Phone Scoop

printed February 20, 2017
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iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

by:  Apple


Skype Douses Android and iOS Apps with Silliness

Friday, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype's mobile app for Android and iOS devices now looks a lot more like Facebook Messenger, based on the preview released by Microsoft this week. In a blog post, Microsoft explained the new features are meant to make conversations more expressive and entertaining. First, Skype adds in-call reactions. These let people add live emoticons, photos, and text to video calls. The integrated camera now supports emoticons, stickers, and annotations. People can respond to any individual message with multiple reactions, such as a thumbs up, sad face, smiley face, or shock. Last, the app adds a new search panel for finding and sharing links, news, sports, points of interest and other data. Microsoft says this negates the need to jump back and forth between apps. Android device owners can download this Skype Preview from the Google Play Store. iPhone owners will need to apply to become a Skype Insider for iOS. If selected, Skype will email a download link to the app. Microsoft hopes those who preview this version of Skype for Android and iOS will offer feedback before the company releases these features to everyone.


Facebook Video to Turn Up the Volume

Feb 14, 2017, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook is making several big changes to how it treats video on mobile devices. First, sound will fade in and fade out as users scroll past videos in their News Feed as long as the phone's volume is turned on. Videos will not automatically play sound when the phone's volume is set to off unless users tap on the video to hear it. People who never want to hear sound from News Feed videos can turn sound off entirely via the app's settings. Second, Facebook is taking advantage of mobile devices' form factor to make vertical videos look better. Moving forward, vertical videos will display a larger preview windows that fill more of the phone's screen. The larger format is available to all users on Android and iOS. Third, Facebook is making it easier to watch a video and scroll through the News Feed at the same time. People can minimize videos into a picture-in-picture format that will continue to play in one corner of the screen as they browse through their Feed. Facebook says Android device users will be able to keep picture-in-picture videos playing in the background even if they exit the Facebook app. Last, Facebook plans to bring its video to smart TVs and other big screens. The Facebook video app for TV will roll out soon to app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV. Facebook says support for more platforms will follow. The TV app will let people watch videos from their News Feed, as well as those shared by friends, pages, or live broadcasts.


Nest Cameras Gain Door Recognition, Apps Gain Better Notifications

Feb 14, 2017, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nest today updated its camera software and mobile app for Android and iOS devices with new features and tools for keeping homes safe. In conjunction with its line of indoor and outdoor security cameras and Nest Aware, the Nest mobile app has learned to recognize doorways. It can now automatically create Activity Zones around doors, and will send notifications when it registers motion in those Activity Zones. Nest Aware users (requires monthly subscription) have long been able to designate Activity Zones manually; the change here is that Nest Cams and the Nest app can now do this on their own. Beyond the door recognition tool, the Nest app gains better alerts for Android and iOS. For example, alerts will include a thumbnail image that shows users what’s going on at a glance, and can let people see animated previews of Nest Cam video clips without opening the app. Further, when the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector goes off, any Nest Cams associated with the account will show a live video feed so homeowners can assess what their entryways look like. Last, the Android version of the Nest mobile app is adding app shortcuts on the home screen. The Nest mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Nest Cams, Nest Protect, and Nest Aware are all sold separately. Nest says the Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor will receive the door recognition update over the next few weeks.


Apple Backs Qi Wireless Charging Standard

Feb 13, 2017, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has joined the Wireless Power Consortium, according to IHS Technologies and the WPC's own web site. Apple is listed as a backing member of the organization, which is behind the Qi wireless charging standard. This is the first time Apple has appeared to support either of the two competing standards. Apple is not backing the AirFuel Alliance (formerly the Power Matters Alliance) wireless charging standard, at least not according to the Alliance's web site, where Apple is not listed as a member. Apple's membership in the WPC does not necessarily mean the company plans to bring wireless charging technology to its mobile devices; rather, it means Apple can contribute its own technology to the standard, as well as take advantage of the standard's existing feature set. Many of Apple's competitors already back at least one of the two major wireless charging standards. Samsung, for example, supports both Qi and AirFuel, which makes its devices compatible with most wireless chargers. Wireless charging is one of a handful of technologies that Apple's iPhone has yet to adopt.


