It took the better part of a year, but HBO Max's app should (hopefully) be more pleasant to use. Warner Bros. Discovery has finished rolling out its redesigned app on desktop, Android and iOS, delivering a more intuitive interface, a performance boost and some arguably overdue features. It finally supports tablets in both portrait and vertical modes, for instance. You'll also find a dedicated video download page, split-screen support, SharePlay (on Apple devices in the US) and a shuffle button on mobile.
The move ends a long and painful saga. In its haste to launch HBO Max, WarnerMedia based the original app on the same foundations as its aging Go and Now apps. The result was, frankly, a mess — it was buggy, sluggish and otherwise less polished than software from competing services. While the new app won't persuade you to subscribe on its own, it could reduce any skittishness.
The timing is less than ideal. Warner Bros. just recently confirmed that it's merging HBO Max and Discovery+ into one service next summer. The app you see today won't last long. With that said, the redesign promises a better starting point for the new platform.
Google is moving forward with its merger of Duo and Meet, if not quite as elegantly as some might like. TechCrunchreports Google is rebranding Duo for Android and iOS as the Meet app, complete with the video calling-centric logo. The company had already migrated many of Meet's features. However, the old Meet app isn't going away for now — instead, it will be rebranded as "Google Meet (original)."
All Duo users should see the rebrand by September. You'll have to use your Google account for any meeting features, but familiar elements (like effects and contacts) will remain intact. The original Meet app will continue to work, but won't get ad hoc calling and will eventually disappear.
As a spokesperson explained in June, the merger is meant to adapt to the "evolving needs" of video calling, including meetings, by providing a unified experience. To some extent, it's also further acknowledgment that Google's communication app mix had grown too complex. The tech firm plans to shut down Hangouts this fall to focus on Chat, for instance, and it dropped Allo in early 2019. While the old Meet's existence could still prove confusing, it should soon be clearer as to just which Google apps you should use for work meetings or keeping up with friends.
Microsoft quietly announced the launch of Outlook Lite for Android, a streamlined version of the company's email service designed to use less battery and storage space than the default Outlook app without sacrificing features or performance.
Specifically, Microsoft says that Outlook Lite has all the main features of the Outlook experience neatly packed into a 5MB app that's optimized for speed, even on lower-end Android devices. The company says the app was designed to run fast on devices with as little as 1GB of RAM, use less battery impact than the full app and offer good performance on older 2G and 3G networks.
That lower data, storage and battery impact is, of course, the point. And Microsoft isn't alone: pared down, lightweight apps serve a huge market of users with budget devices on older networks. That's why Google offers Android Go, a pared down version of the mobile OS designed specifically for lower-end phones, and why Meta has put so much effort into building small, but feature-rich versions of its Instagram and Facebook apps. You can find lightweight apps for Twitter, Tiktok and even Tinder.
Like most lightweight apps, this one has its caveats. Microsoft's new mail app doesn't cut any major features to earn its 'lite' moniker, but it won't work with as many email providers as the primary Outlook app. At present, Outlook Lite is only compatible with Outlook.com, Hotmail, Live, MSN, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Exchange Online accounts. Likewise, the app is also only available in select countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela — though Microsoft says it may add support for more locations in the future.
Apple has famously bragged that it will never invade your privacy to serve ads, but it does have an ad business on its App Store and elsewhere. The company is now expanding that business by adding a new ad slot to its "Today" homepage tab and on individual app pages, 9to5Mac reported. Those are on top of the ads already found on the App Store's main "Search" tab and in the Search results.
"Apple Search Ads provides opportunities for developers of all sizes to grow their business," Apple wrote. "Like our other advertising offerings, these new ad placements are built upon the same foundation—they will only contain content from apps’ approved App Store product pages, and will adhere to the same rigorous privacy standards."
The Today tab is the first thing that loads in the App Store and features a curated and personalized selection of apps to browse (it arrived in 2017 with a significant App Store redesign). The other new space is in the "You Might Also Like" section of an app's product page. The new ads will let developers promote apps alongside Apple's own content and are clearly marked as ads.
