APPS

Yes, TikTok is now testing its own take on Stories too

Yes, TikTok is now testing its own take on Stories too 2698 1800 M. Laraib

Another platform enters the ring

TikTok is the latest platform to hop on the 24-hour Stories bandwagon now that Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn have brought out their own unique takes on the feature.

The feature was first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra and was later confirmed by TikTok from an email sent to The Verge, stating that it is indeed testing out the feature with a handful of users.

With the social platform exploding in use in the last two years, the company are looking to expand the app’s feature set even more, so that casual users and influencers can take advantage of new ways to interact with their followers.

However, with Twitter’s take on it with Fleets already no-more, one wonders if there’s really any need for Stories once more.

How does this take on Stories work?

TikTok has added a slide-over sidebar to house Stories in it and stories from the accounts that you follow can be seen on this newly added sidebar. To post a new story, users will have to tap the camera button on this sidebar. 

Users will also be allowed to post the content – images or videos they’ve already created from the phone’s library. Once the content is created, various elements like text, sound, stickers or effects can be added as well.

TikTok says, “Currently we’re experimenting with ways to give creators additional formats to bring their creative ideas to life for the TikTok community.” The feature will be simply called TikTok Stories and seems to have been running for quite some time already.

If launched, TikTok stories will be available alongside other features like Duets, Live, and Stitch and works exactly like stories on any other platform. Users will be able to see the number and the names of viewers of the story and TikTok will also let users read and respond to the comments left by the viewer.

Before TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Twitter all copied the feature from Snapchat. The latest one was Twitter with Fleets, and after toying with the idea of monetizing them, has axed it already

Twitter seemed to be confused with where Fleets could go, and after lower-usages from its users, it was decided to cut the feature, with Spaces taking the place of where Fleets would be in the app.

However, Stories on other platforms has given an easy way to users to share their thoughts and expressing themselves without the worry of the content being there on the profile forever.

Analysis: jumping the shark?

It’s no secret that TikTok has already seen huge growth in the last few years, thanks in part to the pandemic, which drove new users to the platform so they could document certain ‘hacks’ in the home and even brands advertising how their products are made on certain profiles.

However, the appeal with TikTok is the For You screen, where its algorithm can curate new videos based on others that you’ve either watched through, or flicked through in an instant.

Stories seems to be for the influencers and famous celebrities, where they can tell their fans what they’re up to. But it seems irrelevant with what TikTok offers, and already it could go the way of Fleets on Twitter.

TikTok is an app where you watch video with every swipe of your thumb, not one to look at Stories on. This could be a fleeting test from the company, and while curiosity may be the main reason behind this feature now being tried out by some users, that may be all it should be for the platform.

Apple mistakenly promotes scam apps in App Store feature

Apple mistakenly promotes scam apps in App Store feature 1500 750 M. Laraib

App Store users and developers in Australia have reported today that Apple has featured scam apps on the App Store. This time, in a “Slime Relaxations” story, the company is promoting apps that have $10+ weekly subscriptions, many of which don’t do anything.

Since the Epic vs. Apple court case took place a few months ago, the Cupertino company said that it would be bad to let other companies and developers sideload apps on the iPhone or even have competing app stores.

But it didn’t take long for people to start exposing scam apps on the App Store. In February, a developer exposed multiple scam apps on the App Store, with some of them bringing in millions of dollars in revenue.

In June, for example, a Washington Post story showed that scam apps make up almost 2% of top-grossing apps in the App Store. In Apple’s defense, Tim Cook stated that the App Store is a “safe and trusted place:”

“We wanted to create a safe and trusted place for users to discover apps–and a means of providing a secure and supportive way for developers to develop, test and distribute apps to iPhone users globally.

Curation has always been one of the App Store’s chief features and sources of value for our users. We held a quality department store as a model: place where customers can find a great variety of options, but can feel confident that the selection is high-quality, reliable and current.”

However, more than just Apple approving a scam app, it also promoted multiple scam apps in an App Store story today in Australia. First highlighted by Twitter users Beau Nouvelle and Simeon, one of these apps named Jelly: Slime simulator, ASMR” costs $13 per week and basically doesn’t do anything.

