PayPal Launches Mobile Payments App for Pebble Smartwatch

PayPal today announced that its popular iOS and Android mobile payments app will be available for the Pebble Smartwatch (via VentureBeat).

The PayPal app has let users pay for purchases in certain locations for a while now, and integration with Android Wear has allowed users of Android-powered smart watches such as Samsung’s Gear 2, Gear S, and Gear Fit to make payments via their watches since earlier this year. With the new Pebble app, iOS users can now get a taste of the functionality, which allows them to check into stores and pay for their purchases at locations where PayPal is readily accepted, all without need of using a phone.

Customers can pay for purchases one of two ways: with an auto-generated payment code used when checking out or, with certain PayPal accepted retailers, by checking into a store inside of the PayPal app. If using the latter payment method, the app will automatically communicate with the merchant's point of sale during the check-out process.

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PayPal's integration with these smart devices in some ways mirrors Apple's own burgeoning payment system Apple Pay, which is slowly rolling out just now, although the two systems have some significant differences. Despite early rumors of a possible partnership between the online payment giant and Apple earlier this year, the talks reportedly came to a halt when PayPal inked a deal with Samsung to allow users to make PayPal payments with the Galaxy S5's fingerprint sensor.

PayPal was subsequently excluded from any integration into Apple Pay. PayPal, in response, launched an ad targeting the public release of certain private celebrity iCloud photos and simultaneously promoting its own intense security.

The PayPal app for the Pebble Smartwatch can be downloaded now for free. Its features can also be taken advantage of in the PayPaliOS app [Direct Link].

Related roundup: Apple Pay

Facebook Introduces New Standalone 'Groups' App

Facebook today announced a new Facebook Groups app, which is designed to let Facebook users access and interact with the Facebook groups that they have joined.

Facebook has long had a groups function, where families, clubs, workplaces, and more can band together for a custom sharing experience. The groups feature lets people post and share content that is exclusive to the group, which can be open, closed, or private.

According to Facebook, its new dedicated Groups app is designed to help people "share faster and more easily" with all of their groups, as group interactions are typically buried under other functionality in the standard Facebook app.

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This app gives you a dedicated space for you and your groups.

See all of your Facebook Groups in one place. Discuss, plan and collaborate easily and without distractions. Follow your groups here or on Facebook, whichever is easier for you.

- Create a group for just about anything.
- Share information, post photos and links, and stay in touch.
- Discover and join new groups for whatever you're into.
The main view of the Groups app displays all of a user's groups, with the most recently visited group listed at the top. New groups can be created from within the app with the "Create" button, and the app also delivers notifications on group activity. There's also a discover feature to suggest new groups to people based on pages that they've liked.

While Facebook removed messaging functionality from its main app to redirect its users to the Facebook Messenger app, the company says that groups will continue to be accessible from the main Facebook app as well as the new Groups app.

Facebook's new Groups app can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

New 'Loose Leaf' App for the iPad Aims to Replace Scratch Paper

Designed as a scratch paper app for the iPad, Loose Leaf is a new quick note taking app that uses a simple, no frills design and incorporates both clever sketching tools and intuitive touch gestures for a unique idea planning experience.

Like many simple note taking/sketching apps, Loose Leaf includes a pen for basic writing and sketching, along with a tool for erasing. There are five different pen colors available, plus an undo/redo button for fixing mistakes, and an image insertion tool for adding photos or images from the camera roll.

In addition to these basic tools, there's a useful cutting tool that allows users to cut out a section of the page (or an image) by drawing an outline with a finger. The cutout can be dragged to a new location with a two finger drag, or resized with pinch gestures. Pulling on a cutout with two fingers on each side will duplicate it, while two fingers will rotate it and pinching will resize it.


Two finger swipes on the left and the right of the screen will switch between pages that have been created, and dragging a cutout to the right side of the screen will save it in a "scrap drawer" so that it can be added to any other page.

A two finger pinch on the main sketch will open an overview menu of all sketches, where they can be reorganized, and pulling a sketch all the way to the left at this screen will delete it.

