All posts in “Mobile”

Period-tracking app Flo is leveraging AI to help millions of women

Why it matters to you

Flo already has an active monthly user base of 10 million women, and with its new investment round, that number will only grow.

As an app that over 50 percent of the world’s population could make use of on a monthly basis, it’s no wonder that Flo has met with enormous success since its launch in 2015. The hugely popular period tracking app has just raised $5 million in a Series A funding round led by Flint Capital and brand ambassador, supermom, and supermodel Natalia Vodianova, and reinforces the need for female-focused technology in the 21st century.

Flo, which launched just under two years ago in October of 2015, has already secured 10 million monthly active users, and is only gaining in popularity. In fact, the app now sees its user base grow by 1 million users each month. This is largely thanks to a slew of new features, including personalized health insights.

The app relies upon neural networks to both analyze and anticipate menstrual cycles. “The use of machine learning increased predictions accuracy by 54.2 percent, with the prediction error reduced from 5.6 to 2.6 days,” Yuri Gurski, Flo founder and president told Venturebeat via email. “The more symptoms are logged, the more unique patterns the algorithm is likely to find in a woman’s cycle.”

Also included in the newest version of Flo is what Gurski describes as “Quora-style Q&A service.” Here, Gurski noted, “Users can discuss their most burning intimate issues with experts and other users, anonymously. We are seeing amazing results; it is truly a strong community of like-minded peers.”

While the app started out exclusively as a pregnancy app, Flo now has a pregnancy mode that promises a “tailored health solution for women at any stage of the reproductive cycle.” In fact, the company claims that it helps 100,000 women a month get pregnant.

So what will the app do with its new influx of cash? According to a news release, the goal is to use this sum to accelerate growth and expand Flo’s presence throughout the U.S. market. Furthermore, the company has ambitious plans to partner with research centers and universities with the goal of advancing female health science. Ultimately, Flo says, its goal is to “become the number 1 female health platform in the world, with at least 100 million users.”

The best launcher for Android, and nine alternatives

One of Android’s main strengths has always been customization. You can tinker and tweak until you realize the home screen of your dreams. The easiest and most straightforward way to completely change up the aesthetic of your interface is to employ an Android launcher. With a launcher you can change the color scheme, icons, backgrounds, and lots of other details to define your ideal home screen, app drawer, and widget combo. But just what is the best launcher for Android? Read on to find our top pick and nine alternatives worth trying out.

If you’re into Android customization you should also check out the best free live wallpapers for Android, the best Android widgets, and maybe even look into rooting your Android phone.

The best launcher for Android

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher

The Nova Launcher offers an excellent array of different features, allowing you to quickly achieve an elegant look without compromising on performance. You can change animations, colors, layouts, icons, and more. Spring $5 for the Prime version and you can customize gestures, unlock extra scroll effects, and more, but the free version should be enough for most people to create the precise look and feel they’re craving. There’s even a way to get the Google feed to show up on the left of the home screen, just like on the Google Now Launcher.

Google Play Store

And the rest

Hola Launcher

Hola Launcher app

Rather than bring new features to your mobile device, the Hola Launcher optimizes from the inside-out to ensure the best possible user experience. It will help you to identify bloatware and uninstall useless apps to improve battery life. Best of all, its rotary-style UI elegantly switches between your favorite Android apps and quick access shortcuts, making it possible to handle phablets with just one hand.

Google Play Store

Z Launcher Beta

Z Launcher Beta app

Why waste time scrolling through an endless list of apps or tap out the name of the app you’re looking for, when there is an even more intuitive way to search through your mobile device? Simply draw the first letter of your desired app with your finger, and Z Launcher will figure out a list of apps that matches your on-screen scribble. Besides simplifying search, this Nokia-developed launcher also learns your most often used apps and brings them to your home screen.

Google Play Store

Action Launcher: Pixel Edition ($5)

Action Launcher app

If you’re still waiting for your upgrade to Android Nougat, then you might consider dropping $5 to get the Action Launcher: Pixel Edition. It offers some of the some of the best features of the Google Pixel Launcher, like the Google Pill and round icons. You’ll also be able to enjoy gesture controls and app shortcuts.

Google Play Store

Go Launcher

Go Launcher app

Go Launcher is another extremely popular, highly customizable launcher that lets you revamp almost every aspect of the home screen. Go Launcher offers not only a bare-bones Android-style launcher, but also an extremely popular theme system that users can download new themes from. There are hundreds of these themes available on the Play Store, and they come in all sorts of styles.

