Apps

Instagram app icon gets a makeover

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A few years back, Google introduced a design aesthetic called Material Design – basically this meant a more clean and flat user interface on websites, computers and smartphones.

It was a huge departure from another design concept called skeuomorphism, where designs are made to look like real life objects.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Look at the app icons on your phone, there was a time when icons looked 3D, had bevels and drop shadows. Apple was a big proponent of skeuomorphism, and on the original iPhone the notes app icon resembled a notebook, the camera app icon resembled a camera lens.  

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When material design started taking root, apps were quick to follow the trend, looking flat and for the lack of a better word, basic. Except for one hold-out, Instagram’s app icon has stayed the same all these years.

For an obsessive compulsive like me, it was really annoying. I meticulously curate the apps that appear on my home screen, and the Instagram app stands out like a sore thumb. It’s one of my most frequently used apps but one I’d rather hide than give prominent placement to.

But that’s all changed today. Instagram has a new app icon, and it’s flat!

In a blog post announcing the update, Instagram says the new app icon is inspired by the original, “but with a simpler camera.” The rainbow that once adorned the old logo, “lives on in gradient form.”

According to a separate blog post on Medium, Instagram design head Ian Spalter said he asked everyone in the company to draw the Instagram icon from memory, giving them only 5 seconds. The elements from the original that had the most recall (rainbow, lens, and viewfinder) were incorporated into the new, modern design.

The new icon is essentially a camera still, but instead of the Polaroid which is what Instagram was originally about, the new camera outline represents the shift to smartphone photography – the way most people take photos today.

Spalter writes, “We wanted to create a look that would represent the community’s full range of expression — past, present, and future.”

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Instagram’s other apps Hyperlapse, Boomerang, and Layout also get similar app redesigns.

The redesign isn’t just skin deep. The Instagram app also gets a facelift, looking cleaner than ever. Now its mainly black and white, bringing “more focus on your photos and videos without changing how you navigate the app.”

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We checked, the Instagram update is available on both the iOS app store and Google Play.

[irp posts=”11261" name=”The LG G6’s camera features are built for Instagram”]

Apps

Hong Kong protests: Apple succumbs to pressure from China

Trying to please both the sides

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Every international company, whether based in China or the US, is now stuck in the middle of the Hong Kong protests. While the people want pro-Democracy ideals to govern their city, China refuses to back down and continues its passive-aggressive push.

Apple has reportedly removed the Quartz app from the App Store at the request of the Chinese government. Quartz’s Investigations editor John Keefe confirmed the app has been removed from the App Store and even the website has been blocked in Mainland China.

The publication has been covering the Hong Kong protests in detail and this hasn’t gone down well with the government in Beijing. China has a long history of suppressing free speech and it’s not surprising to see them block off content that doesn’t suit their narrative.

Though, users are furious at Apple for not taking a stand and bowing down to pressure. A few days back, the Cupertino-based giant removed the Taiwanese flag from its keyboard for some users to please the Chinese officials.

Apple was also in the news this week due to its initial rejection of an app that kept a tab on police movement in Hong Kong. Back in 2017, Apple removed the New York Times app from App Store after the Chinese government requested its removal because it was “in violation of local regulations.”

It is necessary for Apple to stay on good terms with China because of its business interests. Almost every other product designed by Apple will find its roots back in China, where everything is built — components as well as finished iPhones.

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Apps

Instagram is finally getting a dark mode

Out on iOS, beta on Android

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The spookiest and scariest month is upon us! A week into October, we can’t wait to sink our teeth into Halloween. While we wait for our monsters to wake up, the tech world is slowly paving the way for a scary month. For one, Instagram, Facebook’s popular photo-sharing social media network, has started embracing the dark side.

The app has released a much-awaited update for its iPhone variant. The update includes a dark mode, in collaboration with the newly released iOS 13’s native dark mode support. Finally, Instagram turns off the lights on its iconic (and sometimes obnoxiously bright) white theme. We can now browse throughout feeds in eye-pleasing darkness.

Sadly, the new dark mode is not accessible using a normal on-and-off switch. The mode switches on based on your own iPhone’s settings.

In addition to iOS, Instagram is also slowly rolling out the update for Android users. Unfortunately, the update is available only for Instagram Beta users. Even then, the Android update is only starting to trickle down to users worldwide.

Regardless, Instagram’s dark mode is a welcome addition to our growing list of dark mode-friendly apps. It’s getting easier to distract yourself from startling jump scares during those inevitable horror movie marathons on your couch this Halloween.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Dating is now live with Instagram integration

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Apps

This is Huawei’s alternative for missing Google Play services

Filling up the vacuum

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2019 has been an awfully difficult year for Huawei. While the US and China are embroiled in a trade war, the Chinese telecommunication giant is stuck in the cross-fire. Like every other phone maker, it relies on Google’s Android operating system and services to deliver a complete experience to the end user.

However, President Trump has barred American companies from doing any business with Huawei, which means the brand can no longer leverage Google Play services. Google has been banned from China for the longest time, so this won’t have any effect on Huawei’s sales in the country, but it will completely derail Huawei’s plans of global domination.

To counter these missing Google apps, Huawei has released a plethora of in-house apps that will ensure the user doesn’t feel left out. AppGallery is will replace the Google Play Store and can be used in 170+ countires. Launched way back in 2011, it was initially released for users in China only. In 2018, it was shipped to non-Chinese users and became a pre-installed package on all new phones.

Similarly, Huawei Browser replaces Google Chrome, Huawei Mobile Cloud replaces Google Drive, and Huawei Music replaces YouTube or Play Music. There’s also an addition of Huawei Themes, Huawei Assistant, and many more.

Thanks to the open-source nature of AOSP, Huawei is not completely barred from using Android on its smartphone. The recently launched Mate 30 series runs on Android, but doesn’t come with Google apps out-of-the-box, including Google Play Store.

This reminds us of Samsung’s Galaxy phones that usually ship with Google apps as well as Samsung’s own suite of apps. They are pretty much meant to do the same job, but come from two different vendors. Ultimately, offering more options to the user.

Will you be fine with these replacements or are Google apps necessary? As Plan B, Huawei has already announced its Harmony OS and we expect it to be ready for phones in the coming years. But, that’s still a long way down the line.

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