PlayStation Vue is first U.S. pay TV provider to integrate with Apple’s TV app

Sony’s live TV streaming service, PlayStation Vue, announced this week it has become the first U.S. pay TV provider to integrate with Apple’s TV app. Until now, Apple’s TV app has featured content from both free and paid on-demand streaming apps like Hulu, Prime Video, HBO NOW, PBS Kids, The CW, and others, along with those that require you log in with your pay TV credentials, like ABC, AMC, USA, SYFY, Showtime Anytime, and many more.

With the new PlayStation Vue integration, subscribers to Sony’s pay TV service will be able to access all of Vue’s on-demand content across its nationally available channels in the Apple TV app. Live sports, including both national and regional sports networks, will be supported, too, the company says.

Explains Sony, users will be able to search and browse the PS Vue catalog in the TV app, while also taking advantage of TV app features like “Watch Now” and “Up Next” to organize their shows, movies and sports. When you find content you want to watch, it will open up the stream right in the PS Vue app.

This integration will matter more to those who already subscribe to at least a couple of other streaming services in addition to PS Vue, as the TV app is designed to aggregate content and recommendations from across services in a single place. It works on iOS devices, including iPhone and iPad, and on Apple TV.

PS Vue is one of now several pay TV streaming services, and a rival to YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now and WatchTV. But it’s been lagging behind on subscribers.

Dish’s Sling TV and DirecTV Now lead the space, thanks to Sling’s early mover advantage and DirecTV Now’s distribution through AT&T’s wireless business. The former had 2.3 million subscribers as of June, while AT&T said DirecTV Now had 1.8 million, as of its earnings report in July. Hulu with Live TV cracked a million subscribers in September, ahead of YouTube TV.

Sony’s PlayStation Vue, meanwhile is just somewhere over half a million. It may have struggled to grow due to its branding, which seems to imply its only for PlayStation owners. (It’s not).

Perhaps the company is hoping the closer ties with Apple’s TV app will give its service more visibility.

The integration also arrives just ahead the launch of Apple’s own original content, which could bring more people back to the Apple TV app, further boosting PS Vue’s visibility.

While PS Vue is the first U.S.-based pay TV provider to offer this sort of integration with the TV app, it’s not the first worldwide. In France, for example, Canal+ “myCanal” and Molotov have offered this same sort of integration for some time.

 

Google Maps’ ETA sharing feature hits iOS

If you’re heading out to meet someone, there are plenty of ways to inform them of your location and estimated arrival. Chat apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE, and iMessage, for example, offer location sharing functionality, while navigation apps like Waze and CityMapper and even ride-sharing apps like Uber offer live updating ETAs. Now, Google Maps’ own ETA feature is at last coming to iOS. The feature also getting a few tweaks following last year’s launch on Android, the company says.

In May 2017, Google Maps first introduced its own take on location and ETA sharing.

From a “Share Location” option in the app’s main navigation bar, you’re able to pick how long you want to share your location and choose who to share it with – the latter from a set of frequent contacts or by entering in someone’s name, number or email to pull from your address book.

Then, from the navigation screen, another option called “Share trip progress” allows users to share their live ETA with others as they start their trip.

Today, Google is bringing this ETA feature to Google Maps on iOS.

To try it out, you tap on the  ˄ button once you’ve begun navigation, then tap “Share trip progress.” This will allow you to share your live location, route and your ETA with favorite contacts, as before.

However, the feature is also being improved with today’s release to allow for sharing across third-party apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, and others. That makes it easier to include in your text message threads and group chats, which are probably already underway.

The feature works for driving, walking and cycling navigation, says Google. It’s is live now on iOS and Android.

 

Snapchat now has cat lenses. (Yes, for your cat.)

It’s 8:00 PM on Friday night and you’re home alone and already drunk. Oh, is that just me? Well no matter. Snapchat has made lenses for your cat now. Yes, that’s right. Your cat! This is what the internet is made for, friends. Not all that fake news and trolling. Not having to read tweets where people use words like “woke” unironically. Cat lenses! 

So technically, I guess, Snapchat added the ability to recognize things in your photos last November, like food, sports, and even pets, then suggest appropriate filters – like a sticker that says “IT’S A PAWTY” above a photo of a dog.

But now you can put a set of matching glasses on yourself and your cat.

Or give you and your cat rainbow unicorn horns.

