Posts with «mobile apps» label

Apple will reportedly let anyone make apps for its mixed reality headset using Siri

Apple's rumored mixed reality headset may help you create apps even if you don't know how to code. The Informationsources claim Apple is working on a tool that would let anyone create augmented reality apps with Siri. You'd only have to tell the voice assistant what you want — you could have digital animals scurrying around the room without the need for modelling, animation or conventional programming software.

The AR creation tool is said to be based on technology from Fabric Software, a Canadian company Apple quietly bought in 2017. The acquired startup's Fabric Engine let developers automatically create environments and objects using procedural generation, a technique used in games like No Man's Sky. A Fabric co-founder, Peter Zion, is believed to be running the development tool project. Apple also bought DigitalRune, which sought to make 3D game development easier, in 2016.

Apple might also save you the trouble of creating unique objects for headset apps. You could scan and import objects that, if all goes well, would look and behave realistically. You wouldn't have to rely on Apple-made stock models. Existing like Object Capture (which creates 3D models from iPhone photos) and RoomPlan (for virtual floor plans) are apparently part of these efforts.

The company has already declined comment. The state of the Siri-based development tool isn't known, but the sources say Apple's original plan was to release the suite at the same time as the headset. Current rumors have the wearable arriving as soon as this spring. 

According to past rumors, the initial mixed reality headset (possibly named Reality Pro) may be very expensive and aimed more at professionals than everyday users. However, leaks suggest Apple is still building features that would appeal to a mainstream audience, such as FaceTime calls with avatars as well as health and fitness apps that could include a meditation experience. Combined with the easy development tool, Apple may be setting the stage for a lower-priced wearable by fostering the app ecosystem — there could be plenty of apps by the time there's a headset you can afford.

Garmin debuts an ECG app, but it's only available on one smartwatch

Garmin hasn't yet had a dedicated electrocardiogram (ECG) app despite the health focus of its wearables, but it's filling that gap today. The company has introduced a simply-titled ECG App that, like equivalents on other devices, can study your heart rhythm and look for atrial fibrillation (aka AFib). If there are signs of trouble, you can sync your results with Garmin Connect and create a report you can share with healthcare providers.

You will have to be fussy about your choice of devices to use this software right away. Garmin is currently offering the app only to Venu 2 Plus owners in the US. They'll need to update both their firmware and the Connect app. The company plans to add support for more devices and countries over time, but that will require further government approvals. Don't expect your running watch to get an ECG app for a while.

This is the first app Garmin has cleared with the US Food and Drug Administration. As with similar apps, it's not meant to be a definitive verdict on your heart health and won't detect cardiac arrest. Your watch only offers functionality comparable to a single-lead ECG — your doctor can use a multi-lead system that will present a more accurate picture of your condition. Garmin VP Dan Bartel notes that this app is mainly helpful for spotting AFib in the early stages, when it's "difficult to detect" at a clinic.

There are plenty of alternatives if ECG is a must-have feature. Apple, Google (including Fitbit), Samsung, Withings and others have had the technology in their watches for a while. It's difficult to complain about having more choices, though, and this may be appealing if you prefer Garmin's overall fitness and health tracking capabilities.

WhatsApp's native Mac app beta is now available to all

Mac users who have been waiting for a native version of WhatsApp can now download it without restrictions, WaBetaInfo has reported. The new app is optimized for Mac hardware and built with Mac Catalyst, so it should be faster and more efficient than the current web-wrapped Electron version. You also get a new interface with three panels to easily flip between chats, calls, archived and starred messages, while seeing contacts and interactions at a glance.  

Apple's Catalyst was designed to allow developers to port iOS apps over to macOS or create just one version that can run on either platform. Since the Mac was developed on Catalyst, that lends some hope that a long-awaited version may also come to iOS. In 2021, Meta said that it was expanding multi-device support for WhatsApp, leading to speculation that an iPad app was forthcoming.

Last year, WhatsApp released a native version for Windows 10 that works without the need for a smartphone. It looks much the same as the Mac app and also offers increased reliability and speed.

The native macOS app has been around for several months on TestFlight, but that only offers limited slots for testers. Now that it's in a full beta, though, you can download it directly from WhatsApp's website

Fortnite’s native iOS version won’t allow players to spend V-Bucks after January 30th

The native iOS and macOS versions of Fortnite are about to become even more limited. Since the start of its legal feud with Apple back in the summer of 2020, Epic Games has allowed players who had Fortnite installed on their devices prior to the game's removal from the App Store to continue playing. However, due to the removal, Epic hasn’t updated those versions of the game, meaning they’ve been stuck on Fortnite’s 13.40 release for more than two years. Effectively, that meant they’ve existed in a sort of limbo. All of the gameplay changes Epic has made to Fortnite since then (and there have been many), as well as all new cosmetics and seasonal passes the company has introduced, haven’t made their way over to the native iOS and macOS releases. Now those versions are about to become even more restrictive.

