iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Spotify today revealed a new way for people to manage their music. The company developed an app specifically for watchOS and the Apple Watch. Once installed, people will be able to play, pause, or skip to the next track; instantly set tempo-matching songs for runs; connect to home speakers; as well as access and manage playlists. The wrist-born controls also make it possible to favorite tracks and rewind podcasts on the go without reaching for your iPhone. The controls are built into the Spotify watch face. Spotify says its new app for the Apple Watch will be rolling out to users in phases over the coming weeks. Apple Watch owners will also need to update Spotify on their iPhone. The app is free. Spotify charges for some subscriptions.
iPhone owners will soon be able to unlock and start their Volkswagen using Siri commands. Volkswagen of America today said it is bringing Siri support to its VW Car-Net mobile app. In order to access voice commands, iPhone owners will need to have iOS 12 installed on their phone and a compatible car. Once properly setup, owners will be able issue Siri commands to lock and unlock their car, check estimated mileage (fuel or charge), and turn on flash or honk and flash commands. The feature supports Siri shortcuts, allowing people to set up personalized phrases for tasks such as turning on the defroster or climate controls, or locating their car with a "where is my car" command. The VW Car-Net app already allows people to control certain aspects of their car via smartphone. Volkswagen didn't immediately say which models are compatible with the new Siri integration.
Cloudflare has extended its fast and private 18.104.22.168 DNS to mobile devices in a simple-to-use app. The 22.214.171.124 DNS is based on Cloudflare's global network, which the company claims is 28% faster than other public resolvers. This translates to faster web browsing. More importantly, the 126.96.36.199 DNS prevents internet service providers from snooping on DNS queries and the web sites people visit for private browsing. Cloudflare says it will never sell user data, or take advantage of user data to target ads. There are no in-app purchases and the 188.8.131.52 DNS is free to use for life. The app is available via the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Apple today provided an update to Clips, its app for creating and sharing videos on the iPhone and iPad. First, the new version of Clips adds a half dozen Selfie Scenes, which are Apple's 360-degree background environments that let people put themselves into a 3D scene. The new Scenes rely on the TrueDepth camera on the newer iPhones and iPad Pros so people can record themselves against animated backdrops, such as from "Incredibles 2." Clips gains three new filters, too, including black and white comic book, monochrome watercolor, and aged film. There are new posters for creating title cards with fun scenes. Fresh stickers and text labels let people dress up their Clips, and 17 new soundtracks mean users can add background music to their Selfie Scenes. Clips 2.0.5 is free to download from the iTunes App Store. It is compatible with devices from the iPhone 5s and up, and the iPad Air, and up. Selfie Scenes requires a device with a TrueDepth camera.
Apple recently added the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus to its roster of refurbished phones. The iPhone 8 starts at $499 and the iPhone 8 Plus starts at $599 (a savings of $100 each compared to new). Apple's refurbished phones are given a new battery, a new outer shell, and are certified by the company. They ship with a standard warranty, are eligible for AppleCare, and include all the in-box accessories that come with brand new iPhones. Apple's refurbished iPhones are only available online. Supply is subject to change.
Shazam has made your music discoveries more shareable. Thanks to new integration with Instagram, Shazam users on iOS devices can share songs directly to their Instagram stories. The latest version of Shazam includes the option to push music to Instagram, where it will show the song title, artist, and album cover art within your story timeline. People who see the song appear in their stories will be able to tap a "More On Shazam" button to view the songs details on Shazam. The latest version of Shazam is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
People who purchased an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X may see their phone's performance slow down thanks to new software. Apple distributed iOS 12.1 earlier this week and with it new tools for managing battery life and performance. People who own these phones can use the system settings to choose top optimize speed or battery life. In December 2017, Apple admitted to slowing down older iPhones in order to prevent them from shutting down. The issue pertained to how lithium ion batteries lose capacity over time. Apple placed a priority on keeping the phone up and running over raw speed. Apple later introduced software allowing customers to choose between the two. This same software is now on the 2017 batch of iPhones from Apple. "Starting with iOS 12.1, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X include this feature, but performance management may be less noticeable due to their more advanced hardware and software design," said Apple on its support page. Apple had initially implied that its 2017 iPhones wouldn't need this software.
