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Apple Releases iOS 12 Beta 2 to Developers

Today, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 12 Beta 2 available to developers. This build focuses on resolving bugs and performance problems found in the first beta. Those who write apps for Apple devices can download the update over the air. Apple hasn't said when it will launch the public beta program for iOS 12. The new platform will run on iPhones back to the 2013-era iPhone 5s. The final version of iOS 12 won't arrive until the fall. iOS 12 includes a number of new features, such as improved notifications, memoji for the iPhone X, and more.

Yahoo Overhauls Yahoo Mail for the Web, Debuts Lightweight Android Go Yahoo Mail App

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today relaunched its mobile email product for smartphones on several fronts. First, the company has wholly rebuilt its mobile web app. The browser-based Yahoo Mail experience now mirrors that of the Yahoo Mail app for phones. For example, it lets people swipe through their inbox, customize the look and feel of the inbox, organize email via folders, take advantage of auto-complete and auto-suggest, and initiate more quick actions. Yahoo says the web-based app supports a home screen icon for Android and iOS alike. Yahoo rebuilt its mobile web app using web standards such as JavaScript, PHP, Apache, and AJAX. At the same time, Yahoo is rolling out a version of Yahoo Mail for Android Go. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for very-low-cost phones. Typically, devices running Android Go have 1 GB of RAM or less. Yahoo Mail for Android Go offers all the same features of the full-fledged Yahoo Mail app, but boasts an install size of less than 10 MB and RAM usage of less than 50 MB. The app uses the same architecture as the standard Yahoo Mail app. The new Yahoo Mail web experience is available from most mobile browsers, while the new Yahoo Mail for Android Go app is available from the Google Play Store.

iOS 12 to Give 911 Precise iPhone Location During Emergencies

Yesterday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said iPhones will soon provide 911 emergency services with more exact locations of callers. Since 2015, Apple has relied on HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), which uses cellular, GPS, and wifi access points to estimate 911 callers' locations. This system is not always perfect. Starting with the release of iOS 12 in the fall, Apple will use RapidSOS's internet protocol-based pipeline to share HELO location data with 911 centers quickly and securely. Apple says this new system will integrate with 911 centers' existing software to more finely pinpoint location. Importantly, Apple says user location data cannot be used for non-emergency purposes and 911 centers will only have access to location during 911 emergency calls. By law, wireless network operators are required to locate callers within 50 meters 80% of the time, but not until 2021. Apple says its new feature exceeds this requirement today. "This new functionality is an example of how companies and first responders can use technology to dramatically improve public safety,” said Tom Wheeler, former chairman at the FCC. "Lives will be saved thanks to this effort by Apple and RapidSOS." iOS 12 is expected to reach iPhones and iPads in September or October.

AT&T Rolls Out iPhone X BOGO for Father's Day

Friday, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made it possible to buy one iPhone X and get a second iPhone for free. The offer is available to new and existing customers, and requires both phones to be purchased on an AT&T Next installment plan (24 or 30 months). The first line can be new or an upgrade, but the second line — with the free iPhone — must be a new line. The second free iPhone can be the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X. After approximately three billing periods, AT&T will begin making the monthly device payments spread out over 30 months. Customers will be responsible for taxes and activation fees on both phones at the point of sale. The offer ends June 19.

Gmail for iOS Intros Notifications for High-Priority Messages Only

Friday, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a feature to its iOS Gmail app that will let people receive notifications only for messages deemed high priority. Google says the optional feature relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify messages that the recipient may want to read first. A new "High Priority Only" option appears in the Notifications drop-down in Gmail's settings. Users will need to select it if they wish to test the scaled-back notifications. The feature is already available to the latest Gmail app for iOS and will reach Gmail for Android devices soon.

Apple Confirms It Will Lock iPhone Lightning Port to Protect Users from Law Enforcement

Jun 13, 2018, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it will change the behavior of iPhones in order to protect its users. The company plans to alter its software to lock the Lightning port of iOS devices that are not used for an hour. The function, called USB Restricted Mode, prevents data transfer via USB, though the phone can still charge through a Lightning cable. The idea is to thwart law enforcement use of GrayShift and Cellebrite boxes, which are able to crack iOS security using a direct USB connection through the Lightning port. The devices work by disabling the number of times passwords/PINs can be guessed by the machine before the iPhone is locked or erased. "We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data," said Apple in a statement to Reuters. "We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs." The Lightning port will be re-enabled for data transfer once the owner enters their password, PIN, fingerprint, or Face ID. Apple primarily expects the feature to protect consumers "in countries where police seize phones at will." Researchers discovered USB Restricted Mode in beta builds of iOS 10.4 last month. Apple told Reuters that it will be added permanently to iOS in a future release.

Twitter Aims to Make Discovery Simpler and More Rewarding

Jun 13, 2018, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a number of changes to the way it arranges tweets, trends, and topics in order to help people find and read about the things that interest them. For example, breaking news will now be added to the Happening Now tool that appears at the top of users' feeds. Twitter says it is expanding this function from local sports teams to include breaking and personalized news and videos. Similarly, Twitter also intends to test sending notifications about breaking news based on user interests. Twitter says people will be able to turn these notifications off if they wish. Twitter is overhauling the Explore tab. As it stands, the tab is organized by content type (videos, links). Moving forward, Twitter will organize the tab by topic to help people see what's happening in news and entertainment. The search tool gains improvements, too, as it will display information (news, events, stories) that is related to search queries in order to provide a broader picture. Last, Twitter is reorganizing the Moments tab. The new look trades horizontal swiping for vertical scrolling to improve usability. Moments will also gain multiple timelines in order to surface more tweets about the subject, highlighting the latest commentary. Twitter says these changes are rolling out piecemeal to Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.

Apple Bars Apps from Storing Friend Data

Jun 12, 2018, 4:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple is taking more steps to protect its users' data. In its latest App Store Guidelines, Apple forbids developers from creating databases from contacts, photos, or other apps/APIs that can access user information. "Apps should not attempt to surreptitiously build a user profile based on collected data and may not attempt, facilitate, or encourage others to identify anonymous users or reconstruct user profiles based on data collected from Apple-provided APIs," said Apple in its guidelines. The new rules specifically call out use of the contacts and photos apps, which developers are not allowed to cull to build a contact database for their own or commercial purposes. Developers may also not contact people using the information collected from the contacts/photos apps. Further, any data pulled from Apple's various APIs (HomeKit, HealthKit, MovementDisorder, Camera, Photo, or Consumer Health Records) may not be used for marketing or advertising purposes. Apple made a number of changes to its App Store guidelines earlier this month as developers build apps for iOS 12, watchOS 5, and macOS 10.14.

Apple Refreshes Public Beta of iOS 11.4.1

Jun 12, 2018, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Registered developers and public testers alike can download the latest versions of iOS and watchOS from Apple. Apple made both iOS 11.4.1 beta 2 and watchOS 4.3.2 beta 2 available for download. There's no word on what changes are built nto the latest code, though changes are likely confined to bug fixes and performance improvements. Apple released iOS 11.4 to the general public last month. iOS 11.4 introduced iMessage in the Cloud and AirPlay 2 to iPhones and iPads. Apple is also beta testing iOS 12 and watchOS 5, but hasn't distributed new builds since earlier this month. The final versions of iOS 12 and watchOS 5 won't arrive until the fall. iOS 11.4.1 is likely the last build of 11.4 before Apple releases iOS 12.

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations to Mobile

Jun 12, 2018, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its neural machine translation (NMT) technology available to Google Translate even when mobile devices are offline. Google says NMT will run on Android and iOS phones in Google Translate, powering accurate translations when there's no internet connection. NMT translates text entire sentences at once, rather than word by word or phrase by phrase. This means translations sound more like they would if spoken by a real person. This is particularly helpful with longer sections of text, such as paragraphs or articles. Users will need to download the specific language pack they want/need to their device in order to access offline NMT. Most languages are between 35 MB and 45 MB, so they don't take up too much space. Google Translate is adding offline NMT support for 59 languages around the world over the next few days, with more in the works.

Apple Previews Apple Books App, Which Will Replace iBooks In the Fall

Jun 12, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has a brand new reading app in store for iPhones and iPads later this year. The company offered a brief look at the new Apple Books app during its recent Worldwide Developers Conference, but is now more fully revealing the app and its features. For example, the new Reading Now tab includes a collection of the books being read or listened to by users. The Want to Read tool lets people manage wishlists of books, while the Complete the Series function offers suggestions based on previously read books. Apple Books will more prominently call out audiobooks, simplifying the process of listening on an iPhone, iPad, or via CarPlay. The Book Store tab includes new ways to browse via best-seller charts, staff picks, editorial recommendations, and special offers. Apple says the more people browser, buy, read, and listen via the app, the better the Apple Books store will be able to offer personalized recommendations. The new Apple Books app will be available in 51 countries later this fall with iOS 12.

Apple Says Apps Can't Be Used to Mine Cryptocurrency

Jun 12, 2018, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple doesn't want iPhones and iPads to be used by developers to mine Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The company recently updated its App Store guidelines with specific bans on mining. "Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device" such as in the cloud, said Apple. Some apps have hidden cryptocurrency mining in their background processes, using mobile and other devices to mine the currencies unbeknownst to device owners. This is now forbidden. Apple is still allowing apps to facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, as well as facilitate Initial Coin Offerings as long as they come from established banks. Google has put a similar cryptocurrency mining ban in place in its Chrome Web Store.

Friend Tag You In an Instagram Post? Now You Can Share It

Jun 7, 2018, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today introduced a new feature it calls @mention sharing that lets people share the posts in which they are tagged. "When someone mentions you in their story, you receive a notification in your Direct message thread with that person," explained Instagram. "Now, you’ll see an option to add that content to your own story." People can not only re-share the posts, they can turn them into stickers, scale and rotate them, as well as add text to dress them up. The original poster's username will be included in re-shared posts so others can access and explore that person's profile. This feature is only available to people with public accounts. Instagram says @mention sharing is available to the Android and iOS apps in a updated rolling out today.

iOS 12 Supports Alternate Faces for ID on iPhone X

Jun 5, 2018, 11:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

iOS 12 adds a surprising feature to the iPhone X: support for up to two different faces for the Face ID security feature. Under the settings for Face ID, it's now possible to set a second face. The description reads "In addition to continuously learning how you look, Face ID can recognize an alternative appearance." Using the tools, it is simple to record two different faces for securing and unlocking the iPhone X. Apple did not call this feature out on stage during its recent WWDC keynote, and it's possible the feature will change while iOS 12 undergoes beta development.

Apple Tweaks App Rules to Curb Games Streamed from PCs

Jun 5, 2018, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made adjustments to the guidelines in the App Store in order to control purchases made in or through streamed apps. The altered language says apps distributed through the App Store cannot contain their own app store or let users “browse, select, or purchase software not already owned or licensed by the user.” Apple takes a 15% to 30% cut of apps and subscriptions purchased via the App Store. The updated policy makes it more explicit what types of purchases are allowed from within apps. The move follows Apple's recent denial of an app from Steam that would have allowed iPhone and iPad owners to stream their PC-based games on their mobile device. Despite this change, iOS apps are still allowed to offer remote mirroring, such as access to a desktop. Apple is simply preventing certain streaming apps from offering in-app purchases that aren't made through the App Store itself. The move is seen as a way for Apple to protect its App Store revenue.

Google to Slowly Move Everyone to the New Gmail

Jun 5, 2018, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is preparing to more broadly roll out its new Gmail design to users on the web and mobile devices. For the moment the new Gmail is opt-in, but that is going to change over the next few months. The new Gmail will become generally available to everyone starting in July, though people will still need to opt in. Google says people who don't opt in within eight weeks from general availability will be migrated automatically. Google will allow people to opt out of the new Gmail for up to 12 weeks after it reaches general availability, or through October. After October, all users will be migrated to the new Gmail. The new Gmail has a refreshed design with features like nudge, snooze, and scam notifications. It also helps people unsubscribe from newsletters and makes it easier to view attachments. The new Gmail is already available to Android and iOS devices should users care to upgrade.

WatchOS 5 Drops Support for Original Apple Watch

Jun 4, 2018, 6:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today detailed which of its smartwatch wearables will have access to watchOS 5, and the original Apple Watch is not among them. The new platform, which adds a wide number of new features, will be available to the Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 w/LTE wearables. WatchOS 5 will also require an iPhone running iOS 12 and up, which means an iPhone 5s or later. WatchOS 5 adds improved notifications, third-party app access to Siri, podcasts, walkie-talkie, and automatic workout detection. WatchOS 5 is in beta testing now and is expected to reach end users in the fall.

Apple Releases First iOS 12 Beta for Developers

Jun 4, 2018, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made the first beta of iOS 12 available to registered developers. Those who write apps for Apple devices can download the update through Apple's developer console to iPhones and iPads. Apple hasn't said when it will launch the public beta program for iOS 12. The new platform will run on iPhones back to the 2013-era iPhone 5s. Apple also released developer betas of watchOS 5, tvOS 12, and macOS 10.14 Mojave. The final versions of these updated platforms won't arrive until the fall.

Apple to Bring Some iOS Apps to the Mac

Jun 4, 2018, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it will eventually allow select iOS applications to run on its Mac computers. The company said it hopes to roll out the feature at some point next year. The first such apps will be Apple's own, some of which will include Stocks, News, Home, and Voice Memos. Apple didn't go into detail about how its iOS apps will work with non-touch laptops and PCs. Apple said in no uncertain terms that it is not planning to merge iOS with macOS. Developers will have access to the tools needed to bring iOS apps to the Mac next year.

iOS 12 to Let People Manage Their Screen Time

Jun 4, 2018, 2:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple hopes its new version of iOS will help people find a better life-device balance. Screen Time tools being added to the platform make it easier to control when and for how long people use their iPhones and iPads. For example, Screen Time provides an Activity Report for iOS devices, detailing which apps are being using, when, and for how long. Parents can use Screen Time to manage their kids' devices. The tool gives parents the ability to block off time when iOS devices cannot be used at all, such as at night or during school. Parents can control which apps are available, how much time they are allowed to be used, and set limits. People can also use Screen Time to limit their own use of certain apps or their device in general. The tool works across iOS devices via Family Sharing. The new Screen Time tools will arrive with iOS 12 later this year.

iOS 12 Promises to Tackle Notifications

Jun 4, 2018, 1:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says its forthcoming operating system will cure the ills facing its notification platform. The idea is to help reduce interruptions. iPhone and iPad owners will be able to instantly turn off notifications, or send them to the notification center. Siri can also intelligently suggest when to mute or turn off notifications for select apps based on user behavior. Most importantly, iOS 12 introduces support for grouped notifications, which will let people view, manage, and dismiss multiple notifications at once. The new notifications will also interact with the improved Do Not Disturb mode in iOS 12, which will let people take more control over when their phone is allowed to bother them. These and other features will arrive with iOS 12 later this fall.

Memoji Lets iPhone Users Make their Own, Self-Styled Animoji

Jun 4, 2018, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 4, 2018, 2:49 PM

iOS 12 will make iMessage more fun, says Apple, thanks to the addition of Memoji. Similar to the way Samsung's AR Emoji work, the iOS 12 Memoji will let people customize an animated emoji sticker that resembles their face. It offers lots of tools for customizing hair color and style, eye color, accessories such as glasses, and much more. The tool works natively with iMessage and the new FaceTime app so people can dress up their conversations in real-time. The Memoji are animated just like Animoji. This lets people record short clips of their Memoji for sharing with others. The new Memoji will arrive with iOS 12 later this year.

iOS 12 Brings 3rd-Party App Support to CarPlay

Jun 4, 2018, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 4, 2018, 2:50 PM

Apple today said its CarPlay in-car system will support third-party apps in iOS 12. The addition means people will be able to, for example, use Google Maps rather than Apple Maps for navigation from point to point when in their car. To start, only third-party navigation apps will have access to CarPlay. Apple didn't say if it would open up CarPlay to other third-party apps, such as music and messaging. iOS 12 is expected to arrive later this year.

iOS 12 Adds Group FaceTime

Jun 4, 2018, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 4, 2018, 1:03 PM

Apple today said its FaceTime video chat app will support multi-person chats. It can handle between two and 32 people at a single time. FaceTime is now integrated into iMessage, allowing people to move from a group chat to a group video chat east. Members can drop out of group FaceTime chats any time. People speaking are automatically given visual prominence in the windows. Apple says fun features, such as Animoji, Memoji, stickers, and more will be available within the new FaceTime. It works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and supports audio in Apple Watch. This feature will arrive with iOS 12 later this year.

Apple Says iOS 12 Will Be Faster, Work Better On Older iPhones

Jun 4, 2018, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 4, 2018, 2:33 PM

Apple today announced iOS 12, its next-generation platform for the iPhone and iPad. Apple says it spent time improving the performance of the operating system, which in claims will work well on iPhones and iPads that went on sale as far back as 2013. iOS 12 makes changes to how it handles CPU requirements, able to cycle up instantly to handle intense tasks and cycle back down to conserve power. It claims some apps will launch up to 40% faster. In addition to performance, iOS 12 is taking a big step forward with augmented reality. It debuted a new augmented reality file format called USDZ that developers can put to use when creating content. Apple says measurements are important to AR, so it is adding a real-world measuring tool to iOS 12 allowing people to measure physical objects through AR. ARKit 2.0 includes improved face tracking, 3D object detection, realistic rendering, and shared AR experiences. iOS 12 will make improvements to search in Photos with search suggestions, such as people, places, dates, and actions. It adds tools such as suggested sharing, suggested animations, and "remember this day" style images that all fall under a new tab called For You. iOS 12 promises "shortcuts" for Siri, which expose quick actions to Apple's voice-controlled assistant. Developers will be able to add these actions to their own apps, expanding Siri's ability's across the iPhone. Siri will now proactively offer suggestions that are context-aware, such as placing calls or sending alerts. An new tool called Siri Shortcuts will allow people to build custom actions, such as commuting home, that will engage a number of activities, such as checking traffic, changing the thermostat, and turning on lights. iOS 12 makes refreshments to Apple News with a new browse tab for discovering channels and topics. News also gains a new sidebar for easier navigation. The Apple Stocks app gains integration with Apple News, pairing stock price changes with related business news. The voice memos app is rebuilt, and will be available to the iPad for the first time. Voice memos gains iCloud support so recordings stay synced across devices. The iBooks app has been renamed Apple Books, such as a new store, better resume behaviors, and more. iOS 12 adds support to third-party apps in CarPlay. iOS 12 makes a big push to limit excessive use of smartphones. The Do Not Disturb tool is being amped up for bedtime routines, limiting notifications and distractions. iOS 12 retools some notifications, giving people more control over notifications. The update will supported grouped notifications, as well as Siri-based suggestions to mute apps that aren't used often. Group notifications can be dismissed en masse. Another tool provides a full activity report on how much time people spend on their iPhones, such as time, time in apps, how often the phone is picked up, and which apps are sending the most notifications. People can set time limits for individual apps and these can all be controlled by parents within family groups. Parents can dole out device allowances for apps, devices, and more. The iPhone X gains four more emoji (ghost, koala, tiger, t-rex), as well as the ability to interact with the owner's tongue. iOS 12 introduces Memoji, or the ability to create personalized Animoji. iOS 12 will be made available in the fall.

Unicode 11 with Dozens of New Emoji Arrives June 5

Jun 1, 2018, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

New emoji are coming to a phone near you, eventually. Unicode 11.0, which was finalized in February, will be released on June 5, according to Emojipedia. Some of the new options will let men and women emoji select from various hair styles (including red-haired and bald), while new hero and villain styles support new gender and skin tone options. There are new colors available for leg, foot, bone, and tooth emoji; new animals such as badgers, swans, peacocks, and llamas; new food such as mangos, leafy greens, and moon cakes; and many new places, activities, games, objects, and symbols. Support for Unicode 11.0 will be gradual. For example, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft are expected to adopt Unicode 11.0 between June and August, while Google and Apple likely won't add Unicode 11.0 to Android and iOS, respectively, until September or October. Phone makers such as Samsung may not adopt Unicode 11.0 until January or February of next year.

Microsoft Puts Android and iOS Groove Music Apps to Pasture

May 31, 2018, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft says Android and iOS users of its Groove Music mobile apps will soon need to find another way to listen to their tunes. "We're notifying customers that on December 1, 2018, the Groove Music iOS and Android apps will also be retired and, effective June 1, are no longer available for download," said Microsoft in a statement provided to The Verge. Though Microsoft retired the Groove Music streaming service last year, it kept the app up and running so people could access their music. Microsoft indicated that users' music files stored in OneDrive will still be accessible, but not via the Groove Music app.

New iOS and WatchOS Betas Available from Apple

May 30, 2018, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Registered developers can download the latest versions of iOS and watchOS from Apple. Apple made both iOS 11.4.1 beta 1 and watchOS 4.3.2 beta 1 available for download. There's no word on what changes are baked into the latest code, though any changes are likely confined to bug fixes and performance improvements. Apple released iOS 11.4 to the general public earlier this week. iOS 11.4 introduced iMessage in the Cloud and AirPlay 2 to iPhones and iPads. Apple hasn't made public betas of iOS 11.4.1 and watchOS 4.3.2 available yet, but likely will before the end of the week.

Apple Releases iOS 11.4 with AirPlay 2

May 29, 2018, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.4 available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The most significant new feature of iOS 11.4 is AirPlay 2, a more advanced version of Apple's wireless audio technology. AirPlay 2 lets people create multi-room wireless audio systems so music and other media can play on different devices in different rooms at the same time. Apple says built-in Control Center and Siri actions make it easy for people to control where the music is playing. AirPlay 2 works natively with Apple's own HomePod speaker. Apple says the HomePod can automatically stream music around the house without requiring users to first manually group them. Apple Music subscribers can ask Sir to play different songs in different rooms or the same song everywhere. Apple said AirPlay 2-enabled speakers are on the way from partners Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos. Once these device makers add support for AirPlay 2, owners will be able to use Siri to control music on these third-party speakers, too. HomePod owners can turn on support for personal requests, which allow them to send messages, add reminders, check calendar appointments, set timers, play podcasts, and catch up on news, sports, traffic, and the weather. iOS 11.4 also introduces Messages in iCloud. This tool lets people store complete message threads in iCloud for porting to new devices. Once synced, Messages in iCloud brings entire iMessage conversations to users' devices so they always have access to them. The other goal of Messages in iCloud is to free up local space on users' devices, as media embedded in messages is kept online, rather than stored locally on the iPhone. iOS 11.4 should be available starting at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern.

Instagram Lets You Mute Your Friends

May 22, 2018, 9:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new tool called mute, what is describes as a new way for people to control what they see in their Instagram feed. "The new feature lets you hide posts in [your] feed from certain accounts, without unfollowing them. With this change, you can make your feed even more personalized to what matters to you," explained Instagram. People can opt to mute posts, or posts and stories. Muted accounts are still visible via the profile page, and will still push notifications about comments or tagged posts. Instagram says muted account holders will not be notified that they've been muted, and users can unmute accounts at any time. The new feature is being added to the Android and iOS version of Instagram, which is free to download.

Google Photos Adds Stars and Hearts to Mark Your Faves

May 22, 2018, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is making Google Photos a little bit more personal. The company this week made it possible to mark your own photos with stars in order to signify them as favorites. Google Photos will collect all your starred photos in once place so you can easily browse through your favorite pix. Further, Google Photos now lets others offer feedback on shared photos. Moving forward, users can mark shared images with hearts to let the sender know they enjoyed the picture. The hearts tool works on individual photos as well as shared folders. The latest version of Google Photos is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the days ahead.

Latest Version of Google Maps for iOS Lets You Customize Your Car

May 21, 2018, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

iPhone owners can now have some fun with Google Maps by selecting a new navigation icon. Maps historically relies on a blue navigation arrow to indicate the user's location and direction of travel. Tapping the arrow will bring up a menu that allows people to select a car, pickup, or SUV to customize the experience. Earlier this year, Google let Android users opt for a Mario-style car for driving directions. Google says the latest version of Google Maps for iOS, with optional car graphics, is free to download from the iTuns App Store.

Apple Pushes iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to Developers and Public Testers

May 18, 2018, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has released iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to both registered developers and public beta testers. The release comes just several days after Apple pushed iOS 11.4 Beta 5. Apple didn't provide a reason for the quick iteration. iOS 11.4 primarily adds support for ClassKit, Apple's new set of developer tools that target educations. It also re-introduces several features that were meant to be included in iOS 11.3, but didn't make the final release. These include AirPlay 2 and Messages on iCloud, which allows people to store their iMessage content in the cloud and sync it across devices. Developers and public testers alike should be able to download and install iOS 11.4 Beta 6 over the air.

Instagram Now Lets You Share Feed Posts to Stories

May 17, 2018, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible to share feed posts directly to stories. The latest version of the app includes tools that make it easy to share a post published in your feed to your own story as a sticker where your friends and followers can see and interact with it. Posts shared to stories will display the original poster's username and a link so viewers can see the original post and learn more about the original poster. Instagram says users can only share posts from public accounts, and users who don't want their posts shared in others' stories can opt out. The new Instagram is available for Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the coming days.

Google's Redesigned Google News App Reaches iPhones

May 16, 2018, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's overhauled version of Google News is now available to iPhones and iPads via the iTunes App Store. The new version of the app uses machine learning to personalize the experience for each user. The app contains four main tabs along the bottom that take users to their recommended stories, top headlines, favorite sources, and subscriptions. In addition to offering personalized recommendations, the new Google News offers links to multiple accounts of the same story to offer perspective and help further comprehension. Google News is free to download from the App Store. Google hasn't said when the app will reach Android devices.

DirecTV Now Gains Cloud DVR, Improved Mobile Apps

May 15, 2018, 2:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today updated its DirecTV Now mobile video service, adding several new features along the way. To start, the Android and iOS apps have been redesigned a bit. AT&T says users' most-watched channels and programs will now be highlighted when they first open the app. The number of on-demand titles is improving. Depending on the subscription level, DirecTV Now customers can gain access to more than 25,000 on-demand programs. The streaming video service is adding optional support for a third stream. Under the current plan, DirecTV Now only permits two concurrent streams. For $5 more per month, subscribers can make use of a third stream, meaning three people can watch on separate devices at the same time. The new DirecTV Now debuts a cloud DVR (in beta) that provides up to 20 hours of free recording that can be saved for up to 30 days. The DVR supports features such as fast-forward and rewind. AT&T expects to offer more cloud DVR options later this year. Last, DirecTV Now will allow people to watch their local channels when on the road. This means people who prefer their home market's news programs on NBC, ABC, and FOX can do so no matter where they are. AT&T's DirecTV now starts at $35 per month.

WhatsApp Improves Group Chat Tools

May 15, 2018, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today added a handful of features to its group chat function that should improve the experience. For example, a new group description provides a short blurb that explains the purpose, topic, and guidelines behind each group. Admins have a fresh set of controls that allow them to restrict who can change the group's subject, icon, and description. Admins can also remove admin permissions from other participants, though group creators can no longer be removed from a group they created. A new function called group catch up lets people who've been away from a group for a while catch up on the conversation. Participants can more easily search for others in the group. Last, WhatsApp allows people to prevent themselves from being repeatedly re-added to groups they've chosen to leave. The new features are rolling out to WhatsApp for Android and iOS today. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.

Facebook Makes It Easier to Report Abusive Messenger Conversations

May 15, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has rolled out a change to Messenger that simplifies the process of reporting abusive conversations. Before today, the process involved using Facebook or Messenger on the web. Moving forward, the reporting tool can be accessed from within the Android and iOS Messenger mobile apps. Facebook says people need one tap the name of the person or group they'd like to report, scroll to the "Something's Wrong" option, and select from sub-categories, such as hate speech or harassment. As always, people can ignore or block those they are reporting. After completing a report, Facebook will confirm the report was received. Facebook encourages people to use these reporting tools in order to help keep the community safe.

Apple Makes iOS 11.4 Beta 5 Available to Devs

May 14, 2018, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 11.4 Beta 5 to registered developers. Most importantly, this build adds support for ClassKit, Apple's new set of developer tools that target educations. The build also re-introduces several features that were meant to be included in iOS 11.3, but didn't make the final release. These include AirPlay 2 and Messages on iCloud, which allows people to store their iMessage content in the cloud and sync it across devices. Developers should be able to download and install iOS 11.4 Beta 5 over the air. Apple will likely make the same beta available to public testers within several days.

iPhone X Gains HDR Playback in YouTube

May 11, 2018, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube has rolled out support for HDR video playback on the Apple iPhone X. The latest version of YouTube adds the feature, which needs to be toggled on in the settings menu. The iPhone X is the first iPhone capable of playing HDR video, which offers more contrast than standard video. YouTube is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

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