Movies Anywhere expands its reach with the addition of FandangoNow

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While streaming services and digital rentals make it easy to watch all the movies you want without actually buying anything, there are still film buffs who prefer to own their favorite movies, whether via digital download or physical media like Blu-ray. With so many different services that let you buy films, it can be tough to keep track of what you bought where, and where you can play it. Movies Anywhere aims to solve this problem by sharing films purchased via multiple services, and with the addition of FandangoNow, users have even more freedom of choice.

Movies Anywhere allows purchases from select studios made through Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and now FandangoNow to be watched via the Movies Anywhere app, including movies you have previously purchased via these services. Studios that support the service are currently Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Studios (encompassing Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm), 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures (including DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment) and Warner Bros. The service’s library offers access to nearly 7,500 films, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is available for digital purchase beginning Tuesday, March 13, two weeks before its Blu-ray release on March 27.

By connecting your accounts for each of these services, you will be able to watch your purchased films from any of the aforementioned studios on the Movies Anywhere app at any time. This also applies to physical purchases: Blu-ray and UHD Blu-rays from the involved studios often include a digital download code, and while you could just download the file, registering it with one of the above services makes for a more portable experience. As more studios join Movies Anywhere, you may even find the codes included with older purchases are now compatible with the service.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the concept has been done before with Ultraviolet, which offers similar functionality. Many major studios support Ultraviolet, but one longtime holdout was Disney, which spurned the service in favor of developing its own service in Movies Anywhere. While the service did well enough when it was Disney-only, the addition of other studios is seeing more customers using the service.

Movies Anywhere is supported on Amazon Fire devices, Android and Android TV devices, Chromecast, iOS, Roku devices and popular browsers. For more information, see the Movies Anywhere website.

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TaskRabbit will now assemble your Ikea furniture on your behalf

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It’s been nearly six months since Ikea, the company behind affordable furniture that looks deceptively easy to assemble, acquired TaskRabbit, the company that sends folks to help you do things that you don’t want to do. Now, in what can only be called the best use of an acquisition ever, Ikea will start assisting you in your fool’s errand of putting together its furniture. Meet the new Ikea Assembly and Mounting Services, powered by TaskRabbit. It’s now available in certain markets where TaskRabbit is active, as well as in six stores in New York and San Francisco.

The service looks to be quite straightforward. A Tasker (someone who works for TaskRabbit) will come to your home and help you set up your Swedish furniture with as little as 24 hours notice. Simply select the day and time of your choosing, and someone with a bit more technical know-how (or more patience) than you may have will show up at your doorstep, ready to turn those seemingly arbitrary boards and screws into a bed, bookshelf, or anything in between.

How much will you pay for this convenience? Ikea notes that prices will start at $36, and will be based upon a flat rate per time of an item. That said, there are some appliances that won’t be eligible for this service, notably those that go in the kitchen and bathroom. But don’t worry, you will be notified ahead of time if you purchase an item that a Tasker can’t help you with — the U.S. website has been updated to display whether or not at-home assembly options are available based on your specific location.

“We are always looking at ways we can innovate and help make our customers lives at home easier,” Jackie DeChamps, Ikea U.S. chief operating officer, said in a statement about the service’s launch. “We are excited to participate in the on-demand, sharing economy and give our customers access to a flexible, convenient and affordable service solution with the new TaskRabbit At-Home Assembly service.”

So if you have been putting off buying new furniture because you don’t want to deal with the hassle of actually putting it together, destiny is calling.

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T-Mobile will soon add support for the RCS Universal Profile

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RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is on the rise. Not only is the service growing, but it’s getting better too — and T-Mobile wants to lead the charge in the U.S. On Tuesday, March 13, the company announced it will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, a new RCS industry standard. The support will roll out to customers in a software update in the second quarter of 2018.

RCS is aimed at essentially replacing the aging Short Message Service (SMS) standard. It allows for a whole slew of extra features. For example, it supports things like read receipts, the sharing of location, high-resolution images, videos, audio, and more. It also is much better at handling group messages than SMS, and can even allow for video calling. In other words, when RCS becomes a reality around the nation, you will be able to treat it like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or WeChat.