Apple today released the first public beta of iOS 12.1.1. iPhone and iPad owners who have registered for the public beta should be able to download the beta right away. This release is mostly expected to fix bugs, but it does include some feature adjustments. For example, Apple News users can now hide the side bar if they wish. The platform tweaks FaceTime controls a bit, as well. The bar at the bottom now offers buttons for switching cameras and muting calls, with other actions a short swipe away. Apple provided this beta to developers earlier in the week. It's likely iOS 12.1.1 will remain in beta testing for a month before a final version is released.
Twitter recently tweaked its iOS application and added a few new tools for composing tweets. iPhone users can now share up to four photos, one video, and a link or text in a single tweet. The button for composing tweets is more prominent and ideal for one-handed use. Press and hold the compose button for direct access to drafts, photos, and the GIF gallery. Twitter says the app also features improved readability in the menus and settings. Twitter for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Apple this week distributed iOS 12.1 and with it turned on the dual-SIM capability of the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr. Each of these newer iPhones includes a slot for physical SIM cards as well as an embedded eSIM. The eSIM can be used to change carriers at will. Despite the feature's availability from Apple, U.S. carriers aren't supporting it just yet. A check of Apple's web site shows that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless will add the capability "later this year." AT&T says it is still working with Apple to add the feature, T-Mobile says it is still finalizing the software, and Verizon has confirmed that the eSIM causes coverage issues. Sprint has publicly said it will support the dual-SIM and eSIM functionality of the newer iPhones, but the company has not said when that might be. This all means U.S. consumers hoping to take advantage of the new iPhones' dual-SIM capabilities will have to wait a bit longer.
Apple has pulled the watchOS 5.1 update after reports of bricked devices surfaced. The system upgrade for Apple's smartwatch was initially released alongside iOS 12.1 on Tuesday. Shortly thereafter, users began to report that their watches were stuck on the loading screen. Apple later pulled the update. "Due to a small number of Apple Watch customers experiencing an issue while installing watchOS 5.1 today, we've pulled back the software update as a precaution," said Apple in a statement. "Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update." Apple didn't indicate how many devices were impacted, nor how long it will be before the revised update is available. WatchOS 5.1 adds new emoji, Group FaceTime audio, and new watch faces.
Apple today pushed out a significant update to the Shortcuts app, which lets iOS device owners make more connections between Siri and actions. For example, new shortcuts let people ask for the current weather or the weather forecast, easily set alarms and timers, convert between a variety of units and measurements, as well as view the most recent batch of imported photos. Apple says running shortcuts from HomePod via Siri will now automatically play back from the HomePod using AirPlay, rather than nearby iOS devices. Shortcuts 2.1 also includes bug fixes. The app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today added the ability to create personalized Mini emoji that resemble device owners. After people take a selfie, Gboard will use "a combination of machine learning and artistry" to generate illustrated stickers for individual users. The machine learning automatically suggests skin tone, hair styles, and accessories that can be fine-tuned after the fact. Google says Minis support different types of head coverings, facial hair, eyewear, freckles, wrinkles, and more. The tool creates three versions of each Mini, including "bold" and "sweet" for when users want a different take on their little character. Google says the new version of Gboard with Minis for Android and iOS is rolling out to all users starting today.