Google Play Store

Launcher 8 WP Style

Launcher8 WP Style app

Laucher 8 WP Style is good if you’re a fan of the vertical style and block-based nature of Windows 10. It gives the look of the tile-based Windows Modern UI, but without losing all the functionality of Android. You can customize using the standard Windows Modern UI color pallet, or you can add your own custom colors into the mix.

Google Play Store

Yahoo Aviate Launcher

Yahoo Aviate Launcher app

More a caring assistant than a traditional mobile launcher, Yahoo Aviate is all about anticipating your needs over the course of a day. The launcher automatically reorganizes your home screen to put your most used apps at different times and in different locations, right at your fingertips when you need them.

Google Play Store

Apex Launcher

Apex Launcher app

Apex Launcher is for control freaks who love tweaks and customization. Mess with the size of just about everything and the gesture commands to get your ideal experience. A power user’s dream, Apex isn’t just easy to modify, it runs extremely smoothly as well.

Google Play Store

Arrow Launcher

Arrow Launcher

Arrow Launcher from Microsoft offers a simple and beautiful way to customize your Android experience. The launcher has three home pages: a People page with contacts, an Apps page with frequent and new apps, and a Notes page with all your reminders.  Arrow will also change your wallpaper automatically if you want.

Google Play Store

C Launcher

C Launcher app

C Launcher is all about speed and optimization. It does everything it can to reduce battery drain on your device, monitoring performance and keeping everything streamlined. A built-in clean up feature eliminates clutter and unnecessary files that build up over time and start to lag the device, and an app installer makes it easy to get rid of apps you long stopped using.

Google Play Store

Could the Android O be released August 21?

Why it matters to you

The Android O might be days away from being released, according to Evan Blass. You may finally have it in your hands before the month is out.

Many of you have probably been waiting for an official launch date for the Google Android O, otherwise dubbed as the Android 8.0, ever since Google released the public betas back in March. Having now gone through four developer previews, it seems as if the device could finally have a set release date, and it’s actually very soon.

The new Android O might be days away from being released, according to Evan Blass, with the rumored release date being August 21. On Twitter, Blass revealed that it could be released the week of August 21 or the phone could be released on that day itself. AndroidPolice editor David Ruddock was also on the social media platform with the same guess. With that being said, there is no official word or confirmation from Google yet.

But August 21 just so happens to be the same day as the solar eclipse, where the moon fully passes in between the Earth and the sun, in the U.S. If August 21 really is the official launch date, then the timing could not be more perfect. This is also partly because we still don’t know what the latest version of the Android OS will be called yet. A popular assumption for the name is Android Oreo, since the company loves using snacks and food to name every version of its mobile operating system. If that is the case, it could go well with the solar eclipse, which will be round and dark just like an Oreo cookie. But we’ll have to wait for August 21 to find out.

Ruddock also says that Google will provide an Android O update for its Pixel and Pixel smartphones on the same day. For those with older Nexus phones, there is no word yet on whether they’ll have to wait a little while longer for the official update.

The Google Android O is going to have a number of great features. Everything from its improved battery life to telling you how much battery power you have left on your Bluetooth devices. It will also come with a picture-in-picture mode, which will allow you to watch videos while performing other tasks on the phone.

Facebook has a new plan to enter China — a secret app called Colorful Balloons

Why it matters to you

Facebook has been attempting to enter the Chinese market to no avail for years, but now, it may finally have a solution.

You don’t become the biggest social network in the world by taking “No” for an answer, and Facebook clearly has no intention of doing so when it comes to China. As per a New York Times report, the tech giant is making a new attempt at entering the all-important market by authorizing the release of a new photo-sharing app called Colorful Balloons. It doesn’t have “Facebook” anywhere in its name, but that doesn’t mean that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t left a fingerprint on the new app.

While Facebook and most of its apps have long been forbidden within the Great Firewall of China, Zuckerberg looks to be trying a new strategy. According to an anonymous Times source, Facebook approved the debut of Colorful Balloons back in May. So what makes it a relative of Facebook? Apparently, it “share the look, function, and feel of Facebook’s Moments app.” However, an independent local company was behind its release, and this is the first time that it’s even been suggested that Facebook has anything to do with it.

