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Google Keep Sorts Notes By Topic

Yesterday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Keep gained a useful tool in a recent update — the app can now categorize notes by topic. Keep will assign categories to topics such as web sites, recipes, or favorite places, and those topics will be searchable via keyword. The updated version of Google Keep is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Google Makes New Google Cast SDK Available

Monday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers access to the Google Cast SDK version 3.0 for Android and iOS. Google first discussed changes to its casting platform at the I/O developer conference in May. Google Cast allows people to push content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to other devices, such as television sets or media players. The revised Google Cast SDK is easier to use, more reliable, and quicker, says Google. Developers can make use of the SDK to add casting features to their own apps. The SDK is free for developers to access and use. Google believes the simplified SDK will convince more app writers to make content cast-able.

Facebook Wants People to Share More Videos

Monday, 3:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook is prepared to ease the process of creating compelling video posts with your pictures. The company today said it plans to relocate the Slideshow feature built into its Moments app and drop it into the main Facebook app for iOS. Once the feature is moved, it will automatically assemble photos and videos into small, easy-to-digest slideshow videos. In order to function, Slideshows will look for collections of at least five photos and/or videos posted within a 24-hour period. The tool adds themes, transitions, and music on its own, but users can customize them if they so wish. The feature is similar to Memories in Apple Photos and Movie Assistant in Google Photos. Facebook for iOS with Slideshows is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Twitter Wants You to Dress Up Images with Stickers

Monday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it is bringing stickers to its Android and iOS mobile apps. Twitter users can browse through Twitter's library of hundreds of accessory, emoji, and prop stickers to "make your photos more fun." Twitter says people can use multiple stickers on a single photo, as well as resize and rotate the stickers to better fit the image. Once images are adorned with stickers, the sticker's name will be added to the image as a searchable hashtag, allowing everyone to search for stickers to see how they've been used on various photos. Twitter is rolling out stickers to mobile devices and the web gradually over the next few weeks. Stickers have become popular in messaging and social networking apps, including Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Walmart Pay Now Available In 16 States

Jun 24, 2016, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart this week expanded the reach of its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, to a total of 16 states. Walmart Pay was already available in Alabama. This week, the service went live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Walmart Pay works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart said it expects to complete its rollout by the end of summer. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own.

Verizon Adds Casting Support to iOS go90 App

Jun 21, 2016, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless updated its go90 mobile video app this week, making it possible to push content from the iPhone to TVs via Apple TV and Chromecast. Verizon says the app has a new design with simplified navigation, and now more visibly curates video content based on category, such as action, comedy, drama, or reality. go90 for iOS is more social than ever, allowing iPhone owners to share clips or full episodes via email, text, Facebook, and Twitter. Users willing to register the app will be able to save favorite shows and actors, as well as leave comments on episodes and clips. Verizon Wireless' go90 app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon hasn't said if a similar update is on deck for the Android version of go90. The service is free to most smartphone users, regardless of carrier.

Google Simplifies 2-Step Verification

Jun 21, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made it easier for people to setup and use two-step verification to protect their accounts. Google already allowed users to tap a Security Key or enter a verification code sent to their phone. Now, users can also approve a new security prompt that pops up on the screen. According to Google, users can select any of these three methods for two-step verification via their Google account settings online. Android users will need the latest version of Google Play Services on their device, and iOS users will need the Google Search app. As the name implies, two-step verification adds a second layer of security to account logins.

Walmart Kicks Off Walmart Pay Trial In Alabama

Jun 16, 2016, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today launched its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, at 120 of its retail stores in Alabama. The service, announced late last year, works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart initially expected to deploy the technology around the country by mid-year, but Alabama is the first statewide deployment so far. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. CurrentC, another mobile payment app developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange, was recently cancelled. Apple and Google have both outlined plans to expand their mobile payment services to the web in the months ahead.

