Saturday, March 15, 2014

Google Maps Android update brings back proper location saving

I understand. I really do. You wanted to simply the user interface, and that means removing features. You were able to keep the core functionality and deliver a beautiful, simple app. The features that weren't implemented in the redesign were probably only used by 1% of the install base, which of course means they were used by 99% of our readers.

What made absolutely no sense, though, was the removal of the ability to "star" (save) any place, regardless of whether or not there is a street address associated with that location.

Think about it for a second. What is a map?

In it's simplest, a map is a two dimensional coordinate system that is mathematically transformed to project the round earth on something flat, which requires indexing, not by something inane like street address, but by the actual geographic coordinate system, like latitude and longitude or UTM. Street address are like a virtual, guest OS layered on top on the host system, and only being able to save locations with street addresses is like having to start a virtual install of Windows 3.1 to change the screensaver settings on your shiny new macbook air.

Needless to say, this annoyed me. But no more!

Yay! I can now star random places again!

Just in case anyone from the Google Maps team happens to be reading this 😉, allow me to add just a few more of my suggestions on how to improve both the desktop and mobile versions.

  1. For desktop, add a quick way to switch between lite mode and full 3D because the later does not display satellite imagery, at all zoom levels, on the same modified mercator projection upon which the street and terrain data are projected. The full 3D "Earth" view as seen from space with the fluffy little clouds is cute and all but totally useless because it removes the ability to see large areas of the Earth's surface at the same time. And once you do zoom out far enough, this annoying cloud layer appears obscuring what you wanted to see in the first place.

  2. For mobile, separate language and locale already. Search results are different depending on your system language. Fortunately there is this workaround.

  3. Display user maps in the actual maps app.

  4. Add a "home" button. when you are several layers deep in menus, the only way to get back to the actual map (that I can find) is to mash the back button or icon.


  1. Hi, I've been fighting with b-mobile for an entire month trying to purchase a SIM (the Free Data) one with no result. The main problem is obviously the credit card payment, which is completely absurd to me (why the fuck wouldn't they accept any other forms of payment). I've tried two different cards now and both have failed. One was rejected and the other simply gave me an error. They are obviously foreign credit cards but they should work everywhere in the world... except apparently this stupid country. Did everyone else's cards work without problem?

    My only option now I think would be getting a japanese credit card, but I'm pretty sure applying for one would be 10 times more difficult than the goddamn SIM card.

  2. I want to travel in Japan!! I like Japanese culture and anime.

  3. You can get a prepaid Visa (pay in cash at a convenience store) from here....

    I use it to pay for bmobile service, but I originally signed up with a foreign credit card, so I'm not sure what's going on in your situation.

  4. Happily, when I arrived I found that my Korean Galaxy Note 1 (SHV-E160K) had started to roam on NTT Docomo and 3G was available. I'd like to have voice and data available, but I only really care about chat and push notifications.

    I'm super confused with all the options here. I even saw the OCN offerings elsewhere and got more confused. If I need to have phone service and basic data available, what should I go for? I'll be here for at least 1 year.

  5. So, oddly enough, I've been getting 10 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up for most of this weekend. A nice improvement that I can only hope will last.

  6. So, it turns out that the b-mobile Smartphone Voice/Data plan also has restriction on how much data you can consume in a three-day period. If you exceed 360 MB, b-mobile will cap your speed at 200kb, even if you have the 3 GB "high-speed" option.

    I find that to be absolutely ridiculous.

  7. Dude, they all do it. Even Docomo and Softbank.

    Skip down to data restrictions to get an idea of how the other MVNOs restrict data.

  8. Yes, they all do it — but not after so little usage. NTT allows up to 1 gigabyte over a three-day period before throttling, for instance. That's much more reasonable.

  9. If by "NTT" you mean NTT Docomo, then yes, but only for the Xi Network. If you are a user of the "unlimited" FOMA (3G) network, then guess what your restriction is... Exactly the same (3 million packets over 3 days). NTT Docomo invented this particular restriction, and it's what most of the MVNOs still use.

    However, if by "NTT" you mean NTT Communications, aka "OCN", then your going to be even more disappointed. Throttling starts after only 1.5 million packets! Half of what b-mobile allows.

    IN CONCLUSION: after your initial contract period is finished, cancel your bmobile service and get a carrier plan. Low price MVNO service is not for you.

  10. oh, and to further add perspective, bmobile institutes throttling when consume in three days an amount of data exceeding 12% of your total monthly quota. NTT Docomo starts throttling Xi users when use 14% (1GB of 7GB over 3 days). There is not a significant difference in when throttling is applied and it is scaled to the total quota.

    Makes sense, no?

  11. Yeah, I should have done my homework. I'm now considering going the complete opposite, and simply spending the big yen to get a no-contract monthly Xi plan on DoCoMo.

  12. No contract minimum is about 6500 yen per month for 3 GB of data from docomo.

  13. Yeah, that's the one I talked to them about. Still debating it, as b-mobile has been actually quite good the past couple of days. Now that I know I need to keep my data usage to 120 megabytes or less each day, I might be able to live with this...