The new slots will adhere to Apple's policies on privacy and transparency, by not offering personalized ads to users under 18, never using sensitive data and avoiding hyper-targeting, Apple said. The company didn't say when the new ad slots will appear, but Apple plans to start testing them "soon."
Crypto scams remain a serious problem, and a key senator wants to make sure app store operators are cracking down. Senate banking committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown has sent letters to the CEOs of Apple and Google requesting answers on their protections against cryptocurrency app fraud. The politician wanted details of their app approval and reporting processes, user alerts for fraudulent activity, coordination with rival stores and monitoring for apps that transform into phishing scams.
We've asked Apple and Google for comment. Brown gave the executives until August 10th to provide responses to the letters.
Both tech firms provide at least some screening for bogus crypto apps. Apple's App Store review guidelines forbid scam apps, including bait-and-switch tactics. Google is less targeted with its Play Store policies, but bars apps that enable illegal activity or "dishonest behavior." Both companies let you report suspicious apps. They haven't historically sent direct scam alerts, however, and aren't known to actively monitor apps in case they launch phishing scams.
Whatever the stances, Brown saw effective safeguards as important. The FBI recently warned that app-based cryptocurrency fraud has already led to losses of $42.7 million. It was "imperative" that shops protect investors against this damage, the senator said.
There's no certainty that the requests will translate to legislation requiring stricter anti-fraud systems. The committee request could clarify the stances of Apple and Google on the subject, though, and might increase the pressure to take further action. At the least, it's a reminder that an app's presence on the App Store or Google Play isn't a guarantee it will be trustworthy.
Later this year, Google Photos is going to get a significant update that has the distinction of first arriving on Chromebooks. According to a Google blog post, Google Photos will get a new movie editor and video editing features this fall as part of an update to Chrome OS. From the sound of things, it’ll let users make videos similar to the highlight clips the app already automatically makes. You’ll be able to select a theme as well as people or pets you want to feature in it; from there, Google Photos will pull together a movie using video clips and images from your library. It’ll be smart enough to scan longer videos and pull out specific clips to include in these new creations as well.
While it’s no surprise that Google is including an automated tool, the company is also including the ability to start from scratch, adding video clips and photos in any order you like. The app will let you adjust things like brightness and contrast, trim clips as you see fit, add title cards and music and apply Google’s Real Tone filters that work better with non-white hairstyles and darker skin.
Google isn’t saying yet if these video editing features will come to the mobile apps for iOS and Android, but Google Photos has usually had feature parity regardless of platform, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these tools expand past Chromebooks before long. In fact, the video editor will be built in to an optimized version of the Android Google Photos app specifically built for larger screens. The app will also seamlessly work with the Files and Gallery Chrome OS apps, so you can open a video in the Gallery app and immediately move it right over to Google Photos for editing or including in a new creation.
There are numerous other handy updates planned for Chrome OS coming in the next few months. Another new Google Photos feature will allow Chromebooks to access your library and use those pictures for background wallpaper; like other Chrome OS wallpaper options, you can pick a specific album and set it to change daily. The aforementioned Gallery app is going to get PDF editing features, so you can fill out forms and sign them if you’re using a Chromebook with a stylus. That feature is coming next week. There’s also a new Cursive app for capturing and organizing hand-written notes; those can be copy and pasted into other apps or exported to PDFs for, depending on how you need to share them.
Chrome OS is also getting a new dark mode, something that’s been rumored for a long time now. As you can on most other devices, you’ll be able to pick one mode or have it automatically switch based on the time of day. Some new wallpapers will also come with light and dark versions that automatically switch depending on which theme you use, too.
Finally, Google is making a few productivity improvements to Chrome OS. Clicking on the date in the Chromebook shelf will pop up a monthly calendar view; you can choose a date to see your Google Calendar events without having to open the app or website. And Chrome OS will let you save virtual desk setups, so if you have a specific set of tabs and apps you use frequently, you can call them up and dismiss them as needed.
Most of these updates should be coming in August, though Google specifically noted the virtual desk update won’t be available until late September. And the Google Photos video editing tools are set to arrive in the “fall” — hopefully sooner than later.
