Charge your device fast with mophie’s new Charge Stream Pad+

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Looking for a Qi-enabled charger? The newest wireless solution from mophie really brings the power.

Today, popular tech accessory company mophie launched the latest in its line of Qi-enabled contact chargers. Called the Charge Stream Pad+, the wireless charging solution brings all the great features users love in the already-existing Wireless Charging Base to a whole new level.

Made from fail-safe, temperature-controlling circuitry covered in a 360-degree thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) coating, the Charge Stream Pad+ comes in your choice of matte black or white so it looks fantastic on your desk or nightstand, no matter your decor. The rubberized, non-slip exterior grips and protects your smartphone from scratches and unintended slipping and sliding as it charges, meaning you can just drop your device on the pad and go about your business worry-free. And when you aren’t charging anything, you don’t have to fret about wasting energy — the pad maintains a low standby current when it’s idle.

Functionally, the pad works with all Qi-enabled devices including the iPhone 8/8 Plus, iPhone X, and the Galaxy S9/S9+ as well as mophie’s Juice Pack cases for earlier iPhones. It also supports fast charging, powering up your tech using its 10W of power — that’s 2.5W more than the original Wireless Charging Base — and will optimize the output for whatever device you use, making sure you get the quickest charge possible. In addition, it charges through most lightweight cases up to 3mm thick, so you’ll never have to mess around with removing your case prior to dropping it on the pad.

Each Charge Stream Pad+ is priced at $ 59.95 and ships with a 1.5m (that’s 4.9ft for us non-metric folks) micro USB cable and a QC 2.0 wall adapter so you can get to charging as soon as you take it out of the box. You can get your own on mophie’s website, or by clicking the Amazon link below.

See at Amazon

Thoughts?

Do you dig mophie’s new wireless charger? Give us a shout in the comments below and let us know what you think!

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Firewatch for Nintendo Switch: Everything you need to know

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Campo Santo’s Firewatch is coming to the Nintendo Switch sometime this spring. Here’s what you need to know!

The critically-acclaimed story-based adventure game Firewatch is headed to the Nintendo Switch! Originally released in February of 2016 for PC, Mac, Linux, and PlayStation 4, Firewatch is the latest announced indie game getting set to debut on the Switch.

Whether you’ve already played the game or have never heard of Firewatch before, here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch version.

What is Firewatch

Firewatch is a story-based adventure game that has been praised for its superb story-telling, realistic characters, and gorgeous game design since it was first released in 2016.

Firewatch, at its core, is a mystery game set in the Wyoming wilderness. You play as Henry, a man who decided to give the simpler life a try by joining a fire lookout team. Set in 1989, you watch for smoke during an especially hot, dry summer, aided via radio by your supervisor, Delilah. However, something draws you out of your tower and into the woods, where you must explore the unknown wild, making choices that could make or break your relationship with Delilah. What starts as a simple game of watching for forest fires becomes a strange, twisty-turny, mystery-filled rabbit hole with new discoveries at every turn. It’s like a book you just can’t put down.

If you’re looking for more than just a game — an experience — then Firewatch should be at the top of your to-play list. The iMore writers (including me) love it so much, it even made our best games for Mac list.

When will Firewatch be released for the Nintendo Switch?

No exact release date has been announced just yet, but Campo Santo’s blog post did suggest they are working on hard at porting the game over.

“When will it be out? All we can say is “soon!” Reengineering the sprawling meadows and towering trees of Firewatch’s wilderness to play perfectly on new hardware is no small engineering task. We’ve been hard at work stripping much of Firewatch’s tech down to the studs and rebuilding it to render the world more quickly, to stream and load faster, and to generally be more responsive. Nearly everyone in the Campo Santo office has a Nintendo Switch (and the rest want one). We know what a good Switch game feels like, and want to make sure Firewatch feels like one too.”

It’s nice to know that developers love Nintendo’s newest console as much as everyone else, and are planning on making the experience of Firewatch just as memorable on the Switch as it was on other platforms

What’s different in the Nintendo Switch version of Firewatch?

While plenty of games have been ported to the Switch with no changes at all, lots of other games have been changed to include fun extras for the Nintendo Switch version.

