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

Google rolls out Dark mode to G Suite apps on Android

A feature meant for Android Q

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Image credit: Google

With Android Q‘s release already on the horizon, Google has started making changes to its core apps to support it. One of its anticipated features is the system-wide Dark Theme. Thankfully, even Google’s first-party apps will have their own Dark mode.

In a blog post, Google announced the rollout of Dark mode for two of its Android apps: Calendar and Keep. Basically, the brightly made Calendar and Keep apps will now be friendlier to use in dim environments with less strain to the eyes.


To activate the Dark mode for Google Calendar, just head over to Settings > General > Theme, and select Dark mode. On Google Keep, simply go to the app’s Settings menu and select Enable Dark Mode.

Dark mode for Calendar is only supported on devices running Android 7 Nougat and higher, while Keep’s Dark mode will work on older phones running Android 5 Lollipop and newer.

Those who have Android Q Beta with Dark Theme activated will have Dark mode for both Calendar and Keep apps turned on by default.

The update will be rolled out to compatible Android devices over the course of 15 days, according to Google.

SEE ALSO: Latest Android Q Beta is now available on Pixel phones and 15 other devices

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Minecraft Earth is like Pokémon Go but with building blocks

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In a move that makes loads of sense, Minecraft is coming to mobile though an augmented reality app similar to Pokémon Go.

It’s called Minecraft Earth and it’s arriving later this year with a beta phase happening during summer. The developers offered this trailer, but it does little to explain how the system would work.


Check it out:

The official website’s FAQ section, however, delves into more of the info we actually care about.

For one, it’ll be free to play and will include several of Minecraft‘s traditional features including world building and discovering/fighting mobs.

Concerning regional availability, the developers aren’t confirming these details just yet. If it’s anything like the issues Niantic experienced with Pokémon Go before, chances are this rollout will be gradual, too.

Finally, for the “Will Minecraft Earth have loot boxes?” question, the website has a definite “No” to answer that.

Minecraft Earth will be available on both Android and iOS. Fingers crossed that there’ll be no delays. 🤞

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The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World through augmented reality

A new way to experience Lady Liberty on your iPhone

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The quintessential American landmark, the Statue of Liberty is a shining beacon that enlightens the world. Despite today’s polarizing times, she has become a true symbol of liberty throughout the years, not just for Americans but for citizens of the world.

Today on the same island where she is perched, the new Statue of Liberty Museum opens its doors to the millions of tourists that come to see her each year. But in recognition that not everyone can visit, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is also unveiling an AR app for your iPhone. Anyone, anywhere, can experience the statue’s grandeur.


A grand view of Libertas’ torch

On her right, the Statue of Liberty holds up a torch which symbolizes enlightenment and the path to liberty. Though visitors could originally climb up and experience the statue from the torch, it has been closed off to the public since 1916. The Statue of Liberty app will allow us to once again enjoy the breathtaking cityscape from this vantage point from sunrise to sunset.

The makings of the statue

Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi with the framework by Gustave Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty is an engineering marvel. 125 tons of steel and 31 tons of copper comprise the statue which used to glisten like a penny. The current patina green coating comes from copper oxidizing.

See everything with your own eyes via the Statue of Liberty AR app: how the color changed, how the insides were built, and even a life-sized model for scale.

A look throughout the years

Strategically built at the “gateway to America”, the Statue of Liberty has born witness to a significant chunk of New York’s history. On the app you can look through her eyes in an almost 180-degree field of view and watch the changing of the times from 1886 to the present day. Watch the Manhattan skyline rise and fall including that poignant moment from 2001. It’s all there, 200 years of change and progression from the viewpoint of Lady Liberty.

The hows and the whys

The creation of the Statue of Liberty was no easy feat. A private venture that maximized crowdfunding efforts not just from the elite, the statue is truly an icon that each American can call their own. Exclusive content on the app tells us the story in detail and narrates the journey from inception, to France, and finally to America.

If you can, you should also check out the 3-part short film at the new museum’s Immersive Theater. One will surely walk away with a better appreciation for Lady Liberty and all she stands for.

Raising the Torch, a limited-series podcast narrated by Diane von Furstenberg, is also now available for your listening pleasure. The saga tells the Statue of Liberty’s history, continuing story, and evolving significance.

You can download the app on the App Store here.

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