Google Adds Shareable Lists to Maps

Feb 13, 2017, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to keep track of and share favorite spots thanks to a new list tool in Google Maps. Maps users can take advantage of pre-set list categories, such as Want to Go or Favorites, as well as create their own. Lists are accessible via Maps' side menu under Your Places and icons for saved spots will appear on maps themselves so users can always see when they are nearby. Of course, all lists can be shared via text, email, social networks, and popular messaging apps. Google says lists are available on mobile (Android, iOS) and desktop machines, and can even be saved for offline access. Lists will be made available to most users over the days ahead.


Verizon Rolls Out Trade-In Offer to Match New Unlimited Plan

Feb 13, 2017, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced a promotional trade-in offer that will give a free flagship-class phone to those who switch from other carriers. The offer requires users to select Verizon's new $80 monthly unlimited plan. It also requires a working trade-in that is fully paid off. Customers will need to port their number in from a competing service provider. Customers can then select the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, or LG V20. Verizon will provide up to $792 toward the cost of the phone spread out over 24 months. In order to get one of the above phones for free, switchers will need to trade-in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung Note 5, LG G5, LG V20, or the HTC 10. Customers who have an older phone to trade, such as the Apple iPhone SE, Samsung Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G4, LG V10, or HTC M9, will need to pay $5 per month for the "free" phones being offered by Verizon. Verizon Wireless didn't say how long this promotion will be available.


Cortana to Help People Follow Up On Email Commitments

Feb 9, 2017, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today improved its Cortana personal assistant, which can now remind people to take care of tasks they've promised to do via email. The tool is available in Microsoft's Office 365 and Outlook.com email services. Cortana will scan emails and when users tell someone they'll complete a specific task (such as file a report) Cortana will automatically suggest a reminder to help people follow through. Microsoft says machine learning is behind the new tool and it will learn from user behavior over time. Moreover, these reminders will automatically be added to the action center so they are visible outside of the email app. Users will need to ensure they are signed into their Microsoft account and have granted Cortana the proper permissions. The tool is being made available to Windows 10 devices first, but Microsoft plans to expand it to Android and iOS in the weeks ahead.


Apple Makes New iOS and WatchOS Betas Available to Devs

Feb 6, 2017, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made available a handful of new beta builds of its core operating systems. The new releases include iOS 10.3 beta 2, watchOS 3.2 beta 2, tvOS 10.2 beta 2, and Xcode 8.3 beta 2. The most notable new feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. iOS 10.3 also makes the jump to the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. WatchOS 3.2 includes two core additions to the platform: theater mode and SiriKit. Theater mode lets Watch owners disable sound and raise-to-wake functions while retaining haptic vibrations for notifications. SiriKit, available to iOS since last year, lets developers add Siri to their own watchOS apps. These new betas are meant for developers. Apple normally makes public beta builds available a day or two after it releases the developer betas.


Microsoft Outlook for iOS Adds Support for Third-Party Apps

Feb 2, 2017, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email application for iOS devices and gave the app the ability to support add-ins. Microsoft says add-ins let Outlook users do more with their email thanks to powers enabled by third-party applications. For example, adds-ins will negate the need to leave Outlook to perform certain tasks, such as translate text, insert GIFs, or save items for safekeeping. Some of the launch partners include Evernote, Giphy, Nimble, Trello, and Smartsheet. Microsoft says add-ins are only available when reading emails for now, but it plans to add support for add-ins to the email composing/replying screens before too long. Moreover, add-ins are being made available to Office 365 subscribers first, with Outlook.com users to follow. Add-ins will be added to Outlook for Android at a later date. Microsoft Outlook for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Chrome for iOS Gains QR Scanning Tool

Feb 2, 2017, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Chrome browser for iOS devices and added a novel tool: a QR and barcode scanner. iPhone owners can scan a QR code or barcode by using 3D Touch on the app logo or by searching for "QR" in iOS's Spotlight search bar. Google says it also redesigned the tab switcher layout for the iPad to make it easier for people to access open sites. Chrome 56 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Snapseed for Android and iOS Adopts Curves