Opera Ad Blocker Now Available to Android, iOS, Windows

Jun 16, 2016, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera updated several of its mobile browsers today, bringing its ad blocking tool to Android, iOS, and Windows handsets. First, Opera refreshed its main Opera browser for Android. In addition to the ad blocker, Opera for Android also gains support for web push notifications and multi-window support. Further, the browser's core was upgraded to Chromium 50. Opera for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Opera also updated Opera Mini for iOS and Opera Mini for Windows phones (8.1 and 10). Both platforms gain access to Opera's ad blocker. For all devices, the ad blocker is not on by default; users will need to activate it in the settings. Opera Mini for iOS and Windows is available from the iTunes App Store and Windows Store, respectively.

iOS 10 Won't Work on Older iPhones

Jun 14, 2016, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has indicated which iPhones and iPads will be able to run the newest version of iOS, and as always older devices are left out. iOS 10 is compatible with all versions of the iPhone from the 2012 iPhone 5 through the 2016 iPhone SE. The iPhone 4S and older models will not be able to run iOS 10. Similarly, iOS 10 will run on all models of the iPad from the 2013 iPad 2 Mini through the 2016 iPad Pro 9.7. The original iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, and original iPad Mini will not be able to run iOS 10. Only the sixth-generation iPod is compatible with iOS 10. iOS 10 will be available to the public in beta form starting in July, with the full release expected in September.

Apple Steps Up Privacy Protections In iOS 10

Jun 14, 2016, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple said it took steps to improve privacy in iOS 10, which adds a number of tools to help protect end users. With iOS 10, iMessage, FaceTime, and HomeKit will use end-to-end encryption, which makes data unreadable by anyone other than the sender/recipient. Apple said one of iOS 10's best new features, the revamped version of Photos, uses on-device intelligence to identify people, places, and things, but does not use that data to build profiles of users. Moreover, iOS 10 adopts what Apple calls Differential Privacy. This method allows Apple to analyze the usage patterns of large groups of iPhone and iPad users without providing Apple or its partners with any individually-identifying factors. Apple says Differential Privacy will help with the QuickType keyboard, Spotlight link suggestions, and Lookup Hints in Notes. Apple claims Differential Privacy will allow it to collect useful and shareable data that can't be tied to any one person.

Apple Unbundles Huge Number of Apps from the iPhone, Allows Users to Delete Them

Jun 13, 2016, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 3:35 PM

Apple today pulled a number of its own, core apps out of iOS and dumped them into the iTunes App Store. Apps such as FaceTime and Mail — made by Apple — have only received updates once per year when Apple updates the entire iOS. Now, these and other apps populate the iTunes App Store and will presumably see more frequent updates apart from OS-level updates. The apps added to iTunes include Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Contacts, FaceTime, iCloud Drive, Mail, Maps, Music, Notes, Podcasts, Reminders, Stocks, Tips, Videos, Voice Memos, Watch, and Weather. Apple did the same with a handful of iPad apps. The company didn't say if or when these apps might begin to receive updates. Perhaps more importantly, iOS 10 allows iPhone users to delete unwanted stock apps for the first time. For example, the Stocks, Notes, Watch, and Weather apps can all be removed at will. This should help people free up space on their iPhone, as well as make it easier to manage app arrangements on the home screens. Apple notes that removing built-in apps may impact other system functions. For example, removing the Weather app means Weather won't be available via CarPlay or in the widget tool.

Swift Playgrounds App Meant to Teach Kids to Code

Jun 13, 2016, 1:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced Swift Playgrounds, an app targeted to help kids learn how to code using Swift. Swift is the newer iOS programming language Apple introduced last year. The Swift Playground app is available to the iPad. It pairs instructions with actions and helps kids see how code generates viewable actions. Lessons are presented in series, but can be consumed at will. It includes code libraries to easily insert code to set repeat actions, for example. Swift Playground also works with the iOS SDK and can handle more advanced coding. Swift Playgrounds will be part of the iOS 10 developer beta. It will be available through the public iOS 10 beta in July, and to all via the App Store in September.