Beginning January 30, Fortnite players using the August 2020 13.40 app build previously available on iOS, Mac, and Google Play can no longer spend V-Bucks and must be over 18 to play. (1/2)

— Fortnite Status (@FortniteStatus) January 23, 2023

Starting on January 30th, Epic won’t allow you to spend Fortnite’s V-Bucks currency within the game’s iOS, Mac and Google Play versions. You’ll also need to be over the age of 18 to play. “We want all versions of our games to use the current suite of Epic Online Services including parental controls, purchasing defaults, and parental verification features,” Epic said on Twitter. “We are not able to update the app on these platforms given Apple and Google’s restrictions on Fortnite.”

In December, the company introduced new accounts designed specifically for younger players. They prevent kids from spending money in Fortnite’s in-game store and using voice chat without a parent’s consent. That same month, the Federal Trade Commission announced Epic had agreed to pay $520 million to settle allegations it had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and “tricked millions of players into making unintentional purchases."

Most players won’t be affected by the restriction since there are ways to access Fortnite without going through the App Store or Google Play Store. On iOS and macOS, for instance, you can play the game through GeForce Now. On Android, meanwhile, it’s possible to download the native version of Fortnite directly from Epic’s website.

Tapbot shuts down Tweetbot as it pivots to Mastodon

Now that Twitter has confirmed it's banning third-party clients, some of the most prominent alternatives are going away. Tapbots has shut down work on Tweetbot, one of the more popular iOS apps, as Twitter rendered it non-functional "in a blink of an eye." The developer is instead pivoting to Ivory, an app for the open social platform Mastodon. While it's limited to an invitation-only test for now, Tapbots hopes to make the software "better than Tweetbot ever could be."

This isn't the only major Twitter app developer calling it quits. The Iconfactory has pulled Twitterrific from the iOS and macOS App Stores, and blasted the Musk-era Twitter as a company it "no longer recognize[s] as trustworthy." Android users, meanwhile, can't count on apps like Matteo Villa's Fenix (it's no longer available on Google Play) or Luke Klinker's Talon (which the creator warns "will cease to work").

The shutdowns follow roughly a week of disruption and unclear messaging. Numerous third-party apps suddenly stopped working around the evening of January 12th, with leaks suggesting it was intentional. Twitter later acknowledged it was breaking these apps, allegedly to enforce "long-standing" developer rules. The social media giant then quietly updated its developer agreement to formally ban unofficial clients.

Third-party Twitter clients generally haven't played a major role in recent years. In 2018, Sensor Tower determined that 6 million users had installed alternatives versus 560 million for the official Android and iOS apps. However, the ban doesn't help Twitter's bid to keep users and protect its bottom line. Third-party app users downloaded their software of choice precisely because they're active and want features that the official apps don't offer (such as more powerful media previews and searches). Twitter's policy risks alienating those users who hate the first-party app.

Twitter begins forcing its TikTok-like 'For You' timeline on iOS

Twitter has started to roll out a big change on iOS by replacing the "sparkle" button that switches between the algorithmic and reverse chronological feeds. Now, you swipe between two tabs called "For You" and "Following," to change your timeline, and you'll always see the For You tab first when you open the app.

The company more or less stole the For You name from TikTok, rather than using the Home moniker it had before. As with Home (and TikTok), it shows tweets from accounts you follow out of order, along with algorithmically-selected tweets from others you may like. 


In fact, Twitter introduced a very similar feature earlier this year, letting you swipe between "Home" and "Latest Tweets" to switch timelines. However, it abandoned the idea days later after a chorus of complaints from users who didn't like the fact that Home was basically foisted on them.  

The company seems set on implementing it again anyway with a different name, and it may generate the same gripes, judging by the replies to Twitter Support. On the web or current Android app, selecting the chronological feed is a permanent choice, and stays even if you close the app. With the new iOS version, however, For You always appears when you close and reopen the app, so you'll have to switch your timeline to Following every single time.

Elon Musk promised to make this change late last year, tweeting that "main timeline should allow for an easy sideways swipe between the top, latest, trending and topics that you follow." With two of those now implemented, we could see further changes down the road . 

Parler has reportedly cut ‘majority’ of staff in recent weeks

Parler parent company Parlement Technologies has cut the “majority” of its staff in recent weeks, according to a new report. The Verge reports that the company has slashed close to 75 percent of staff, including several executives, in recent weeks with “approximately 20” workers remaining between both entities at the end of 2022.

Parler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the layoffs or how many staffers remain. The layoffs seem to roughly coincide with other difficulties for the “free speech” social media app. Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, had struck a deal to buy the service for an undisclosed amount in October. In December, Parlement Technologies announced the deal was off, with a Parler rep claiming the decision had been made in mid-November due to Ye’s “ongoing business difficulties.” Layoffs began shortly after, at the end of November, The Verge now reports.