Feb 1, 2017, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has added several features to its Snapseed photo editing app for Android and iOS devices. The primary new tool is called curves, which allows people to precisely control brightness levels within their photos. Snapseed also improves face detection, adds the ability to force line breaks within text, and improves grain clarity in black and white images. Snapseed is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google Open Sources Chrome for iOS

Jan 31, 2017, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has made an open source version of its Chrome browser for iOS available to developers. Google says today's news is the result of year's worth of work. "Due to constraints of the iOS platform, all browsers must be built on top of the WebKit rendering engine," explained Google in a blog post. "For Chromium, this means supporting both WebKit as well as Blink, Chrome's rendering engine for other platforms. That created some extra complexities which we wanted to avoid placing in the Chromium code base." Google has pulled apart the code for iOS and carefully refactored it into the open-source repository. Google says developers can take the core code and use it to compile the iOS version of Chromium just as they already do for Android and other platforms. Google hopes developers will use the open source version of Chrome to improve web-based features for Apple's iPhone and iPad.


Apple Pushes WatchOS 3.2 Beta to Developers

Jan 30, 2017, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of watchOS available to developers. WatchOS 3.2 beta 1 includes two core additions to the platform: theater mode and SiriKit. With theater mode, Apple Watch owners will be able to disable sound and raise-to-wake functions while retaining haptic vibrations for notifications. SiriKit, available to iOS since last year, will allow third-party app developers to add Siri features to their own watchOS apps, expanding what Watch owners will be able to do via voice commands. Apple often makes public betas available shortly after releasing developer betas. Developers can download and install watchOS 3.2 beta 1 via Apple's developer console.


Starbucks Mobile App Users Can Order By Voice

Jan 30, 2017, 10:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Starbucks today announced two voice-driven features that will let people place orders by speaking rather than typing. Both tools rely on the Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay functionality within the mobile application, which makes it possible for people to place orders via their mobile device before they arrive at their favored Starbucks location. First, the My Starbucks Barista relies on artificial intelligence so customers can order and pay for food and beverage items by speaking the request aloud in the Starbucks mobile app. The messaging interface accepts speech or text input and can handle complex tasks such as modifying beverages to meet personal preferences. The My Starbucks Barista feature is being rolled out to a very limited number of iOS beta testers now, but isn't expected to see a wider rollout until the summer months. Starbucks said the feature will reach Android devices later in the year. Second, the new Starbucks Reorder Skill for Amazon Alexa lets people order their "usual" drink or food item from Starbucks by saying, "Alexa, order my Starbucks." People will need to program the skill, with their favorite drink and preferred store, in the Alexa app on their mobile device. It will then be available to any Alexa-powered device, such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. The Alexa Reorder Skill will be made available in the days ahead.


iCloud Drops iPhone Activation Lock Search Tool

Jan 30, 2017, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has removed a tool within iCloud that allowed people to easily check the Activation Lock status of iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Activation Lock was introduced as a part of iOS 7's Find My iPhone feature in 2014. Any iPhone owner who activates Find My iPhone automatically locks the device to their Apple ID. The idea behind Activation Lock is to make it so stolen iPhones can't be activated on new accounts without first disassociating them from the original owner's account. iPhones with Activation Lock still in place are unusable with new Apple IDs, and thus not worth stealing in the first place. Until recently, iCloud provided an easy tool that allowed potential iPhone purchasers to check the Activation Lock status of a device by entering the IMEI or serial number. The tool is no longer available within iCloud, and the former web site returns a 404 error. Moreover, Apple has removed the language associated with the Activation Lock search tool from its support documents. Instead, Apple suggests potential buyers and sellers work together to ensure iPhones, iPads, and iPods are properly unlocked and erased before any sale or transfer takes place. This approach may work between legitimate transactions, but doesn't help people who've purchased stolen devices.


Apple Releases iOS 10.3 Beta 1 to Public Testers

Jan 26, 2017, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following its release to developers earlier this week, Apple today made iOS 10.3 beta 1 available to people signed up for the public beta testing program. The most notable new feature of iOS 10.3 beta 1 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. iOS 10.3 also makes the jump to the Apple File System (APFS). APFS is better able to make use of Flash-based storage and includes stronger encryption. Other changes in iOS 10.3 include a refreshed Apple ID profile, tweaked animations, and more detail concerning iCloud storage use. Last, improvements to SiriKit will let third-party app developers add functionality such as voice-based bill payments and ride scheduling to their own apps. iOS 10.3 beta 1 is free to download from Apple's beta web site.