Or give Mr. Fluffypants some big ol’ googley eyes.

Or put a piece of toast over his face, which makes him look even less amused than usual.

What the actual f***

You can even give you and kitty big, fat lips as you kissy face the camera.

You can be the angel, while the cat gets devil horns and wings, as is – of course, appropriate.

I mean, this may or may not solve Snap’s long list of problems, like its rushed redesign, the mess that’s Snapchat Discover, its inability to attract adult users, falling share price, and ooooh, all that money it’s bleeding. ($353M last quarter!)

And that Saudi money, don’t forget that! (No, seriously, don’t.)

But I mean, c’mon. C’MON. 

Internet, we deserve this.

This is what 2018 needs.

Cat lenses.

Cat lenses to make everything better.

Cat lenses, and this here drink.

Facebook’s gaming hub Fb.gg launches into beta on Android

This summer, Facebook launched Fb.gg, its online gaming hub and Twitch competitor, designed to attract game streamers and their fans to watch videos on Facebook instead of on rival sites. The destination shows videos based on which games and streaming celebrities users follow, plus Liked Pages and Groups, and other featured suggestions of what to watch. Now, Fb.gg is expanding to mobile with its launch on Android.

The new app, first spotted by Sensor Tower, arrived just a few days ago and is currently in beta testing.

According to its description on Google Play, the app allows gamers and fans to discover a “universe of gaming content,” connect with creators and join communities, and play instant games like Everwing, Words with Friends, Basketball FRVR, and others.

From the screenshots, you can see how the Fb.gg app lets users tap navigation buttons at the top to find streamers to watch, or to view those streamers they’re already following, among other things. They can also participate in live conversations during gameplay with other viewers. Here, they can react to the stream using Facebook’s standard emoticon set of likes, hearts, haha’s and others.

Another section lets gamers jump into simple and popular mobile games. These titles are among those who were early participants in Facebook’s other gaming efforts in the past, like Instant Games on Facebook and Messenger.

Facebook has been trying to woo the gaming community for some time, to better compete against Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube. There’s a large and growing market for game streaming and viewing, with young viewers tuning in an average of 3+ hours a week to watch, as TechCrunch previously noted.

Facebook’s efforts to directly challenge Twitch and others kicked off in earnest this year, with the launch of its own version of Twitch’s Partner Program. Facebook’s  gaming creator pilot program, as it’s called, allows viewers to tip their favorite gamers. And with the arrival of Fb.gg in June, the virtual currency involved in those tips was being referred to as Facebook Stars, with each star equating to $0.01.

Facebook said it takes a cut of fans’ purchases of stars, ranging from 5%-30%, depending on what size pack is bought.

Facebook also recently began testing a monthly subscription option with game streamers, similar to what’s offered by YouTube and Twitch.

Of course, to truly compete with Twitch and YouTube, Facebook needs to go mobile as well – especially since the upcoming Messenger redesign will hide away extraneous features, like mobile gaming. That’s where Fb.gg’s app comes in.

The Android version of the Fb.gg beta app launched on October 9, and already has over 10,000 installs, according to Google Play.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the launch.

 

App Store generated 93% more revenue than Google Play in Q3

There’s always been a gap between how much money Apple’s App Store makes when compared with Google Play. But in the third quarter of 2018, that gap widened considerably – possibly to the widest point yet. According to a new report from Sensor Tower, the App Store earned nearly 93% more than Google Play in the quarter, the largest gap since at least 2014 – or, when Sensor Tower began tracking Google Play data.

The firm says that approximately 66% of the $18.2 billion in mobile app revenue generated in Q3 2018 came from Apple’s App Store. The store made $12 billion in the quarter, up 23.3% from the $9.7 billion it made during the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Google Play earned $6.2 billion in the quarter, up 21.5% from the year-ago quarter’s $5.1 billion.

Based on Sensor Tower’s chart of top-grossing apps across both stores, subscriptions are continuing to aid in this revenue growth. Netflix remained the top-grossing non-game app for the third quarter in a row, bringing in an estimated $243.7 million across both platforms. Tinder and Tencent Video remained in the second and third spots, respectively.

Mobile game spending also helped fuel the revenue growth, with spending up 14.9% year-over-year during the quarter to reach $13.8 billion. In fact, it accounted for 76% of all app revenue across both platforms in the quarter, with $8.5 billion coming from the App Store and $5.3 billion from Google Play.