As of right now, nothing official has been announced, but Campo Santo did leave us with a tantalizing tease of info in the blog post

“We’re hoping to throw in a couple surprises just for the Switch release.”

No idea what those surprises could be, but I’m super excited to find out!

Stay tuned

As more information about Firewatch for the Nintendo Switch becomes avaiable, will be updating this article with new information. Be sure to check back often so you don’t miss out on any details!

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How to use your Amazon Echo as an intercom

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Amazon is officially adding an intercom feature to all its Alexa-enabled devices. Here’s how to use it!

Today, TechCrunch reported that Amazon is finally adding a feature to all its Alexa-enabled devices that will allow you to use them like an intercom. You can call the kiddos for dinner, beckon your spouse without leaving your comfortable chair, and even have your Echo announce your departure or arrival as though you’re a dignified guest attending a very important masquerade ball. It’s like texting someone from a room away, but with more gusto.

The feature is expected to roll out to Alexa-enabled devices in the U.S. and Canada over the course of this week, so if you have multiple Echo speakers and want to be the first to creep your family out by pretending to be the overbearing virtual lady from Smart House, read on (and, if it helps, imagine me as the tiny cartoon demon on your shoulder giving you all these super cool ideas).

How to make Alexa announce things for you

If you’d like Alexa to relay a message for you in its automated voice, all you need to do is say “Alexa, announce [your message here].” So, for instance, if you’d like to let everyone know that you’re popping out to grab the bread you forgot earlier, you can say “Alexa, announce that Tory is going to the store” and it will say “Tory is going to the store” through all the connected Echo speakers in your residence. (Although, you know, say your own name, because unless you’re also called Tory, it’d be weird to say my name.)

Though TechCrunch’s report states that this command causes Alexa to relay the information for you, in our testing it still used our voices.

How to speak through Alexa directly

If you’d prefer to go full ghost-in-the-machine and broadcast your actual voice through your Echo devices, you can say “Alexa, tell everyone [your message here]” or “Alexa, broadcast [your message here].” Honestly, I can’t tell if using your own voice would be more or less unsettling — you’d have to try both methods to be sure.

Sound effects

Maybe the best (or worst?) part of this entire thing is that depending on what you’re asking Alexa to communicate, it may play a relevant sound effect to really emphasize your point. Here’s the full list of effects so far and how to trigger them, according to SlashGear:

  • Wake Up – Sound Effect: Rooster Crow
    Say: “It’s time to wake up”, “rise and shine”

  • Quiet Time – Sound Effect: Shhhh
    Say: “Quiet Down”, “Everyone be quiet”

  • Late/Let’s Go – Sound Effect: Feet running
    Say: “We’re late”, “Let’s go”

  • Bedtime – Sound Effect: Twinkle Twinkle
    Say: “It’s time for bed”, “Time to sleep”

  • Goodnight – Sound Effect: Yawn
    Say: “Goodnight everyone”, “Sleep tight”

  • Meal – Sound Effect: Dinner bell
    Say: “Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner’s ready”, “It’s time to eat”

  • Congratulations – Sound Effect: Cheer
    Say: “Congratulations,” “Way to go”

  • Media time – Sound Effect: Show tune
    Say: “Let’s watch TV”, “The movie is about to start”

  • Love you – Sound Effect: Playful kiss
    Say: “Love you”

I joke a lot, but honestly, this would be pretty handy if you’re up to your elbows in pancake batter while cooking a sweet breakfast for your fam and don’t really have the time or energy to go wrangle everyone individually. And, according to TechCrunch’s piece, it’s a long-promised capability, and is joining well-loved communication features like Alexa Calling, Messaging and Drop In.

Thoughts?

Are you going to utilize Alexa’s new intercom feature? Let us know in the comments!

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Best drawing apps for iPad and Apple Pencil

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The age of the digital sketchbook is here.

I’ve been wanting a true digital sketchbook ever since I first discovered you could (poorly) draw circles on the Newton. Almost two decades later, I got my wish: The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are just about the nicest tools for digital sketching I’ve ever tried. (And I’ve tried a lot of styluses, computers, and Wacom tablets.) And now that the base-model iPad has Apple Pencil support too, everyone can sketch up a masterpiece.