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Apple Overhauls iMessage to Compete with Snapchat and Messenger

Jun 13, 2016, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 1:43 PM

Apple today showed off a new version of iMessage bound for iOS 10 that should help the app compete with the likes of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. The new iMessage app makes it far easier to find and use emoji, which now appear bigger on the screen. A tool can automatically find every word that can be "emojified" and a simple tap will convert those words to the corresponding emoji. iMessage gains new emotion bubbles that convey the intensity of messages with small, medium, large, and huge text/animations. Users can create new stylized photos, and recipients can now react to those photos with "likes" and such. Apple Music previews shared through iMessage are playable without leaving iMessage. Most importantly, iMessage is now open to third-party developers. Apple believes developers can do really interesting things by adding their own extensions and functions to iMessage. For example, iMessage can support stickers that can be moved around and placed on photos before they are shared. Apple also showed off an app that makes it possible to collaborate on a lunch order through iMessage. The new iMessage is available on the iPhone and iPad, while the Mac and Apple Watch can receive (though not create) the richer messages.

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Apple Home App Ties Together Home-Based Tech

Jun 13, 2016, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today showed off Apple Home, a new app based on HomeKit to help control connected devices around the home. Apple Home will work with any HomeKit-compatible gear so people can adjust lights, open garage doors, and adjust the thermostat, and even interact with video doorbell apps. Apple Home will be part of iOS 10, which should be available in the fall.

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Apple to Make Siri Available to Third-Party Apps

Jun 13, 2016, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said third-party developers can now access Siri and add Siri to their own applications. This means iPhone and iPad owners will be able to ask Siri to perform a much wider range of actions. For example, WeChat has added Siri and users will be able to say, "Hey Siri, send a WeChat messages to Mom." Some of the apps prepared to add Siri include Snapchat, Shutterfly, Internet, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Runtastic, AliPay, SquareCash, Vonage, Skype, and many others. Apple didn't provide specifics about the APIs involved, but Siri can handle followup questions and understand a conversation thread better than before. All of Siri's new features will be available to iOS and MacOS devices, as well as through CarPlay, later this year.

Apple Reveals iOS 10 Features

Jun 13, 2016, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 1:30 PM

Apple today showed off iOS 10, what it calls the biggest release of iOS ever for both end users and developers. To start, the platform changes up the lock screen, making it easier to access the camera, notifications, Control Center, and widgets. A shake-to-wake feature lets people turn on their phone by shaking it as they raise it up. Widgets have gained the power to show dynamic content, including live video. Many of the improvements center on the 3D Touch functionality, which will only be available to newer iPhones. Siri in iOS 10 will be much more advanced because Apple is opening Siri up to developers. Siri can now handle more conversational language requests and interact with apps such as Skype, WeChat, ShutterFly, and others. iOS 10 brings Siri's smarts to the QuickType Keyboard, too. For example, Siri can automatically schedule a lunch date based on comments in iMessage regarding restaurants, dates, and times. The QuickType Keyboard supports current location, contact information, calendar availability, and more. iOS 10 makes changes to Photos, including better organization based on location data. Moreover, Photos adds advanced visual calculations so the app can automatically find and organize photos based on faces, objects, and scene recognition. Apple also uses new AI to cluster photos related based on people, scene, and location to automatically create albums. Apple says a new user interface makes the collections easy and engaging to use. Photos gains new editing tools, too, allowing people to add filters and to photo and video galleries. Apple Maps sees a design refresh, with simpler search tools. Navigation has been simplified so it is quicker to understand and access route details, such as gas stations or restaurants. Apple is opening up Maps to third-party developers, so others can add extensions to Maps to book reservations or hail Uber rides. iOS 10 features a new version of Apple Music. Apple News has been refreshed to include a new design, subscriptions, and breaking news alerts. iOS 10 adds an app called Apple Home, which integrates with HomeKit-comaptible gear around the house to control connected gear. The revised platform from Apple also now plays better with VoIP apps, permitting incoming calls from any app to reach the lock screen. Last, the iMessage app gains rich links, so users will see previews of links directly in iMessage. The app works better with the camera, as well. Emoji will appear three times bigger in conversations, and the keyboard can predict which emoji best fits the convo. People can easily control the size of text bubbles to convey volume. Apple is previewing iOS 10 to developers starting this week. A public beta will be available soon, with the final release expected in the fall.

