Google’s Gboard debuts a quick way to create reaction GIFs

Google’s Gboard for iOS is lagging a bit behind its Android counterpart, but a new update for iPhone users comes with a game changer. As The Verge has noticed, its dedicated GIF-maker button is no longer hidden at the bottom and now has a more prominent position on the keyboard, right on top beside the word suggestion bar. So accessible, and so convenient. It’s made even better by the fact that it can now also record short video snippets using the front-facing camera, making it a veritable reaction GIF machine.

Simply fire up the Make-a-GIF button and record a Loop, which is a three-second Boomerang-like format. Or a Fast-Forward that lets you record up to a minute of footage and spits out a sped-up GIF. While we can confirm the button’s new placement on iOS, as you can see below, we don’t see it on Android yet. (Take note, however, that we only saw the button’s new placement when we re-installed the keyboard.) Gboard’s app store pages don’t have notes about the update either, so you’ll simply have to check it every now and then.

Source: The Verge

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Logan Paul forced YouTube to admit humans are better than algorithms

YouTube is no stranger to controversy. Many of its top stars have been in hot water recently: From PewDiePie making racists remarks, to a “family” channel with abusive kid pranks, the company’s been under fire for not keeping a closer eye on the type of content that makes it onto the site. Most recently, Logan Paul, a popular YouTuber with more than 15 million subscribers, faced backlash after posting a video that showed a corpse he came across in Japan’s so-called “Suicide Forest.” That clip, which was eventually taken down by Paul himself, forced YouTube to cut almost all ties with him and to figure out ways to prevent another situation like this.

Up until now, Google’s (and by extension YouTube’s) solution had been to take down offensive channels and tweak its advertiser-friendly guidelines to give brands more control over where their ads show up. But the tech giant is now taking that one step further. Earlier this week, it announced YouTube will now manually review uploads from accounts that are part of its Google Preferred ad tier, which lets brands publish advertisements in videos from the top five percent of YouTube creators.

The shift is notable because it means YouTube will rely less on algorithms to catch bad actors, something that social media companies are finally realizing needs to happen. Facebook and Twitter have both also vowed to hire more humans, as they look to crack down on bots and troll accounts that have plagued their sites. What Google and YouTube hope, naturally, is that this will help avoid another mess like the one Logan Paul created.

Mobile Technology Applications

Although Paul’s channel “Logan Paul Vlogs” still lives on the platform, YouTube has put on hold the original projects he was working on for YouTube Red, its paid ad-free streaming service. It also terminated his lucrative Google Preferred ad deal, and while he will still be able to monetize his content, not being a part of that advertising package likely won’t earn him nearly as much money. For context, he was reportedly the fourth highest-paid YouTuber in 2017, according to Forbes, earning an estimated $ 12.5 million — thanks to Preferred, his Maverick apparel line and sponsored posts on social media.

The decision was likely a tough one for YouTube, considering the millions of people who watch Logan Paul’s channel and, perhaps most importantly, the level of influence he has over a key demographic: teenagers. But YouTube had to make an example out of him in order to appease advertisers, which grow more and more concerned that their ads could appear alongside disturbing or inappropriate videos. Last year, AT&T and Verizon (which owns Engadget), among others, pulled ads from Google’s platform after they were displayed on videos related to terrorism and hate groups.

YouTube is also implementing stricter requirements for its Partner Program, which lets smaller channels earn money by placing ads in their videos, to help filter out offensive content. Creators can now only become YouTube Partners if they have 4,000 hours of watchtime in the past 12 months and over 1,000 subscribers. These changes are in addition to the ones made in 2017, when YouTube began requiring 10,000 channel views minimum in order to be granted partnership status. The company says setting these thresholds will prevent low-quality videos from making money and stop channels from uploading stolen content. That said, it still plans to depend heavily on viewers flagging videos that may violate YouTube’s community guidelines.

PewDiePie Signs Copies Of His New Book 'This Book Loves You'

YouTuber star “PewDiePie”

The main challenge for YouTube is that often it is top users who are uploading dubious content, not the smaller channels. And that begs the question of why it took it so long to act, at least in a tougher manner. It’s not as if YouTube hasn’t dealt with cases similar to Logan Paul’s in the past. Take Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg as an example, the Swedish YouTuber with nearly 60 million subscribers who has published videos filled with anti-Semitic and other racist outbursts on more than one occasion. Or the channel “Toy Freaks,” which had over 8 million subscribers and featured explicit content targeted at young audiences, including videos of children vomiting and in extreme pain that it claimed were “pranks.”