Even if you’ve never had an art background, the iPad and Pencil make it pretty easy to start sketching — and better, continue sketching. When I started doodling, one of my first friends in that industry told me that drawing “skill” essentially amounted to just doing it over and over and over and over again; the iPad is a pretty great tool with which to do that. (And you don’t have to spend continuous money on ink, pens, and sketchbooks!)

But first! Let’s talk about the drawing apps you should check out. If you want to use your iPad to make some digital artwork, these are the best of the best.

Notes: Just the basics

Apple’s default Notes app is limited in both tools, canvas textures, and color picking, but it’s a nice starter app for anyone looking to have a little fun with their Pencil without picking out a paid application. It also offers the least lag time from Pencil to line of any app on the market, thanks to Apple’s implementation. (Surprising no one, it helps to have your app, device, and accessory all designed to work together from the start by Apple.)

Linea: All-purpose drawing

While I love Paper’s tools, the Iconfactory’s Linea app has supplanted it to become my favorite all-purpose sketching application. Linea offers similarly well-crafted pencil, ink, and marker options to Paper’s fare, but it builds on that by giving users a starting set of layers, split screen, easily customizable export options, a beautiful color palette, and my favorite eraser implementation of any drawing app out there.

Linea is truly best if you’re looking for a digital sketchbook replacement rather than a full-featured Photoshop clone. And because Linea can export to PNG, JPG, or layered PSD, it’s also the perfect app to start a project in before bringing it to one of the iPad’s heavier hitting graphics programs — or your Mac.

$ 9.99 – Download now

FiftyThree Paper: Another all-purpose option

If you want a variety of tools for doodling or taking notes, Paper is another excellent (and free) starting point beyond Notes. It offers an assortment of options for starting a pencil, ink, or watercolor sketch, and works beautifully when paired with the Apple Pencil. Better still, Paper can sort all these doodles in separate digital sketchbooks, and you can even share certain drawings to the public Paper feed, or to Adobe’s Creative Cloud or OneNote.

The downsides to Paper aren’t many, but they’re worth noting: The Pencil’s lag time isn’t great when compared to some other apps on the market, and Paper lacks a good way to fill edge-to-edge on the screen without accidentally closing the application. It also doesn’t provide options for layered or transparent export.

Free – Download now

iWork: For school- and work-based sketching

The iWork suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote were never high on my list for “fun apps to use with Apple Pencil,” but Apple’s most recent update changed all that: All the apps can now sketch with the Pencil in various ways, including making tiny drawings, annotating atop photos (and video!), and using new Keynote tools that allow for rudimentary animation using Line Draw and Match Move.

These apps won’t beat the more nuanced tools found in other sketching apps — they essentially use the Notes palette — but they’re an excellent option for anyone working on papers, slideshows, video presentations, and other multimedia projects. (And you can make hand-drawn ebooks, too!)

Pages – Download now

Numbers – Download now

Keynote – Download now

Procreate: For the pros

While Notes, Paper, and Linea can help you flush out ideas and organize them, Procreate is the true master and commander of making those ideas reality. It’s one of the few apps that rivals the experience of working in Photoshop on the Mac, offering a truly ridiculous number of layers, customizable brushes, and templates.

For specific projects, you can even create your own tools, as my pal Jessie Char did for her makeup blog:

Procreate can export truly large images as PSD, JPG, PNG, or in the Procreate file format, where you can then send or share them with your friends, clients, or web pals. It also offers a live-streaming option and print-ready export formats.

$ 5.99 – Download now

Graphic: For vector art

I’ll be honest: Until Autodesk’s Graphic showed up on the scene, I hadn’t worked with vector illustration since the death of Macromedia FreeHand in the early 2000s. Illustrator makes me want to throw things at my computer, and since my art hobby was just that — a hobby — I left it well enough alone.

But Graphic makes vector art fun for me again, and it does so in a completely approachable way. You can draw vector lines directly with the Apple Pencil or place nodes by hand, or combine both. You can change fills, colors, and group vector pieces. All of the fun of drawing with vectors, none of the Illustrator stress. Graphic isn’t perfect for professional work, but it’s a pretty darn good start.