MacOS Sierra Works Better with iOS and Adds Siri

Jun 13, 2016, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says the next version of its desktop operating system, renamed MacOS, will work better with iPhones and iPads. Apple has made improvements to its Continuity feature so its is easier to pass stuff between iPhones and Macs. For example, Apple says a universal clipboard will allow you to paste text copied from an iPhone onto a text field on a Mac computer. Changes to iCloud give people more free storage (150GB), which Apple believes will allow people to sync more personal files and content between Mac and iOS devices. MacOS will also take advantage of Apple Pay, which will soon be available across the web. It will allow iPhone owners to verify purchases via TouchID on their smartphone or on their Apple Watch. Apple says a large number of online retailers are prepared to add Apple Pay support to their sites. Other new features headed to MacOS Sierra include tabbed apps, picture-in-picture support for online videos, and Siri. Siri is accessible directly from the MacOS dock, and includes search history with savable results that can be shared with others. Siri is able to handle many of the same tasks as on the iPhone, such as performing searches, sending messages, and setting reminds. MacOS Sierra is available to developers starting today, a public beta will launch in July, with general availability scheduled for the fall.

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Facebook Users Can Now Comment On Posts with Videos

Jun 10, 2016, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has made it possible for people to comment on posts, photos, or videos with videos of their own. Facebook says the idea was to "enable more engaging and immersive conversations." Comments now support videos, links, photos, stickers, and emoji. Videos can be used as replies to posts made by people, groups, company pages, and events. The video comment feature is available to web, Android, and iOS users worldwide.

Facebook Turns On Support for 360-Degree Photos

Jun 9, 2016, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for people to upload and view 360-degree imagery. The tool includes support for panorama-style photos, as well as full 360-degree photos or photo spheres. Facebook says it will call out 360-degree images with a little compass icon, and users will be able to interact with them both on mobile devices as well as the web. People can view 360-degree photos through Samsung's Gear VR headset, as well. Facebook says a number of organizations, such as NASA, have prepared 360-degree photos that will be available on Facebook soon. Facebook plans to update its Android and iOS mobile apps in the next couple of days, which will include the ability to upload 360-degree photos. Facebook already supports 360-degree video.

Apple Making Changes to App Store

Jun 8, 2016, 2:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today informed developers that some changes are headed to the iTunes App Store. Developers will be able to offer auto-renewable subscriptions that don't require subscribers to constantly re-up. Developers are being given more control over subscription pricing, and will be rewarded when customers enter the second year of a subscription with a grate share of the revenue. Moreover, developers will be able to pay for search ads that appear when consumers search for apps in the App Store. Apple said these changes will arrive at some point in the fall months, likely close to the arrival of iOS 10.

Snapchat Shakes Up 'Stories' and 'Discover' Sections

Jun 7, 2016, 4:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today began rolling out a new version of its mobile application for Android and iOS devices. The latest build of the social-minded app gives an entirely new look to the Stories and Discover sections, allowing users to see what's new before tapping thanks to newly-added photos and headlines. The general idea is to give content created by publishers more visibility within the app. As such, when people complete viewing publisher content in the Discover section, a quick swipe allows them to subscribe for updates that will appear below friends' Stories. Last, tapping the navigation buttons at the bottom of the app allows users to jump between screens more easily. Snapchat is free to download from iTunes and the Google Play Store.