Granted, YouTube did act quickly in both cases: PewDiePie lost his original series Scare PewDiePie and Google Preferred deal, similar to Logan Paul, while the Toy Freaks channel was removed altogether. But those acts should’ve been a huge flag that the company needed to take a hard look at itself and change its video-review process, from depending less on machine learning and more on humans. Just as it plans to do going forward.

If the new system would’ve been in place, chances are the controversial Logan Paul video may have never been viewed by the masses and, therefore, YouTube could’ve saved itself from major public outcry. In fact, there’s still an ongoing petition calling for his channel to be deleted, which so far has been signed by more than half a million people. The hope for YouTube now is that, by having humans monitor popular uploads, there will be less of a chance of any foul videos being published in the future. A YouTube spokesperson told Engadget that every decision the company makes has to work for advertisers, creators and users alike, which can be complicated because not every situation is black and white.

With the overhauled YouTube Partner Program, for example, some creators aren’t happy with the new requirements because they don’t think they’ll be able to make money. But YouTube says that of those channels that will be affected, 99 percent are making less than $ 100 per year. Ultimately, the spokesperson said, all the changes made recently, both to the advertising and community guidelines, are designed to “move everyone forward,” adding that YouTube doesn’t want someone’s bad judgment to affect the rest of the platform — even though it certainly feels like it is.

Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University, said he has mixed feelings about the decisions YouTube is making. He believes that, by censoring its creators, the site will lose the freedom that’s made it the most popular video site in the world. That said, Levinson also understands that it isn’t appropriate to have a corpse or other “disgusting” content in a video.

“Of course, you could argue that if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to view it,” he said. “You know, they can just shut it off the second they see it, but obviously, I get why people find that offensive, even repulsive. And so in that sense, it’s a good thing, but at the same time I’m concerned that we’re beginning to see the end of that totally open [internet].”

Now, as we move past Logan Paul’s controversy, it’ll be interesting to see how effective YouTube’s new monitoring system will be, and whether it decides to expand it beyond just the top five percent of videos. But don’t be surprised if some manage to slip through the cracks, because like the algorithms that have failed YouTube in the past, humans are also far from perfect.

Images: Getty Images (All)

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‘Skullgirls’ relaunches on mobile as developer ditches publisher

Stylized fighting game Skullgirls came out for mobile in May of last year. It was developed by Autumn Games and initially published by Line. Now, the developer has decided to part ways with the publisher and go back to being independent. As a result of this transition, the developer launched a new version (basically Skullgirls 2.0) and shut down the old one (now called LINE Skullgirls) on the App Store and Google Play.

The title’s relaunch brings a bunch of new updates, including extra Daily Log In loot, double fighters and moves for single gacha-style hero acquisitions, official ultra widescreen support for iPhone X and select Android phones like the Samsung S8, improved Relic coloring (so you know how rare a fighter is) and several bug fixes. In addition, the developer has promised a greater transparency around loot drop rates, along with a guaranteed random generation of loot itself. “While other games may ‘cook the books’ to create the illusion that loot rates are better than that actually are (to encourage spending),” the developer wrote in a forum post, “ours are 100% RNG (random number generator), with plenty of in-game methods to earn them directly without having to spend a dime. We plan to add more layers of granularity and visibility to these loot tables in future updates.”

As a result of its newfound independence from Line, Autumn Games also promises a ton of new characters, modes, social features and content over the next year. If you’re already a Skullgirls player, the developer says that all your data will move to the new app, as well, so you won’t lose any progress from the previous version.

Source: Autumn Games

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Xfinity Mobile now works with your unlocked iPhone

Until now, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile service has meant buying one of its locked devices. But what if you already have a phone and want to switch? You now have that choice… if you’re firmly in Apple’s camp. Xfinity Mobile has enabled an in-store Bring Your Own Device option, but only for “select” unlocked iPhone models. Other manufacturers’ phones will have to wait until later in 2018. You can receive a gift card if you trade in a phone that doesn’t qualify, although that means settling for a locked handset (and likely getting less than your handset is worth).