After the media started covering this story, Apple apparently removed the feature article about “Slime Relaxations,” which was found here.

WireGuard VPN gets a high-performance Windows kernel native port

WireGuard VPN gets a high-performance Windows kernel native port 2048 1151 M. Laraib

New port promises massive improvements in throughput

After months of work, the WireGuard project has managed to port the new VPN tunneling protocol to the Windows kernel, and the results from the initial tests are very encouraging.

WireGuard employs modern cryptography standards, and has been integrated into the Linux kernel since early 2020. Windows users however had to rely on a userspace driver, which worked, though its performance didn’t rival its Linux counterpart.

The project now gets a native port of WireGuard to the Windows kernel, in the form of WireGuardNT, and it promises to make things much faster.

“The end result is a deeply integrated and highly performant implementation of WireGuard for the NT kernel, that makes use of the full gamut of NT kernel and NDIS capabilities,” announced WireGuard’s author and main developer, Jason A. Donenfeld.

Breakthrough performance

Giving a lay of the land in his announcement email, Donenfeld mentioned that WireGuard on Windows currently relies on a generic userspace driver called Wintun that helps direct network traffic. While the implementation works, it has a lot of overhead, which adds latency. 

With WireGuardNT, the whole protocol is now implemented directly into Windows’ networking stack, just like it is on Linux. 

While the project is still in its early stages, and not yet ready for production use, early tests show that the reduced overheads have already drastically cut latency.

Donenfeld shared that he’s already seeing speeds of about 7.5Gbps on his test machine and that he can still “eek out” a lot more performance with the right optimization tweaks.

However, even as is, the driver is delivering impressive performance, especially over WiFi. In one test conducted using an Intel AC9560 WiFi adapter, WireGuardNT delivered about 600 Mbps, which is about the same speed that was experienced when not using WireGuard. This is a massive improvement over the existing Wintun implementation, which couldn’t even break 100Mbps.

Waze has been updated to better rival Google Maps

Waze has been updated to better rival Google Maps 2560 1440 M. Laraib

Don’t want to use Google Maps? There is another…

Waze announced at their remote event that lane guidance is coming to the app, alongside a plethora of other features to help you get from home to work in an easier fashion.

Navigation apps such as Apple Maps and Google Maps make it easier than ever to travel from A to B even if you have no idea where you are. Gone are the days of looking at printed roadmaps.

But when you’re in an unfamiliar city, there can still be issues when it comes to getting around – such as knowing which lane you need to be in so you don’t miss your turn or have to cut across traffic at the last minute.

Google Maps has long featured lane guidance to help drivers get into the correct lane in plenty of time but, despite being owned by the same company, this is something that has been missing from Waze. Now this is changing.

Lane guidance is something that Waze users had been requesting for quite some time, and now users are in luck. If you update your app to the latest version either from the Google Play Store or App store, you’ll see a Google Maps-style lane indicators at the top of the screen showing you where you need to position yourself on the road.

Driving in suggested lanes

At the WazeON event back in September 2020, the Waze teams announced that lane guidance was coming to both Android phones and iPhones.

The below video shows the feature in action:

Lane Guidance kicks in when drivers are around 500 metres from a turn in a city and 1km on motorways, giving plenty of time to switch to the right lane.

The company also announced other features, such as traffic notifications for when a certain build-up of traffic is occurring on your route, alongside route suggestions for your most common journeys.

Analysis: Motorways are coming back

During 2020, the pandemic caused many highways to be far less busy than what they had been for years. This gave navigation apps an opportunity to improve upon what they’ve had available for years on Android phones and iOS devices.

With widgets and better ways of seeing how you can get from one destination to another, it’s important that map apps keep their user interface clear and concise. 

Depending on whether your phone is on a holder so you can glance at it, or its connected to the car by way of Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay, updates to these apps are crucial now that more drivers are returning to the roads, and they want to make sure that there’s almost no delays in reaching the destination.