Loose Leaf also includes a ruler tool that can be shaped to create perfect lines or circles, which is useful for mapping out designs. The ruler tool is used like a real ruler, with one hand holding the shape on the screen and a second hand tracing it onto the page.


Sketches can be sent instantly to contacts, emailed, messaged, saved to the camera roll, printed, sent to someone via AirDrop, or shared on Twitter and Facebook. There's even a tool to upload sketches directly to image sharing site Imgur, and sketches can be opened in a variety of different apps like Dropbox, Pixelmator, Evernote, and more.

Loose Leaf's drawing tools are very basic, but combined with the ruler tool and intuitive gestures that make duplication super quick, the app can be useful for sketching out ideas, mocking up projects, and more.

Loose Leaf can be downloaded from the App Store for $4.99. [Direct Link]

'Minecraft Pocket Edition' Update Brings 'Prettier, Faster, Less Buggier' Experience

Mojang today announced a significant new update for Minecraft Pocket Edition. The update promises numerous graphical enhancements and bug fixes and is the first major update to the game since the Stockholm-based developer was acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion back in September.

Today's update to the game focuses mainly on bug fixes, but there are a few notable additions to the popular block-building game as well. The 0.10 update adds gold mines into Mesa biomes, a day and night option for playing in Creative Mode, and more options for fences and gates.

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Prettier water, fog, and lighting effects round out the graphical overhaul features of the 0.10 update. Mojang also promises improved performance on many devices the game is available for, a fix for the bug where baby animals could not swim, and the tease of "lots more cool stuff that you can discover for yourself."
0.10 - Prettier, faster, less buggier

We’ve improved the graphics, increased performance, and killed off heaps of bugs in one massive update. We’ve also stopped baby animals from sinking when they try to swim because that’s just mean. Update and have fun!

- Loads of bug fixes!
- More watery-looking water
- Foggier-looking fog
- Even more particles than before
- Tinted lighting on terrain and mobs
- Improved performance on many devices
- More fences! More fence gates! Everyone loves fences
- Gold mines in Mesa biomes. Get rich quick
- Baby animals can now swim without sinking
- Play Creative Mode during both the day and night
- Lots more cool stuff that you can discover for yourself
Though the initial launch of the iOS version of Minecraft was met with skepticism due to its large lack of parity with desktop versions, numerous updates such as today's have gotten Pocket Edition closer and closer to its PC and console counterparts.

Minecraft Pocket Edition can be downloaded from the App Store for $6.99. [Direct Link]

Mobile MOBA Game Vainglory, Showcased at iPhone 6 Keynote, Launches Today

464704_largerVainglory, showcased as one of the examples of the capabilities of the iPhone 6 back in September, is now available for download. Developer Super Evil Megacorp announced today that the game can be downloaded on the App Store in North America, South America, the Middle East, and Africa, with a European launch coming this Thursday. Japan, China, and Korea are promised to closely follow. The game actually launched unexpectedly early, with some users able to download the app yesterday afternoon.

Vainglory is a MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) that puts players in teams of three, each team fighting to destroy a crystal at the opponent's home base in "fast-paced, 20 minute online multiplayer matches." Mobile MOBAs are nothing new, with games like Fates Forever and a handful of others finding success in taking the PC-centric sub-genre and grafting it onto a mobile phone touchscreen.

“Vainglory is not about casualizing a core genre or making a direct port of an existing game,” said Stephan Sherman, Chief Creative Officer of Super Evil Megacorp. “To make Vainglory, we started from scratch to create that core MOBA experience — the highs and the lows, the build-up of anticipation, the sweet victory or bitter defeat. We want you to feel how it feels to play a core game — with the immediacy of touch.