There probably won’t be a surge of people signing up — historically, Americans have tended to buy locked phones on contract. However, this could certainly help if Xfinity Mobile’s bundled discounts and by-the-gig rates make sense for you. It could also help fuel the service’s reported success by making it easier for people to switch from rival networks. Xfinity is unlikely to topple the wireless giants since it’s intended mainly for the Comcast faithful, but this certainly won’t hurt.

Source: Comcast

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Apple will fix the ‘chaiOS’ text message bug next week

Yesterday, we wrote about the chaiOS bug, which is a specific link that can cause iMessage on iOS and Macs to crash. Today, Apple let us know that a fix is on the way. The chaiOS bug will be patched in a software update next week.

chaiOS was first uncovered by Abraham Masri, who tweeted about the bug. He noted that the cause of the bug was linked to Effective Power, which was first uncovered in 2015. It worked similarly, in that texting someone a link was enough to cause their iPhone to crash continuously. chaiOS won’t cause any permanent damage to your phone, but it’s certainly an annoying little bug that needs to be squashed, so it’s good that Apple is working on a fix.

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Apple CEO: iPhone owners will be able to disable ‘power management’

About a month ago, Apple explained that slower performance of older iPhones is intentional, implemented as a “power management” plan through an iOS update. While it was ostensibly intended to prevent phones from crashing in situations when their worn-out battery couldn’t supply enough juice to support demanding functions, owners are upset they weren’t notified it was happening. In fact, it was only discovered through benchmarks. In an apology, Apple lowered the price of battery replacements and promised an iOS update that would inform users when the phone detects battery problems.

Tonight, in an interview with ABC News, CEO Tim Cook that not only will owners be able to check the health of their battery, but they can also turn off the performance-slowing power management, with a warning that it could lead to unexpected restarts. Cook said “maybe we should have been clearer,” and that Apple’s motivation is always the user, making sure their phone is available for an important photograph or making an emergency call. Will this tweak be enough to head off a slew of lawsuits? Only time will tell, but our first peek at the feature will come in a developer preview later this month.

Source: ABC News

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‘chaiOS’ bug can cause iMessage to crash with a text message

There’s a new bug floating around called “chaiOS” that appears to be a basic GitHub link. However, when you text it to a person via the iMessage app (whether on iOS or MacOS), it will crash the app and possibly cause the device to freeze and restart. In other words: Be aware that this exists, but don’t send it to anyone.

It was Twitter user Abraham Masri who first uncovered the bug. The people over at 9to5Mac tested it out, and it certainly messed up their devices. They reported crashes and severe lags as a result of the bugs that persisted until the thread containing the link was deleted from the iMessage app. If you did send or receive it, and your device is a mess, there’s also a fix in the replies to Masri’s original tweet. We’ve reached out to Apple to confirm that their team is aware of the bug, and to see if there are any fixes in the works.

To be clear, this bug won’t cause permanent damage to your device if you send it, but it certainly has the potential to cause some annoyance. It’s not clear exactly how it works, but Masri tied it back to the “effective power” bug in his tweet. This dates back to 2015 and caused some havoc, as simply sending a text message was enough to cause the recipient’s iPhone to crash continuously. Apple has since fixed the bug.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Twitter

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Motorola’s 2018 lineup may include an iPhone X lookalike

Someone might have just spoiled Motorola’s 2018 in a big way. Droid Life has posted a trio of leaks which, if accurate, hint at some big changes to the Lenovo brand’s smartphone lineup. The headliner would be the Moto X5, and it’s not hard to see why: the device reportedly includes a 5.9-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio display with an iPhone X-style notch. There’s no visible fingerprint reader, for that matter, so the X5 is either relying on face detection (the dual front cameras could help with this) or has a fingerprint reader tucked under the screen.

The X5 wouldn’t lean solely on its screen as its selling point: there would also be a “smart AI” helping out, and dual rear cameras to complement those on the front.

Not that the X would hog all the clever ideas. The Moto Z3 and Z3 Play would have tall, curved 6-inch screens but no notch (they’d be closer to the Galaxy S8). Instead, they’d rely on MotoMod support as their selling point — there would even be a 5G mod (mentioned by Moto back in December 2016) to deliver super-fast wireless, presumably without a battery life hit. There may be a third Moto Z with a Snapdragon 845 down the road.

