Google Play now makes it easier to manage your subscriptions

Mobile app subscriptions are a big business, but consumers sometimes hesitate to sign up because pausing and cancelling existing subscriptions hasn’t been as easy as opting in. Google is now addressing those concerns with the official launch of its subscription center for Android users. The new feature centralizes all your Google Play subscriptions, and offers a way for you to find others you might like to try. The feature was first introduced at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, and recently rolled out to Android users, the company says. However, Google hadn’t formally announced its arrival until today. Access to the subscriptions center only takes one tap – the link is directly available from the “hamburger” menu in the Play Store app. Apple’s page for subscription management, by comparison, is far more tucked away. On iOS, you have to tap on your profile icon in the App Store app, then
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YouTube woos brands with its new Creative Suite of ad tools

YouTube hopes a new set of creative tools will help it win back advertisers who may have grown disenchanted with the video network due to its ongoing content scandals. The company announced this morning a suite of tools that will allow brands and agencies to test ads, target specific audiences with customized versions of the same ad, and tell stories over a series of ads. One new tool, Video Experiments, offers AdWords advertisers a way to test video ads on YouTube’s site, as an alternative to using focus groups to determine the impact of creative on metrics brands care about like awareness or purchase intent. The service, which launches in beta later this month, will allow marketers to shift funds usually put towards those focus groups and their “simulated ad environments,” to real ad environments. The ads will run in cleanly segmented experiments on YouTube at no extra cost beyond
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Apple picks up the immigrant anthology series ‘Little America’ for its streaming service

Apple’s latest addition to its upcoming video streaming service is a timely one. The company has picked up “Little America,” a half-hour anthology series which looks at the “funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring, and surprising stories” of immigrants in America. The series comes from Oscar-nominated screenwriters of “The Big Sick,” Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) and Emily V. Gordon, and Emmy-nominated producer and writer Lee Eisenberg (“The Office,” “SMILF”). Eisenberg will also exec produce alongside Emmy winning producer, writer and director Alan Yang (“Master of None,””Parks and Recreation”), and he will serve as showrunner. Joshuah Bearman and Joshua Davis will executive produce for Epic Magazine, where the stories originated, alongside co-executive producer Arthur Spector. “Little America” is being produced by Universal Television for Apple.  The series, which was previously in development, was inspired by the true stories featured in Epic Magazine which aim to humanize immigrants at a time when nationalism
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Amazon Prime Wardrobe officially launches to all U.S. Prime members

Prime Wardrobe, Amazon’s “try before you buy” shopping service first announced last summer, is officially out of beta and open to all Prime members in the U.S. as of today. The service has been gradually opening up to more customers over the course of the year, so many Prime members may have already had access before today’s official unveiling. Prime Wardrobe is Amazon’s answer to the increasingly popular personalized shopping services like Stitch Fix and Trunk, which send a curated box of clothing to customers on a regular basis. These services allow consumers to try on clothing and other items in the home, then keep what they like and send back the rest. However, Amazon’s service is more of a DIY version – instead of using stylists, you fill your own box with at least three and as many as eight items at a time. You then
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Anchor brings podcast creation and editing to the iPad

Following its relaunch earlier this year as a podcast creation platform, Anchor today is bringing its suite of mobile podcasting tools to the iPad. Like its iPhone counterpart, the iPad version of Anchor lets you record, edit, then distribute your podcast anywhere, including iTunes and Google Play Music. The new app is also customized for touch-based editing, and it takes advantage of iPad features like drag-and-drop and multitasking. The company had originally been focused on short-form audio, but more recently realized it could better serve the growing audience of podcasters with a set of easy-to-use tools available right on their mobile device. The iPhone version of Anchor lets you press a button to record your audio, record with friends, insert voice messages (like call-ins) into your podcast, and easily add music and transitions. The iPad app now offers a similar set of tools, with a few upgrades and tweaks. For
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Starz launches 14 channels on YouTube TV

YouTube’s live TV streaming service is getting a big addition, starting today. Starz is rolling out its 14 channels, including Starz, Starz Encore, and Starz Encore Westerns, to the Google-owned streaming service as an add-on that costs $9 per month. The network joins YouTube TV’s other premium channel options, including Showtime, Shudder, Sundance Now, and Fox Soccer Plus. Notably, HBO is not in that list – YouTube TV chose not to take all of Time Warner Broadcasting’s channels because it wanted to offer a slimmed down, more affordable live TV service. So Time Warner chose to stop negotiating a deal for HBO, according to a report from Bloomberg. But that could be good news for Starz, as the network will now be one of the few premium cable networks to target YouTube TV’s younger, millennial viewers who often aren’t signing up for pay TV in the first place. They’re not
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Twitch now lets streamers use multiple Extensions at once