Google today just made Gmail much more useful on iOS devices. The latest version of Google's mobile email app now allows users to view more than a single account at a time. Before, users needed to manually switch from one account to another. Now, users can opt to blend their inboxes into a single view, or universal inbox. Google says the multiple accounts can be a combination of work and personal, G Suite or non-G Suite, and even IMAP email. The new "All Inboxes" view shows all emails in a single list. Google assures that the emails themselves are not shared between accounts. The new version of Gmail for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Verizon Wireless will not support Apple's dual-SIM technology at first due to a software bug that degrades service. The new Apple iPhones (Xs, Xs Max, Xr) support dual-SIM functionality thanks to one physical SIM and one eSIM. The way dual-SIM phones typically work is to designate a primary SIM for voice, text, and data, with a secondary SIM handling voice and messaging through a second subscription. Many dual-SIM phones allow you to switch which SIM is designated as the primary/secondary at will. With the new iPhones, a third option exists that uses the primary SIM for iMessage and FaceTime, and the secondary for data. According to PCMag, when a Verizon physical SIM is designated as the secondary account, it drops to 2G CDMA data, which is slow, not widely available, and doesn't support MMS. Verizon confirmed the issue to PCMag and said it is working on a fix. "Wireless customers will be able to activate Verizon service eSIMs as soon as we're confident you'll be able to have the great, high-quality service you expect from us on both your primary and secondary line. If you are a Verizon customer and you activate another carrier's service on your iPhone's eSIM, your Verizon service will be degraded due to the current software configuration. We believe these concerns will be resolved quickly and you should be able to add our great Verizon service on your secondary line before the end of the year." Verizon said that until the secondary SIM supports all its LTE-based services, it won't activate service on any eSIM for now. Apple is activating the dual-SIM feature on its new iPhones today via iOS 12.1.
Waze recently partnered with more music services so people can access and listen to their favorite content while navigating between points. Waze partnered with Spotify last year, but announced an expanded media player within the Waze mobile app that works with seven new content providers. The additional services include Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, NPR One, Scribd, Stitcher, and TuneIn for a wide selection of music, news, and podcasts. Waze says support for these new services is rolling out over time. Beta testers can take them for a test drive right away, but Waze won't finish integrating all eight services into both the Android and iOS Waze apps until the end of the year. Waze says users will need to update their favorite content app and sync it with Waze just once in order to get them working together. The feature supports multiple music apps, allowing people to switch from music to podcasts whenever they wish. Google, which owns Waze, recently added a similar feature to Google Maps.
Apple today said it will release iOS 12.1 to the iPhone and iPad on Tuesday, October 30. The updated platform contains a number of new features. For example, all devices will be able to conduct Group FaceTime calls with between 2 and 32 participants. Group FaceTime chats are able to intelligently and automatically prioritize the active speaker in group sessions. Group chats are also integrated with iMessage, feature a silent ringer, and are encrypted end-to-end for privacy. The system software also introduces 70 new emoji that are more representative of peoples' individual appearances. The iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr gain real-time depth control when shooting portrait photos. Last, these same phones gain access to the built-in dual SIM functionality, allowing owners to add service from a second carrier if they wish. iOS 12.1 will be free to download and install starting midday.
Art enthusiasts have 200,000 new reasons to be excited about the Google Arts & Culture app, which recently expanded its partnership with New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met has been methodically digitizing its collection of more than 1.5 million artifacts that span some 5,000 years of history. The Met has agreed to incorporate its Open Access program into the Google Arts & Culture platform, bringing with it 200,000 digitized works of art. The art is being shared through a Creative Commons Zero license, which allows people to not only view the art via the Arts & Culture app, but also download, remix, and share those works. The collaboration means people can take advantage of search features from Arts & Culture, such as the ability to browse by time period or color, to explore the Met's collection. Further, the Met has launched The Met Collection API, a tool that will allow Google Arts & Culture to continually add the Met's collection to its own platform, including the most up-to-date versions of catalogued images and information. Art enthusiasts can begin to explore these 200,000 works of art from the Met's collection online, or via the Android or iOS Arts & Culture mobile app.
WhatsApp today announced that support for stickers and sticker packs is coming to its mobile apps for Android and iOS. The messaging service is initially offering stickers designed by its own staff and select artists, though it also hopes third party content creators will adopt WhatsApp stickers. WhatsApp has released a set of APIs and other interfaces that allow developers to create WhatsApp-compatible sticker apps and packs for Android and iOS. Sticker apps for WhatsApp will be published in the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. Once installed, WhatsApp users should be able to send stickers via the new sticker button that appears when composing messages. WhatsApp says stickers should reach most Android and iOS users over the next few weeks. WhatsApp is owned and operated by Facebook.
