Facebook App Integrates Food and Ticket Ordering Into Brand Pages

In the consistently updated Facebook app for iOS, the social media company is today introducing a slew of new features focused on event discovery and streamlined interaction with brands. Notably, now in the company's mobile app users will be able to purchase tickets to movies and concerts, buy food, or book an appointment without leaving Facebook.

For food and ticket orders, the feature is fueled by Facebook's partnership with services like Delivery.com, Slice, Ticketmaster, Fandango, and Eventbrite. Local businesses will need to be on board to support the appointment booking feature, but if they do users can simply request a specific time from the business' Facebook page after looking at their list of services. A response confirmation will be sent through Facebook Messenger when the appointment is decided upon.

To generate more personalized interactions, there's also a new Recommendations feature in the app that aims to make it easier to get advice from friends and family on places to see and things to do in a user's hometown, or while traveling in a new city. Recommendations are represented as a new status option, so users can post about wanting to check out new restaurants, for example, and their friends can comment back with suggestions to try in the area.
People come to Facebook every day to connect and share experiences with friends and family. We share the great places we go and we ask our friends for advice when we need help getting things done. Today we’re starting to introduce a variety of new features that help you use those connections to discover new things in the world around you, decide what to do or where to go, and connect with local businesses in easier and faster ways.
Facebook will accumulate all of these recommendations into one map, so it's easy to find the places that were mentioned in the comments of a post. To fuel personal discovery of events surrounding users, the company is also revamping the Events dashboard in the main Facebook app, with many of the same feature additions that it introduced in the standalone Events app, launched earlier in the month.

The company said that the update will be rolling out to users in the United States beginning today, and that "this is the first step" in its plan to make the app a one-stop shop for social planning. Facebook hopes that ultimately the app streamlines user and business interactions, and makes it easy for people "to get things done, make confident decisions and communicate directly with businesses on your time and terms."

Tag: Facebook

Apple Ends iOS 9 Downgrades on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

IPSWApple has stopped signing iOS 9.3.5 for compatible iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch models, effectively ending iOS 9 downgrades.

iOS 10.0.1 is also no longer being signed, making iOS 10.0.2 the oldest software update users can still downgrade their devices to via iTunes.

Apple routinely stops signing older software updates several weeks after they are released.

iOS 9.3.5 was released in late August as the last update to the iOS 9 operating system, with major security fixes for three zero-day exploits. iOS 10.0.1 was released on September 13 as the first iOS 10 version for all devices beyond the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

The move does not affect jailbreaking, as iOS 9.3.3 is the latest software version with a publicly available exploit. Apple patched that jailbreak in iOS 9.3.4, crediting the Chinese team Pangu for its discovery, and it is unlikely that a jailbreak will ever be publicly released for iOS 9.3.5 at this point in time.

Apple has also stopped signing tvOS 9.2.2 for the fourth-generation Apple TV.

Microsoft Hails 'Historic Achievement' in Speech Recognition Technology

Researchers at Microsoft claim to have created a new speech recognition technology that transcribes conversational speech as well as a human does (via The Verge).

The system's word error rate is reportedly 5.9 percent, which is about equal to professional transcribers asked to work on the same recordings, according to Microsoft.

speech recognition team Microsoft
Microsoft researchers from the Speech & Dialog research group (Image: Allison Linn)

"We've reached human parity," said chief speech scientist Xuedong Huang in a statement, calling the milestone "an historic achievement".

To reach the milestone, the team used Microsoft’s Computational Network Toolkit, a homegrown system for deep learning that the research team has made available on GitHub via an open source license. The system uses neural network technology that groups similar words together, which allows the models to generalize efficiently from word to word.

The neural networks draw on large amounts of data called training sets to teach the transcribing computers to recognize syntactical patterns in the sounds. Microsoft plans to use the technology in Cortana, its personal voice assistant in Windows and Xbox One, as well as in speech-to-text transcription software.

But the technology still has a long way to go before it can claim to master meaning (semantics) and contextual awareness - key characteristics of everyday language use that need to be grasped for Siri-like personal assistants to process requests and act upon them in a helpful way.