“Vainglory opens up a whole new world of experiences in touch-screen gaming by playing together with friends in the same room, as a LAN party. While queuing up solo for online multiplayer games is fun and rewarding, the intensity of team play with friends around the table is incredible. Plus, trash talk. It’s like the LAN parties of old — except no heavy PC equipment required.”
The game is free-to-play, with certain characters available to everyone at specific time intervals. Users can use in-game cash accrued through gameplay to unlock new classes, or opt to pay real-world money for those classes if impatient. Notably, however, users can't use real money to purchase character perks and upgrades or one-time-use in-game bonuses.

Vainglory's biggest advantage is its positioning as the killer app of the moment for Apple's newest iPhone, much like Infinity Blade III was for the iPhone 5s and even the original Infinity Blade was for the iPhone 4. Though it's touted for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the game can be played on the iPhone 5s as well. iPad options include the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad with Retina Display, and iPad Air 2.

Vainglory is available to download for free on the App Store for the iPhone [Direct Link] and iPad [Direct Link].

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPad Air 2

Fleksy for iOS Used to Set New World Record for Fastest Touch-Screen Text Message Typing

Back in May, Brazilian teenager Marcel Fernandes Filho used Fleksy's predictive keyboard for Android on a Samsung Galaxy S4 to set a new world record of 18.19 seconds for the fastest typing of a text message on a touch-screen mobile phone. Filho's record was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records and required him to type Guinness' standard test message:
The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.
With Fleksy now available for iOS, Filho and Fleksy gave the record another try earlier this month, and Filho came through with a new record of 17.00 seconds using Fleksy on an iPhone 6 Plus.

“We’re very proud of Fleksy’s involvement in helping Marcel achieve this impressive feat,” said Ioannis Verdelis, Fleksy co-founder and COO. “The speed and accuracy Fleksy provides have yet again proven world-class.”
Fleksy is just one of a number of third-party keyboards that have launched for iOS, taking advantage of new APIs in iOS 8 to allow such keyboards. Many of the new keyboards offer predictive word suggestions and gesture support for faster typing, while others have more specialized uses. Apple has also enhanced its own built-in keyboard with QuickType predictive text in iOS 8.

With Fleksy's success on iOS at a $0.99 price point [Direct Link], the company is now seeking to broaden the keyboard's appeal on Android where it first gained traction. As a result, Fleksy is announcing a permanent 50 percent price cut for the Android version of Fleksy, dropping the price from $3.99 to $1.99.

Snapchat and Square Partner Up for 'Snapcash' Money Transfers

Snapchat today announced a partnership with Square for a new "Snapcash" feature that allows Snapchat users to quickly send money to one another using Snapchat's built-in chat function.

After entering a debit card number, which is stored securely by Square, Snapchat users can swipe into chat, type a dollar sign, enter a payment amount, and hit the button to send money instantly.

Snapcash functions similarly to Square's own Square Cash feature, which allows people to send cash via email, and because Square handles all of the payment information, it's as secure as the company's other payment options.

We set out to make payments faster and more fun, but we also know that security is essential when you're dealing with money. Square has a ton of experience in this area and our teams have been hard at work to make Snapcash a great experience for everyone.
Snapcash is currently limited to Snapchat users in the United States who have a debit card and are 18 years of age or older. The Snapcash feature will be added to the Snapchat app in an update coming later today.

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

AT&T Bumps 10 GB Mobile Share Plan to 15 GB for a Limited Time

Continuing the carrier war that has seen the major U.S. wireless companies offering various forms of bonus data allotments in recent months, AT&T today announced a new limited-time promotion that bumps the 10 GB data package ($100 per month plus device access charges) to 15 GB.
The promotional 15GB Mobile Share Value plan at the 10GB price is available to new and existing AT&T consumer and business customers and includes domestic unlimited talk and text, and the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. Customers can easily take advantage of this new offer by visiting att.com and our current AT&T customers can also select the new plan via their myAT&T app.

Additionally, AT&T customers can get unlimited international messaging (text, picture and video) on all Mobile Share Value plans for no additional cost. Unlimited international messaging includes messages sent from the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands to more than 190 countries for text messages and 120 countries for picture & video messages.
att_15gb_promo
Monthly smartphone device access charges are $40 for those on two-year contracts or $15 for those on AT&T Next or who purchased their devices at full price. Tablets carry a $10 per month access fee.