AT&T has partnered with Lookout to create the AT&T Mobile Security app, which it is bringing to iOS devices for the first time beginning today. The app had previously only been available to Android phones. AT&T Mobile Security is available in free and paid versions. AT&T Mobile Security Basic only reminds people to update their devices to the latest operating system and to set a passcode to protect the phone. AT&T Mobile Security Plus adds several more features and requires a $3.99 per month subscription. For example, AT&T Mobile Security Plus includes a tool called Secure WiFi VPN, which automatically scans public WiFi networks before subscribers connect to determine whether or not the network is secure. If it isn't, the VPN kicks on automatically, encrypting the connection between device and the access point to protect user data. AT&T Mobile Security Plus also includes Breach Reports. Breach Reports will alert subscribers when companies, apps, or services they follow suffer a security breach that could leave their personal information exposed. The Breach Report offers subscribers advice on how best to protect themselves based on the type of breach. Customers who was more peace of mind can bundle AT&T Mobile Security with AT&T Call Protect, which offers spam warnings, manual call blocking, and automatic fraud blocking. AT&T Mobile Security Basic and AT&T Mobile Security Plus are available from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Motorola Solutions today announced the Talkabout T800 walkie talkies and accompanying mobile application. The concept is to let outdoor adventurers keep in touch — and, more importantly, share precise location data — when cellular networks are not available. In order to use the T800s effectively, owners need to install the Talkabout mobile app on their iPhone or Android device and then connect their phone to the T800 via Bluetooth. The Talkabout app then uses the T800 as a modem for sending messages and location info over the radio. Users can send current locations, designate meeting spots, and alert others when leaving specific areas. The message function handles single and group messaging, and messages can be sent silently for safety purposes. The location features do require some planning, as users will need to download the maps ahead of time through the Talkabout app. Maps can be saved in various formats and shared with others easily. Moreover, the app can be used to control hardware features of the T800, such as selecting channels, setting tones, adjusting weather alerts, and so on. Motorola Solutions claims the walkies have plenty of power. A push-to-talk power boost option can be turned on to extend the radios' range by increasing transmitter output while also conserving battery life. Motorola says this creates reliable two-way radio comms with a range of 35 miles and data/messaging range up to 20 miles, based on terrain and conditions. The radios themselves are rugged and rated IPX4 for protection against splashing and rain. The T800s include access to seven NOAA weather channels and four VHF channels in order to get constant, up-to-date weather reports. Motorola included an emergency alert feature that sounds a siren or spoken/incidental sounds to seek assistance or warn of danger. These are controlled by the Talkabout app. Last, the T800s include an LED flashlight for night-time use. The walkie talkies ship with rechargeable batteries, USB-based chargers, and an assortment of clips and stickers. The Talkabout T800 come in a pair for $110 and are available to ship today.
Apple plans to adjust its software to appease owners of its newest iPhones. Some users complain that pictures captured with the user-facing camera produce images with skin that is overly smooth. The result is lost detail and an unnatural look. Apple explained to the Verge that the Smart HDR tool on the new iPhones is selecting the wrong frame when processing HDR selfies. Smart HDR works by taking a number of exposures and then merging elements of them together into a single frame. The software is sometimes choosing a frame with a longer exposure time as the base image, which results is a small amount of blur and smoothness in the end result. Moving forward, Apple will update the software to base its Smart HDR photos on frames taken with a shorter shutter speed, which generally produces cleaner, sharper results with more detail. The end product should be selfies that look less doctored. Apple will include this update in iOS 12.1, which it is expected to release to the public soon.
Apple today made iOS 12.1 beta 5 and watchOS 5.1 beta 5 available to developers. These new betas further tweak the code and clean up bugs. One of the biggest additions to iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1 will be support for more emoji. Apple is planning to add some 70 new characters, based on Unicode 11, to its platform. These emoji will brings new representation for people with options for red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and no hair, as well as more food, animals, sports, and other items. The new OS is also expected to enable the eSIM on the new iPhone Xs and Xs Max, as well as include real-time depth control for portrait photos. Apple will likely provide a new public beta within several days. Apple hasn't said when it will release iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1 to the public, but it is kicking off sales of the iPhone Xr on October 26, and has a media event planned in New York for October 30. It's possible iOS 12.1's arrival will coincide with one of these events.