Google's 'Motion Stills' Makes GIFs from iOS Live Photos

Jun 7, 2016, 2:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released an app for iPhones called Motion Stills. Google created the app in order to take advantage of Apple's Live Photos, as captured by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Live Photos can be shared with other Apple devices and through Facebook, but not other social networks. With Motion Stills, Google uses its own video stabilization technology to freeze the background portions of Live Photos while allowing the subject/foreground to move independently. The end result is a looping GIF that can be shared easily via most social media apps. The app also allows iPhone owners to merge looping GIFs into a larger moving picture. Motion Stills is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Sharing Photos to Instagram from the iPhone Just Got Easier

Jun 7, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 7, 2016, 7:16 AM

Instagram has updated its iOS application with an important new feature that will improve the picture-sharing experience. Instagram version 8.2 enables share extensions, which make it possible to share photos to Instagram from within other apps. Before the extensions were enabled, iOS users had to share directly through the Instagram app. When posting photos to Instagram from other apps users can add a caption, but Instagram's filters and editing functions are not available. Instagram also recently changed how it manages users' feeds. Rather than display photos in chronological order, photos are arranged via algorithms based on what Instagram believes people are most interested in seeing. Instagram is free to download from iTunes.

T-Mobile Uncarrier 11 Is All About Giving Thanks

Jun 6, 2016, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 6, 2016, 12:33 PM

T-Mobile today unveiled its Uncarrier 11 promotions, which give "thanks" to customers. For example, T-Mobile talked up T-Mobile Tuesdays. T-Mobile customers will be able to win free gifts every week, such as free pizza from Dominos, free frosties from Wendy's, or free movie tickets from Fandango. In order to score the promos, customers need to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app for Android and iOS. Customers can participate in games to win additional prizes, such as private viewing parties for movies. T-Mobile calls T-Mobile Tuesdays a "major investment" in its customers. T-Mobile Tuesdays kick off June 7. The program does not require fees, or applications, or other hoops through which customers need jump; it only requires the app and customer's phone number. Moreover, T-Mobile is giving one full share of T-Mobile stock to postpaid account owners for free. T-Mobile CEO John Legere said he wants customers to be "invested" in the company. New customers will be able to gain stock, too. Every time customers recommend T-Mobile to a friend who the signs up for T-Mobile, that customer will get another share of T-Mobile stock. T-Mobile will allow people to receive up to 100 shares (for free) each year. Customers will be required to sign up for a brokerage account in order to gain access to the free awards. Customers who "gloat" about their T-Mobile perks online via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are eligible for even more free rewards. Last, Uncarrier 11 allows T-Mobile customers to get a free hour of GoGo WiFi on qualifying domestic flights, as well as unlimited in-flight messaging via iMessage, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Viber. The free hour of GoGo WiFi (on smartphones only) will kick off June 13.

Skype Debuts Mojis and Emoticons of Professional Women

Jun 2, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today added more women to Skype's supported set of mojis and emoticons. The new moji specifically depict women in a greater variety of professional roles, such as scientist, athlete, teacher, and director. Microsoft hopes the expanded moji selection will help people convey more meaningful messages to one another. People who have the latest version of Skype installed on their Android, iOS, or Windows smartphone will see the updated emoticon picker tab beginning later today.

Facebook Adds More Than 1,500 Emoji to Messenger

Jun 1, 2016, 2:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it has taken steps to ensure all users of its Messenger application enjoy a rich experience. Moving forward, emoji will appear exactly the same across platforms, including the web, Android, iOS, and Windows. Moreover, the company has added a diverse mix of emoji to the app, including more variety in skin and hair colors, gender neutral options, more women in professional roles, and so on. Facebook says once users select a skin color all emoji will default to that skin color moving forward, though users will be able to change it at any time. The new emoji will be available in the expanded emoji keyboard. Facebook said updated versions of Messenger will roll out to users worldwide over the days ahead.