We hope you weren't using Meta's experimental Tuned app to keep your relationship fires burning. Gizmodoreports Meta is shutting down Tuned on September 19th, and that sign-up attempts for the couple-oriented app now produce errors. The company wasn't shy about its reasons for the move. In a statement to Engadget, a spokesperson said Meta's New Product Experimentation team winds down apps if they "aren’t sticking."
Meta's (then Facebook's) NPE Team launched Tuned in April 2020 to give partners a "private space" where they could share feelings, love notes, challenges and music streams. The timing was apt (if unintentional) given the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In theory, this helped distant couples cement their bonds when they couldn't connect in person.
It's not certain how many people used the app, though. While Meta brought the initially iOS-only software to Android and said there were "many couples" who used Tuned to get closer, there's little doubt Tuned remained a niche product compared to the likes of Facebook or Instagram. There's a good chance you're hearing about this app for the first time, after all. We'd add that there wasn't much point when you could text, video chat or otherwise use existing services to accomplish many of the same goals.
You might have seen this coming. Meta has routinely shut down experimental apps, and has even axed higher-profile apps when they didn't gain traction. These closures help the company save resources and focus on more popular platforms. As it stands, Tuned was increasingly an outlier for a tech giant shifting its attention from social networking to the metaverse.
Snapchat’s messaging and video chat features are no longer limited to just the mobile app. More than a decade after the Snapchat app first launched, company is introducing Snapchat for Web, a new browser-based version of its service.
Snapchat+ subscribers will gain access to the new web app first, but will eventually it will be available to all of the users. It will support messaging and video calling for now, though the company plans to add support for its augmented reality lenses and the ability to send photo and video Snaps “soon.”
Snap also tried to build some of its signature privacy features into the web version. For example, it will block screenshot attempts it’s able to detect, like those taken with keyboard shortcuts. The company also added a “privacy screen” that blocks the contents of users' chats if they click away into a separate window.
It’s not the first time Snap has experimented with desktop or browser-based features. The company previously made some viewable on web browsers, and brought its AR effects to the desktop with its. But it is the first time some of Snapchat’s core messaging features will be available to users outside of the mobile app.
The change could help Snapchat increase engagement with its most dedicated users. A Snap spokesperson noted that video calling has become more popular among Snapchat users in recent years, and that a desktop experience can be more conducive to longer video calls. It could also help Snap replicate the experience of apps like Discord where teens tend to use chats as places to hang out while doing other online activities.
Notably, there are no ads or other revenue-generating features in Snapchat for Web, though a spokesperson said the company could eventually bring other aspects of the mobile app to the browser version of the service — if there’s enough demand.
When Apple put its M1 processor in the 2021 iPad Pro and iPad Air, I couldn’t help but wonder what all that power was for. The A-series chips that Apple had used in earlier models ran iPadOS extremely well, so seeing the same processor found in computers like the MacBook Air and Mac Mini was a surprise.
With iPadOS 16, which I’ve been testing in beta for the last few weeks, it’s now obvious why Apple put the M1 in its latest iPads. It enables some significant new features around multitasking that make the iPad a lot more flexible, and it enables some entirely new workflows: things that iPad power users have been requesting for years. Apple calls this new multitasking scheme Stage Manager.
And even though Stage Manager will only work on the three M1-powered iPad models, it’s easily the most significant change to iPadOS in years, as well as the most notable feature that’s currently available in the iPadOS 16 beta. As usual, a host of features that Apple announced at WWDC last month aren’t yet fully enabled in the beta software.
Resizable, overlapping app windows is the most immediately obvious benefit that Stage Manager offers, but Vivek Bhardwaj from Worldwide Product Marketing at Apple told Engadget in an interview that the company looks at Stage Manager as far more than, in his words, “a little iteration on multitasking.” The broader goal was to figure out how to make apps more capable on the iPad. “When we took a step back, we realized that there’s an opportunity for us to have apps running not just on iPad but on an external display, to be able to multitask with multiple apps, and have arrangements and flexibility like users have never had before,” Bhardwaj said.