Google has made it easier for people to share their estimated time of arrival with others. Moving forward, people can tap the ^ button in Maps to begin sharing their trip progress, which can include their live location, route, and ETA. The update allows live ETA info to be pushed via Gmail, SMS, and third-party apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp. Once the journey is complete, the user automatically stops sharing their location. Further, people can now share live driving, bicycling, and walking journeys. This new tool is in the latest version of Google Maps for Android and iOS.
Spotify is giving its paying subscribers a better app. The company has released an updated version of its mobile application for Android and iOS with streamlined navigation meant to help people find music faster. The app provides more recommendations on the home screen, adds more results to search, and surfaces favorites in users' libraries. Spotify says the search page has been overhauled with better browsing, calling out top genres, artists, albums, and podcasts. Last, the app adopts a tool called Endless Artist Radio, allowing people to search for a musician or song and then listen to an endless playlist of music by that artist. Spotify says these endless playlists are updated regularly and are downloadable for offline listening. Spotify Premium requires a $10-per-month subscription.
T-Mobile today announced new handset and service promotions that offer new phones for low monthly payments with one big catch: the equipment installment plan runs for 36 months. That means it will be three years before customers pay off their device, rather than the customary two years. The basics are these. Beginning October 19, customers can trade in an eligible phone for a new Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, Note9, LG G7, LG V40 ThinQ, and others for payments as low as $10 per month. T-Mobile hopes customers taking advantage of this promo will jump on the T-Mobile Essentials plan, which provides a family of four new phones with unlimited service for $40 per line per month, or $160 total. This breaks down to $30 per month per line for service and $10 per month for device payments. The actual device payment may be different. Customers who want the T-Mobile One plan will need to pay another $10 per month per line, or $50. This deal requires auto-pay. Eligible phone trade-ins will be credited to customer accounts monthly over a period of 36 months. The maximum trade-in value is $360 per device, but that will depend on the trade and its condition. T-Mobile didn't immediately list a set of devices eligible for trade-in. The trade can be applied to the purchase price of most phones LG sells, including the forthcoming iPhone Xr.
Apple has updated its privacy web site and given customers new tools to manage their personal information. Specifically, Apple has made it possible for owners of Apple devices to download and view all the data Apple has collected on them. This change is specific to Apple's U.S. customers. Apple's European customers have been able to access their data since May, when the GDPR privacy regulations went into effect. The latest versions of iOS and macOS include more privacy protections and provide people with more control over their information. Apple's updated web site also explains how user data is stored and transported, and what encryption and security protocols are employed in the process. Anyone can log in to their account to view their data.
Google today said people can now search for and locate electronic vehicle charging stations in Google Maps. In addition to displaying the closest stations, Maps will provide information about the business where the charger is located, the types of ports that are available, how many ports there are, and charging speeds. Google says it offers crowd-sourced information, too, such as photos, ratings, and reviews of the charging stations. Google will supply links to additional details about the charger. Globally, Google Maps will locate Tesla and Chargepoint chargers, and in the U.S. it will also locate SemaConnect, EVgo, and Blink chargers. Android and iOS users can download the new version of Maps with EV charging locations today. Google says the same information will be available on desktop PCs in the coming weeks.