"We are moving away from a world where people must understand computers to a world in which computers must understand us," said Harry Shum, who heads the Microsoft AI Research group. However it will be a long time before computers can understand the real meaning of what's being said, he cautioned. "True artificial intelligence is still on the distant horizon."

Tests Show 32GB iPhone 7 Models Have 8X Slower Data Write Speeds Than Other Capacities

A couple weeks ago GSMArena reported that its tests showed that 32GB iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models had slower storage performance than 128GB and 256GB models. Today, Unbox Therapy's Lew Hilsenteger posted a video featuring several speed tests that confirm that 32GB iPhone 7 models have slower data write speeds than other configurations.

In the video, the free PerformanceTest Mobile [Direct Link] app is used to test the devices, a 32GB iPhone 7 and a 128GB iPhone 7. Both devices have similar read speeds, with the 32GB model reading at 656MB per second and the 128GB model reading at 856MB per second. However, there's a larger discrepancy in the model's write speeds. While the 128GB model writes at 341MB per second, the 32GB model writes at 42MB per second, nearly 8 times slower than the higher capacity model.

Hilsenteger then performed a real-world test more representative of what a user might encounter, using a MacBook and USB cable to transfer movies over to the two iPhone models. The 256GB model wrote the 4.2GB movie in 2 minutes and 34 seconds while the 32GB model wrote the same file in 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

Larger capacity SSDs often perform better than smaller capacity SSDs because its controller has access to more NAND flash memory chips, according to How-To Geek. Manufacturers have to place more NAND chips in higher capacity SSDs, and when they do they place them in parallel to each other. This means that the SSD controller has an easier time accessing more of the memory than a controller in a smaller capacity SSD, which wouldn't have the NAND chips in parallel to each other.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tag: Unbox Therapy

Instagram Expands 'Stories' Feature to Explore Tab

instagramstoriesBack in August, Instagram introduced a new "Instagram Stories" feature, allowing Instagram users to post temporary images and videos to their profile. Content expires after 24 hours, giving users a chance to share more casual posts that won't be permanently available on Instagram.

Prior to today, Instagram users have only been able to see Stories from people they follow, but Instagram has added Stories to the "Explore" tab in the app, which will let users find interesting and popular story content from around the world.

A selection of Stories are now available at the top of the Explore page, denoted by small circles and a user name, which can be tapped to display the image and video content.

According to Instagram, the new Stories feature is personalized to each user's interests, much like the rest of the Explore tab.

Instagram can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Instagram

Spotify App Not Coming to Apple TV 'Anytime Soon'

A conversation thread on Github between a few developers and Spotify project leader Samuel Erdtman has confirmed that the streaming music company isn't looking into developing an app for Apple's fourth-generation Apple TV "anytime soon" (via AppAdvice).

In the thread, which began as a feature request for the Spotify SDK to support tvOS, Erdtman eventually closed out the comments saying that building support for Spotify on Apple TV has been "down prioritized." That might not be an official confirmation that Spotify will never arrive on Apple's set-top box, but Erdtman's wording hints that it's far from Spotify's top priority at the moment.

To support tvOS has been down prioritized, You should not expect a release supporting it any time soon. I'm sorry about that.
Although Spotify users might like to take advantage of a tvOS app for Spotify, it's not entirely surprising that the two companies may never reach an agreement on how such an experience would work. Over the summer, Spotify and Apple quarreled over the 30 percent cut that Apple now takes from iOS App Store subscriptions, which has caused Spotify to charge $12.99 for subscriptions purchased through the App Store, a $3 premium over subscriptions purchased on the web and $3 more than the price of Apple Music.

Spotify claimed Apple was using such a tactic as a "weapon to harm competitors," while Apple accused Spotify of "resorting to rumors and half-truths" to gain public opinion in its favor. Apple's new music royalty proposal for streaming services also adversely affects the free tiers of companies like Spotify and YouTube.

A potential Spotify tvOS app would likely be a free download users could use as a companion app to stream their music, but with so much bad blood between the two companies, it still seems likely that Spotify will simply avoid creating an app for tvOS at all. Amazon is also refraining from launching an Amazon Prime Video app on Apple TV, reportedly until Apple presents it with "acceptable business terms."