That Facebook is willing to go to such extreme lengths to gain even the semblance of a foothold in China underscores the importance of China to most tech players. But time and time again, international firms have been frustrated in their attempts. Just ask Uber, which was ultimately forced out of the country earlier this year by homegrown competitor Didi Chuxing. But with 700 million internet users who spend $750 billion online a year, China continues to be an elusive prize.

So how does Colorful Balloons help? For starters, it could give Facebook insight into how Chinese users share information and interact with apps.

But the company, naturally, has remained tightlipped on its association with the app. The company only noted, “We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways.”

Still, it’s unclear whether this surreptitious move will ultimately be deemed kosher by the Chinese government.

“The government’s control and surveillance of media is strict, and it is almost impossible for them to open that door,” Teng Bingsheng, a professor of strategic management at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, told the Times. “Although Mark Zuckerberg has visited China many times and practiced his Chinese very hard, I don’t foresee any major breakthroughs for Facebook.”

How to use Apple’s iMessage on iOS 10

With the release of iOS 10, Apple completely revamped its iMessage platform, transforming it from a simple SMS replacement to a feature-packed messaging experience. Not only is iMessage getting much more secure with the upcoming iOS 11 update, but you’ll even be able to use it to chat directly with businesses.

We love it, and we’re sure you do as well, but are you aware of all the little features it contains, and how to access them? Maybe not, because although Apple is usually good at making its software rather easy to use, iMessage makes use of new techniques that may not be familiar. Whether you’re an iOS newbie or a seasoned veteran, here’s how to get the most from iMessage on your iPhone.

Getting started with iMessage

Does it work on my phone?

iMessage Security

To use the new iMessage platform, you need to have iOS 10 installed on your phone, and so do the people you’re messaging. It’s worth mentioning, for those completely unfamiliar with iMessage, that it’s purely Apple-to-Apple, and you can’t send an iMessage to an Android phone (or vice versa).

You can send iMessages to iPhones, iPads, iPods, and MacOS installed on laptops and desktop computers, provided you’re signed in to the same iCloud account on all devices. There are a few settings to enable on each device to make this happen. It’s also easy to know whether you’re exchanging iMessages with someone, given the chat balloons are blue instead of the green that denotes SMS messages.

Enabling iMessage

On your iOS device, ensure iMessage is activated by checking the following:

Go to Settings, and scroll down to Messages. The iMessage slider should be in the On position. One other important thing to note is that if you have Reduce Motion turned on, then the animations won’t work. Go to Settings, General, and Accessibility to turn the feature off if they’re not working.

In MacOS, find the Messages icon in the Dock, open it, and open Accounts from the Messages menu in the top-left portion of the screen. Here, enter your associated Apple ID and password, then click Sign In. Your messages and contacts should then sync. The difference between the two is that not all of iOS 10’s super effects, apps, and GIFs show up on your Mac, nor can they be sent out via your computer.

Use iMessage on your iPhone

Apple iOS 10 Beta 1

Sending and receiving iMessages is no different than sending and receiving SMS message, and it’s all done through the default Messages app installed on iOS. If you’ve used iMessage before and this is your first time using the latest version, you’ll notice some changes. The most obvious are the three icons in the bottom left of the screen which is the gateway to most of iMessage’s new features.

Text effects

We’ll dig into iMessage’s cool features in a moment — let’s deal with sending messages first. To send a message, simply enter what you want to say into the text field in iMessage and tap the blue arrow to send it. If you want to add effects to what you’re sending, perform a Force Touch gesture on the blue arrow before you send your message. You do this by pressing down hard on the blue arrow to bring up the Send with effect menu.

The first of two menu screens will appear, giving you the chance to add a new effect to your message. Slam, Loud, Gentle, and Invisible Ink all see your words accompanied by the corresponding effect, which gives them more impact and allows you to convey an emotion. Just tap which one you want to apply the effect and send your message.

If none of the aforementioned text effects seem appealing, tap the Screen option and select a screen effect. You can use balloons, fireworks, lasers, confetti, or a shooting star to alter the look of the screen when the message arrives. If none of these are suitable, just tap “X” to return to the standard message view.