Last year, Twitch announced a suite of tools called Extensions, that allow streamers to customize their channel pages with interactive features, including polls, leaderboards, schedules and more. Today, Twitch is making Extensions even more useful by allowing streamers to run up to three of these overlays at the same time on their video, plus three more below the video player, for a total of six that can be active on their channel at any time. This update, Twitch says, will allow streamers to better customize their channels in unique ways, while engaging and retaining their fans. To enable multiple Extensions, streamers will visit their channel dashboard’s redesigned Extensions Manager, where Extensions can now be sorted by category, like Extensions for Games, Music, Streamer Tools, and others. There’s also a “Partner Picks” section here which is where top creators are sharing their favorites. Alongside the launch, a number of developers have
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Amazon launches an Alexa system for hotels

Alexa is coming to your hotel room. Amazon this morning is announcing a new program called Alexa for Hospitality, designed to bring its voice assistant technology to everything from chain hotels to vacation rentals. The system can be customized to include key guest information, like checkout time or pool hours; allows guests to request services like housekeeping or room service; and can be configured to control “smart” hotel room functions, like adjusting the thermostat or raising the blinds. Marriott is Amazon’s launch partner on the new platform, which is notable not only for the potential scale of this rollout, but also because the hotelier had been testing both Siri and Alexa devices ahead of today’s news. According to Amazon, Marriott International will introduce the new Alexa experience at select properties in Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels starting this summer.
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Google rolls out Messages on the web for Android users

Messages, Google’s more recent focus for its scattered messaging efforts following its decision to “pause” work on Allo, is now available for web users. The company announced that it would begin rolling out Messages for web starting today, with the full rollout completing over the next week. The feature, along with others including GIF search, smart replies, and more, is part of an updated messaging experience for Android users that aims to be Google’s response to iMessage. The company earlier this year moved its Allo team to work on Android Messages, Google’s app that utilizes the RCS messaging standard. The standard, adopted by numerous mobile operators worldwide, offers more feature parity with iMessage, thanks to its support for things like read receipts, typing indicators, high-res photo sharing, better group chat, and other features. Now, Messages is gaining another feature to better compete with iMessage: web support. Today, Apple users can
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Photomyne raises $5 million for its A.I.-powered photo scanning app

Tel Aviv-based Photomyne, an A.I.-powered app that helps you bring your old photo prints online, has been benefitting from the subscription app boom to the tune of $5 million in Series A funding. Today, the app is used by a million people every month, and 250,000 people pay the $20 annual subscription for the expanded service. This adds a handful of additional features, including the option to build a family website where all your photos are uploaded immediately after being scanned. There is something of a limited lifetime for apps that convert physical media to digital – at some point, everyone who wants to transition their old media to the web will have done so. Another issue is that some people will make scanning photos a one-time project. They’ll then save all their photos to their own device and cloud storage, and cancel their subscription. And as
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Google’s Datally app adds more ways to limit mobile data usage

In November, Google introduced Datally, a data-saving app largely aimed at emerging markets where users often rely on prepaid SIM cards, and don’t have access to all-you-can-eat unlimited data plans. The app lets users granularly control which apps can use data, which resulted in a 30% savings on data usage during pilot testing and now saves users 21%, on average. Today, Google is giving Datally an upgrade with several new features that will help users cut data usage even further. One key feature is the introduction of daily limits, which allow you to control your data usage on a per-day basis. This one is more about creating better habits around data consumption, so you don’t accidentally burn through too much data in a day, then end up without any data left before the month ends. This also ties into to Google’s larger push to give users more insights into
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iOS 12 will automatically share your iPhone’s location with 911 centers

Apple this morning announced a new feature in iOS 12 which will automatically share your location with first responders when U.S. users dial 911 using their iPhone. The move is meant to address the problems with dialing emergency services from a cell phone, where outdated infrastructure has made it difficult to obtain a mobile caller’s location quickly and accurately, Apple says. Approximately 80 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones, however, which is why it’s critical to fix this system. In 2015, Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), which would estimate a caller’s location using GPS and Wi-Fi Access points. Today, Apple said it will additionally use RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to securely share this HELO location data with 911 centers, to improve the response times even further. RapidSOS’s technology integrates with existing software installed at many 911 centers, which is how they’ll receive the data. Apple also
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Crown, a new app from Tinder’s parent company, turns dating into a game

If you’re already resentful of online dating culture and how it turned finding companionship into a game, you may not be quite ready for this: Crown, a new dating app that actually turns getting matches into a game. Crown is the latest project to launch from Match Group, the operator of a number of dating sites and apps including Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and others. The app was thought up by Match Product Manager Patricia Parker, who understands first-hand both the challenges and the benefits of online dating – Parker met her husband online, so has direct experience in the world of online dating. Crown won Match Group’s internal “ideathon,” and was then developed in-house by a team of millennial women, with a goal of serving women’s needs in particular. The main problem Crown is trying to solve is the cognitive overload of using dating apps.
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Apple and Oprah sign a multi-year partnership on original content