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Twitter Debuts 'Explore' Tab In Mobile Apps

Jan 26, 2017, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today took a step toward simplifying the process of browsing through and searching for content in its Android and iOS mobile apps. Moving forward, Twitter is combining the Trends, Moments, and Search functions into a single tab called Explore. Twitter says it has been testing this layout for a while now and early adopters suggest it is easier to use for discovering interesting and current content. The tab combines live video, a search bar, as well as the Trends and Moments tabs into one space for exploration. The new Explore tab will reach Twitter for iOS starting today and follow on Android in a few weeks.


Final Android Wear 2.0 Preview Adds iOS Support

Jan 24, 2017, 1:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the final preview of Android Wear 2.0 available to developers. Google is expected to release the new wearable platform to the public — alongside new smartwatches — at some point in early February. The company hopes developers will use this final preview to tidy up their apps ahead of the platform's debut. Apps compiled using this preview build will be considered ready for Android Wear 2.0 at launch. The primary addition to this build of Android Wear 2.0 is support for iOS, meaning iPhone owners will be able to use Android Wear smartwatches with their iPhone. "Android Wear apps running on watches paired with iOS devices will be able to perform phone hand-off flows such as OAuth and RemoteIntent for launching a web page on a paired iOS device," explained Google in a blog post. Other last-minute tweaks include new navigation drawer behaviors and several bug fixes. Google has not said exactly when the delayed wearable operating system will be announced.


iOS 10.3 Beta 1 Adds 'Find My AirPods' Tool

Jan 24, 2017, 1:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a slew of new beta builds for its various operating systems. iOS 10.3 beta 1 for the iPhone and iPad adds one significant new feature called Find My AirPods. With it, people can locate their AirPod headphones by forcing the ear buds to emit a loud, high-pitched sound. Apple didn't call out any other new features within iOS 10.3 other than a few minor tools for developers. Apple also released first beta builds of macOS Sierra 10.12.4, tvOS 10.2, and Xcode 8.3. These builds are for developers and not public testers. Apple typically makes public betas available a day or two after releasing the developer builds.


Apple Releases iOS 10.2.1 to Fix Bugs

Jan 23, 2017, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made available the public build of iOS 10.2.1 to the iPhone and iPad. According to Apple, iOS 10.2.1 fixes bugs and improves the security of its smartphones and tablets. Apple recommends all users install the update. Apple also released watchOS 3.1.3, tvOS 10.1.1, and macOS Sierra 10.12.3. These releases all resolve small problems and improve performance.


Google Voice Gains New Lease On Life with Massive Overhaul

Jan 23, 2017, 12:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced a wholly new version of Google Voice for Android, iOS, and the web. The calling, voicemail, and messaging platform has been overhauled from the ground up with a new design, new features, and a fresh commitment from Google to keep the service updated. Google Voice now includes separate tabs to help people manage text messages, calls, and voicemails. Conversations with individual contacts are threaded to improve ease-of-use. Google Voice adds support for group messaging and photo MMS, features long absent from the previous version of Google Voice. These go a long way toward allowing the service to act as a primary messaging application. Google says it is working with mobile network operators to add support for RCS to the service down the road. People who prefer to use Google Hangouts for their messaging services will need to choose either Hangouts or Voice, as only one can be used at a time; moreover, Voice will not migrate conversation threads from Hangouts into Voice. Existing features, such as voicemail transcription, remain intact, and Voice gains new spam filtering tools to keep pesky messages out of your inbox. Google says it is rolling out the new Google Voice in stages. Android devices will receive it first, with iOS to follow. Google expects all users to have access to the new Google Voice within a few weeks.