$ 8.99 – Download now

Affinity Photo: The nearest thing you’ll get to Photoshop on iOS

If you need more tools than the average app can supply — even Procreate — check out Affinity Photo. The iPad version of Serif’s popular Mac app offers a truly staggering number of controls and options for drawing, vector work, gradients, perspective projection, and more. It’s a little denser to dive into than Procreate or Linea, but the $ 19.99 app is an excellent tool for pros looking to do some print-ready work on the iPad without compromise.

$ 19.99 – Download now

Animation Desk Cloud: Create animations

Disclaimer: I am a terrible, terrible animator. But the animation folks I trust suggest that if you want to try your hand at animating on the iPad, Kdan’s Animation Desk is one of the only half-decent options out there. Most of the other animation apps available on the App Store are too limited for budding artists — unless you want to make clip-art dance, that is — and the few that do offer traditional animation tools have user interfaces that predate iOS 7, or aren’t optimized for the iPad.

Kdan’s Animation Desk Cloud is the company’s iPad successor to Animation Desk, and it strips the clunky skeuomorphic interface while keeping a bevy of tools for animating pros. Like Graphic, there’s a huge opportunity for Kdan — or another company — to improve upon the app’s foundation and add key tools, but if you want to animate something by hand on your iPad, this is the app to do it with.

Free – Download now

uMake: For 3D modeling

Like animation, 3D modeling is not, shall we say, my forté. But if you want to build some 3D models on the iPad Pro, uMake has very quickly made a name for itself as one of the best programs on the App Store. It offers extensive tutorials on building custom 3D shapes or importing 2D images and making them into 3D models; while I haven’t had time to study more than a few of them, they’re incredibly detailed and helpful. If 3D modeling is a skill you’d like to learn, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better app for it on the iPad.

Free – Download now

Pigment: Adult coloring books

When I was in high school, I had a pretty standard “keep myself from falling asleep in class” routine: I’d doodle vast webs of intercrossed dark lines, then slowly color them in. It was usually good for an hour of entertainment — and provided my brain with just enough stimulation to remain awake while listening to lectures.

Pigment takes my high-school doodling to an extreme, offering thousands of pages of intricately-drawn shapes for you to color in — whether you’re listening to a lecture, or just want something to do with your hands while watching TV. The app is free to download and view, but you’ll need a monthly in-app subscription to actually sketch on the patterns.

Free with subscription model – Download now

Astropad and Astropad Studio: Use the iPad to draw with your Mac

If you drew digitally before the age of iPads, you probably used a Wacom tablet at least once in your life: The tablet and pen combination allowed users to draw naturally within apps like Photoshop, either by using a plastic tablet or drawing directly on the screen via the company’s more expensive Cintiq line.

Astropad essentially lets you turn your iPad and Pencil into a Wacom Cintiq — with or without wires. A wired connection to your Mac results in almost no lag and a supremely comfortable sketching experience, but going wireless is also fantastic: I have a couch set up across from my iMac and standing desk, and with Astropad, I can sketch in Photoshop on my retina iMac from 4 feet away. If you want to use your iPad on-the-go but also integrate it into your desktop drawing workflow, Astropad is an incredible resource to have in your app library. For true pros, there’s also a subscription-based version of the app available, Astropad Studio, which offers better Apple Pencil input, Magic Gestures, faster latency, and more.

$ 29.99 – Download now

Your favorites?

What drawing apps do you think are fabulous? What programs aren’t worth your time? Let me know in the comments.

Updated April 2018: Updated this list for the 2018 iPad.

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Battery Backup vs. Battery Case: Which is best for your Nintendo Switch?

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Adding power to your console has never been so easy, but there are a lot of options to consider.

The early days of owning a Nintendo Switch wasn’t easy for those of us who wanted to power the console with something other than a wall outlet. Most battery backups didn’t provide enough power fast enough, and what few options were available came at a substantial cost. Fast forward a year and manufacturers have stepped up in a big way with batteries of all shapes and sizes. This, of course, presents a unique new challenge for those who want the best battery for their needs.

Before you figure out things like capacity and price, you need to take a look at which kind of battery is best for your needs. Would you rather have a battery backup you connect to your Switch with a cable, or a Nintendo Switch case with a battery backup baked right in? Here’s our look at both options to help you decide.

Battery Case

In much the same way some companies make battery cases for phones, the Nintendo Switch now has a variety of cases you attach to the outside of the console to both protect the body and offer additional power while playing. These battery cases connect to the power port on the bottom of the Switch as you seal the case around it, allowing you to turn the battery on when you want to charge the battery in the console. When the battery is depleted, you still have a protective case around the console in case of drops or bumps.