In terms of app downloads, however, Google Play still has the edge thanks to rapid adoption of lower-cost Android devices in emerging markets, the report said. App installs grew 10.9% across both stores, reaching 27.1 billion, up 24.4% from Q3 2017.

The rankings of the most downloaded apps also got a big shakeup in Q3, thanks to Bytedance’s short-video app TikTok absorbing Musical.ly during the quarter. As a result of the merger, it’s now the No. 4 ranked app worldwide, having grown 15% quarter-over-quarter and 440% year-over-year.

That puts it ahead of both Instagram (No. 5) and Snapchat (No. 10), in terms of Q3 app downloads, and sets the stage for Bytedance becoming a more serious player in the social app market.

Sensor Tower’s full report is available here.

Alexa can now reserve conference rooms

Amazon is debuting a new feature that will allow businesses to use Alexa for booking conference rooms. The addition is part of the Alexa for Business platform, and works with linked calendars from either Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Exchange, as well as over an API, arriving soon.

The feature is part of Amazon’s broader plan to put Alexa to work outside the home. At last year’s AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon first launched its Alexa for Business platform to allow companies to build out their own skills and integrations for practical business use cases. Amazon also spoke of integrations that would allow Alexa to support productivity tools and enterprise services, including those from Microsoft, Concur, Splunk, and others.

Shortly after, early partner WeWork integrated Echo devices in some of its own meeting rooms to test out how the smart assistant could be useful for things like managing meeting room reservations, or shutting off or turning on lights.

Now, Amazon wants to make booking rooms themselves possible just by asking Alexa.

As the company explains, it’s common in workplaces for people to walk from room to room to grab a space for an ad-hoc meeting, or to find a space for a meeting that’s running over. But to reserve the room, they often have to pull out their laptop, run an application, do a search, and then look through the search results to find an available room. The Room Booking skill will allow them to ask Alexa for help instead.

The feature requires read/write permission to users’ calendar provider to enable, but can then be used to check the availability of the conference room you’re in, by asking “Alexa, is this room free?”

Users can then schedule the room on the fly by saying, “Alexa, book this room for half an hour,” or whatever time you choose.

Alexa will also be able to confirm if the room is booked, when asked “Alexa, who booked this room?”

Amazon is making this functionality available by way of a Room Booking API, too, which is soon arriving in beta. This will allow businesses to integrate the booking feature with their own in-house or third-party booking solutions. Some providers, including Joan and Robin are already building a skill to add voice support to their own offerings, Amazon noted.

The feature is now one of several on the Alexa for Business platform, specifically focused on better managing meetings with Alexa’s assistance. Another popular feature is using Alexa to control conference room equipment, so you can start meetings by saying “Alexa, join the meeting.”

A handful of large companies have since adopted Alexa in their own workplaces, following the launch of the Alexa For Business platform, including Condé Nast, Valence, Capital One, and Brooks Brothers. And the platform itself is one of many ways Amazon is contemplating as to how Alexa can be used outside the home. It has also launched Alexa for Hospitality and worked with colleges on putting Echo Dots in student dorms. It also last month introduced its first Alexa device for vehicles.

 

Looking back at Google+

Google+ is shutting down at last. Google announced today it’s sunsetting its consumer-facing social network due to lack of user and developer adoption, low usage and engagement. Oh, and a data leak. It even revealed how poorly the network is performing, noting that 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds long. Yikes.

But things weren’t always like this. Google+ was once heralded as a serious attempt to topple Facebook’s stranglehold on social networking, and was even met with excitement in its first days.

2011

June: The unveiling

The company originally revealed its new idea for social networking in June 2011. It wasn’t Google’s first foray into social, however. Google had made numerous attempts to offer a social networking service of some sort, with Orkut, launched in 2004 and shuttered in fall 2014; Google Friend Connect in 2008 (retired in 2012); and Google Buzz in 2010 (it closed the next year).

But Google+ was the most significant attempt the company had made, proclaiming at the time: “we believe online sharing is broken.”

The once top-secret project was the subject of several leaks ahead of its launch, allowing consumer interest in the project to build.

Led by Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, Google’s big idea to fix social was to get users to create groups of contacts — called “Circles” — in order to have more control over social sharing. That is, there are things that are appropriate for sharing with family or close friends, and other things that make more sense to share with co-workers, classmates or those who share a similar interest — like biking or cooking, for example.

