the sales numbers, that appears to be a compelling proposition to customers, even as mp3 players on the whole appear to be a declining category.

With Android smartphones (in aggregate) now outselling iPhone and Android-powered devices like the Samsung Galaxy Player set to hit the market, iPod touch is clearly a big part of keeping iOS’s numbers in the same ballpark as its main competition, which, unlike Apple, now has devices being built by dozens of manufacturers.

More About: apple, iOS, ipod, iPod Touch