Parler was originally launched in 2018, but rose to prominence in 2020 as several high profile Republicans announced they were leaving Twitter in favor of Parler. The app billed itself as a “free speech” social network that eschewed the “censorship” of mainstream social media platforms like Twitter. It gained popularity as a free-wheeling alternative that had few rules or moderation policies.

That changed after January 6th 2021, when Amazon, Apple and Google all cut off the app from their services over the company’s inability to address violent threats on the platform. The app eventually made its way back to Apple and Google’s app stores after implementing substantial changes to its content moderation practices.

Citizen’s volunteer ‘safety’ app accidentally doxxes singer Billie Eilish

Citizen, the provocative crime-reporting app formerly known as Vigilante, is in the news again for all the wrong reasons. On Thursday evening, it doxxed singer Billie Eilish, publishing her address to thousands of people after an alleged burglary at her home.

Shortly after the break-in, the app notified users of a break-in in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood — including the home’s address. As reported by Vice, Citizen’s message was updated at 9:41 PM to state that the house belonged to Eilish. According to Citizen’s metrics, the alert was sent to 178,000 people and viewed by nearly 78,000. On Friday morning, Citizen updated the app’s description of the incident, replacing the precise address with a nearby cross-street.

Although celebrity home addresses are often publicly available (usually on seedy websites specializing in such invasive nonsense), a popular app pushing the home address of one of pop music’s biggest stars to thousands of users is... new. Unfortunately, it’s also just the latest potentially destructive move from Citizen.

When Citizen launched as Vigilante in 2016, Apple quickly pulled the title from the App Store based on concerns about its encouraging users to thrust themselves into dangerous situations. So it rebranded as Citizen with a new focus on safety, and Apple re-opened its gates. The app began advising users to avoid incidents in progress while providing tools to help those caught in a dangerous situation. Although that sounds reasonable, at least one episode reveals an overzealousness company prioritizing attention and profit over social responsibility.


In May 2021, CEO Andrew Frame ordered the launch of a live stream, encouraging the app’s users to hunt down a suspected wildfire arsonist (based on a tip from an LAPD sergeant and emails from residents questioned by police). He offered a $10,000 bounty for finding the suspect, which grew to $30,000 later in the evening. As the hunt continued, the CEO reportedly grew more frantic, with one of his internal Slack conversations encouraging the team to “get this guy before midnight” in an ecstatic, all-caps message.

A staffer was ignored in a Slack chat when they warned the team about breaking the app’s terms of service, which prohibit “posting of specific information that could identify parties involved in an incident.” When police announced that night that they had made an arrest, the team celebrated, believing their feverish hunt for notability had led to the capture. The only problem? Citizen had the wrong guy. In Frame’s apparent eagerness to legitimize his app’s purpose with a high-profile citizen arrest, he placed a public bounty on a wrongfully accused suspect.

Ember's upcoming Travel Mug 2+ can be tracked in Apple's Find My app

Apple's Find My app alerts iOS and Mac users when they've left an item behind or helps them locate something they've lost. Later this year, you'll be able to do just that with Ember's heated travel mug. A new version, dubbed the Travel Mug 2+, is on the way this spring. Inside, updated firmware enables the cup to show up inside Apple's app. The Travel Mug 2+ is also equipped with a speaker, so if you lose it you can make it play a sound like you would for lost AirPods. Like other products that work with Find My, the new mug will show up in the app on iPhone, iPad or Mac and you can also locate it via the Find Items app on Apple Watch. 

Ember's current model, the Travel Mug 2, is available for $199.95 and keeps beverages hot for up to three hours with a 12-ounce capacity. It can also keep things warm all day if you keep it on the charging dock. A touch display allows you to adjust temperature right on the cup within a range of 120-145 degrees Fahrenheit. And like other Ember models, you can make that temp change inside the company's app. The company says that despite the added functionality, the Travel Mug 2+ won't cost more and it will eventually replace the Travel Mug 2.

Today is the last day to use Dark Sky on iOS before it shuts down

The time has come to say goodbye to Dark Sky. Nearly two years after Apple purchased the much-loved weather app, and more than a year after announcing its impending shutdown, Dark Sky is about to stop functioning. Since September, an in-app notification has warned iOS users the software would no longer work come January 1st, 2023. In September, Apple also removed Dark Sky from the App Store (following an earlier delisting from the Play Store).

If you’re looking for an alternative, it’s worth revisiting Apple’s own Weather app before turning to the App Store. Since iOS 14, the company has gradually integrated Dark Sky’s technology into its native offering. For instance, the Weather app now includes next-hour precipitation alerts, which is a feature that was directly inspired by Dark Sky. That said, if you’re set on trying a third-party alternative, a few that are worth checking out include AccuWeather and Carrot Weather.