Apple Sues Qualcomm Over Royalties, Qualcomm Bites Back

Jan 21, 2017, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2017, 11:40 AM

Apple has filed a lawsuit against partner Qualcomm, alleging the mobile chipmaker used its monopoly power to push for "onerous, unreasonable and costly" licensing terms. Moreover, Apple says Qualcomm prevented it from seeking chips from other suppliers between 2011 and 2016. Apple uses Qualcomm's baseband chips in the iPhone and iPad. Apple is seeking $1 billion in rebate payments that it says Qualcomm has withheld since Apple met with Korea's fair trade regulatory body last year. Apple's lawsuit arrives just days after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued Qualcomm over what it called aggressive and unfair business practices. The government, in particular, said Qualcomm had taken advantage of Apple and others with its licensing terms. Qualcomm denied the allegations. "While we are still in the process of reviewing the complaint in detail, it is quite clear that Apple's claims are baseless. Apple has intentionally mischaracterized our agreements and negotiations, as well as the enormity and value of the technology we have invented, contributed and shared with all mobile device makers through our licensing program," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel, Qualcomm. In addition to the FTC complaint, Qualcomm was recently sued by the Korean government over similar claims.


Google to Shutter Old Versions of Drive for Android and iOS

Jan 19, 2017, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today warned that it intends to shut down old versions of Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android and iOS devices. On April 3, Google will shutter Drive version 2.4.311 and Docs, Sheets, and Slides versions 1.6.292 for Android devices. Similarly, it will can Drive version 4.16 and Docs, Sheets, and Slides versions 1.2016.12204 for iOS devices. Google says people still using these legacy versions of its core productivity apps will be prompted to update them beginning March 1 and all functionality will cease a month later. Google said the change won't impact the web/desktop variants of these apps. The search giant encourages users to update to the latest versions of these apps as soon as possible.


Apple's GarageBand Scores Alchemy Synthesizer

Jan 18, 2017, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced a major update to GarageBand, its music creating and recording app for iOS devices. Chiefly, GarageBand now includes the Alchemy synthesizer, which adds more than 150 new patches from Apple that span myriad styles like pop, rock, EDM, and hip hop. Apple says Alchemy's on-screen tools let musicians merge up to eight patches at a time to create their own, unique sounds. GarageBand includes a new sound browser, too, which should make it easier to find Apple's Touch Instruments. A multi-take recording tool makes it possible for people to record several takes and then compare them to see which is best. Last, the audio recorder has been redesigned with one-tap vocal effects, such as pitch correction, distortion, and delay. Singers can take advantage of visual equalizers to fine-tune their sound, as well as use third-party plugins for even more vocal sound options. GarageBand is free for most modern iPhone and iPad owners.


Google Adds a Handful of Features to Google+

Jan 17, 2017, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Google+ community space with several new tools. First, Google+ now lets users hide "low-quality" comments. When turned on, a filter will weed out comments that don't benefit or adhere to the post or conversation at hand. Second, Google+ makes improvements to the photo experience. Google says less white space built around the app means images will fill more of the screen on smartphones. Moreover, a zooming tool lets people explore photos close up. Last, Google+ brings back the Events tool, which lets users schedule and attend online events. Google says the revised Google+ will reach Android and iOS devices in the days ahead.


Snapchat to Ease Navigation with Universal Search

Jan 13, 2017, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is prepared to make its mobile app much easier to use with the addition of a universal search tool. The tool, reports TechCrunch, will always be accessible at the top of the screen and will let people quickly find friends, groups, publishers, and stories. The search bar uses a new visual style and offers suggestions for Quick Chats that allow users to find friends' message threads and/or stories in a blink. Other new tools include the ability to quickly jump to your own profile as well as add to the general Our Story slideshow that's accessible/viewable to all users. Snapchat is testing the new search tool with a limited number of Android users, but expects to roll it out to all Android and iOS users soon.