Despite the bugs that I’ve encountered running iPadOS 16 on a 2021 iPad Pro (more on that later), Bhardwaj’s assessment feels accurate. Stage Manager makes the iPad feel much closer to a Mac than it ever has before while still retaining the simplicity that the iPad is known for. That shows up in some limitations — you can have at most four apps “on stage” at once, so you can’t stack as many windows and apps as you want. But it’s a reasonable limitation: Even on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, having more than three apps running on a single stage can feel cramped. But because iPadOS keeps four more recent stages on the left (each of which can also hold up to four apps), it’s easier than ever to jump between a host of different apps.
For example, I’m writing this story in a Pages document, with a Notes instance running next to it. I have Slack and Messages running in a communication-focused stage, a few Safari windows, and my email readily accessible via the left-side recent apps view. I can also get to any app in my dock with one tap or use Spotlight to search for any app on my iPad if I need something that isn’t readily available. There’s definitely a learning curve here, but it’s undoubtedly a more powerful and flexible way to use an iPad than we’ve ever had before. It’s significant that Apple is giving iPad users complexity and customization at the expense of simplicity, something the company usually avoids.
This is doubly true when you hook up an iPad to an external display. Before, you’d just get a mirror image of what is on your iPad’s screen, but now the external display is an entirely separate workspace. With Stage Manager, you can have a distinct set of apps running on that monitor, something that makes using an iPad with another display significantly more useful than it ever was before — and another example of why Stage Manager requires an M1-powered iPad.
That said, in its unfinished form, Stage Manager is a bit rough around the edges. When I was using my iPad with an external display, the system crashed and threw me back to the home screen not infrequently, which obviously kills productivity gains. There are also quirks with apps behaving unpredictably when resizing their windows. I’d expect these things to be improved by the time iPadOS 16 is officially released this fall, but just be aware that the beta still feels very much like a beta.
Stage Manager, which is also coming to macOS Ventura, provides a clear example of how Apple differentiates its platforms even when they share features. “On the iPad, we looked at how do we optimize [Stage Manager] for multitouch?” Bhardwaj said. “Because we know people are going to want to interact with it, we had to make adjusting windows and overlapping windows not feel overwhelming, not feel like you have to have fine cursor control and pixel-perfect arrangement.” That led to a lot of automation in terms of how windows interact with each other and where they’re placed when you add apps to a stage or resize them.
On the Mac, though, the behavior is different because of the user’s expectations for the platform and the tools you use to interact with it — specifically, a mouse rather than your fingers. “People actually need fine-grained control because that’s the behavior and usage of Mac,” Bhardwaj said.
Before Apple showed off Stage Manager at WWDC, the rest of the iPadOS 16 preview was dominated by new collaboration features. In a world that’s been remade by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work is more common than ever, and Apple is clearly trying to make the iPad even more of a productivity tool than before. And it’s doing so by using its incredibly popular Messages app as an entry point.
Apple’s new collaboration API means that you can share things like a Pages, Numbers or Keynote document with a group via Messages, and the recipients will be able to all work on the document in real time. Previously, this would just send a copy of the document, but now everyone in your group will be able to make changes, with updates tracked in the Messages thread. You can also jump directly from a document into a FaceTime call with your group. “Communication often is the first place where we start ideation,” Bhardwaj said. “When you look at Messages or FaceTime, our customers have been using them for a long time; it’s such an integral part of the way our sets speak to family, friends, teammates, colleagues.”
Google and Microsoft have had real-time collaboration for years, and it’s not new to Apple’s iWork suite either. What is new is the deep integration with Messages and FaceTime. That likely won’t be enough to draw in users who are already committed to using Google Docs or Microsoft Office, but Apple’s new collaboration features aren’t limited to just those apps. For example, you can share a group of tabs from Safari, or share content from Notes and Reminders. And Apple is also extending SharePlay, which it introduced last year as a way to watch videos or listen to music with friends, to Messages as well. Additionally, you can now use SharePlay with games, so you compete with a friend over FaceTime.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Apple is making a Collaboration API available to third-party developers. Offering a more seamless way to collaborate using Messages, one of the most crucial apps Apple offers, could be an important new tool. “For developers, they want to meet the user where they’re at, where the conversation is happening,” said Bhardwaj. “For many people, that’s in apps like Messages and FaceTime. So this is exciting for a developer because a conversation that was organically already happening can now be a great jumping-off point into their app.” We won’t know if this happens until after iPadOS 16 is out, of course, but the ubiquity of Messages on Apple’s hardware make it a logical tool for developers to support.