AT&T's latest promotion comes as the carrier continues to offer its double data promotion on higher-tier plans. Under that deal, users on base plans ranging from 15 to 50 GB can receive double the amount of data per month. The new promotion for upgrading the 10 GB plan to 15 GB begins tomorrow, while the double data promotion on higher-level plans is ongoing. AT&T advertises both as being "limited time" promotions, but is not currently specifying an end date for either one.

iMessage Down for Some Users, Unrelated to iOS 8.1.1 Update [Update: Fixed]

messagesiconFollowing the launch of iOS 8.1.1 and OS X Yosemite 10.10.1, it appears that Apple's servers are having some issues with iMessage. Multiple users on Twitter and other social networking platforms are reporting that iMessage is down, and MacRumors has confirmed that some messages appear to be hanging for quite some time before sending, while others are simply not delivered.

Currently, Apple's System Status page is not reporting any iMessage outages, and some users appear to be experiencing no issues at all.

The iMessage issue is not a result of the iOS 8.1.1 update, as users who have yet to update are also reporting problems. The outage is likely to be temporary, with service restored shortly.

Update: Apple has documented the outage, which affected "some" iMessage users, on its System Status page. The outage lasted roughly 90 minutes and was fixed by 11:30 AM Pacific Time.

Spotify and Uber Partnering for User-Generated Playlists During Car Trips

Following early rumors last week that the popular car-hailing service Uber would be partnering with music streaming giant Spotify, the companies today confirmed the upcoming launch of integration between the two services.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek today confirmed that the two app-based services will be partnering to allow Uber customers to prepare a specifically selected queue of songs while waiting on an Uber car. When the car picks its passengers up, the selected song will already be playing. Users will have to connect their Spotify Premium accounts with the car service inside the Uber app, but once that is done the app will allow them to not only pick their music beforehand, but adjust and control it for the duration of the trip.


The partnership is set to launch on November 21 in London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm, Toronto and Sydney. A widespread rollout to more locations is expected to follow shortly thereafter.

The Uber driver will also have to connect their phone to the car's stereo for the service to function, but Uber says widespread adoption of the new collaboration is eagerly accepted by its employees. But until it's universally installed in every Uber car, the option to select music for your trip won't show up in the Uber app if your area doesn't have the service yet.

A new report from TechCrunch also claims that Spotify soon plans to announce yet another collaboration, this time with BMW's ConnectedDrive platform. After making deals with companies like Ford and Volvo, it would be Spotify's third major car company integration announcement. Following an update just last month, the service now also supports Apple CarPlay.

Spotify's app code also hints additional service expansions in the works, with TechCrunch pointing to podcasts and an undetermined feature codenamed "Magic"

Both Uber [Direct Link] and Spotify [Direct Link] can be downloaded from the App Store for free.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Offers USB and Lightning Connectors for Easy File Transfers

sandisk_ixpandSimilar to the Kickstarter-funded iStick from earlier in the year, SanDisk today announced the iXpand Flash Drive. The drive allows users to easily transfer photos, videos, and other files between an iOS device with a Lightning connector and a desktop or notebook with a normal USB port.

When the flash drive is plugged into an iPhone or iPad, the iXpand sync app is launched and can be configured to automatically sync photos and videos from the device's camera roll to the flash drive. Entire movies (including most popular non-native and PC-friendly formats, like AVI and WMV) can also be stored on the iXpand and played from the flash drive directly onto the iPhone or iPad.
"According to IDC, nearly three-quarters of all images are now captured on smartphones and tablets," said Dinesh Bahal, vice president, product marketing, SanDisk. "With this significant increase in mobile-generated content, consumers are looking for easy ways to manage it all. In fact, our research shows that 82% of U.S. smartphone users find transferring photos, videos, music and other files to be very important to them. We created the iXpand Flash Drive to offer consumers a quick and safe way to move their favorite content between devices so it's available when and where they want it."
The flash drive also offers users an added layer of security in cross-platform encryption. While in the iXpand sync app [Direct Link], files can be password protected while the drive is connected to an iPhone or iPad, then decrypted on a Mac or PC and vice versa.