Because the battery is attached to the console I can charge the Switch when it is in its travel case, so every time I pick up the console I know it has a full battery.

Adding a battery case to your Switch adds weight and complexity to your set up. If you like playing your Switch in handheld mode with the Joy-Cons attached to the sides, you will feel the added weight of the battery immediately. This design also makes it so you have to remove the case every time you want to put the console into its TV dock, which can be a little tedious. What you gain in convenience is worth it, in my opinion. Being able to drop the Switch into this case and know you have a full day of battery no matter what you do feels great. Because the battery is attached to the console I can charge the Switch when it is in its travel case, so every time I pick up the console I know it has a full battery.

I’m also a big fan of how many manufacturers have taken the added bulk of the battery case and used it to provide additional kickstand features. These kickstands are a great deal more sturdy than the one included on the Switch, and several designs allow for multiple tilt angles of the console so you can play comfortably in different seating positions. My personal favorite is the Antank Battery Case for Nintendo Switch, which offers quite a bit for the $ 42 price tag. If you’d rather your battery be attached to the console and don’t mind the added weight, this is what I would recommend.

See at Amazon

Battery Backup

People all over the world use battery backups for all kinds of things. Many come with multiple USB ports so you can charge multiple things at the same time, and if your battery is capable of charging a Switch quickly it is also capable of fast charging your phone or tablet and in some cases even your laptop all from the same battery. These are versatile, capable batteries with a ton of juice and usually a couple of unique, handy features.

The best Switch battery backups can charge the console more than once without needing to be recharged itself, as well as charge just as fast as the wall outlet.

But like everything else, you have to remember to bring your battery backup with you. The right cord needs to be with you as well, and it needs to be charged separately from the Nintendo Switch. These batteries are also usually a touch on the heavy side, and usually too big to slip into a pocket or alongside the Switch in a small travel case. You also can’t use your Switch in the Kickstand mode when charging from a battery backup, because the Switch power port is on the bottom of the console. You have to use a special stand or use the console in Handheld mode when doing anything. When all of this works, it’s a great option to have. When it does not work, these batteries can be seen as an expensive hassle.

The biggest benefit here is sheer power. The best Switch battery backups can charge the console more than once without needing to be recharged itself, as well as charge just as fast as the wall outlet. I’m personally a fan of the Mophie PowerStation USB-C XXL battery. For $ 150 you get the ability to charge your Switch at least three times before the backup needs to be recharged, and you can charge tons of other things at the same time. It’s also compact enough to slide into a back pocket if you are in a rush, but given the weight of the box I would recommend stashing it in a travel case instead.

See at Amazon

Which is best?

There are some serious pros and cons to each. The battery backup is more likely to keep your Switch going for multiple days if you’re travelling, but the battery case can be used more conveniently in more places. Most of the battery cases won’t charge the Switch as fast as the battery backups either, but you are paying for that privilege with the noticeably increased price tag.

Ultimately I think it comes down to how you use your Switch. If you know you’re coming home to charge it every day and just want something to guarantee you can make through the whole day with no power anxiety, the battery case is the more functional, practical solution. If you keep your Switch away from its dock for multiple days at a time and want to be able to play no matter what, get a great battery backup. But for most people, a good battery case is probably more than enough.

See at Amazon

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Apple Pay reminders and media responsibility

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Media, like medicine, should strive to help rather than harm.

Apple has escalated the reminder process for completing Apple Pay set up on iPhone and iPad. Not everyone is happy about it. Unfortunately, not every publication is writing competently on the topic either.

From The Wall Street Journal.

Though payment analysts say the service speeds up checkout times and is more secure than traditional cards, Apple Pay has struggled to achieve broad adoption in the U.S. Many remain skeptical that it is more secure, including Jack Frederick, a 29-year-old professional comedian from Queens, N.Y., who prefers using his credit card directly.

Juxtaposing the expert opinion of analysts who have investigated and affirmed that Apple Pay “speeds up checkout times and is more secure than traditional cards’ with a — I can’t believe I have to type this — the rando opinion of a comedian, is journalistic malpractice. It’s another example of feelings-instead-of-facts FUD-spreading that makes those who would otherwise benefit most from a technology fearful of it and less likely to use it.

