Apps

Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter announce major updates

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It’s a big day for smartphone users as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter roll out major updates to their iOS and Android apps.

60-second videos on Instagram will be available on iOS starting today, the photo-sharing app said in its blog post. This comes more than a month after it announced the expansion of video ads from 30 seconds to a full minute, giving advertisers more flexibility in time for Super Bowl 50.


Instagram first introduced videos in June 2013, which have only been limited to 15 seconds until today. The amount of time people spend watching videos on the app increased by more than 40% in the last 6 months, says the announcement.

Roll out for Android will be available in the coming months.

Snapchat expands Chat with features that best emulate face-to-face conversations like video and audio calls.

Previously, users can only video chat when both parties have each other’s Chat page open. With Chat 2.0, you can start a video chat with any of your friends, whether they are online or offline. Your friend can choose to ignore your video chat, watch, or join you the same way a video call works. You can also now send messages simultaneously during video chats.

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If video calling is not for you, audio calls are also now available and will work the same way as video chatting. Chat 2.0 also added GIF-like video notes that appear as round thumbnails and audio notes, much like voice messages, that you can leave for your friend to see or listen to when he comes online.

Or maybe stickers can say it best for you? Snapchat also introduces virtual stickers to its chat just like the ones offered by messaging apps LINE, Viber, and Messenger. Typing keywords like ‘love’ will search the Snapchat trove for matching stickers you can use. While searching is more convenient, switching from one sticker pack to another needs more effort – you’ll have to scroll down endlessly to find the sticker you’re looking for.

Snapchat also introduces Auto-Advance Stories. Watching your friends stories is now made easier, with each one loading automatically right after the other. This eliminates having to swipe down to exit and selecting another story to watch.

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Twitter makes images more accessible for the visually impaired by adding alternative text or alt text.

An add description button will appear on each photo you add to a tweet, allowing for up to 420 characters that should help describe and convey the same information as the image.

Adding alt text for images is the first principle of web accessibility according to WebAIM. It essentially replaces images for people with visual disabilities, so they can have access to them through screen readers or braille displays.

To enable this feature, go to your iOS or Android app’s accessibility settings.

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[irp posts=”10832" name=”WhatsApp copies Snapchat”]

Apps

Even Microsoft listens to your Skype and Cortana recordings

Absolute privacy is a myth

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A couple of weeks back Apple admitted it listens to accidental triggers of Siri to analyze and improve user experience. They also added that none of the recordings are associated with the user’s identity. However, contractors tasked to listen to these recordings admit coming across clips that revealed personal data.

Now, even Microsoft admits it uses human contractors to review its users’ audio. The list of “listening” companies also includes Amazon, Facebook, and Google. If you want absolute privacy, going off-the-grid may be your only option.


Microsoft uses third-party contractors to listen to your voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana. The updated privacy statement says a human review is used to help build, train and improve the accuracy of its artificial intelligence systems.

Motherboard was the first one to come across the new updated policy and company pages for Skype Translator, Cortana, and Microsoft Support now also contain similar disclosures.

While other companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple have suspended these collections, Microsoft says it will “continue to examine further steps we might be able to take.” In simpler terms, “Screw you, we’ll continue doing it.”

The company also says the recordings may actually be subject to “transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors.”

Users are increasingly worried about online privacy since the Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed. Technology companies have a huge chunk of our daily lives and many aren’t comfortable with it. Especially when privacy policies are complex and security loopholes are widely abused.

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Facebook will have dark mode for mobile

Things are looking bright for our eyes

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It seems Facebook is keen in joining the dark side, together with its fellow popular apps. Jane Manchun Wong, an app researcher, uncovered the tech giant’s plan to release the much-awaited dark mode.

Wong came across the unreleased dark mode for Android by looking in the code underneath, indicating that the tech giant has recently started implementing the feature. However, it seems that Facebook’s dark mode is still in its early stage of development.


While some users declared having it already on Facebook Watch, Wong emphasized that the dark mode is underway across the whole Facebook app.

There are no words yet from Facebook regarding dark mode nor its timeline for implementation. However, things are looking bright for our eyes that are hurt by bright lights should the tech giant implements the much-awaited feature. It’s only a matter of time before we embrace the dark.

See also:

Explaining OLED screens and Dark Mode
Here’s how you can enjoy Dark Mode on Facebook Messenger
Dark mode for Google Chrome is now available for Mac

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Creative hacks to improve your Instagram Stories

Using only Instagram and native phone apps

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Instagram has become an outlet for a lot of creatives over the years. It’s evolved from a platform where we share mundane photos of food and moods to hyper-curated grids — until Instagram Stories was introduced, that is. If you’re one of those people who barely post anything other than stories, here are some easy and not-so-simple ways on how they can look better so you can tell your stories better:

Use the native camera app

Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10’s wide angle camera, ultra-wide angle camera, and night mode

Most phones released in 2019 now have at least two different cameras — a combination of wide angle and telephoto, or wide angle and ultra-wide angle. Some even have up to three or four in total. Take advantage of these lenses by taking your photos on the native camera app instead of going straight to Instagram. By using an ultra-wide angle lens you can fit more in your shot without walking several steps backwards. If your phone has a built-in night mode, your low light shots will also turn out much better when you take them using the camera app instead of  Instagram’s camera.


“Wrap” your caption around shapes

If your caption is a bit long, get creative by wrapping them around your subject’s shape. If you have a photo of food or coffee for example, you can type the letters one by one around the plate or cup.

Apply your video camera’s built-in filters

Smartphone cameras are getting more and more features each year. On the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 for example, there’s a feature called Live Focus Video where you get a TV glitch filter. This adds a retro, vaporwave aesthetic to your videos without having to install a third party app.

Add doodles

Make your subject pop by doodling around it. You can add dots, lines, hearts, stars, or broken lines around it — whatever you can think of! Doodles can also add a better narrative to your story than captions when Spider-Man appears out of nowhere for instance.

Animate your captions 

By simply adding small GIFs like stars around your caption, or integrating word GIFs into your caption can make it look like it’s animated. If you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10, you can also get animated handwriting with the S  Pen using the phone’s native editor whether that’s on a photo or a video.

“Mask” your subject 

Another way to make your subject stand out is by “masking” lines or handwriting behind it. Simply write over your subject using any of the pen shapes, then erase parts of the lines or handwriting to make it seem like it appears over and under the subject.

Mix fonts with your handwriting

Instagram’s font selection may be limited but doesn’t mean your imagination should be. Pick any font to write your caption with — ideally anything but Neon — then pick one word to replace with your handwriting. You can also play around with tracking by simply adding spaces in between letters.

The trick in making your Instagram Stories look better is to not overshare and not overdo any of the effects. Just because you can add GIFs doesn’t mean you should plaster the entire screen with them. While it should feel more raw than your posts, be more purposeful in what you share — always try tell a story whether you’re sharing a photo or a video. It’s called Instagram Stories for a reason.

How do you make your Stories different? Share your tips with us in the comments section below.

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