Reactions

imessage-reaction-screen

Reactions are another fun feature. Rather than add an emoji after a message comes through, how about adding your reaction to the message itself? Say you get a message you agree with, and you want to give it the thumbs up. Long press the message, and a series of reactions will appear. These include a heart, a thumbs up or down, an exclamation point, a question mark, and a “Haha.” Simply tap the appropriate reaction to affix it to the message balloon.

Handy iMessage tips

Stickers, emoji, and apps

All the usual emoji are available in iMessage through your keyboard of choice, whether it’s Apple’s proprietary offering or an alternative. However, the new iMessage offers a wealth of additional stickers and emoji, all of which are available through the feature’s app store. Yep, iMessage has its own, dedicated store for compatible apps. Here’s how to use it.

Select the App Store icon from the three icons to the left of the text field  — it’s the third to the right. This will open a new window in place of the keyboard, and once visible, tap the four circles in the bottom left to open the menu. Then, choose Store.

All the iMessage-compatible apps are found here, including the ones already installed on your phone. Visit the Manage category along the top of the screen to activate or deactivate apps that have an iMessage function. Otherwise, just select and install your iMessage app of choice in the same way you would any other app from the iTunes App Store.

If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the best iMessage apps, games, and stickers.

When finished, just tap Done in the top right of your display. This will bring up the menu screen in place of the keyboard, and it’s here that you’ll be able to select the apps and stickers that you’ve installed. If the screen gets overrun with apps, delete them in the same way you would elsewhere in iOS — that is, by tapping and holding, then tapping “X” when they start to jiggle.

GIFs and pictures

In addition to the emoji and stickers, you can also add images and GIFs to your iMessage conversation. Tap the App Store button next to the text field, and then the menu button in the bottom-left corner (it’s shaped like four circles). Then, tap Images and use the search bar to find the right GIF for you.

Alternatively, if you have installed Giphy on your phone, it has an extension for iMessage. Provided the extension is activated under the management section in the iMessage App Store, select that instead of Images on the main screen to see a host of other choices.

Sharing your own pictures, either live or from your Camera Roll, is easy too. From the main message screen, tap the camera icon — the furthest option on the left, next to the text field — and you’ll be given the option to choose your own picture, or capture one using a small viewfinder. Snap away, and send it in your message.

Play Apple Music

Apple iOS 10 Beta 1

This one is primarily for Apple Music subscribers. In the app menu, the Music option lets you share songs you’ve recently listened to with someone else. However, if you don’t subscribe to Apple Music, you can only hear a preview of the song in question. Additionally, this only includes music you’ve downloaded from iTunes.

Digital Touch

ios-10-fireball

One of the coolest features on the Apple Watch recently came to iMessage, and it operates in a similar way. The tiny screen found on the Apple Watch is replicated on the iPhone, so you can send your heart beat, an animated picture, or even draw and send cool effects to your friends.

Digital Touch, accessible by tapping the center button to the left of the text field, allows for a slew of gestures. To draw a sketch, move your finger around the input area, or to send taps, just tap the screen. To change colors, use the circular button to the left, located directly above the camera icon.

You can send a heart beat by holding down the display with two fingers, or a kiss by tapping your display with two fingers. You can also send a broken heart if you drag down the screen with two fingers, or a colorful fireball if you tap and hold your display with one finger.

To send a picture or video, complete with sketches, select the camera icon on the left and tap the record video or shutter release icon. Videos last for 10 seconds, and you can add your sketches once you’ve taken your shot. Afterward, simply tap the blue arrow to send your message.

Shortcuts and handy hints

Apple iOS 10 Beta 1

  • All digital media shared in iMessage — i.e. videos, pictures, or Digital Touch images — will disappear after two minutes, but there is a way to keep them. Just remember to tap the Keep icon next to the image before they’re gone forever.
  • When the menu screen replaces the keyboard, you can scroll through your apps by swiping left or right. It’s handy to know because the menu screen opens on the first app in your list. Scrolling saves you the from having to open the app menu again.
  • Sketching anything on a small screen is a challenge. If you tap the arrow icon in the bottom-right of the screen while sketching, however, you can open the window in full-screen mode. This makes it much easier to create a masterpiece.
  • To bring up the keyboard at any time, just tap in the text field.
  • Just like the old message app, you can record audio clips and send them instead of text. To do so, tap the microphone icon to the far right of the text field and hold it down to record.

Update: We’ve rephrased some of the steps for clarity and added a few links to let you know about the upcoming iOS 11 iMessage updates.