App Store Antitrust Case Against Apple Allowed to Proceed

Jan 12, 2017, 6:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

An on-going lawsuit accusing Apple of holding a monopoly on the market for iPhone apps has been given new life today thanks to an appeals court ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Apple's sole distribution method of mobile apps for the iPhone may be anticompetitive. The original lawsuit was filed in 2012. It charged that Apple's policy of allowing only apps distributed via the app store onto iPhones violates federal law. Apple's legal argument centered on the idea that the App Store serves only as a platform for end users to buy apps from developers, the iPhone maker sees the App Store as shelf space that is rented out by app writers. However, app developers pay a 30% portion of revenues for the ability to sell via the App Store. Moreover, people pay Apple directly for apps via iTunes; they do not pay developers. Initial rulings in the case sided with Apple, but today's decision reversed lower courts, as iPhone owners cannot buy or install apps via any method other than the App Store, lest they jailbreak (or hack) their device. Apple maintains that this policy protects end user security, but a collection of iPhone owners contend it leads to less competition and higher pricing for mobile apps. It's not clear what the next steps in the case are, nor where they may lead.


Beta Testers Can Check Out iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4

Jan 12, 2017, 5:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4 to public testers. Apple has not said much about this minor update to iOS, but it is believed to resolve bugs and performance issues throughout the mobile operating system. Apple released a developer beta build of iOS 10.2.1 earlier this week.


Google Lets Maps Users Book, Pay for Uber without Leaving Maps

Jan 12, 2017, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to hail rides from more car services within Google Maps. The new ride services mode now shows a map with a carousel of car providers that are nearby. Users can select their preferred service (Uber, Lyft) and see what options and promotions are available. Moreover, Maps will let people book, complete, and pay for an Uber ride without ever leaving the Google Maps app thanks to new integration with Uber's API. Uber users can sign into their account or create a new one within Google Maps and then book rides, track drivers, and connect via message — even if Uber is not installed on the device in question. The app also allows people to examine menus, hours, and other details about destinations while en route. Google says the new ride tools will be available over the next few days via Google Maps for Android and iOS.

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Apples Seeds More iOS, watchOS Betas

Jan 9, 2017, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 9, 2017, 1:47 PM

Apple today made a slew of betas available for its core operating systems. iOS 10.2.1 beta 3 is the most important for developers as Apple prepares the next minor update to its platform. watchOS 3.1.3 beta 2 is also available, as is tvOS 10.1.1 beta 2, and macOS Sierra 10.12.3 beta 3. Apple didn't spell out any specific changes in this round of betas, which are believed to focus on bugs fixes and performance improvements. Public testers can expect to see updated betas for their devices in a day or so.


Samsung's Gear Smartwatches Now Work with iOS

Jan 7, 2017, 3:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has followed through on a promise it made last year and made the Gear S2, S3 and Gear Fit2 compatible with iOS. iPhone owners can download the Gear S app to use with their Samsung-branded wearable. Samsung says the exact Gear S features available to iOS phones will vary a bit by device, but all users can expect to use the GPS, speedometer, and other sensor for tracking workouts and monitor fitness. Fitness tools include distance and route traveled, pace, calories, and heart rate. The Samsung Gear S application is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Garmin inReach Brings Satellite Messaging to Your Phone

Jan 5, 2017, 12:10 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 7, 2017, 2:53 PM

Garmin this week announced its inReach series of satellite communicators. These standalone handheld devices can also be paired with any Android, iOS or Windows 10 smartphone to provide satellite-based text messaging and GPS mapping on your phone even where there is no cellular coverage. The devices use Iridium's global satellite network for messaging, letting the devices send and receive text messages with any cell phone number, email address or another inReach device. Users can set up the devices to provide regular location updates to a mapping portal, so friends and family can follow the progress of an expedition. An SOS function can let first responders and family know when you're in trouble and exactly where to find you. The base model inReach SE+ will sell for $400, while the inReach Explorer+ adds TOPO maps, compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer for an extra $50. Both models will be available later this quarter.

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Second Round of Betas for Apple's iOS, macOS Appear

Dec 21, 2016, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has released new beta versions of iOS and macOS. These betas are specifically for developers, rather than public beta testers. App writers can download and test beta 2 of iOS 10.2.1 and beta 2 of macOS Sierra 10.12.3. Apple has not said anything about this particular batch of betas, which likely resolve bugs and performance issues. Apple typically makes the public betas for these platforms available a day or two after the developer beta.


