Tag - Hangouts
Google's largely-failed social media experiment, Google+, is reportedly approaching a transformation, with a renewed focus on Photos and Hangouts. The two popular features appear to be splitting apart from the central service, marking the first step in an apparent rebranding effort that is likely aimed at revitalizing -- or quietly killing -- the stagnate social network.
Hangouts, Google's messaging app, has received an update for iOS devices. Hangouts allows users to send and receive messages, photos and more, and make video and voice calls with a group or one-on-one. Hangouts v2.5.0 features new sticker packs, and improved video call experience alongside miscellaneous bug fixes.
Google is bringing Hangouts more in line with competing messaging services, such as Skype or AIM, by releasing a dedicated desktop app for Hangouts. The Hangouts Chrome App, available on Chrome OS and Windows, will provide a similar experience to the Android version, including calls and messaging, but through a desktop interface.
Google Voice is being integrated into Google Hangouts on Android, in what appears to be an an attempt by the search company to streamline its messaging services. Previously only available in the iOS version of Hangouts, the Android app now gives the option of making or receiving voice calls, text messages, and the ability to access voicemails on Google Voice.
Last week, Google announced that it has released a new extension that allows Microsoft Outlook users to participate in a Google Hangout. The plug-in will allow users who don't use Google's apps for their primary communications outlet the ability to participate in video chat without the need to pay for a Google Apps for Business account.
Sony has announced an update for its Android-based Smartwatch 2, adding a customizable watch face editor. Various widgets can be selected that include date, weather, calendar, Bluetooth, notifications, and more, with third-party developers welcomed to create new content. The Smartwatch 2 now has a built-in calculator app featured in the new update, as well as improved Gmail and Facebook apps. Featuring six new wallpaper options, the watch offers a new low-light double tap function that increases the display's brightness by thirty percent when touched. According to Sony's blog post, new options and further developments are on the horizon.
Messaging app Google+ Hangouts has received an update for iOS devices. Google+ Hangouts features free group audio calling with up to 10 people, and phone calls can be made through the app for free to numbers in the US and Canada. Now optimized for use on iPad, users of v2.0 can access picture-in-picture video calling as well as record and send video messages up to 10 seconds long. The app has been updated to reflect iOS 7, and has the addition of shareable animated stickers for expressing feelings and sending a map of one's current location. Google+ Hangouts is free to download, and is available on iTunes.
Google on Thursday released new versions of both its Hangouts communications suite and the Google Keyboard, bringing both of those apps to par with the versions shown off as part of Android 4.4 KitKat. The Hangouts app, in particular, saw the largest update, with Google bringing SMS and MMS messaging functionality to that app. Users can now receive text and picture messages sent to their regular phone numbers in the Hangouts app.
Google has opened up its Hangouts-based video support service to the general public. Google Helpouts, a service that was accepting applications by experts to offer their advice to others in late August, is now allowing users to search for and pay for a video conference with an expert to help them with a specific task or for general advice.
Google has introduced a new initiative, Connected Classrooms, that aims to enable "virtual field trips" via Google+ Hangouts. Upcoming events include sessions from the Seattle Aquarium and the Minnesota Zoo, along with a program "from the cockpit of a solar plane."
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WhatsApp now handles over 100M calls daily
WhatsApp is celebrating that it is being used for over 100 million calls every day. In a brief notice, the Facebook-owned messaging platform advises the voice-calling feature it rolled out to its users last year now deals with an average of over 1,100 calls initiated per second. Earlier this year, it increased the security of its calls and other messages, by introducing end-to-end encryption on all platforms. http://bit.ly/292HqCX
Adele's '25' album now streaming
Recording artist Adele has "pulled a Kanye" after saying that her current album "25" would not be available for streaming. The seven-month-old record, which has yielded a number of hit singles, is now available for streaming on all the major streaming services, such as Apple Music and Spotify, as of today in most major markets, with worldwide distribution to come. Reportedly, the singer had demanded streaming be limited to paid subscribers -- a condition that has hurt some streamers with artists, who aren't paid royalties for free or trial listens . Apple pays performers its normal royalty rates during its free trial, avoiding the issue -- and having repeated success in both signing up exclusives and placing those exclusives into the top of the charts. http://ti.me/28U7NOu
SanDisk iXpand case has battery, storage
A new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s case from SanDisk appears to be the "holy grail" of accessories: a stylish and protective case that offers both extra storage as well as the option of extra battery power as well. The iXpand Memory case offers either 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB of additional storage incorporated into the case, and an optional add-on battery pack (sold separately) adds up to an extra day or more of charge. Through the associated iXpand app, camera photos and videos can be automatically stored on the extra storage, optionally password-protected, The cost for the case is (in order of storage capacity) $60, $100, and $130. The battery pack's release data has not yet been announced, but the add-on should retail for an additional $30. http://bit.ly/291epHu
Fifth Hong Kong store to open June 30
The 46th official Apple store in what the company calls the "Greater China" region will open at 10AM local time in Hong Kong's New Town Plaza in the Sha Tin district on Thursday, June 30, according to a new page on Apple's retail website. Despite slowing growth due to economic turmoil in China, the country is still Apple's fastest-growing market. The new story will be the fifth for Hong Kong, a lucrative market for Apple thanks to the high concentration of wealth there and a thriving "gray" market. Normal store hours for the new store will be 10AM to 10PM every day. http://apple.co/291diaT
Apple Music bug bites very short songs
There appears to be a reproducible bug in the current version of iTunes -- version 12.4.1, running on OS X 10.11.5, both the current non-beta versions of the respective software -- that causes a streamed song to become "stuck" in endless buffering if the streamed item just before this happened was 60 seconds or less in length. The problem appears to stem from code in iTunes that signals the next track to start downloading one minute before the currently-playing track is done, and thus songs shorter than one minute don't trigger the download. Locally-stored music is unaffected by the bug, and the problem does not appear to exist in either the macOS Sierra developer beta or versions of iTunes earlier than 12.4, and does not affect the iOS Music app at all. http://bit.ly/291cN0l
Walmart Pay expands to 15 states
Walmart, one of the key progenitors of the failed CurrentC mobile payment system that was distinguished from Apple Pay by its ability to collect and share customer financial and buying data among its participants, has expanded the soft rollout of its alternative solution "Walmart Pay" to an additional 15 US states following a pilot program in Arkansas and Texas last month. Walmart continues to resist adding Apple Pay. The system, built into the Walmart app for iOS and Android, works with a complicated system of the camera scanning a purchase code at the register, then generating a QR code which is then scanned by the register. The system is available now in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, DC. http://apple.co/28SqZfu
Amazon refreshes entry-level Kindle
Amazon has added a new Kindle to its ebook reader range, one that is thinner and lighter than the previous entry-level model. Offering a six-inch 167-dpi touchscreen display, a doubled 4GB of storage, and an option for a white casing, the new model also adds in the ability to export highlights and notes to an email account as a PDF. Two versions of the all-new Kindle are available, priced at $80 including "Special Offers" and $100 without. http://amzn.to/28Q4c3R