Freeform, a new app that unfortunately isn’t available in the iPadOS 16 beta, is perhaps the best example of how Apple sees communication and collaboration intersecting. From a FaceTime call, you can create a new Freeform board, which is a space that everyone you invite can contribute to, whether that’s adding text, web links, documents or notes and drawings made with an Apple Pencil. Each contributor is highlighted as they add things to the space, and you can tap on someone’s name from the share menu to see exactly what they’re up to. Adding more material is simply a matter of zooming out and picking a free space.
The easy comparison is that it’s a virtual marker board — not at all something meant for formal presentation, but a good place to brainstorm. While Freeform will also be available on iPhones and Macs, it feels uniquely suited to the iPad. It looks like it’ll be most easily navigated via a large touch screen, and Apple Pencil users will likely find it a good place to use their stylus.
Naturally, there’s a host of new features in iPadOS 16 that are shared with macOS Ventura and iOS 16. The Mail app now supports scheduling emails, undoing send and a much-improved search interface, while the Messages app lets you edit and undo sending as well. The Photos app now includes a shared photo library, with new pictures and edits automatically syncing between family members. And there’s an official Weather app, some 12 years after Apple shipped its first iPad! (Joking aside, the Weather app is really nice, with tappable modules that show lots of detail on various conditions.)
In a lot of ways, it’s a typical iPadOS update: There are a host of new features, most of which are nice to have but won’t fundamentally change the way you use an iPad. But, the combination of features like Stage Manager, Freeform and the new collaboration tools point to how Apple intends to make the iPad more suited to productivity than it has been before. We’ll have to wait until iPadOS 16 is finalized and released this fall to judge how successful this update is. But after feeling like iPad hardware was outpacing what its software could do, we’re glad to see Apple making some big changes to iPadOS this year.
Fertility apps have always been sketchy. As I’ve experienced it, it’s a Faustian bargain of sorts: Take your chances on one of many options in your app store, and pick the one with the best reviews, or maybe the simplest interface. You’ll sign up feeling unsure of what to make of the opaque data policy, and then you’ll bear with the ensuing deluge of targeted ads – all in exchange for an accurate prediction of when you’re most likely to conceive. Judging by those ads for maternity clothes and organic cotton onesies, someone somewhere knows I’m either trying to conceive or have already given birth, even if they can’t decide which. I don’t like it, but I put up with it.
I’ve been mulling the subject of period and fertility trackers ever since I decided I was ready to become a parent, though for privacy’s sake, I didn’t imagine writing about it until after I’d given birth to said imaginary baby. But in the two months since Politico published a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that has overturned the constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, a lot of people have been talking about period trackers. Some activists and privacy advocates have asked if the data captured by these apps can be used to help prosecute someone seeking an abortion in a state that doesn’t allow it. Some have simply exhorted readers to delete these apps altogether.
I understand why. And I also understand why people use these apps in the first place: Because the version of that app that’s built into your smartphone OS isn’t very good.
In my case, I have an iPhone. I’ve been using period tracking for a couple years now, though Apple began introducing these features much earlier, in 2015. From the beginning, Apple wascriticized for moving slowly: Some observers wondered why Apple didn’t have women’s health features ready when it launched the Apple Health app the year before.
In its current form, the app is decent in the sense that it can accurately predict when you’re about to menstruate, and it’s easy to log when you do, either through your iOS device or Apple Watch. This is useful not just for avoiding potential surprises, but for knowing when your last period started in case your gynecologist asks. (And they always ask.) What's more, irregular periods can sometimes underscore larger health issues.
The fact that Apple hasn't paid more attention to this, when hundreds of millions have downloaded third-party alternatives, is honestly surprising: Apple could own this space if it wanted to.
In order for it to do that, though, Cycle Tracking has to be equally good at helping people get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. Because ultimately, those users all need the same set of data, the same predictions, regardless of their intention. If you know you’re ovulating and want a baby, you should definitely have sex. If you’d like nothing less than to get pregnant, that ovulation window is also a useful thing to be aware of.