Waze has been a great alternative to Apple Maps and Google Maps, and with guest voices and appearances from franchises such as Halo coming in, it’s an innovative app that still has plenty of mileage ahead of itself.

Facebook Improves Android App Integration With Multitasking On Quest 2

Facebook Improves Android App Integration With Multitasking On Quest 2 1920 1080 M. Laraib

Multitasking is now available for some Quest 2 users, which brings more Infinite Office functionality as well as improved Android mobile app integration.

Multitasking was promised as part of the v30 update for Oculus Quest. However, the feature never rolled out for users even after downloading v30 or updating to v31 a few weeks later. It seems the feature is being turned on for some users, available in the Experimental Features menu. When turned on, multitasking lets users drag an app from their Quest taskbar and use it in tandem with up to 2 other adjacent apps or windows. It works similarly to opening multiple tabs next to each other in the Oculus Browser, but with the addition of all the apps available in Quest Home — Oculus Browser, Store, Move etc.

To start using multitasking, simply turn it on under Experimental Features in your Quest settings and then drag an Oculus Home icon from your toolbar to one of the open positions next to an existing browser window.

Android App Integration

The addition of multitasking functionality also significantly improved the performance and management of mobile Android apps running on Quest 2.

The Quest 2 doesn’t officially support mobile Android apps just yet, however, users are able to download APKs online and install them using SideQuest to be used as a 2D app on Quest. This has always been possible, but the new multitasking features on Quest make running Android versions of mobile apps such as Apple Music, Netflix and Hearthstone much easier than before, while also fixing a few quirks.

Just like a Quest Home app, an Android mobile app sideloaded via SideQuest can be dragged into a multitasking slot and be used at the same time as other Android or Quest Home apps. In the past, there was no clear way to completely close an Android mobile app on Quest. This often meant the app remained open in the background until you did a full restart of your headset. The new exit and minimize buttons from the multitasking UI solve this problem — exit fully closes the Android app, while minimize closes the window but may preserve its state for the next time you open it.

In our testing, we were able to install and use Netflix, Apple Music and Hearthstone Android APKs on Quest and use them as part of a multitasking setup. This would allow you to stream Apple Music while using Oculus Browser for example, or play Hearthstone while watching a series on Netflix at the same time. There even seems to be support for hand tracking — so you could drag cards into the play area in Hearthstone with no controllers. Additionally, offline downloads for these apps — downloading movies in Netflix or music in Apple Music — worked as expected, and allows you to access the content while disconnected from Wi-Fi.

A few months ago, it seemed like Quest might be getting official Android app support. We later learned that Facebook employees are already able to use some Android apps on Quest. It seems highly likely that multitasking support is a stepping stone toward integrating Android apps more directly, as part of the wider Infinite Office feature set.

Something strange is going on with Microsoft Office apps on ChromeOS

Something strange is going on with Microsoft Office apps on ChromeOS 1280 720 M. Laraib

Is Microsoft pushing web apps to the forefront?

Chromebook users have reported that some Microsoft Office tools no longer appear to be supported on their Chrome OS devices, which are pushing them towards web apps instead.

As reported by Windows Central, some Chromebook users who tried to launch certain Office apps on Android were greeted with this message: “Go to Office.com: This version of the Office app is no longer supported. For the best and most recent experience with this device, go to Office.com”

This prompted some to speculate that Microsoft could be favoring its web apps, especially as the non-web services don’t always provide a smooth user experience on Chromebooks, and often use more system resources compared to their web counterparts – which also don’t take up any storage space on the device.

Consolidation, not migration

However, About Chromebooks’ Kevin C. Tofel writes that this pivot into web apps probably isn’t happening, at all. 

Although bringing up individual apps, for example Excel, will result in the popup message seen above, the apps can still be accessed through the central Office app.

“Instead, I see Microsoft consolidating its Android apps to a degree because it would rather people use all of its Office apps, not just a single one such as Excel, for example,” Tofel said, before adding that Microsoft combined some of the main Office apps into a single suite in 2020.

