Smartphone

Location-Based Avoidance: Cloak App Helps You Steer Clear of Certain People

Geofencing and other forms of tracking let individuals and companies monitor the whereabouts of others. In the latter case, businesses often utilize location-based technology to save money. But what if you want to monitor someone's location in order to avoid unwanted interactions? That's where the Cloak iPhone app comes in. Users can flag specific people (an ex, annoying co-worker, etc.) The app uses social media sites to determine the flagged individual's location and sends alerts if her or she is nearby. While the current version of Cloak is only pulling location data from Foursquare and Instagram, Facebook may be added in the near future. Find out more on Geoawesomeness.

Lyft and UberX Offer Reduced Rates

Have you used a rideshare service? Lyft and UberX are among the most prominent rideshare operators and both have announced reduced price options. The "Lyft Happy Hour" program offers 10-50% off standard prices during periods of low demand. The "Happy Hour" is triggered when the number of drivers exceeds the number of ride requests. As a result, the time of the "Happy Hour" fluctuates each day. Users can access the new program via the latest update to the Lyft app. In January, Uber announced that they were cutting prices 15-34% in 16 cities for their UberX rideshare service. The Uber blog claims that UberX is "cheaper than a taxi" and "cheaper than every other ridesharing option in every city." Regardless of which service is actually cheaper, the competition should help riders across the country save money. Learn more about rideshare programs and e-hail apps here.

Automatic App User Interface Overview

Looking to be more financially and environmentally conscious in 2014? The Automatic Link dongle and accompanying app will assist in both areas. The Link plugs into a car's OBD-II port and monitors the number of miles driven, amount of gas consumed, and much more. In addition, Automatic alerts drivers to behaviors that waste fuel such as hard breaking and sudden acceleration. Information collected by the Link is shared via the Automatic app (available for iPhone and Android). Wired.com takes a closer look at the app user experience. Related: Automatic is on the Navigation.com last-minute holiay gift idea list.

Play the Road App Turns Driving Data into Music

Volkswagen has teamed up with British electronic music group Underworld to create an app that generates music in real time based on your driving style. Titled "Play the Road," the app gathers data from an iPhone as well as the GPS navigation system of the Volkswagen GTI. Before you head to the app store, however, keep in mind that Play the Road has not been released to the public. It is also unclear if the app will be specific to VW vehicles. Check out a demo in the video below and find out more on Wired.com.

HERE Transit App Update Incorporates Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is transforming the app experience, overlaying important information onto whatever you happen to be looking at through your smartphone camera. This technology has been used to point out restaurants just down the street and available jobs in the building next door. The latest update to the HERE Transit app (for Windows Phone 8) includes LiveSight, an augmented reality feature that helps you locate bus stops, train stations and other transit options. Users simply look through their smartphone camera to view hovering transit icons for nearby stops. Tapping an icon reveals applicable departure times. Tilting the phone forward displays the icons on a street map.   Find out more about LiveSight and other update features on the Nokia Conversations blog.

Analyzing GPS Battery Drain in Smartphones

Your smartphone's GPS powers many important features and location-based apps. But GPS can also be a drain on your phone's power levels. If you've ever wondered why this occurs, Forbes has your answer.

California Court Rules Use of Map Apps While Driving Must Be Hands Free

A California appeals court has upheld a prior ruling against an individual cited for using a map application on his phone while driving. The ruling stated that this was a violation of a law prohibiting distracted driving. The appelant, Steven R. Spriggs, was holding his phone while using the map application. Under California law, a person operating a vehicle is limited to hands-free use of portable devices. Although the law's initial intent was to eliminate texting while driving, Saturday's decision makes it clear that the hands-free language applies to all smartphone functions and applications. The decision included the following: "Our review of the statute's plain language leads us to conclude that the primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone. That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails." What do you think? Visit our Facebook and Twitter feeds and let us know if you think this ruling is fair or goes too far.

Need More Space In Your Home? Your Smartphone Can Help

From storage to navigation, smartphones have appropriated many functions previously associated with common household objects. Mashable created an infographic that estimates your smartphone/tablet could free up 62 cubic feet of space in your home. Shelves? Just store your books on your tablet. TV? Streaming video is at your fingertips. Read Full Article