But getting users to create groups is difficult because the process can be tedious. Google, instead, cleverly designed a user interface that made organizing contacts feel simpler — even fun, some argued. It also was better than the system for contact organization that Facebook was offering at the time.

Next thing you know, everyone was setting up their Circles by dragging-and-dropping little profile icons into these groups, and posting updates and photos to their newly created micro-networks.

Another key feature, “Sparks,” helped users find news and content related to a user’s particular interests. This way, Google could understand what people liked and wanted to track, without having an established base of topical pages for users to “Like,” as on Facebook. But it also paved the way for a new type of search. Instead of just returning a list of blue links, a search on Google+ could return people’s profiles who were relevant to the topic at hand, matching pages and other content.

Google+ also introduced Hangouts, a way to video chat with up to 10 people in one of your Circles at once.

At the time, the implementation was described as almost magical. This was due to a number of innovative features, like the way the software focused in on the person talking, for example, and the way everyone could share content within a chat.

Early growth looked promising

Within two weeks, it seemed Google had a hit on its hands, as the network had reached 10 million users. Just over a month after launch, it had grown to 25 million. By October 2011, it reached 40 million. And by year-end, 90 million. Even if Google was only tracking sign-up numbers, it still appeared like a massive threat to Facebook.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s first comment about Google+, however, smartly pointed out that any Facebook competitor will have to build up a social graph to be relevant. Facebook, which had 750 million users at the time, had already done this. Google+ was getting the sign-ups, but whether users would remain active over time was still in question.

There also were early signs that Google+’s embrace of non-friends could be challenging. It had to roll out blocking mechanisms months after launch, as the network became too spammy with unwanted notifications. Over the years that followed, its inability to control the spam became a major issue.

Even as late at 2017, people were still complaining that spam made Google+ unusable.

 

July: Backlashes over brands and Real Names policy

In an effort to compete with Facebook, Google+ also enforced a “real names” policy. This angered many users who wanted to use pseudonyms or nicknames, especially when Google began deleting their accounts for non-compliance. This was a larger issue than merely losing social networking access, because losing a Google account meant losing Gmail, Documents, Calendar and access to other Google products, too.

The company also flubbed its handling of brands’ pages, banning all Google business profiles in an ill-conceived fashion — something it later admitted was a mistake.

It wouldn’t fix some of these problems for years, in fact. Eric Schmidt even reportedly once suggested finding another social network if you didn’t want to use your real name — a comment that came across as condescending.

August: Social search

Google+ came to Google Search in August. The company announced Google+ posts would begin appearing in “social search” results that showed when users were signed in. Google called this new toggle “search plus your world.” But its slice of “your world” was pretty limited, as it couldn’t see into the posts shared among your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

2012

January: Forced Google+ account creation

If you can’t beat ’em, force ’em! Google began to require users to have a Google+ account in order to sign up for Gmail. It was not a user-friendly change, and was the start of a number of forced integrations to come.

March: Criticism mounts

TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey argued that Google failed to play the long game in social, and was too ambitious in its attempt with Google+. All the network really should have started with was its “+1” button — the clicks would generate piles of data tied to users that could then be searchable, private by default and shareable elsewhere.

June: Event spam goes viral

Spam remained an issue on Google+. This time, event spam had emerged, thanks to all the nifty integrations between Google+ and mission-critical products like Calendar.

Users were not thrilled that other people were able to “invite” them to events, and these automatically showed up on your Calendar — even if you had not yet confirmed that you would be attending. It made using Google+ feel like a big mistake.

November: Hangouts evolves

The following year after Google+’s launch, there was already a lot of activity around Hangouts — which interestingly, has since become one of the big products that will outlive its original Google+ home.

Video was a tough space to get right — which is why businesses like Skype were still thriving. And while Hangouts were designed for friends and family to use in Google+, Google was already seeing companies adopt the technology for meetings, and brands like the NBA for connecting with fans.

December: Google+ adds Communities

The focus on user interests in Google+ also continued to evolve this year with the launch of Communities — a way for people to set up topic-based forums on the site. The move was made in hopes of attracting more consumer interest, as growth had slowed.

2013

It’s not a destination; it’s a “social layer!” 