Furthermore, individual Office apps can still be installed as PWA, it was said.

At the moment, not all of the users are being redirected, and Microsoft is keeping quiet on the matter.

Microsoft Teams reveals it will automatically delete your old calls – if you let it

Microsoft Teams reveals it will automatically delete your old calls – if you let it 970 545 M. Laraib

Microsoft Teams clarifies exactly what will happen to your old call recordings

Users looking to access recordings of past Microsoft Teams calls will need to make sure they don’t wait too long to do so, the company has warned.

Microsoft recently revealed that the video conferencing service would automatically delete recordings of calls after a set period of time if users took no action with their files, such as downloading or listening back.

The company has now confirmed that this period of time will be set at 60 days, so users will need to interact with the recordings they need within a matter of weeks, or face losing the files for good.

Microsoft Teams call deletion

Microsoft says the 60-day limit was chosen after the company found this was the average time past which most meeting recordings are never watched again.

Users and admins can still change the default expiration date, although the setting will not immediately be accessible.

Microsoft Teams revealed plans to begin recording all calls automatically back in June 2021, replacing an earlier process where users had to opt-in to call recording.

The feature is particularly useful for organizations that need to capture meeting interactions in order to comply with industry regulations or local laws.

Meeting participants see a warning displayed at the start of a call to alert them that the meeting is being recorded, with the recording available to download and listen back to after the call has ended.

The company also recently revealed an update that would allow Teams admins to set meeting recordings stored on OneDrive and SharePoint to expire automatically.

Set to roll out in September, the feature will allow the creation of a default Teams policy setting on automatic deletion, although admins will be able to modify the default meeting recording expiration time through a setting in the Teams Admin Portal or by modifying policy attributes using Powershell scripts.

The feature will bring Microsoft Teams up to speed with rivals services such as Zoom, which have offered call recording (and call deletion) for some time.

Massive Snapchat crash is still locking out users, despite official ‘fix’

Massive Snapchat crash is still locking out users, despite official ‘fix’ 2000 1100 M. Laraib

Is the issue really fixed?

Snapchat has been the latest service to suffer from a mass outage, with well over 100,000 users self-reporting issues over the website Downdetector, seemingly unable to login and either share or create content on the platform (via The Verge).

Problems apparently began on July 28, with Snapchat acknowledging that “we’re aware of an issue with the latest version of Snapchat available in the App Store,” while stating that a fix was incoming. The outage appears to be largely focused in the US, though TechRadar staffers in the UK have also been affected, suggesting a significant scale to the problem.

Users in droves started reporting issues the day after, likely once the update had come into effect on more users’ phones. Reports have largely trickled out, though some appear to be experiencing some worrying issues, even after Snapchat announced an official fix had been implemented.

If you are still experiencing issues, Snapchat recommends you “manually update to version 11.34.1.35” to see if that fixes things – you can do this by heading to the app store, clicking on the Snapchat icon and selecting update.

Other users report better success deleting and reinstalling the app, or simply offloading the app (which keeps relevant documents and data used by the app on your phone, rather than deleting it wholesale). Others, however, are still struggling to access their account.

Is my Snapchat account ok?

While the majority of users appear to be past the issue, issues linger for a small number, who are seemingly unable to open the app, or in some cases finding that Snapchat appears to have forgotten their account entirely.

Multiple users have taken to replying to Snapchat’s Twitter post with gifs of their continuing issues, with the app closing as soon as it’s opened. 

Others are reporting an error message while attempting to login, with the app saying “Oops! We could not find matching credentials,” causing some to worry that their account has been lost or deleted amidst the chaos of the new update. Others see a similar message that just says “Please check your connection.”

We expect these lingering issues to be fixed in the short term, too – Snapchat will obviously be keen to resolve the problem and ensure regular users are in the app, upping their usage metrics, and it’s much more likely to be an in-app issue accessing the correct details rather than accounts being mysteriously wiped from Snapchat’s servers.

We have seen Snapchat acknowledge “a technical issue impacting some Snapchatters,” too. In the meantime, if you’re still affected, TikTok should now be working again after similar outages earlier in the month.