Available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB sizes, the iXpand Flash Drive is compatible with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 2, and iPad mini running iOS 8 or iOS 7.

The 16GB and 64GB versions of the drive can be purchased directly off of SanDisk's official website today and sell for $59.99 and $119.99 respectively. Beginning November 16, Best Buy will exclusively sell the 32GB version in retail and on their website for $79.99.

How to Enable Family Sharing in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite

With the release of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple has included a new Family Sharing feature that allows multiple users to easily share content and interact with each other. Most notably, Family Sharing allows up to six family users to share purchases made from the iTunes, iBooks, or App Store. The feature also allows families to contribute to a unified photo album or calendar, share locations, use Find My iPhone to find a lost device, and set parental controls for children.

Prior to the debut of Family Sharing, a user looking to share a downloaded app with someone else would have to give out their Apple ID account information. That information would also have to be entered when updating an app, requiring users of shared apps to log out of their own Apple ID and log into the original Apple ID used to download the app. With Family Sharing, users have immediate access to each other's music, movies, TV shows, books, and apps, as content can be downloaded with a single tap.


Before You Start


A user needs to be running iOS 8 or higher and have a valid iCloud account in order to use Family Sharing, with OS X Yosemite required for Mac access. Prior to turning on Family Sharing, ensure that you are ready to designate yourself or another user to be the Family Organizer in the Family Sharing group. The Family Organizer will be responsible for all iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases made by the Family users in the group.

Also, ensure that the Family Organizer has a valid payment method linked to their iTunes account. In the desktop iTunes application on the Mac, this can be done by going to Menu Bar -> Store -> View Account. On an iOS device, this can be done by going to App Store -> Scroll to Apple ID on bottom of "Featured" tab -> Tap on Apple ID -> View Apple ID -> Payment Information. Only the Family Organizer needs to have a valid payment method attached to their iTunes account.

Steps to Enable Family Sharing


1. Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Set Up Family Sharing to begin setup as the Family Organizer.

2. Tap on Get Started. Ensure that the email listed on the Share Purchases screen is correct.

3. Ensure that the information listed on the "Payment Method" is correct. If it is not, change the payment method by going to App Store -> Featured tab -> Apple ID -> View Apple ID -> Payment Information.

4. Choose to share your location with your family users by tapping "Share Your Location" or decline the option by tapping "Not Now".

You have now enabled Family Sharing for the Family Organizer. To begin adding users to the Family Sharing group, follow the steps below.

Steps to Add Family Members


1. To add a Family Member, tap on "Add Family Member" in the main menu.

2. From the Add Family Member screen, you can send an invitation to another user's iCloud account to join a group. Alternatively, you can ask another user to enter the Family Organizer's iCloud password to join a group.

3. If you have chosen to send an invitation, the invited user will see a push notification on their iOS device asking them to join a Family Sharing group. Once a user accepts the invite, they will be prompted to share their purchases and location. The user will also appear in the Family Sharing main menu.

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4. By default, users invited to Family Sharing will be recognized as adults and will not need permission to purchase content. However, the Family Organizer can also create an Apple ID for a child by tapping the highlighted option at the bottom of the Family Sharing menu.

5. Creating an Apple ID for a child will ask the Family Organizer to input a birthday and accept a Parent Privacy Disclosure. The Family Organizer will also be required to input the security code for the primary card being used.

6. Next, the Family Organizer will be able to enter a name and create an email address, password and security questions as seen in a typical iCloud setup process.

asktobuyfamilysharing2
7. Afterward, the Family Organizer will be able to turn on Ask to Buy. Ask to Buy allows a child user to send a purchase request for an app, song or book to the Family Organizer, who can then approve or deny the request. The Family Organizer can also choose whether to share the location of the child's device. Once setup is completed, the child user will appear in the Family Sharing menu.