Google Simplifies Searching For Lost Phones

Jun 1, 2016, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made improvements to its My Accounts tool that should help people better manage their Google settings as well as their smartphone. Users can now access their account by saying, "Ok Google, show me my Google account" into the Google Search app. This request will open the user's account. This feature is available starting today, but only in English. More languages are coming soon. Google added a new feature that lets people find their phone if it is lost or stolen. Using the My Account web site, people can locate the phone, or lock it, call it, leave a callback number, or even wipe it. The tool works for Android and iOS devices. Google says soon people will be able to find their phones by simply searching the Google app for "I lost my phone." Android device owners can already find their phone by searching for it online or via the Android Device Manager app. Last, Google plans to add a function that allows people to search for their own name and then, if logged in, see a shortcut to My Account. Google says these tools are meant to help people protect their personal information and secure their account/devices.

PayPal to Kill Off Its Windows Phone and BlackBerry Apps

May 25, 2016, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Google Maps to Host Ads In the Form of 'Promoted Pins'

May 24, 2016, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to place advertisements in Google Maps on mobile devices. The change is meant to help Google's business customers promote their own businesses to people who search through Google Maps. Google says advertisers can take advantage of location extensions to showcase their locations on maps as promoted pins. Google is experimenting with a variety of ad formats, and will relaunch local business pages so they are more appealing and include special offers and the ability to browse product inventory at any given store. The introduction of advertising will come to both the Android and iOS versions of Maps, but Google didn't say exactly when. The new advertising push is part of Google's attempt top shore up its core business.

Pebble Reveals Two New Watches and 3G Connected Button

May 24, 2016, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today announced the Pebble 2 and Time 2 smartwatches, as well as the Core connected button. The two wearables target fitness users and include heart rate monitors for tracking workouts and monitoring sleep. Pebble recently updated its health tools, and the Pebble 2 and Time 2 are able to take advantage of the upgraded software. Both devices serve notifications, show the owner's schedule, control music, run some 13,000 apps, and perform simple tasks. Each has an e-paper display and is water resistant down to 30 meters. The Pebble 2 can run for seven days and costs $99, while the Time 2 can run for 10 days and costs $169. They work with Android an iOS smartphones. The Core is a 3G-enabled fob that Pebble says acts as a smartphone when on the go. The device has two buttons that can be programmed to do anything, such as start/stop streaming Spotify playlists. The Core has Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios, and can act as a relay to the internet for Pebble smartwatches. It can be paired with Bluetooth headsets and accept voice commands, serve as a hotspot, and sync with select fitness apps. The Core costs $99. All three devices are available for pre-order via Kickstarter. The Pebble 2 ships in September, the Time 2 ships in November, and the Core ships in early 2017.

Android Auto to Benefit from Android N Features

May 18, 2016, 2:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google offered a few details on what the future holds for Android Auto. The platform will be expanded thanks to Android N. To start, Android Auto will soon be available to Android devices — sans car. The phone-based app will be updated with the same user interface and functionality found on the in-dash experience, allowing people who drive older cars to enjoy the benefits of Android Auto even if their car doesn't support it. Some of the tools included are voice-enabled calling, media payback, messaging, and navigation. Android N brings support for AM/FM radios, HVAC controls, Bluetooth calling/media streaming, multi-channel audio, and digital instrument clusters. Google says more carmakers are selecting Android Auto as the base for their in-car systems. Moreover, Android Auto will soon gain connectivity independent of a phone thanks to Qualcomm's modular Snapdragon 820 Automotive Platform. The Android Auto platform will soon add Waze, hotwording, and support for apps and services directly from carmakers, including Honda and Hyundai.

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YouTube for iOS Gains Google Cardboard Support

May 16, 2016, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered a small update to the YouTube app for iOS devices. Specifically, the refreshed app adds support for Google Cardboard content. This means iPhone owners can use a Google Cardboard headset to view virtual reality content on YouTube. The update also resolves a bug resolving watch counts. YouTube for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Apple Releases iOS 9.3.2

May 16, 2016, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 9.3.2 available to iPhones, iPads, and iPods. The update mainly addresses bugs. For example, it resolves an issue that impacted Bluetooth audio quality on the iPhone SE. It also fixes a problem that prevented people from searching through the dictionary. The update adds one new function, allowing people to use Night Shift and Low Power Mode at the same time. iOS 9.3.2 is free to download and install over the air.