And it’s not the only malware-in-written form presented in the piece:

“Everyone is doing essentially the same trick,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. “It’s really antitrust behavior.”

Kay compares Apple Pay notifications in OS to Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer in Windows, something that is only possible when source, writer, and editor conspire to misrepresent what antitrust behavior and monopoly abuse actually mean and requires.

The original marketing around the story seemed to imply it was difficult to turn the reminder off, which it isn’t — something that’s impossible to believe all involved in it didn’t know prior to publication — and even the current version fails to tell anyone who didn’t figure it out on their own just how exactly to do it.

It’s terrible for readers because, if every time someone turns on a light, a respected publication yells “fire!” just to get attention, it increasingly desensitizes people to the point that actual incendiary activity may well get lost and ignored amid all the noise.

It’s also a missed opportunity. There’s an important discussion to be had when it comes to simplicity vs. discoverability. But it has to be done seriously, and with the goal of informing and empowering people.

Setup Buddy, the process that onboards you to iOS products has grown longer as Apple has added new features, like “Hey, Siri”, Apple Pay, the virtual Home button, Display Zoom, and more. Every feature added to the chain makes the process more tedious to long-time customers. Every feature removed makes that feature effectively invisible to new customers.

Reminding people to set up Apple Pay via a badge on Settings or a notification is potentially even more annoying for people who understand what it is and choose not to use it. For those who weren’t sure or weren’t prepared, it’s potentially more helpful, especially considering the experience, accessibility, and security of Apple Pay, which far, far exceed traditional plastic cards.

If Apple is being too heavy-handed here, and too many people find the badge and/or notification annoying, I expect the company will stop it. If many people end up using it and Apple Pay adoption goes up, I expect Apple to (judiciously, I hope) keep experimenting with the on-boarding process across its range of features.

(This particular implementation does feel retro-fitted on, though: The process to dismiss the reminders is non-obvious due to the pre-existing language used in the dialogs, and should be fixed either way.)

Lastly, to make sure I’m practicing what I preach here’s how to turn off the Apple Pay reminder:

  1. Tap the red badge on the Settings app icon.
  2. Tap Finish Setting Up Your [iPhone/iPad]
  3. Tap Set Up Apple Pay
  4. Tap Cancel.

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Facebook now lets you delete multiple third-party apps at once

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There’s no “select all” button, but this is still much better.

Shortly after news broke that millions of Facebook users had their personal information shared and exposed with Cambridge Analytica, people have been in a rush to revoke access from third-party apps to their Facebook accounts.

Deleting apps and websites that have access to your account is fairly straightforward, but in its current form, is a very time-consuming process as Facebook only allows you to delete one app at a time. Thankfully, this is now changing with a bulk removal tool.

Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s rolling this feature out to users on its desktop website and mobile apps, and it allows you to select multiple apps and delete them all at once. There’s no “select all” button for automatically choosing all apps at once, but this is still a very welcome addition.

To use this feature, simply select the apps you want to delete, tap the “remove” button in the upper right-hand corner, and then press “remove” again to confirm your decision. You’ll also be able to check a box to confirm whether or not you want to delete any posts, photos, and/or videos that have been shared from your account using these apps.

The bulk removal tool should be available to use right now.

Up to 87 million Facebook users’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica

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Apple and its future with Artificial Intelligence

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An Apple as serious about AI as it was about silicon could be a powerful force for the future of services.

Apple has hired John Giannandrea, former Senior Vice President of Engineering, specifically search and Artificial Intelligence, at Google. In his new role running machine learning and AI strategy, Giannandrea will be reporting directly to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

The bombshell news was shared with Apple employees in a company email, first reported on by The New York Times:

“Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear. John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal.”

AI is critical to the next great leap forward in computing. Ethical AI is critical to how we, as people, survive that leap.

Facebook has increasingly come under fire for how it does and could use AI to monetize and manipulate its users for advertising and influence peddling. Google, which has made a more public effort to balance deep insight with deep exploitation, still has to wrestle with what could happen when and if those two streams mix accidentally or maliciously at the expense of its users.