  14. For those who are tracking this, here is what seems to be a replicable process to activate Docomo Xi LTE on a sim-free iPhone 5S. 1) confirm calls and sms are working with your docomo xi sim, 2) make sure you have mopera added to your service contract, 3) reset network connections and delete any profiles installed, 4) download and install APN Config from the Apple Appstore and install a new APN profile for ""), and 5) go to your bookmarks in Safari and connect to the Docomo Customer Service Page (ドコモお客様サポート) which should appear on the bottom. LTE 'should' enable itself at this point.

  15. help! i have the bmobile smartphone free data basic sim and signed up for the turbocharge 500 GB, but when i try to activate it i get a message saying i need to connect via 3G or LTE. i'm using a galaxy nexus which is surely 3G. what do i do now?

  16. Turn off wifi and try again.

  17. oh dear. now i seem to be having trouble getting a data signal at all. the bars are grayed out and the lockscreen says "no service-ntt docomo." when it was gray yesterday a friend tried calling and the phone rang, but i don't know if it said no service like this. anyway when i open the turbo charge app it says "data retrieval failed. Please check your signal quality, then from your menu page tap on refresh to retry."

    when i go to my bmobile on the web, i see the 500 MB that i bought listed on the turbo charge page, but when i try to switch it on it tells me this:

    Turbo Chargeの切り替えに失敗しました。
    切り替えを行うには、ご利用の端末がLTE/3Gに接続されている必要があります。which google translates as:

    I failed to switch the Turbo Charge.
    To switch, you must use your device is connected to the LTE/3G.

  18. PS: when i switched off wi-fi it didn't change. and i just tried to call the phone using google talk and it didn't ring. :(

  19. wait! i just realized i hadn't set up the special APN stuff. DUH! sorry to bother you with a rookie move. seems to be working now. :)

  20. Do these SIM cards work with Samsung S3 gt-i9300?

  21. I am using SONY Xperia Z, after upgraded to Android 4.3, I can't use bmobile U300 SIM again. It can't register onto the network. I have make sure the APN was setup correct and the SIM can use by another phone. Any suggestion?

  22. Chandararith LieuJune 7, 2014 at 2:26 AM

    i've been using this 3GB plan for some time now and i realized that there is indeed a little problem between 12am and 1pm everyday. the latency and speeds are awfully slow;
    By searching a bit on internet, i found on a japanese board that a lot of users of this sim have the same problem between 12AM and 1PM.
    dunno if it's bmobile or docomo that is doing something but it's really horrible.
    if you don't take into account that, the speed of the LTE for that price is not so bad.

  23. Chandararith LieuJune 7, 2014 at 2:30 AM

    are you using the LTE PLAN or 3G?
    because with the LTE plan i don't have any problem with the speed except between 12AM and 1PM

  24. Hi guys,
    could you help me to find the best SIM card for my Iphone 5 (calls & data) and also for my IPAd (data only)?
    I'm NOT resident, and I'll be travelling in japan for 2 months, and I need to check daily my email.
    tks for your support

  25. Hi I was wondering if anyone could help me out.. I'm going to be in Japan for a year studying and was thinking of getting the 6 month 1gb data sim (a 4G sim) to avoid the hassle of the major networks when it comes to voice sims.
    I would be using an unlocked iPhone 4S which means my phone wouldn't be LTE capable, and I don't want to buy an unlocked LTE iPhone 5/5s from Japan because it won't work on the UK frequencies back home anyway.

    Will I have to purchase a 3G based sim plan instead? When I look at the device compatibility on bmobile's website it links to the lists of both the 4G and 3G capable sims next to 'sim free iphone 4S'. Does this mean I could use an LTE sim but get my data over FOMA?

    If anyone could clear things up for me I'd really appreciate it. Japanese phone networks are a lot more complicated than I was anticipating.

  26. hi emilyw
    i think there should be no problem. i ve tryed to switch my phone to 3G/2G mode only and it works normally on 3G/H

  27. yes. it works
    i used to have a samsung S3 and it worked perfectly

  28. Hello . I woudl like to ask for some advice; I will spend the full year 2015 in Japan and I'd like to bring my LG G2 (D802 model) along with me. I'm trying to solve the operator situation. For what I've read the best option would me an MVNO.

    Could anyone recommend me an operator/plan? My priority is DATA, full LTE speed if possible.

    There are my phones frq specs :D
    Thanks a lot!

    2G NetworkGSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G NetworkHSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    4G NetworkLTE 800 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600

  29. Hi everyone!

    I recently subscribed to the SmartPhone Free Data (1,560 yen) last month where they had a promo of 1GB free if you sign-up for a year. Now my concern is, I don't seem to get a 3G speed. Even though I am still within the 1GB allowance, I seem to get only the 200KBPS speed. Anyone of you have the same problem or know how I can switch on to faster speed? Do I need to add-on additional GB? thank you! :)

  30. I know it can be frustrating, but Stupid Country? Lets relax a bit.

    My Playstation visa card from USA worked just fine. And I get Playstation points.