For Spotify users frustrated with the news, Apple's AirPlay feature can still be used to stream music from Spotify on an iPhone or iPad through a connected Apple TV.

Update: As several readers have pointed out, Erdtman's comment pertains specifically to the SDK that allows third-party developers to incorporate Spotify functionality into their apps. Spotify is apparently not prioritizing Apple TV support for that SDK, but that does not necessarily mean the company has no plans for an Apple TV app of its own.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Tag: Spotify
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Caution)

Apache is Hunter Fan's Latest Ceiling Fan With HomeKit Support

Hunter Fan Company has introduced a new Wi-Fi-connected and HomeKit-enabled ceiling fan called Apache, available now for $429 on its website. The 54-inch ceiling fan features curved propeller-like plastic blades with a bronze and oak finish.

The fan has what Hunter Fan calls a WhisperWind motor, which it says provides powerful air movement with whisper-quiet performance. The motor is reversible, allowing homeowners to change the direction of the fan from downdraft mode during the summer to updraft mode during the winter.

Apache has an integrated LED light, covered with Clear Holophane glass, eliminating the need for bulb replacement. A remote control is included for controlling the fan and light, including dimming the bulbs.

Like its two other HomeKit-enabled fans, the Signal and Symphony, iPhone users can control Apache with voice commands or the Home app on iOS 10.

A three-position mounting system allows for standard, angled, or low ceiling mounting, and a 5-inch downrod is included to ensure proper distance from the ceiling and optimized air movement.

Hunter Fan said the Symphony, a cheaper version of its Signal with white blades, will launch in late November for $329. Signal is available now for $379.

'Candy Crush' Headed to CBS as a Live Action Game Show

CBS has ordered mobile gaming app Candy Crush Saga to series as a one-hour, live action game show from executive producer Matt Kunitz, who's also been behind shows like Wipeout and Fear Factor. Images or an official debut for the show have yet to be announced by CBS or Candy Crush Saga developer King.

A few details hint that the game at the center of the adaptation will feature teams of two individuals who must use mental strategy and physicality "to compete on enormous, interactive game boards featuring next generation technology." The winning teams will "be crowned as champions," but prizes -- monetary or otherwise -- have also yet to be divulged.

“We are huge fans of Candy Crush and, like so many others, we know the ‘rush’ of advancing to the next level of the game,” said Glenn Geller, President, CBS Entertainment. “We’re excited to work with Lionsgate and King to adapt one of the world’s most popular and entertaining game franchises for television and make it available to its massive, passionate fan base who can watch and play along at home.”
Kunitz mentioned that the Candy Crush franchise "lends itself perfectly to the kind of larger-than-life, physical game shows that I love to produce." CBS and King are working closely with the interactive team at Lionsgate to oversee the transition of the Candy Crush IP from mobile game to television show, which Lionsgate Interactive Ventures and Games President Peter Levin calls "an exciting, visual switcher game with great characters" that should translate nicely into CBS's unscripted television division.

Although Pokémon Go recently bested Candy Crush Saga's daily active user records, King's game is now back at the top of the United States App Store top grossing charts. As of September 2016, 18 billion rounds of the game are played every month around the world. For the new game show, CBS said that more information, including who will host the series, is coming "at a later date."

Sprint Now Offers Unlimited Data on Tablets For $20 Per Month

Sprint has introduced a new unlimited data plan for tablets for $20 per month, but with some caveats to consider.

The fine print: video is optimized to 480p resolution, music streams at up to 500kbps, and online gaming streams are limited to up to 2Mbps. Data deprioritization also applies during times of network congestion.

iPad and other tablet users can choose to add HD video streaming at up to 1080p+ and HD music streaming at up to 1.5Mbps, and online gaming at up to 8Mbps for an additional $20/line/month.

To be eligible, customers must enroll in AutoPay automatic billing and have at least one active phone line on their account. The plan is available without an existing phone line for an additional $50/line/month.

The tablet must be purchased from Sprint's selection of available tablets, which includes the iPad lineup.

Tag: Sprint

Facebook's Snapchat Clone 'Messenger Day' Expanding Slowly Across the Globe

Following the launch of "Instagram Stories" in August, Facebook is now preparing to ape Snapchat in its own Messenger app, with a feature called "Messenger Day." Originally launched to users in Poland, Messenger Day is now expanding and gaining attention with Facebook users in Australia (via Mashable).