Apple, which makes its money selling customers goods and services rather than selling customers’ attention and insight, could offer an important alternative when it comes to fielding everything from intelligent assistants to autonomous technologies.

Yet Apple’s commitment to world-class AI has been called into question for years. Despite fielding AI at the silicon level with the 2017 A11 Bionic chipset, and using it to power features like Face ID, the company’s ground-breaking Siri personal assistant is widely seen as having fallen behind offerings from Google and Amazon, especially when it comes to consistency and third-party support.

How Giannandrea will change this remains to be seen.

Siri has recently moved from Eddy Cue’s internet services organization to Craig Federighi’s software engineering organization at Apple. Still, myriad features and teams exist across the orgs, as do other AI initiatives like Core ML, which includes computer vision, Face ID, and the autonomous future Tim Cook has spoken about.

I’ve been hoping for a while that Apple would unify AI services as its own organization, similar to how it grew out silicon separately from hardware engineering. With Giannandrea reporting to Cook, perhaps he can do for services what johny Srouji has done for hardware techhnologies.

No pressure.

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Scan even more efficiently with Scanbot 7

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The newest version of Scanbot includes filter adjustments, scan merging capabilities, and improved search tools, giving it a leg up on Apple’s native scanning app.

In its first update since Apple introduces its native document scanning app in Notes, Scanbot is offering more features than ever.

For those of you unfamiliar with Scanbot, it’s an award-winning scanner app that allows you to create high-quality scans of documents, receipts, sketchbooks, QR codes, and more. Once you’ve scanned them in, you can then turn them into tidy PDFs or JPGs which you can perfect with filters and upload immediately Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, or wherever else you keep your files. Scanbot 7, released today, takes this concept and builds upon it even more than in previous iterations of the app, giving you even more control over your scans.

Now, when you apply one of Scanbot’s five enhancement filters to a scanned document, you can meticulously adjust them so they’re the of highest quality possible. Each filter has three sliders that allow you to fine-tune the brightness, color, and contrast of your document to make sure everything is visible and clear. If you’ve ever received a poorly-scanned, washed out handout in school that obscured parts of the text you were supposed to read for homework, then you know just how important it is to have the ability to account for differences in the documents you’re trying to capture.

In addition to filter adjustments, Scanbot 7 now lets you string existing scans together into one cohesive PDF easily and efficiently without ever having to leave the app. This feature, called Merge, is incredibly handy for when you’re scanning documents with multiple pages or if you want to create a “booklet” (so to speak) of information from different sources. You can even rearrange the order of the documents to best fit your needs. Once you’ve selected all the scans you’d like to join together, you can choose to replace the originals with the now-merged PDF or save the merged version as an entirely new file while keeping the original scans as well.

Finally, Scanbot’s search feature has been updated for Scanbot 7, and now features search suggestions so that you can find what you’re looking for more quickly than ever before. The devs also added a handful of new interface theme options like High Contrast that feature pure white and pure black, taking full advantage of the iPhone X’s gorgeous OLED display.

If you’re looking for a more full-featured scanning app than the one that comes with Notes, you can download Scanbot for free by tapping on the link above. And, if you decide you dig it, you can upgrade Scanbot Pro for $ 6.99.

Thoughts?

Are you a fan of Scanbot? Share your experiences with the app in the comments!

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Businesses that support Business Chat in Messages

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If you’re looking for a list of Apple’s Business Chat partners, you’ve come to the right place.

One of the more interesting new features found in iOS 11.3 is Business Chat, which lets you securely communicate with businesses in Messages on your iPhone or iPad. You can get information, schedule appointments, or even make purchases with a text. At launch, Business Chat has support from a handful of partners, along with Apple itself.

What exactly is Business Chat?

If you’re looking for more information on Business Chat, check out this excellent overview by Jeffery Battersby about the system and it’s advantages and potential.

How Business Chat works for businesses and consumers

Business Chat partners

To start, Business Chat has a small group of partner businesses, though that’s sure to grow as the system becomes more popular. We’ll be updating this list over time with additional partners.

  • Apple
  • Discover
  • Hilton
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s
  • Marriot International
  • Newegg
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Wells Fargo
  • 1800Flowers.com

Spot a new one?

Have you been able to use Business Chat with a business that isn’t on this list? Let us know in the comments.

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