  31. Just to let people know:
    My 2 year docomo contract ended and it would of been more money to continue with them another 2 year contract (8000yen a month), so I switched to Bmobile.
    I have the SC05D Galaxy Note 1. Everything worked great except tethering. So I rooted my phone to CM11 and now I have tethering, and a more stable experience.
    Not sure if this mattered or not. But I seemed to only get LTE after I went into Available Networks under wifi settings and selected NTT Docomo LTE. My sim from Bmobile is a Docomo sim and I get great speeds now.
    About 4200 yen for 7gb/month (plus 1gb free with year contract) and I think it was 3500 yen start up fee. Voice calls are 20 yen for 30 seconds, but I never make calls so I am not sure how fast that can add up or not.

  32. What kind of download and upload speeds are you getting with the b-mobile 7gb/month plan? If you could post results from or something similar, that would be great.

  33. I am considering switching from DoCoMo to B-Mobile when my contract expires next April. I would love to see the kind of speeds you're getting now. Here is the speed I am getting right now on DoCoMo (Saturday November 30th 17:46 JST; Yokohama).

  34. I am considering switching from DoCoMo to B-Mobile when my contract expires next April. I would love to see the kind of speeds you're getting now. Here is the speed I am getting right now on DoCoMo (Sunday, November 30th 17:46 JST; Yokohama).

  35. Hi everyone,

    I'm currently on Bmobile (for those of you wondering about speeds, I just checked from Tokyo and got 25 up, 3.3 down). However, I am on data only and want one with voice. I was about to switch to a Bmobile plan with voice, but then my friend showed me Iijmio's plans, some of which Bic Camera seem to sell under their own brand. They actually sound too good to be true. Take a look:

    For example, for 2,220yen plus tax you can get 4GB of LTE data a month (with 200kb/s throttle if you run out or deactivate the 'coupon'). And this is with voice - there is a cheaper, data only version available.

    Am I missing something here? It seems significantly cheaper than Bmobile despite also piggybacking on Docomo's network. Any comments are appreciated.

  36. hello I would like a sim card but I softbank al foreigners how can I do

  37. I need to find a sim+phone option for my family (mostly using wi-fi). I am looking at iijimo Sim. They offer a 7gb contract that can be used by 3 simcards. Cost would be about 3500y + cost of additional Simcard (about 1000y). Does anyone have experience with iijomo ?

  38. I have been using unlocked phones in Japan for 6 years now and don't understand why so few people do it. Maybe they think they are getting a free phone!... I started using b-mobile when Softbank asked me to pay 150000 yen for data in one month. I ended up paying 10% of that. I made the switch to b-mobile with the talking SIM, that cost about 3800 yen per month. I had to upgrade to 4G after updating the software on my phone. Now I have 4G and 3GB of data for 3500 yen a month. I'm considering downgrading to 1.5 GB for about 1800 yen since I barely use 500MB on a monthly basis. The speed isn't great but I can watch videos and upload pictures, that's all I need. When I made the switch I had a long talk with one of the representatives and he explained that even though it is 4G it isn't much faster than 3G but it's fast enough for my needs. If you're thinking of tethering it probably isn't for you and you can't expect to tether for only 3500 yen a month anyway.

  39. No. IIJ is better. But then, WirelessGate (maker of the Yodobashi Original SIM) is the best of them all.

  40. I'm a bit confused as a total newb to all this. How do I actually buy "Smartphone Highspeed LTE △ ¥3,120 3000 MB / 30 days 〇 〇 ¥20/30s 0 Online ¥3,150regular, micro, nano"? I haven't seen a single B-mobile ad anywhere in Kyoto or Osaka. My University is offering a deal with AU for students ¥0 handset, ¥1803 per month and an extra ¥2612 per month for a wifi router. Obviously anything that lets me use my phone of choice without needing 2 more gizmos is way ahead. But where? How? Japanese friends have no idea about it either. They think I'm making it up.

  41. I'm a bit confused as a total newb to all this. How do I actually buy "Smartphone Highspeed LTE △ ¥3,120 3000 MB / 30 days 〇 〇 ¥20/30s 0 Online ¥3,150regular, micro, nano"? I haven't seen a single B-mobile ad anywhere in Kyoto or Osaka. My University is offering a deal with AU for students ¥0 handset, ¥1803 per month and an extra ¥2612 per month for a wifi router. Obviously anything that lets me use my phone of choice without needing 2 more gizmos is way ahead. But where? How?

  42. not sure how new this is, but it appears you can now get a SIM with unlimited high speed data and voice calls for 2780円 per month. the SIM itself costs 3000円 and the minimum 'contract' is 5 months. if you cancel before that it costs 8000円. but this is still marginally cheaper than the smartphone denwa SIM.

    details here: