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Instagram Lets Users Put Hashtag and Profile Links in Bios

Yesterday, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for people to add links to hashtags or other profiles in their own bio section. Inserting the links is easy. Users simply enter the "#" or "@" symbol and Instagram will recommend popular hashtags or profiles as users type. The photo-sharing social network calls the new tool another way for people to express themselves and highlight the things they care about. Users will be alerted if another person links to their profile and can approve or disapprove the link if they wish. The new linking feature is rolling out to users in the latest mobile apps for Android and iOS.

BlackBerry and Microsoft Partner On Mobile Services

Tuesday, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see the two deliver mobile software and services to businesses customers. A new solution, called BlackBerry Bridge, lets business users access Microsoft mobile apps from within BackBerry Dynamics. This means corporate employees will have the same experience opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Office documents on any Android or iOS device. It gives mobile workers a secure way to access their files that are immediately backed up in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says the partnership also brings new powers to the IT department, which will better be able to secure company data and maintain privacy while remaining compliant with regulatory statutes. In order to make this work, the companies have integrated BlackBerry UEM Cloud, Workspaces, Dynamics, and AtHoc into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft and BlackBerry didn't specify how quickly these new services will be available to their customers.

Apple Seeds iOS 11.3 Beta 6 to Developers and Public

Sunday, 1:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made available iOS 11.3 Beta 6 to both developers and public testers. iOS 11.3 Beta 6 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance the battery life and performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces four more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. Registered developers and public testers can download iOS 11.3 Beta 6 over the air. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Spring kicks off March 20, and Apple has scheduled an event for March 27. It's possible Apple will provide the final version of iOS 11.3 in the next couple of weeks.

iPhone Owners Gain Access to Google Lens in Google Photos

Mar 16, 2018, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said iOS users can try a preview of Google Lens in the latest version of Google Photos (v3.15). Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Using Google Lens, iPhone and iPad owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, business cards, and more. The tool works within the Google Photos mobile app. Google Photos is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Google Lens has been widely available to Android devices since earlier this month.

Google Rebrands 'Android Wear' as 'Wear OS by Google'

Mar 15, 2018, 10:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is getting rid of the Android Wear brand that has been a part of its smartwatch strategy for years. Moving forward, Google's platform for wearable devices will be called Wear OS by Google. "As our technology and partnerships have evolved, so have our users. In 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners also used an iPhone," explained Google in a blog post. "We’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all — the people who wear our watches. We’re now Wear OS by Google, a wearables operating system for everyone." Google didn't say if the OS or platform will change along with the name. It did, however, say that smartwatch and phone apps will be updated with the new name over the coming weeks.

Apple Puts Family Resources On a Single Web Page

Mar 15, 2018, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently published a new web site meant to help families manage their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple accounts. The site offers high-level overviews of all the parental controls available, as well as deep-dive tutorials with step-by-step directions on how to enable each tool. Parents have long been able to manage iTunes purchases, control content, set time/usage limits, see location data, share calendars and iTunes purchases, and more. The new Families web page is meant to serve as a central resource. It describes in detail how parents can reduce distracted driving for teens, set family groups and manage communications, find lost devices, and so on. The web site arrives after shareholders published an open letter earlier this year asking the company to address smartphone addiction.

Samsung Partners with uBreakiFix for Same-Day Galaxy Repairs

Mar 14, 2018, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of Samsung's newer high-end phones will soon be able to score same-day repairs for most problems. Samsung has teamed up with uBreakiFix, which has some 370 locations around the country, in order to provide more timely repairs. uBreakiFix offers authorized repairs with genuine Samsung parts. The company says its technicians are all certified by Samsung and repaired devices are restored to factory conditions. uBreakiFix will fix the Note 5 and Note 8, as well as the Galaxy S6, S7, S8, and S9. The partnership officially kicks off March 15. The move helps Samsung become more competitive with Apple, which offers quick iPhone repairs at its Apple Stores.

YouTube Debuts Dark Mode on Android and iOS

Mar 13, 2018, 7:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today updated its mobile app for Android and iOS devices with a dark theme. The latest version of YouTube allows people to opt between light and dark theme. The dark theme changes the white background to dark gray. This makes the app easier on the eyes during nighttime viewing. The update is rolling out over the next few days.

Google Adds Captions to Image Search Results

Mar 13, 2018, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is now providing more information in image search results. When people perform searches using Google Images, they'll see new captions that include the title of the web page where the result is published. Google believes this will give the results more context that is easily discerned from the main results page. Google already offers badges that call out image results based on what type they may be, such as products or recipes. Image search results also already include web site domains and URLs so people can see where the image is coming from. Google says image captions are rolling out globally today in the Google Search app for Android and iOS.

iPad Earns Its Own Version of Google Assistant

Mar 13, 2018, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new version of Google Assistant specifically built for the Apple iPad. Google says Assistant on iPad can do all the same things Assistant can do on the iPhone, and yet it takes advantage of the added screen real estate of the iPad to display more information. Assistant works in portrait or landscape mode and can be used in a separate window when multitasking. Google says Assistant on iPad is rolling out beginning today and will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil) and, Spanish. Google Assistant for the iPhone also picked up a minor update to day that resolves several bugs and adds new skills. Google Assistant is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

FitBit Steps Up Its Smartwatch Game with Versa and Ace

Mar 13, 2018, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit today announce a range of new wearables, including a new smartwatch and a new fitness tracker specifically for children. The Versa is a smartwatch aimed at the masses thanks to its $200 price point and solid list of features. It includes a color touch screen, accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, altimeter, light sensor, vibration motor, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and NFC. These sensors allow the Versa to track 15 different exercise modes, including swimming, assess cardio fitness level, provide personal reminders, track sleep, store and play music, and make mobile payments. Battery life is as good as four days. The Versa is compatible with Android and iOS. FitBit is accepting preorders now and expects the wearable to ship next month. The Ace is a simple movement tracker for kids. It is a wristband that counts steps, lets kids share and compare with family members and friends, participate in step challenges, as well as track sleep. Battery life is as good as five days. The Ace costs $100 and will ship in late May.

Fifth Beta of iOS 11.3 Reaches Developers

Mar 12, 2018, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 5 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces four more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. Apple also released developer beta versions of High Sierra 10.13.4 and tvOS 11.3. Registered developers can download the various new betas through Apple's developer portal and/or over the air. The public version of iOS 11.3 Beta 5 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.

Alexa Now Handles Follow-Up Requests and Makes Calls on Tablets

Mar 12, 2018, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has updated Alexa with several new powers that make it a more usable and fully-rounded voice assistant. First, Alexa gains a "Follow-Up Mode" that makes interacting with the assistant more natural. Once enabled, Alexa will listen for 5 seconds after completing an exchange for follow-up requests. The idea is to negate the need to repeatedly use the "Alexa" or "Echo" wake phrases. People will be able to wake an Echo device once, complete an interaction, and then immediately follow it up with a second request/interaction without using the wake phrase again. According to CNET, the blue ring on Echo devices will remain illuminated during this 5-second listening period. If no request is made, the Echo device will go back to sleep. Separately, TechCrunch reports that Amazon has brought Alexa voice calling to iPads, Android tablets, and Amazon-branded fire tablets. Alexa on Echo devices has been able to place voice calls for several months. Tablet owners can now initiate voice/video calls and send messages with Alexa on the slate of their choice. Amazon Fire tablets further gain the ability to act as intercoms, called Drop-In Mode, for talking to other Fire devices on the same WiFi network. Both Follow-Up Mode and voice calling on tablets need to be activated within the latest version of the Alexa app on mobile devices.

Google Maps Adds Mario Time for Navigation

Mar 9, 2018, 12:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for Android and iOS with a fun feature: Mario. Once users update to the latest version of Maps, they'll be able to turn on Mario Time for navigation. When activated, Mario will appear in place of the navigation arrow while driving, walking, or commuting. Google says the bonus feature is rolling out starting today and will be available for about a week.

MoviePass Yanks Some Location-Tracking from iOS App

Mar 8, 2018, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MoviePass has updated its iOS application and in so doing pulled unused app location features. The change comes after MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe spoke about how much user location data the company tracks both before and after users attend movies. The revelation was met with disapproval from many. "Today, MoviePass released a new app update, including the removal of some unused app location capabilities," said the company in a statement provided to Engadget. "While part of our vision includes using location-based marketing to enhance the movie-going experience for our members, we aren't using some of that functionality today. Our members will always have the option to choose the location-based services that are right for them today and in the future." MoviePass hasn't said if or when it will make a similar change to its Android app.

Google Duo Gains Video Message Function

Mar 7, 2018, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Duo video chatting application with a new video message feature. The idea is to allow video callers to leave a video message in the event the person they call can't pick up. Google says people can record video messages up to 30 seconds long. Once the video is finalized, it will be sent to the Duo app. Recipients of video messages can play the message back any time, and easily video call the sender back. Video messages will automatically disappear within 24 hours after they've been watched, though Google says people can save video messages to their phone if they wish. Video messages are rolling out on Android and iOS starting today and should reach all users worldwide within a few days.

Apple Releases Fourth Developer Beta of iOS 11.3

Mar 5, 2018, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 4 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. The public version of iOS 11.3 Beta 4 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Registered developers can download iOS 11.3 Beta 4 over the air.

Google Makes Searching and Sharing Via iMessage Simpler

Mar 5, 2018, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today detailed several new features headed to the Google Search app on iOS devices. First and foremost, Google Search gains a new extension for iMessage that lets you perform Google searches from within iMessage and then easily share the results. New icons for "food" or "nearby" or others simplify the process of finding things to do and share. The tool applies to search results as well as GIFs and is available from the iMessage apps drawer. Second, Google has made it possible to discover related content when searching from any browser on iOS, including Safari. Google added a "Search Google" option to the Safari share menu to make this work with just a few taps. This means if users can find similar things and then share them with no need for more typing. Last, Google Search on the iPad (iOS 11) now supports drag-and-drop so iPad owners can move text, images, and links to/from the Google app. The new Google Search for iOS app is available to download from the iTunes App Store.

Apple Watch Series 3 Now Tracks Skiing and Snowboarding Activity

Feb 28, 2018, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said updated apps for the Apple Watch Series 3 make it possible for winter sports enthusiasts to gather data while carving through some fresh powder. When Apple introduced watchOS 4.2, it gave developers new APIs to access GPS data and the altimeter. Apps from snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks put those APIs to use and can now track vertical descent, horizontal distance traveled, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total activity time, and calories burned. The information is plotted in graphs and charts so skiers and snowboarders can easily gauge the success of their day on the mountain. Apple says activity recorded in these apps will be passed along to the Health app on the iPhone. People who opt for Slopes or snoww will be able to use Siri to start tracking their runs. All the apps with the updated functionality are available on the iTunes App Store.

Google's Flutter Toolkit Lets Devs Create Android and iOS UIs

Feb 27, 2018, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the first beta release of Flutter available to developers. Flutter is a set of tools that can help developers create user interface designs for Android and iOS. Google says Flutter is quick and easy to use, and can be utilized by experienced and novice developers alike. It includes frameworks for windows, widgets, animations, and image libraries. It includes a GPU-accelerated renderer and native ARM code runtime. It supports accessibility features, right-to-left text, localization, and internationalization. On the iPhone X and iOS 11, it support inline video, additional image formats, and background processes. Google says developers who've been testing the alpha release since last year can switch to the beta channel via Android Studio. The end result, hopes Google, will be better looking and better functioning mobile apps that developers can create once for both Android and iOS.

Android Phones Gain Access to Amazon's AR Shopping Tool

Feb 27, 2018, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has made its AR View mobile shopping application available to Android handsets. The app allows people to visualize products in their home, such as furniture, before they buy them. Amazon says everything from couches to kitchen appliances and more are rendered in life-size, so shoppers can gauge whether or not the items will fit their space or style. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store. Other retailers, including Ikea, offer similar tools in their mobile shopping apps. AR View has been available to iOS devices since last year.

Google Working with Carriers and Phone Makers to Expand Assistant's Reach and Capabilities

Feb 23, 2018, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.

Apple Seeds Third Public Beta of iOS 11.3

Feb 21, 2018, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 3 available to those signed up to test pre-release versions of the platform. iOS 11.3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. Other new features of iOS 11.3 include new animoji, new business chat functions in iMessages, and an update version of Apple’s ARKit augmented reality. Of note, the AirPlay 2 features that appeared in the second beta has been removed for the time being. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Apple also released tvOS 11.3 Beta 3 and macOS 10.13 Beta 3.