Moto Z3 5G mod

And it wouldn’t be Motorola without updates to its rapidly burgeoning Moto G line. The G6, G6 Plus and G6 Play would bring 18:9 displays to the company’s more affordable phones (5.7 inches in the G6 and G6 Play, 5.93 inches in the G6 Plus), albeit with more familiar designs that include conventional fingerprint readers. Otherwise, they’re speed bumps. The regular G6 would use a Snapdragon 450, while at least the G6 Plus would use a Snapdragon 630. The G6 Plus would get a battery increase to 3,200mAh, and the G6 Play would be a longevity champ with a 4,000mAh power pack.

Only the G6 models have detailed specs and pricing ($ 240 for the G6, $ 330 for the Plus), and there’s no definitive launch window. The G6 makes sense for a debut at Mobile World Congress in February, but it could be months more until the other phones arrive. And we’d definitely take these leaks with a grain of salt. Whether or not the rumors are accurate, a lot can change over the course of several months. Motorola may have to scale back its ambitions or otherwise make tweaks before launch.

Moto G6

Source: Droid Life (Moto X), (Moto Z), (Moto G)

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Apple supplier accused of chemical safety and overtime violations

Apple is still struggling to improve working conditions at its suppliers. Both China Labor Watch and Bloomberg report that Catcher, a key supplier for iPhone and MacBook casings, makes workers endure harsh safety conditions and unfair work terms in a factory in Suqian. According to observers and discussions with workers, the machines are not only loud, but spray fluid and metallic particles that frequently hit workers’ faces (only some of which have access to safety goggles and gloves). Workers suffer health issues such as vision problems, irritation and discoloration. Beyond this, the facility reportedly pumps out wastewater that violates local safety levels, and workers return to cold dorms with no hot water or built-in showers.

CLW adds that the work requirements run afoul of local laws. Factory staff are legally supposed to work 40-hour weeks, but they’re actually made to work 10 hours a day for 6 days each week. The scheduling approach also conveniently lets Catcher avoid paying double for overtime, as the law demands. Training frequently stopped at 4 hours when it’s supposed to last 24 hours. Even quitting is difficult, according to the report. Contract workers may have to wait weeks to receive their expected wages, and the contracting company frequently refuses to accept resignations.

Both Apple and Catcher say they’ve investigated CLW’s claims, but found no evidence to suggest that the working conditions had violated Apple’s code of conduct. It’s not clear why that’s the case, though, given the multiple reports of illegal activity and Catcher’s history of labor violations.

Whatever the exact story, the findings highlight the problems that Apple, and the tech industry at large, have with maintaining reasonable working conditions. They frequently depend on wide networks of suppliers to make the parts that go into products, and these suppliers often feel compelled to do whatever it takes to meet production quotas. That usually means hiring temporary workers willing to endure brutal hours and unsafe conditions to make an income they would never get in rural China. And while robotics can help, they also leave many people out of work. Companies like Apple can tighten their labor controls, but they don’t have any easy answers.

Via: Bloomberg

Source: China Labor Watch

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Toyota caves to pressure and adds CarPlay to new models

Many car manufacturers have joined the modern era by adopting Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or both, but not Toyota. It insisted on going its own way, and that has usually meant skipping its cars entirely if you cared about smartphone integration. Thankfully, the automaker has seen the light. The 2019 Avalon and future models (including Lexus vehicles) with an Entune 3.0 or Enform 2.0 system will support Apple CarPlay, letting you use the more sophisticated apps from your iPhone instead of making do with limited built-in features. CarPlay will be standard on all Avalon trim levels when the sedan goes on sale in late spring, although that’s no guarantee it’ll be standard on other models.

A spokesperson told MacRumors that CarPlay would initially be limited to US models, and that there’s no wireless option. Also, there’s no mention of Android Auto. If you carry an Android phone, you’ll have to use the Avalon’s Alexa voice control and smartwatch support. You do get Qi wireless charging and a WiFi hotspot feature, however.

Toyota hasn’t outlined pricing for the Avalon, but its role as Toyota’s flagship sedan suggests it won’t be trivial. As such, the car giant isn’t quite going toe-to-toe with smartphone-friendly rivals like Honda or Volkswagen, which offer Android Auto and CarPlay across a wide range of designs. It’ll be a while before you can get a seamless smartphone interface in a new Corolla. Even so, it’s good to know that the feature is at least on the horizon — this closes a gaping hole and lets you focus your buying decision more on driving dynamics and style than on in-car tech.

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Via: AppleInsider, MacRumors

Source: Toyota

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