Apple announced today a multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey to produce programs for the tech company’s upcoming video streaming service. Apple didn’t provide any specific details as to what sort of projects Winfrey would be involved in, but there will be more than one it seems. Apple shared the news of its deal with Winfrey in a brief statement on its website, which read:
Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN. Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world. Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.
The deal is a significant high-profile win for Apple which has been busy filing out its lineup with an array of talent in recent months. The streaming
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Apple Maps outage disrupts search and navigation for all users

Apple Maps is experiencing a widespread outage, according to the company’s System Status page. Maps routing, navigation and search are impacted by the outage, which is affecting all users, the page informs. The issues were first noticed by the Apple news site MacRumors, before Apple’s own website confirmed the outage starting at 8:48 AM PT. The disruption is impacting Apple Maps across platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and CarPlay. Unfortunately, Apple has only just announced its CarPlay platform would open up to third-party navigation and mapping apps with the release of iOS 12 – but that hasn’t yet come to pass. That means CarPlay users will have to launch a different navigation app on their phone in order to get directions during this outage. While the Apple Maps user interface will load, when you try to search for a given destination or try to navigate, it gives
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Venmo is discontinuing web support for payments and more

PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app Venmo is ending web support for its service, the company announced in an email to users. The changes, which are beginning to roll out now, will see the Venmo.com website phasing out support for making payments and charging users. In time, users will see even less functionality on the website, the company says. The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo’s monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows:
NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website – this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com
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Zelle forecast to overtake Venmo this year

Despite some concerns over its adoption by scammers, new payment service Zelle is shaping up to overtake rival Venmo this year, according to a new forecast from eMarketer. The firm expects Zelle to grow more than 73 percent in 2018, to reach 27.4 million users in the U.S., ahead of Venmo’s 22.9 million. Square Cash will trail with 9.5 million users. This growth isn’t necessarily chalked up to user preference, but rather, ubiquity. Zelle is backed by a network of over 30 U.S. banks, as their means of winning over users from other payment apps including Venmo, PayPal, and Square Cash. The banks had wanted to develop their own alternative these apps for several years, but only recently had those efforts gained momentum. The Zelle website now claims participation from over 100 financial institutions, as well as processor partners CO-OP Financial Services, FIS, Fiserv
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Netflix’s latest hit ‘The Kissing Booth’ is a Wattpad success story

One of the most popular movies in the U.S. is a terrible teen rom-com called “The Kissing Booth,” and it’s not in theaters. Instead, this Netflix Original with its paltry 17 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes, shot up to become the No. 4 movie on IMDb, before more recently dropping down to No. 9. Its leads, Jacob Elordi and Joey King, also became the No. 1 and No. 6 most popular stars on IMDb’s StarMeter, respectively, shortly after the film’s launch. The secret to the movie’s success, however, is not just a combination of teenagers’ questionable taste in entertainment and the power of Netflix’s distribution — though both play a major role, clearly. Instead, it’s that “The Kissing Booth” is tapping into a built-in audience: teenage Wattpad users. Yes, Wattpad. In case you’re not familiar, Wattpad is an online site and mobile app where
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Microsoft is developing its own cashierless store technology, says report

Amazon may be facing new competition from Microsoft on its cashierless, automated store technology, according to a new report from Reuters out this morning. The report claims Microsoft is in the process of developing its own systems for tracking what people place in their shopping carts, but doesn’t offer the details of how Microsoft’s technology operates, or how it may differ from others on the market. Presumably, it would be similar to existing systems, like Amazon’s. The Amazon Go convenience stores utilize a complex network of sensors on shelves, cameras, and A.I. to track what people pick up and place in their bag. Other startups are working on their own machine vision-powered checkout systems, as well, like Standard CognitionAiFi, and AVA Retail, for example. The latter, along with half a dozen others, are already Microsoft partners building their own checkout-free services or related technology on
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Netflix is adding an interactive ‘Minecraft’ story to its lineup, denies entry into gaming

Netflix denies a report that it’s entering the gaming market, but says it is expanding its lineup to include a new game-related, “interactive” narrative series called “Minecraft: Story Mode.” The new series will be the latest addition to its growing collection of interactive stories, which include kid-friendly titles like “Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout,” “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale,” and “Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile.” According to a recent report from TechRadar, Netflix is partnering with Telltale Games to bring game experiences to its TV service, starting with a Minecraft game. Netflix is now clarifying that it’s not a “game,” exactly, it’s an interactive story. The company announced a year ago it would begin experimenting with a new way to stream video, through “choose your own adventure”-style stories that allow viewers to pick what happens next. This allows for the same story to have multiple
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