Facebook Talks Up Live Audio

Dec 20, 2016, 5:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today launched Live Audio, a way for people to share a live audio feed with followers. Facebook imagines the tool will be used by content creators to share interviews, read books, or broadcast podcasts. Facebook says people will be able to discover live audio within their News Feed, and can interact with live audio via questions and reactions. Android devices will fully support multitasking, meaning users will be able to listen to live audio when using other apps or even when their device is locked. iOS users will need to be content with listening while exploring other parts of the Facebook app. Facebook intends to test Live Audio with several partners (BBC Brasil, LBC, Harper Collins, and others) over the next few weeks with a broader rollout planned for early next year.


Instagram Gives Storytellers Stickers and Other Tools

Dec 20, 2016, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today introduced more ways for people to dress up their Instagram stories. First, stickers are now available for stories. People can easily customize their stories with weather data, time stamps, and location info. Viewers will be able to tap the stickers to learn more about locations tagged in stories. Stickers can be applied anywhere on stories, and can be resized as well. The photo-focused social network is offering up holiday-themed stickers packs for the next few weeks so users can share their holiday spirit. The app also gains a hands-free recording mode to make capturing video easier and the new freedom to add an unlimited amount of text to stories. Last, the iOS app allows Instagram users to save their stories to the camera roll as a single video. Instagram for iOS and for Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.


AT&T Debuts Free Spam Call Blocking

Dec 20, 2016, 9:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced AT&T Call Protect, a free service that automatically blocks and warns about fraudulent calls. AT&T says Call Protect is available to customers who have HD Voice service, and it only works in areas where HD Voice coverage is available. The automatic fraud blocking reduces the chances that people will be plagued by scams by preventing the calls from reaching subscribers' phones. Call Protect also warns people when an incoming call is a suspected scam or comes from a known spammer. Users will be able to whitelist safe numbers if they wish. AT&T customers can gain more features, such as temporary call blocking, via the companion mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The service is available at no extra cost.


Facebook Messenger Gains Group Video Chats

Dec 19, 2016, 12:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today launched group video chats within Messenger. The tool will allow up to six participants to view one another in a live video call. People can easily initiate calls within existing groups or by creating new groups. Tapping a video button is all that's required to kick off a video group chat. Facebook says people can ring the entire group at once, or just select numbers before inviting others. The feature is rolling out to Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS devices, as well as the web, globally. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Video calls are free over WiFi, but will use data if conducted over cellular networks.


Google's Motion Stills App Gains Moving Text and Smoother Loops

Dec 16, 2016, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google updated its Motion Stills app for iOS with several new features. First, users can now apply text to their GIFs. The Motion Text feature lets people position text anywhere they want in the GIF. It can then follow or move with a subject for the duration of the GIF. Google says it is using motion tracking technology and machine learning to make this function properly. Motion Stills also gains a new looping tool. Motion Stills is able to freeze the background of an image and analyze the movement to create the perfect loop transition. The result is GIFs that loop with fewer obvious cuts. Motion Stills takes advantage of Live Photos as captured by the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, and 7 Plus and turns them into shareable GIFs. Motion Stills is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Home Gains Access to Netflix and Google Photos

Dec 14, 2016, 2:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who own the Google Home can now tell the in-home assistant to watch Netflix shows and movies on their TV. Using the latest version of the Google Home application on smartphones, Netflix subscribers can link their account and set their TV as a casting target for Google Home. Uttering phrases such as “Ok Google, play Stranger Things from Netflix on my TV” will do exactly that. Google is also allowing people to link their Google Photos account to Google Home. This will let people say things like “Ok Google, show my photos of Lake Tahoe on my TV” to view their images on-screen. Google says people will be able to search via voice for sunsets, locations, selfies, and more. Children can ask Google Home to track Santa, while parents can listen to their favorite Spotify and Pandora playlists. Google Home is available from Google's web store. The update Google Home app for Android and iOS is rolling out this week.


Apple Churns Out More Betas

Dec 14, 2016, 2:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released new beta versions of several of its operating systems. These betas are specifically for developers, rather than public beta testers. App writers can download and test beta 1 of iOS 10.2.1, beta 1 of tvOS 10.1.1, and beta 1 of macOS Sierra 10.12.3. Apple has not said anything about this particular batch of betas, which likely resolve bugs and performance issues. Apple typically makes the public betas for these platforms available a day or two after the developer beta.


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