T-Mobile Rolls Out Another Deal for iPhones and Apple Watch

Feb 21, 2018, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has a new promotion targeting Apple products. First, T-Mobile is offering a $200 rebate to those who purchase an iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, or 7 Plus. The rebate is being offered in addition to the value of a trade-in. People who trade a device in at T-Mobile stores will be given instant credit for the trade, though T-Mobile will accept trades sent via mail. Further, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one deal on iPhones. Customers who buy two iPhones and port-in or activate a new line of service on at least one device can receive the second device for free (via monthly bill credits). Customers will have to pay tax on purchases at the point of sale. People who cancel service will be responsible for paying the balance of any devices on their account. Last, T-Mobile is offering a deal on the Apple Watch 3. Those who buy one Apple Watch 3 can snag a second for half price ($215). These promotions kick off on February 23 and will be available for a limited time.

Facebook Makes It Easy to Add People to Video Calls

Feb 21, 2018, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today improved the video call tool in Facebook Messenger by making it a snap to add more people to the conversation. As it works today, creating group video calls requires people to initiate the call as such from the onset. With the new update, people who have an in-progress call with one person can simply add others without interrupting the existing call. A new button makes it easy to find and add other Messenger contacts. Facebook says this new feature is rolling out to its Facebook Messenger app for Android and iOS devices worldwide.

Snapchat Works In Giphy Support, Debuts Tabs

Feb 20, 2018, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is pushing an update to its mobile app that adds several new features, including support for Giphy stickers and Tabs. With Giphy on board, Snapchat users can add GIF stickers to their snaps by tapping the sticker button. The GIF stickers can be placed anywhere on the photo or video, as well as resized and pinned in place. The Tabs tool is meant to help people keep tabs on their preferred stories. The Tabs section is built into the Friends and Discover pages. It lets people sift through the active stories and group chats shared by their friends. Giphy support is available in the latest version of Snapchat for Android and iOS, while the Tabs tool is rolling in phases over the next few weeks.

Apple Releases Third Developer Beta of iOS 11.3

Feb 20, 2018, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The public version of iOS 11.3 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs.

Nuance Puts Swipe+Dragon In the App Graveyard

Feb 20, 2018, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nuance says its Swype+Dragon application for Android and iOS has reached end of development. "Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses," confirmed Nuance to XDA Developers. Swype was an early leader in the swiping-keyboard space. It started as an independent app, but was later acquired by Nuance. Nuance continued to develop the app and eventually integrated the swiping keyboard with its own Dragon voice dictation technology. The space is competitive, however, and Google's own GBoard application has garnered quick adoption on many Android devices. Swype+Dragon is still available from the Play Store for the time being, but it will no longer receive updates.

iOS 11.2.6 Fixes Character-Based Messaging Bug

Feb 19, 2018, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Primarily, the minor update tackles an issue where using certain characters could cause apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp to crash. The update also patches a problem where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories. The iOS 11.2.6 is free to download over the air.

Apple Prepping Fix for Message Bug that Crashes iPhones

Feb 16, 2018, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says it has a patch in the works that will counter a bug causing iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and even Macs to crash. The bug occurs when people receive a message with certain Indian language characters in apps including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. According to The Verge, Apple will push the patch "soon." This means the bug will be fixed through a minor update (iOS 11.2.x) rather than the larger iOS 11.3 update expected later this spring. Apple also plans to issue patches for macOS and watchOS to resolve the issue on those devices.

Apple Puts Its Foot Down, Will Require Apps Support iPhone X

Feb 15, 2018, 4:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 15, 2018, 4:55 PM

Apple today told developers that soon all new apps submitted to the iTunes App Store must support the screen of the latest iPhone. "Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later," said Apple in an email to developers. "All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X." The iPhone X display swaps the 16:9 aspect ratio found on the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 for a 2:1 aspect ratio with a notch at the top. It also boosts the resolution beyond full HD. Apps that haven't yet been updated for the iPhone X often have black bars at the top and bottom, which look unsightly. Developers can find the iOS 11 SDK on Apple's developer web site.

Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Feb 15, 2018, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft's New Photos Companion App Acts Like AirDrop, But for Windows PCs

Feb 15, 2018, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Facebook's Messenger Kids App Lands On Android Devices

Feb 14, 2018, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available for Android devices via the Google Play Store. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and later Amazon devices. The app is free to download and use.