Google+ wasn’t working out as a “Facebook killer.” Engagement was low, distribution was mixed and it seemed it was only being used by tech early adopters, not the mainstream. So the new plan was to double down on Google+ not being a destination website, like Facebook, but rather make it a social layer across Google products.

It had already integrated Google+ with Gmail and Google Contacts, shortly after its launch. In June 2013, it offered a way for people to follow brands’ pages in Gmail.

It then decided to unify Google Talk (aka Gchat) with Google+ Messenger into Hangouts.

It launched a Google+ commenting system for Blogger.

It replaced Google sign-ins on third-party sites with Google+ logins.

It was all a bit much.

September: Google+ infiltrates YouTube

Then, most controversially, it took over YouTube comments. Now, if you wanted to comment on YouTube, you needed a Google+ account.

In other words, if Gmail’s then 200+ million users could juice up Google+, then maybe YouTube’s millions of commenters could, Google hoped.

People were not happy, to say the least.

It was a notable indication of how little love people had for Google+. YouTubers were downright pissed. One girl even crafted a profane music video in response, with lyrics like “You ruined our site and called it integration / I’m writing this song just to vent our frustration / Fuck you, Google Plusssssss!”

Google also started talking about Google+ as an “identity layer” with 500 million users to make it sound big.

2014

April: Vic Gundotra, Father of Google+, leaves Google

Google+ lost its founder. In April 2014, it was announced that Vic Gundotra, the father of Google+, was leaving the company. Google CEO Larry Page said at the time that the social network would still see investment, but it was a signal that a shift was coming in terms of Google’s approach.

Former TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Bonatsos (née Tsotsis) and editor Matthew Panzarino wrote at the time that Google+ was “walking dead,” having heard that Google+ was no longer going to be considered a product, but a platform.

The forced integrations of the past would be walked back, like those in Gmail and YouTube, and teams would be reshuffled.

July: Hangouts breaks free

Perhaps one of the most notable changes was letting Hangouts go free. Hangouts was a compelling product — too important to require a tie to Google+. In July 2014, Hangouts began to work without a Google+ account, rolled out to businesses and got itself an SLA.

July: Google+ drops its “real name” rule and apologizes

Another signal that Google+ was shifting following Gundotra’s exit was when it abandoned its “real name” policy, three years after the user outrage.

While Google had started rolling back on the real name policy in January of 2012 by opening rules to include maiden names and select nicknames, it still displayed your real name alongside your chosen name. It was nowhere near what people wanted.

Now, Google straight-up apologized for its decision around real names and hoped the change would bring users back. It did not. It was too late.

2015

May: Google Photos breaks free

Following Hangouts, Google realized that Google+’s photo-sharing features also deserved to become their own, standalone product.

At Google I/O 2015, the company announced its Google Photos revamp. The new product took advantage of AI and machine learning capabilities that originated on Google+. This included allowing users to search photos for persons, places and things, as well as an update on Google+’s “auto awesome” feature, which turned into the more robust Google Photos Assistant.

Later that year, Google Photos had scaled to 100 million monthly active users, after shutting down Google+ Photos in August 2015.

July: Google+ pulled from YouTube

In July 2015, Google reversed course on YouTube integrations with Google+ so YouTube comments stayed on YouTube, and not on Google+.

People were happy about this. But not happy enough to go back to Google+.

November: An all-new Google+ unveiled

Google+ got a big revamp in November 2015.

Bradley Horowitz, VP, Photos and Streams at Google and Product Director at Google, Luke Wroblewski, had teamed up to redesign Google+ around what Google’s data indicated was working: Communities and Collections. Essentially, the new Google+ was focused on users and their interests. It let people network around topics, but not necessarily their personal connections.

Google also rolled out “About Me” pages as an alternative to sites like About.me.

The new site got a colorful coat of paint, too, but it never regained traction.

2016

January: Google+ pulled from Android Gaming service

Google decoupled Google+ from another core product by dropping the requirement to have an account with the social network in order to use the Google Play Games services.

August: Google+ pulled from Play Store

The unbundling continued, as Google’s Play Store stopped requiring users to have a Google+ account to write reviews.

Horowitz explained at the time that Google had heard from users “that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use,” and it was responding accordingly.

August: Hangouts on Air moved to YouTube Live

One of the social network’s last exclusive features, Hangouts on Air — a way to broadcast a Hangout — moved to YouTube Live in 2016, as well.