Sharing Purchased Content


familysharingpurchases
Family members can access each other's apps, books, songs, movies, and TV shows and download content to their own devices. To download a family member's shared content, users can head to the Purchased tab in the iTunes Store app, the iBooks app, or the App Store app. From there, users can select a family member and view a list of purchased content that is available for download. To hide a purchase, go into the Purchased tab, swipe the content you want to hide to the left, and select "Hide".

Apple notes that there are certain types of content that cannot be downloaded by other users in a Family Sharing group. Non-shareable content includes songs added to iTunes Match from outside of the iTunes Store, in-app purchases, items that are no longer available on the iTunes Store, and apps that are marked as non-shareable in their App Store descriptions.

Family Calendars and Photo Albums


familysharingcalendar
In addition to allowing purchased content to be shared, Family Sharing allows multiple users to contribute to a single calendar or photo album. To add to the calendar, family members can go to the Calendar app and select "Family Calendar" in the list of options before creating an event. The Family Organizer can also view and edit the calendar permissions of each family member by selecting "Calendars" and tapping the "I" symbol next to the Family Calendar.

To enable shared photo album functionality, all family members must have iCloud Photo Sharing turned on in Settings -> iCloud -> Photos -> iCloud Photo Sharing. Once that setting is enabled, the Family photo album can be viewed in Photos -> Shared -> Sharing -> Family. A user can add photos to the shared album by tapping the + sign in the upper right corner, and all family members receive a push notification when a new image is added.

familysharingphotos2

Sharing Locations and Find My iPhone


Users in a Family Sharing group can also keep track of each other's locations through the Find My Friends or Messages app. The Find My Friends app will display the location of all family members on a map and give details on their current city and distance.

familysharinglocations
Similarly, if a family member's Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is lost and needs to be tracked down, other users in the group can see the whereabouts of each device in the Find My iPhone app. Once a device is selected, users can choose to play a loud sound on the device, enable Lost Mode to lock the device, or choose to erase the entire device.

Things to Be Aware of


While the ability for a Family Sharing group to track down a lost device with the Find My iPhone app is useful, there are a few issues to be aware of. For example, any user in the Family Sharing group, including child users, can choose to lock a device with their own passcode or erase a device entirely without needing permission from other users. Any user can also choose to play a loud sound on a selected device which cannot be automatically silenced even with the "Do Not Disturb" feature turned on.

Though all three options are useful in the event of a device becoming lost, each could also be turned on accidentally, resulting in lost data or unexpected disturbances. Because of these potential oversights, it is recommended that you ensure that each member of your Family Sharing group uses the Find My iPhone app responsibly.

Another factor worth considering is that all Family Sharing members must use a single credit card or debit card for all App Store purchases, which is controlled by the Family Organizer. If App Store credit is applied to the account of a Family Sharing member, the credit will be used before the Family Organizer is billed for a purchase.

It's also worth noting that in order to secure an Apple ID for a child, the parent or Family Organizer must have a credit card on file in order to verify that the person creating the child's Apple ID is an adult. Apple will not accept a debit card.

Troubleshooting


Since its debut with iOS 8, a number of users have had issues with Family Sharing and shared app purchases. Most problems have centered around a message stating "Redownload Unavailable with This Apple ID" when trying to download apps or other content. Members on Apple's Support Communities and CNET's Jason Cipriani have reported that logging out and back into iCloud has fixed the problem.

Other users have also found out that the designated Family Organizer needs to have the same Apple ID logged into iCloud and the App Store for purchases to be shared. Also, keep in mind that not all apps support Family Sharing, and specify whether they do in their App Store description. If users are unable to download shared purchases, it is also important to ensure that the payment method on the Family Organizer's account is up to date by going to App Store -> Featured tab -> Apple ID -> View Apple ID -> Payment Information.

Related roundups: OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, iOS 8 Features