Google is kicking ‘sugar dating’ apps out of the Play Store

Google is kicking ‘sugar dating’ apps out of the Play Store 1400 933 M. Laraib

A new policy prohibits apps focused on ‘compensated sexual relationships’ as of September 1st

“Sugar dating” apps will not be allowed on the Android Play Store from September 1st, Google has announced as part of a series of policy changes for the platform. The change, which was first reported by Android Police, specifically prohibits apps relating to “compensated sexual relationships.” Other changes coming to the platform include a new crackdown on inactive developer accounts, Google says.

Traditionally, sugar dating relationships involve older, wealthier individuals dating and showering younger partners with gifts. As Android Police notes, there’s no shortage of apps on the Play Store designed around setting up “sugar daddy” relationships. None of them explicitly say that older men are expected to compensate younger women for their affection, but many emphasize the wealth of the men on their services.

Google’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.” But the updated wording expands this definition to explicitly include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”

Google’s announcement doesn’t explicitly say why the apps are being banned now. But it comes amidst a crackdown on online sex work by platforms following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in the US in 2018, which removes Section 230 protections for content that “promotes or facilitates prostitution.” A representative from Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beyond the dating app rule changes, the search giant is also introducing a new policy which will see it delete developer accounts if they’ve remained inactive for a year. Google says it will make exceptions for accounts behind apps with over a thousand installs or with recent in-app purchases, but if a developer hasn’t uploaded an app or signed into the Google Play Console over the course of 12 months, their account is at risk of deletion. In a video outlining the change, Google says it will notify developers of an impending deletion 60, 30, and 7 days before it takes place.

The policy updates also offer more information on Google’s previously announced changes regarding Play Store spam and opting-out of the use of advertising IDs. It’s updating its store listings and promotion policy on September 29 to ban “spam text and graphics in app titles, icons and developer names” and its ads policy is being updated to reflect the advertising ID changes on October 4th.

WhatsApp is making it easier to move from iOS to Android

WhatsApp is making it easier to move from iOS to Android 2560 1628 M. Laraib

Taking your group chats with you

WhatsApp is looking to simplify the process of moving from an iPhone to an Android phone. A feature that’s in the works will make it possible to backup chats on one platform and then restore them on another.

Taking the decision to switch allegiances can be a tough one, particularly when it comes to mobile platforms. You may have committed to taking the plunge, switching from iOS to Android, but there are major considerations – not least of which is making sure that you have all of the apps and data you need.

A future migration feature addresses one of the biggest shortcomings of WhatsApp’s backup capabilities. We already knew that it is going to be possible to migrate from Android to iOS in taking all of your WhatsApp chats with you, and while it would have been extremely surprising for the reverse to not also have been implemented, now we have confirmation that this option is on the way.

The ever-reliable WABetaInfo has shared screenshots of a feature discovered by XDA Developers:

Make the switch

Rather than being an option that’s built into the WhatsApp app directly, the cross-platform migration tool looks to be part of a separate Switch to Android app which will be available from the App Store soon. This is very similar to the Move to iOS app that can be found in the Play Store.

Judging from the screenshots and video of the feature in action, it would appear that the migration process will require the use of a cable. Just how this will work in practice remains to be seen, and it is entirely possible that the process will change before it goes public – perhaps to utilitize Bluetooth.

As ever, the best way to get your hands on the latest features as soon as possible is to take advantage of the WhatsApp beta program, although this does mean you end up using a slightly less stable version of the app, so do proceed with caution if you decide to go down this rabbit hole.

Analysis: Embracing change

The decision to make it easier to move between platforms makes a great deal of sense. While both iOS and Android enjoy great brand loyalty from users, there are still plenty of people who decide to switch sides. It is beneficial for everyone involved if the process of swapping platforms is made as painless as possible, and this new data migration option eliminates some of the friction involved.

Of course, it would have been great if the same functionality could have been built directly into the WhatsApp app, but as this would probably have involved storing data in the cloud, there would have been privacy and security concerns.