Palm, a California company that purchased the rights to the Palm brand from TCL, today launched a new device it calls an ultra-mobile product that "syncs with your smartphone to keep you connected but not consumed." The idea is to allow people to access their vital apps when needed, but keep them from staring at their screen all day — particularly when they are out and about. The device is tiny and features an aluminum chassis with Gorilla Glass panels front and back. It's rated IP68 for protection against dust and water. Palm says the device is designed to be worn, not carried. Rather that serve as a primary phone, it is a companion device. Owners will need to have a regular Android or iOS smartphone on a Verizon service plan. The Palm is billed like a smartwatch. Service costs $10 per month and it relies on the same number as the main device. It's able to keep messages, calls, and other data in sync between itself and the primary phone. The Palm has a 3.3-inch HD screen and it is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 12-megapixel rear camera with flash and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Palm includes LTE, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with an embedded SIM card. The device has an 800mAh battery and relies on face unlock for security. The phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is compatible with millions of Android apps. The user interface skips the idea of a home screen and instead shows all the on-board apps. A small gesture pad is available at the bottom of the screen, accessed by swiping up, and it can be used to search for apps based on scrawling the first letter of the app. The gesture pad also contains shortcuts to the phone, messages, camera, and music apps. The crux of the Palm is Life Mode. With this mode activated, the Palm essentially goes to sleep when users turn off the screen, preventing calls and messages from interrupting the owner. Owners can customize Life Mode a bit. The phone returns to full functionality when owners choose to wake the screen back up. Google Assistant is built in and works with custom, voice-activated shortcuts that perform a variety of actions. The Palm costs $350 and will go on sale in November.
Facebook has made it possible for people to share 3D pictures via the social network. There are multiple steps needed to successfully create a 3D post. First, 3D photos require an image captured using the Portrait mode on the dual-camera iPhone 7+, 8+, X or Xs. This is vital, as the second camera captures depth-of-field information as well as perspective. Facebook has added a special tab to News Feed that allows people to post 3D images. Once the Portrait photo is uploaded, Facebook does the rest. Everyone will be able to interact with 3D photos via their browser, using the mouse to tilt and pan a bit for the 3D effect. Facebook says 3D photos can also be viewed through its Oculus virtual reality devices. The 3D photos should reach everyone in the coming weeks. Facebook didn't specify when dual-camera Android phones will gain the ability to post 3D photos.
Apple and Genius today announced a new partnership that brings new features to Apple Music and to Genius. Genius is a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of music that offers lots of information about songs, including their full lyrics. Moving forward, Apple Music subscribers will be able to access Genius' database of song lyrics while listening to their favorite tunes. Further, Apple Music subscribers who visit Genius will be able to play any song in full from the song's dedicated Genius page. In order to play the song on Genius, people will need to sign into their Apple Music account. The Apple Music-powered player is available on Genius.com and in the Genius iPhone app.
Google today announced that a new version of its Google Home app will reach Android and iOS devices this week. The app has been entirely redesigned to ease the process of controlling various smart home devices, such as smart lightbulbs. For example, all the devices in a home will be visible in a single view, allowing people to control their devices without jumping between apps. It also lumps together similar devices like speakers, lights, cameras, thermostats, and more. The app now automates quick actions for important features, such as turning on lights or viewing cameras. The app brings home control when away from home. Users will be able to check on their house, adjust their thermostat, and more no matter where they happen to be. Moreover, Google Home allows multiple members of a family to access and control smart devices in the home complete with voice recognition. Google built Google Assistant into the app, as well, so people can tap the mic and say “Hey Google, dim the lights.” Google hopes this revised app will improve peoples’ control over and interactions with in-home smart products.
Apple today made iOS 12.0.1 available to iPhones and iPads. This is the first public update since Apple released iOS 12 last month. The goal of today's update is to resolve performance issues and stamp out bugs that were part of the initial public release. For example, iOS 12.0.1 tackles a problem that prevented some iPhone Xs devices from charging properly via the Lightning port. It resolves a problem that caused iPhone Xs devices to join 2.4 GHz WiFi networks instead of 5 GHz networks. It fixes an issue that made Bluetooth unavailable, and a problem that prevented subtitles from appearing in some apps. It also restores the original position of the ".?123" key on the iPad keyboard, which had been switched with the emoji key. iOS 12.0.1 is free to download from Apple.