2017

Google+ went fairly quiet. The site was still there, but the communities were filling with spam. Community moderators said they couldn’t keep up. Google’s inattention to the problem was a signal in and of itself that the grand Google+ experiment may be coming to a close.

January: Classic design phased out

Google+ forced the change over to the new design first previewed in late 2015.

In January 2017, it no longer allowed users to switch back to the old look. It also took the time to highlight groups that were popular on Google+ to counteract the narrative that the site was “dead.” (Even though it was.)

August: Google+ removed share count from +1 button

The once ubiquitous “+1” button, launched in spring 2012, was getting a revamp. It would no longer display the number of shares. Google said this was to make the button load more quickly. But it was really because the share counts were not worth touting anymore.

2018

October 2018: Google+ got its Cambridge Analytica moment

A security bug allowed third-party developers to access Google+ user profile data since 2015 until Google discovered it in March, but decided not to inform users. In total, 496,951 users’ full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status were potentially exposed. Google says it doesn’t have evidence the data was misused, but it decided to shut down the consumer-facing Google+ site anyway, given its lack of use.

Data misuse scandals like Cambridge Analytica have damaged Facebook and Twitter’s reputations, but Google+ wasn’t similarly impacted. After all, Google was no longer claiming Google+ be a social network. And, as its own data shows, the network that remained was largely abandoned.

But the company still had piles of user profile data on hand, which were put at risk. That may lead Google to face a similar fate as the more active social networks, in terms of being questioned by Congress or brought up in lawmakers’ discussions about regulations.

In hindsight, then, maybe it would have been better if Google had shut down Google+ years ago.

Reelgood’s app for cord cutters adds 50+ services, personalized recommendations

Reelgood, a startup aimed at helping cord cutters find their next binge, is out today with its biggest update yet. The company has been developing its streaming guide over the past year to solve the issues around discovery that exist when consumers drop traditional pay TV in favor of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Prime Video, and others.

The company first launched as a website in the summer of 2017 before expanding to mobile last fall. During that time, it’s grown to over a million monthly active users who now check in with Reelgood to find something new to watch.

With today’s update to its iOS app, Reelgood is adding a number of features, including personalized recommendations, curated selections, alerts for shows and movies you’re tracking, advanced search and filtering, and the ability to track content over 50 more streaming services, among other things.

As discovery is Reelgood’s focus, the updated app now offers two new types of recommendations.

One is Reelgood’s own take on “Because You Watched” – a type of viewing suggestion you’ll find today on individual services, like Netflix. But those are more limited because they’ll only suggest other shows or movies they offer themselves. Reelgood’s recommendations will instead span all the services you have access to, offering a more universal set of suggestions.

This feature is tied to Reelgood’s watch history, where you track which shows and movies you’ve seen. That means you have to use Reelgood as your tracking app as well, in order for this feature to work.

The app’s other new way of offering recommendations is less personalized – in fact, it’s random. Because sometimes serendipity is a better way to find something, a feature called “Reelgood Roulette” lets you shake your device while on the Discover tab to get a non-personalized, random suggestion.

Reelgood credits Netflix Roulette, created by Andrew Sampson, as the basis for this addition. In fact, it acquired the rights to the software last year, and then updated it to support more streaming services.

The app also now offers more powerful search and filtering capabilities involving Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb scores, plus cast and crew listings. This allows you to query up things like “Meryl Streep’s top-rated movies” or “drama series with an IMDb rating of at least 8.0 that came out in the last 3 years,” for example.

Reelgood’s search and filtering mechanisms have always been the place where it excels, but it’s less useful as a simple tracker. For that, I prefer TV Time, which lets you quickly mark entire seasons or series as “Watched” and offers discussion boards for each episode where you can post photos and memes and chat with other fans.

TV Time, however, hasn’t been as useful for making recommendations – its suggestions have been off-the-mark when I’ve tried it in the past, often leaning too heavily on network’s back catalogs than pushing me to more current or trending content. It makes me wish I could combine the two apps into one for the best of both worlds – tracking and recommendations.

The updated Reelgood app also doubles down on its own curation capabilities by offering editorial collections. For example: 2018 Emmy Nominees, IMDb’s Top 250 Movies, Original Picks, Dark Comedies, British Humour, and more. This can be a good way to find something to watch when you’re really stumped.