YouTube TV Gains More Channels, But Price Goes Up

Feb 14, 2018, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Subscribers to Google's YouTube TV service now have access to more content in more places for more dollars per month. The live TV and video service is adding a number of Turner-owned stations to its lineup, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. Sports content from NBA TV and MLB Network will follow soon. The service launched with content from 50 channels. There are still glaring omission, particularly with respect to content for children, such as Nickelodeon. Google didn't say what the full new channel lineup is. YouTube TV has expanded is geographical reach to the top 100 markets around the country. Some of the most recent additions include Burlington, Champaign, Charleston, Columbia, Dayton, El Paso, Harlingen, Honolulu, Lexington, Mobile, Petersburg, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Scranton, Springfield, Syracuse, Wichita, and Wilkes-Barre. These content and market expansions come at a cost. Google plans to raise the price from $35 per month to $40 per month beginning March 15. Customers who sign up before then will be grandfathered in at the lower price. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as the Apple TV and Roku players. Subscribers have access to live television, six sub-accounts, and unlimited DVR recordings.

Verizon to Start Locking Its Phones Again to Fight Thieves

Feb 12, 2018, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless plans to lock its handsets in order to cut down on theft. Verizon claims its unlocked phones are a big target, often stolen when in transit to Verizon stores or to consumers. Unlocked phones, particularly Apple iPhones, are easier to sell on the black market because they can be used virtually anywhere. Verizon's devices will be locked when first flashed with the operating system and will remain locked until the point of purchase. When consumers buy the phone, a software update will unlock the device. Later this spring, however, Verizon will keep phones locked to its network for an unknown period of time — even after activation. This move will prevent people from signing up for service with fake identities and then absconding with the device. "We're taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud," said Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, in a statement provided to CNET. "These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals." Verizon claims consumers won't really be impacted by the change in policy. The company says it will unlock phones upon request after the initial locked period expires, even if the phone is not yet fully paid for. It will also continue to allow customers to bring their own unlocked handsets to its network. Verizon didn't say how soon the policy change will go into effect. Verizon has sold unlocked devices since it launched 4G LTE. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all require people to pay the balance of their phone and wait 14 to 60 days before they'll agree to unlock it.

VLC Video Player Adds Chromecast, HDR, 360-Degree Video

Feb 10, 2018, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VideoLAN this week updated its open-source VLC media player with a significant number of new features. VLC version 3.0 adds support for Chromecast, which lets people push video from their handset to any device that can receive casted content. Other additions include support for 360-degree video and 3D sound playback, HDMI passthrough, HDR quality video, a handful of new codes, and much more. VLC 3.0 is available for a variety of mobile and desktop platforms, including Android and iOS. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Snapchat Users Can Now Create Their Own Lenses and Filters

Feb 8, 2018, 5:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today made it possible for people to create their very own lenses and filters that can be used in pre-defined areas. Custom filters, for example, can be created by people holding events, such as weddings or birthday parties. They design the filter, create an area on the map in which the filter is available, and anyone who attends the event will be able to use the filter while on site. People can create custom lenses in much the same way. Geographic areas can be as small as 20,000 square feet or as large as 5 million square feet. The price of the filters/lenses starts at $10 and increases based on the size of the area to which they are being offered. Snapchat doesn't expect individuals to use the new custom filters or lenses everyday; rather, it expects organizers and brands will use them to call attention to specific events. The tools are available on the web and via the iOS Snapchat app.

Apple Releases iOS 11.3 Public Beta 2

Feb 7, 2018, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 2 available to public testers. This build tweaks performance and adds Apple's promised battery health meter. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The new feature is a response to news that Apple slows down the performance of older iPhones to account for the degradation of lithium ion batteries. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.

Apple Weighing Refunds for Those Who Paid Full Price for iPhone Battery Replacements

Feb 6, 2018, 3:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple might give some customers a refund. The company is mulling whether or not it should offer cash back to those who paid full price to replace the battery of their older iPhone. Until December 2017, Apple charged $79 to replace iPhone batteries. The company admitted late last year that it slowed down some older iPhones in order to prevent random shutdowns. Replacing the battery of said older iPhones mitigates the speed/performance issue. Apple has since dropped the price of replacing batteries by $50, from $79 to $29. The company may offer $50 refunds to people who coughed up the full $79 price. The information was revealed in a letter Apple sent to Sen. John Thune, who requested more details about Apple's actions concerning the iPhone slowdown kerfuffle. "Apple has promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price," indicated Thune. Apple says it is seeing strong demand for replacement batteries at its retail stores. The company is also offering a software tool to customers, which will arrive in iOS 11.3 later this year, to help balance speed and battery life.

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