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Google Debuts 'Spaces' App for Group Conversations

May 16, 2016, 10:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced a new app called Spaces, which is meant to facilitate group conversations around specific subjects. Google imagines the app could be helpful to book clubs, or to people planning trips, and so on. Chrome, YouTube, and Search are built into Spaces, so finding and adding content to conversation threads is a cinch. Google says threads are easy to follow, and because they are searchable it is easy to go back and find previous discussions, comments, or content. Spaces can be created with a single tap, and invitations can be sent via email, social network, or messaging. Google Spaces is available to all Gmail accounts today online, and for Android and iOS devices. The service is free to use.

Comments and Smart Suggestions Come to Google Photos

May 11, 2016, 3:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is making Google Photos more social for both Android and iOS devices. The latest version of the app adds commenting and smart suggestions to shared albums. People who join shared albums can comment on the photos therein, as well as comment the larger album as a whole. Comment threads can be created directly from the mobile app. Moreover, Photos now suggests which photos in users' libraries will fit with the images inside shared albums. Users will still have full control over what images are actually shared with others, but Photos will make selecting the right photos easier. These new features are rolling out now to Android, iOS, and the web. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Sunrise Calendar to Fold Into Outlook

May 11, 2016, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft plans to discontinue the Sunrise calendar application it offers to the Android and iOS platforms. Microsoft acquired the team behind Sunrise last year. Sunrise will be removed from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store within a few days and will cease working entirely on August 31. The Sunrise team is now working to bring Sunrise's best features to the Outlook email/calendar app for Android and iOS.

Google Translate Gains 'Tap to Translate'

May 11, 2016, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Google Translate app for Android and iOS mobile devices with a handful of new features. A tool called Tap to Translate in the Android app makes it simpler to translate text on the go. Google says users can copy text in any app and view the translation in a pop-up box that appears without forcing users to switch apps. Google Translate for iOS now works offline thanks to the addition of offline mode. iOS Translate users will need to download language packs in order to see translations when offline. Google said it reduced the size of language packs by 90% to about 25MB each. Last, both the Android and iOS versions of Google Translate can now instantly translate Chinese via the Word Lens function. Word Lens makes use of the camera, which people aim at text (menus, signs) they want to see translated. Chinese is the 29th language added to Word Lens. Google Translate for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.

Instagram Redesigns Mobile Apps

May 11, 2016, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today revealed a new look for its Android and iOS mobile apps. The updated appearance includes new app icons for the main Instagram app, as well as Instagram's ancillary apps, Layout, Boomerang, and Hyperlapse. Inside the app, Instagram toned down the chrome and adopted a black and white design. Instagram has been testing the new design for several weeks. "The simpler design puts more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app," explained Instagram in a blog post. The updated series of apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Pebble Expands Its Wearables' Features with Fresh Firmware

May 10, 2016, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today improved its smartwatch platform with more health and fitness features. The expanded toolset is being made available through a firmware update for the Pebble Time-series watches as well as the accompanying Pebble app for Android and iOS smartphones. Pebble firmware version 3.12 lets Time watch owners see interactive charts of their step and sleep activity in a new Health section on the watch itself. Pebble Health can automatically detect runs or long walks, and develop notifications and timeline pins once the activity is completed. The new firmware adds a Smart Alarm, which Pebble says wakes people up when it detects light sleep patterns within 30 minutes of the alarm's scheduled time. These same features and tools have been added to the Android and iOS Pebble apps. The iPhone Pebble app also installs the ability for Pebble owners to send text replies to incoming messages or missed calls (this feature is already available to Android-based Pebble owners). The Pebble mobile app version 3.12 is available for free from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

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