Amazon has a number of updates to Alexa in store for phones and in-home connected devices. First, the mobile application for iPhones and Android devices has been given an entirely new look. The revised visual UI is easier to navigate. For example, under the devices tab each device is now listed separately rather than grouped by room. This lets people interact with multiple devices in multiple rooms from one screen rather than several. The fresh app is rolling out to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store globally this week. Along with the redesign, Amazon has announced a new feature for developers that expands Alexa's skills. Skill connections will let two Alexa skills interact with one another, essentially letting one skill control a second skill. To start, the skill will be limited to printing, ride hailing, and restaurant booking. The idea is to ease the process of completing multi-step requests. With skills able to trigger other skills, it cuts the separate interactions required from two to one. For example, a skill that sells theater tickets could complete that purchase via Amazon Pay and then offer the buyer an Uber or Lyft to the theater without forcing the user to initiate a separate request. Amazon is offering skill connections as a developer preview right now. Amazon plans to add more types of skill interactions over time.
Instagram today introduced a new customizable identification card called Nametag. The goal is to help people easily find the Instagram profiles of those they meet via their phones. Instagram users can personalize their Nametag with designs, colors, emojis, selfies, and stickers. In order to share the Nametag, two people will need to open Instagram on their phones while one scans the ID of the other. Instagram says people will also be able to share their Nametags via text, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Nametag is available globally on Android and iOS devices starting today. In related news, Instagram is exploring a new way for students to connect with one another. Instagram school communities lets students share school spirit and find/connect with other students and alumni. Students can add their university name, class year, and other details such as major, sports teams, and greek organizations to their profile listing. Communities will feature directories so people can sort by major, year, etc. Instagram is testing school communities in a handful of colleges around the country. It hasn't said when communities might become available more broadly.
Google today made it easy to hail a ride by asking Google Assistant. Moving forward, people can say, "Hey Google, book a ride to the airport" and the Assistant will display a list of available ride services, such as Uber, Lyft, Ola, Grab, GO-JEK, and others. Assistant will also surface estimated pricing and wait times, as well as ETAs for the end destination. People can request a specific ride share service in the voice command if they wish, such as, "Hey Google, book a Lyft to the airport." People seeking a ride will then be asked to confirm the booking on their phone. This feature is available via Assistant on Android phones, iPhones, the Google Home speaker family, and any other Assistant-enabled speaker. Ride hailing via Assistant is initially available in English and only in countries where ride sharing is supported. Google will add more languages over time.
Twitter has updated its Android and iOS mobile apps with a new feature and several performance upgrades. With the new version installed, users will be able to activate a data saver mode, which Twitter simply describes as a way to use less data while scrolling through your feed. Twitter doesn't quantify how much data the tool saves. The update also makes managing group messages simpler, alters how people interact with polls using VoiceOver, and improves labels for specific sorts of advertisements. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Twitter still offers Twitter Lite, which is a lightweight version of the app that prioritizes conserving data.
Facebook believes artificial intelligence will benefit buyers and sellers who use Facebook Marketplace. Moving forward, Marketplace will rely on several AI-based features to improve the usefulness of the neighborhood sales tool. For example, Facebook will use AI to automatically categorize items and suggest price ranges. People who list a guitar for sale should see the item fall under the "musical instruments" category and at a price range based on similar items sold in the area. Sellers can tweak these suggestions if they wish. Facebook is working to bring AI functions to phone cameras. For example, people can take pictures of items they might like to purchase and then Marketplace's AI will seek similar listings in the area. Facebook says AI will eventually be able to help people complete outfits or home design projects by finding items that match. Last, Facebook is doing what it can to ensure users have a safe shopping experience. It detects and removes inappropriate items and content, offers buyer and seller ratings with feedback, and allows people to report items or content that violate its commerce policies. Facebook Marketplace is built into the Android and iOS mobile apps.
Apple today provided some clarity on the arrival of more emoji for iOS devices. Earlier this year, the iPhone-maker committed to adopting more than 70 new emoji that are based in Unicode 11. Unicode 11 brings new representation for emoji with options for red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and no hair, as well as more food, animals, sports, and other items. Apple says the new emoji will soon arrive on the iPhone and iPad via iOS 12.1. Separate updates to watchOS and macOS will bring the same new emoji to Apple's smartwatch and computers. In addition to the emoji, iOS 12.1 fixes certain iPhone bugs, such as the inability to charge when locked. Apple seeded developer and public betas of iOS 12.1 today and will likely test the update for several weeks before offering it to everyone.