And as you discover new shows and movies you want to see, you can set alerts so you’ll be notified when they hit one of the streaming services you’re subscribed to, similar the tracking feature on Roku OS.

Finally, Reelgood’s update includes the addition of 50+ streaming services – that means there’s now support for more niche services like IndieFlix, FilmStruck, Shudder, Fandor, CrunchyRoll, Mubi, AcornTV and Starz, among others.

“Reelgood 4.0 is the culmination of all we’ve learned about how people watch and the increasingly fragmented streaming world,” said Eli Chamberlin, Reelgood’s head of product and design. “Our aim with this release was to take all the streaming content out there, and display it in the most meaningful way possible so that people can get the most out of their existing streaming services without wasting countless hours browsing.”

The new app is rolling out to iOS today on the App Store.

 

Alexa’s skills can now work together, initially for bookings and printing

Amazon this morning announced a new way for customers to use Alexa’s skills – together, in combined requests. That is, you can start a request in one skill, then have it fulfilled in another. For example, the AllRecipes skill can now connect the HP skill in order to print out recipes for customers, Amazon says.

This is the first of many combined skills to come.

Skill Connections, as the developer-facing feature is called, can initially be used to take three types of actions – printing, booking a reservation, or booking a ride.

That means future skills could allow you to book a concert ticket through a skill, then connect to a taxi skill to find you a ride to the show. The idea is that customer wouldn’t have to separately invoke the different skills to complete the one task they wanted to accomplish (i.e., going to a show), or repeat information. Instead, data is passed from one skill to the next.

This isn’t the first time Alexa has tried to tie skills together in some way, but it is the first time it actually allowed two skills to talk to one another. Previously, Alexa was making game recommendations when customers exited a skill, as a means of exposing Alexa users to new content they may like. But this was more of a nudge to launch another skill, not a direct connection between the two.

Skill Connections is launching into a developer preview starting today. During this testing period, printing will be provided by a skill from HP, food reservations will be provided by OpenTable, and taxi reservations will be provided by Uber. Epson and Canon will soon provide prints services as well, Amazon notes.

The skills can also take advantage of Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills and in-skill purchasing announced earlier this year.

Developers who are accepted into the preview could do things like offer to print a game’s leaderboard using the HP skill, or book a taxi to a spot where you’ve made a reservation, Amazon also suggests. To be considered, developers first have to fill out a survey.

Developers can apply either to connect their skill to those from HP, OpenTable or Uber, or they can apply to provide services to other skills. The feature will remain in testing for now, with a public launch planned for a later, but yet unknown date.

 

Twitter launches a ‘Data Saver’ mode that makes its main app more like Twitter Lite

An updated version of the Twitter mobile app will allow users to gain more control over their data usage – similar to how the Twitter Lite app designed for emerging markets works. Now, instead of having to download a separate app in order to limit data consumption or manually adjust various settings, users will be able to turn on a new ‘Data Saver’ option available in Twitter’s Settings.

Until today, Twitter offered Data Saver in Twitter for Windows, Twitter Lite, and its mobile website. Some users may have also seen the Data Saver option on iOS or Android, as well as on Twitter’s desktop website, because of a test Twitter had underway.

That desktop web test had also included moving other elements and features around, like putting Trends underneath the “Who To Follow” suggestions, for example, or making “Night Mode” a more visible option.

But with the launch today, the Data Saver feature is broadly available to all iOS and Android users, a company spokesperson confirmed.

To take advantage of Data Saver, you’ll visit the Data Usage settings in the iOS or Android mobile app and toggle the option on or off. When enabled, images will load in lower quality and videos won’t autoplay. If you’re browsing Twitter and want to see an image appear in higher quality, you can tap on the three-top menu and pick “Load High Quality” to change the setting on that particular piece of content.

The updated version includes a few other tweaks as well, including a change to make it easier to manage who’s in your group chats, plus VoiceOver improvements in polls, and better labels for some types of Twitter ads, according to the app’s update text in the App Store.

For those who really need to conserve, however, Twitter Lite is still the better option. While Data Saver will consume less data when turned on, Twitter Lite takes up less space on your phone, too.

The new Twitter app is live now, but the features themselves may still be rolling out at this time.

Twitter tells us its @TwitterSupport account will tweet the news later today as Data Saver rolls out to everyone.