Apps

Spotify explores ad skipping for free users

Soon, you’ll be able to stream ad-free

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Isn’t it kind of annoying when you’re right in the middle of a kickass playlist and an ad breaks your groove? Bet you wish you could just skip the ads that interject your jam. Well, in what is probably a very unexpected move, Spotify has decided to let free users skip ads as much as they want.

Called Active Media, this move is an experiment that tests their hypothesis that users won’t skip all the ads, just the ones that don’t pique their interest. Spotify hopes to learn more about its user habits on the app, and later on improve the ad distribution to listeners.

Because advertisers won’t need to pay for skipped ads, this guarantees a dip in ad revenue in the short run, but perhaps a more curated ad experience for users will make it worthwhile.

This experiment is currently being run in Australia, but hopefully it’ll be sufficient enough to get expanded on a more global scale. I think it would be a win-win for everyone involved.

Apps

Tinder’s new feature tells you when a lot of people are swiping in the area

You’re welcome, Tinderella!

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Dating app Tinder is finding more and more ways to get people swiping more.

Enter: The new Swipe Surge feature.

Let’s face it, not all areas or events are equal — in terms of swipe activity, that is. But, fret not. Tinder will now tell you if you’re in an area with a high swiping ratio to make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun.

Wait, what fun exactly? Well, according to Tinder, during a Swipe Surge, activity on the app is 15 times higher than normal. This means that the chance of finding the love of your life (or the love of tonight 😉) is higher by 250 percent and even chatting up some cuties becomes 33 percent faster. Yep, those are some serious computations.

To get in on the fun, enable push notifications so that the app can notify you when a Swipe Surge is happening in real time. Once you’ve joined the Swipe Surge party, you’ll be put on top swiping priority. Tinder will even show you who’s actively swiping at that moment!

Oh, what fun! Swipe Surge is being tested on iOS in select cities. Unfortunately, we don’t know which ones, or when it’s coming to all users; if it even ever will.

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Spotify introduces its app for Apple Watch

Control music from your wrist

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Spotify has just launched its new mobile app for the Apple Watch. Users can now access and control their favorite music and podcasts while on the go.

The new app allows you to play music on the Apple Watch and control how it’s played on compatible devices. However, you can’t stream your favorite songs straight from the watch even if it’s via your connected phone. Instead, the app acts like a controller for Spotify Connect. This allows you to control your music and select playlists individually then play it on shuffle from your wrist.

The downside is there’s no offline playback yet so users still need to bring their phones when going for a run or listening on wireless headphones. Spotify guarantees that they have plans to make offline playback available in the future.

On the bright side, you can now do a lot of things with ease. You can play music even if your phone is in your pocket and you can switch songs when running without having to take your phone out of its running case. When you encounter a friend while your music is playing, you can just tap pause if you ever want to chat. You can skip tracks to match your mood or the activity you’re in, and rewind podcasts to catch details you missed. It’s all on the watch’s screen, accessible with just a single tap.

Spotify will be rolling out the new app to Apple Watch users over the coming week. It requires the latest version of Spotify. Make sure to download it on the App Store and look out for updates.

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Netflix knows what you want and lets you watch without buffering

The best binge-watching experience!

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Are you one of the millions of Netflix subscribers like I am? If you are (or even not), I have something interesting to share about how Netflix makes their streaming service the best in the business.

For those who don’t know, Netflix is not what they were before. The company started off as a DVD-rental business — just like your favorite local rental stores back when they were popular. It was in 2007 when they launched their streaming service formerly branded as Watch Now. It was restricted to just PCs and you needed the right browser to be able to play their videos.

It was also in 2007 when the first iPhone from Apple was announced, so two pioneers were born that year and they have yet to properly meet each other.

Netflix formally launched their mobile app in 2010 and it changed how we consume content on our phones. Today, more than 60 percent of Netflix members use the mobile app every month. This is why the company is continuously working to make long-form videos more enjoyable on mobile.

When I say enjoyable, it’s not just about showing in HDR, because there’s more to it than just high resolutions.

First, there is personalization. Netflix considers this very important because of the limited screen space on mobile phones, so you have to see the titles you really like first. This feature is not just on mobile; it’s also available on any internet-enabled device you have Netflix on, whether it’s a TV, laptop, tablet, or even game console.

If you can recall, Netflix added mobile previews to their app earlier this year. This lets users get a sneak peek of the content without leaving the homepage and make choosing a show much faster. It works well on mobile since it’s presented in vertical format — no need to turn the orientation of the phone.

Then we have the new feature called Smart Downloads which is currently available on Android phones and tablets. What this does is it identifies the show being watched and automatically downloads the next episode over a Wi-Fi network. It then automatically deletes the downloaded episode after it’s completed. Basically, Netflix makes sure that you can continue watching the next episode while you’re on the road without using up your data plan.

Speaking of saving data, Netflix is also working round-the-clock to make encoding much better. Thankfully, they know how mobile data can be expensive or slow in certain places.

Back then, Netflix streamed their shows in a “one-size-fits-all” bitrate which is great for high-quality streaming but it consumed too much data. Good thing they learned that not all content requires the same encoding bitrate, so they based it on individual titles. 2D animation shows can be compressed at a low bitrate but still be streamed in high quality, while action-packed titles will be meticulously compressed to avoid any compression artifacts.

Netflix didn’t stop there. Their latest innovation called Dynamic Optimizer Encoding now selects the best encoding recipe per shot. Each shot is dynamically encoded to ensure best overall quality which results in, according to Netflix, 64 percent less bandwidth consumption.

Before all this, users could only watch seven hours of content on mobile using 4GB of data. Since the implementation in 2015, viewers can now enjoy 10 hours, and with the per-shot encoding, members can binge-watch for 26 hours with the same amount of data. Soon, this will reach up to 33 hours using the latest AV1 codec which is something Netflix is currently working on.

SEE ALSO: Netflix is testing engagement by putting ads between episode

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