With the new feature in the Facebook Messenger iOS and Android apps, Messenger Day lets users post ephemeral updates to their friends, which last 24 hours before expiring, with the ability to doodle and add stickers to posts. Friend updates can be found atop the normal Facebook Messenger home page, and the interface is visually similar to the layout of Instagram Stories with a horizontal row of reverse-chronological updates.

"We know that people come to Messenger to share everyday moments with friends and family. In Poland we are running a small test of new ways for people to share those updates visually," a Messenger spokesperson told Mashable at the time.
For those who have used Messenger Day, the user interface and features have yet to impress, with one user mentioning that "(The user interface) is really poor, on every level — nothing like Instagram Stories." Most of the criticism so far seems to be focused on the simple fact that as companies introduce more of the same features into their mobile apps, it leaves users to choose only one service, which is still Snapchat for most, and ignore the rest.

Snapchat's growing popularity has resulted in other social networks (namely Facebook, which owns Instagram) attempting to combat its 24-hour posts with similar features. Although it's yet to introduce a time-locked post feature, Twitter has faced troubles recently as more and more younger users opt to check in with Snapchat and Instagram over Twitter.

Misfit Debuts New iPhone-Compatible 'Phase' Hybrid Smart Watch

Misfit today debuted its latest product, a new Phase hybrid smart watch that, like the company's line of fitness trackers, is compatible with the iPhone. The Misfit Phase combines a round, analog-style watch with a range of smart features.

It's able to track steps, distance, and sleep duration with a built-in accelerometer, and it delivers iPhone notifications and other information like activity and alarms using a combination of the watch hands, a small color window on the watch face, and vibrations.

Made of polished stainless steel covered by satin aluminum in several different shades, Misfit's Phase is waterproof up to 50 meters and includes a 6-month battery that does not need charging. It works with any field-style 20mm watch band, including many Misfit-designed bands.

The Misfit Phase can also be used as a remote for controlling music, snapping iPhone photos, advancing slides in a presentation, and more, functionality that's also found in the company's Ray and Shine activity trackers.

Misfit will begin selling the Misfit Phase on its website on November 7. Prices will start at $175.

Tag: Misfit

Facebook iOS Gains 'Initial View' For 360-Degree Photos, Data Saver Coming to Messenger

Facebook recently announced that users are now able to select the "initial view" for 360-degree photos when uploading pictures to the iOS, Android, and Chrome for Desktop Facebook apps. Prior to the update, Facebook would randomly choose a section of the 360-degree photo to showcase on the service, so now users can personally select the best section to show their friends and family (via The Next Web).

To do this, before posting users simply have to drag around the photo on mobile, or select "Edit" on desktop, to find the area of the picture they want to be the initial viewpoint for anyone scrolling through their Facebook feed. Whenever the initial view is clicked on, the full 360-degree photo will be showcased with more detail.

facebook-360"In the coming weeks," the company will also rollout album support for 360-degree photos, as well as the ability to post them into multimedia status updates, "i.e. when you want to post a combination of 360 photos, regular photos, 360 videos and regular videos at once."
We've heard you loud and clear and we're excited to roll out the ability to set the initial field of view on your 360 photo on iOS, Android and Chrome for desktop. To change the view, simply upload a 360 photo, then, before posting, move your photo around by dragging with your finger or select Edit on desktop and move the mouse until you've reached the desired view. Your friends will now see this angle of your photo when you post to Facebook. Please note, we have not enabled zoom with this feature.
Additionally, it was recently reported that the social network is running a beta test for a "data saver" feature on its separate Facebook Messenger app. When a user is on cellular data, and data saver is turned on, the mode acts as a barrier between the user and unwanted media downloads within messages by letting them tap and select every photo and video they want to download, and ignore the ones they don't.

Ordinary text messages are unaffected by the mode, which also includes a setting that tells the user how much data is being saved. Normally, Facebook Messenger downloads all content within a message without user consent, so Facebook hopes data saver could be a way for users on low-data plans to avoid going over their rates. Right now, data saver is being tested on Android, but the feature is expected to eventually make it to iOS as well.