Here’s what Apple would need to add to its app to match its competitors and build a true all-in-one period and fertility tracker. (Apple declined to comment for this story.)
First off, it must be said that Apple doesn’t attempt to predict when you’re ovulating. What you’ll see is a six-day fertility window, shaded in blue. But not all fertile days are the same. One has a roughly 30 percent chance of conceiving on ovulation day or the day before; five days before, your chances are closer to 10 percent. Unless you plan to have sex for six days or avoid it that whole time, a six-day fertility window with no additional context is not very helpful.
Other fertility apps learn from previous cycles to predict how long your typical cycle is and when you’ll likely be ovulating. I’ve seen more than one app present conception odds on a bell graph, with some even displaying your estimated percentage of success for a given day. Apple can decide for itself how complex of an interface it wants, but it most definitely has the machine learning know-how to predict ovulation based on previous cycles.
A proper calendar view
Apple’s is the only period tracking app I’ve seen that doesn’t offer a gridded calendar view. Which is incredible when you remember everything related to fertility (and later pregnancy) is measured in weeks. Instead, Apple Health shows the days in a single, horizontally scrollable line. On my iPhone 12’s 6.1-inch screen, that’s enough space to see seven days in full view. Also, if you input any data, whether it's sexual activity or physical symptoms, that day will be marked with a purple dot. That isn't helpful at a glance when that dot could mean anything. Another tip for Apple: color-coding might help.
If I were just logging my period, I’d appreciate not having the red-colored possible period days sneak up on me. (Okay, okay, you can set notifications too.) But for those trying to conceive, a calendar view would help for other reasons, like matching factors like sexual activity and body temperature against your predicted fertile days. Which brings me to my next point…
An easier way to log and understand basal body temperature
One way that many people measure their fertility is by taking their temperature every day, at about the same time. The idea is that your temperature shoots up right before ovulation, and drops back down after, unless you’ve conceived. It doesn’t matter so much what each day’s reading is; what matters is the pattern that all of those inputs point to. And the only way to see a pattern is to view your temperature readings on a graph.
This is how temperature tracking was meant to be done in the old days, before smartphones: with graph paper. It’s awfully difficult to spot the surge when you’re scrolling, one day at a time, through Apple Health’s left-to-right calendar. It is very easy to spot the surge when it’s presented as an infographic. And I know Apple could do a good job of this. This is already how Apple presents changes in my daily exercise minutes or fluctuations in my heart rate throughout the day.
Oh, and while I’m ranting on this topic, Apple doesn’t just let you type in whatever number you see on your thermometer. You have to select it from a scrolling dial, similar to how you would set an alarm in the Clock app. (When you go to enter your temperature, you start at the last temperature you entered.) Basal thermometers show your reading down to the hundredth of a degree, so even mild fluctuations in temperature from one day to the next can lead to an annoying amount of scrolling.
The ability to recognize ovulation strips
Not everyone uses temperature readings to predict ovulation. Many people use the newer invention of ovulation tests: at-home pee strips that measure Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which surges ahead of ovulation. The result always includes two lines, and how close you are to ovulating depends on how dark each of the lines are. Because that color exists on a spectrum, from light purple to very dark, it can be difficult to suss out the nuances with the naked eye, especially toward the deeper end of the color grade. Fortunately, many apps allow you to take or upload a photo of the results, and the app will use camera recognition to classify your test results into one of three categories: low, high or peak. Again, I have no doubt that Apple has the technology to do this.
Resources for pregnant people
One of the reasons people download and continue to use fertility apps after they get pregnant is that they can learn, week by week, whether their baby is the size of a raspberry, prune or avocado. These apps can also be a resource for first-timers who are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what symptoms and bodily changes they can expect at each stage. The information in these apps vary in depth, and likely accuracy. There’s no governing body so far as I can tell that regulates what information apps include as resources. Not even the App Store. I’m not suggesting Apple write its own content. But it can use the same system of curation that it uses for the App Store, Apple News, etc. to provide users information from trusted outside sources, whether that be medical sites like WebMD or reputable medical centers like the Mayo Clinic.