RCS Universal Profile adds a few new features to T-Mobile’s flavor of RCS, but perhaps more important than that is that it will work with other carriers who have also adopted Universal Profile. Not all carriers adopted the same standard of RCS, largely because they adopted RCS before a universal, agreed-upon standard was released. RCS Universal Profile was released in 2016 after T-Mobile began supporting RCS.

T-Mobile first launched RCS as part of its network in 2015 and now every Android phone the company sells supports it. According to the company, more than 30 million T-Mobile customers send more than 250 million RCS messages per day on the network. That might include you — it would be easy to miss that you’re using a new standard. You will still open the messaging app to send a message, type it out, and hit send. Over time, however, you will start noticing that your messaging app can simply do more. RCS may also present itself as a new way for businesses to interact with customers.

Of course, there are some compatibility issues. You might be a T-Mobile customer with an RCS-capable phone, but that doesn’t mean the recipient of the message is. Ideally, all carriers and all phones will soon support RCS, which means it will just become a fact of technology — and SMS can fade into oblivion.

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White House reportedly seeks tariffs of $60 billion on Chinese technology goods

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The White House’s battle against imported goods rages on. Reuters has just reported that the Trump administration is looking into imposing heavy tariffs on as much as $60 billion worth of Chinese goods. While the new tariffs would largely target technology, according to Reuters, they won’t be limited to technology and telecommunications equipment.

The White House apparently rejected a proposal for tariffs on $30 billion of Chinese goods in favor of the stronger tariffs, and according to Politico, the request for the higher amount sent key agencies “scrambling” to finalize their proposal. Politico reports that in addition to tech, the tariffs will also target furniture and toys. They will be officially announced in the coming weeks, and are expected to include more than 100 Chinese products.

In particular, the tariffs will be aimed at tech products that are subject to intellectual property theft — an issue that has long plagued the relationship between the U.S. and China.

According to Reuters, China currently runs a $375 billion trade surplus with the U.S. — a figure that the current U.S. administration has pressed the Chinese government to try to reduce. The tariffs could also prove to have some serious consequences for U.S. exporters. For example, many U.S. farmers rely on the Chinese market for the sale of things like soybeans, pork, and so on.

The White House has also been exploring a way to limit Chinese investments, though the plans for those limitations have yet to be finalized. In particular, the U.S. objects to Chinese investment rules in which companies based in the U.S. have to transfer technology to do business in China.

The current administration has long promised to institute an “America First” trade policy. In the past few days, President Donald Trump blocked Broadcom, a Singapore-based company, from continuing to pursue a takeover of the U.S.-based Qualcomm, citing national security concerns as the main reason to block the deal. The deal would have been the biggest involving technology ever.

The new tariffs also come only a few weeks after the White House imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, a move that has angered allies of the U.S.

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Fitbit Ace is a basic fitness tracker to keep your kids active

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In addition to the Fitbit Versa, the company also introduced the Fitbit Ace — for children between ages eight to 13. Kids are able to track activity while also providing parents with an overview of what they’re up to.

Modeled after the Fitbit Alta, the Ace comes in two different colors — Power Purple and Electric Blue. By glancing at the display, users can easily read both their steps and statistics. The wristband is also designed for growing kids, allowing them to adjust it whenever it starts to feel too tight.

In terms of features, the Fitbit Ace can track steps, how long kids are active each day, and how long they’re sleeping. If kids hit their goals, they’ll receive celebratory messages as well as achievement badges. But unlike other children’s wearables, the Ace doesn’t have any GPS capabilities so it won’t track children’s exact location.

Kids are able to set their own daily goals and active minutes for the Ace to track each day. They can also compete in step challenges with other family members, and send each other messages or cheers. Parents can also turn on Reminders to Move, which will send kids friendly on-screen messages to encourage them to stay active throughout the day.

All of the information can be viewed through the Fitbit app, which syncs wirelessly to iOS and Android devices. Parents will have to set up a family account, along with an account for their child. Through ‘Parent’s View,’ parents have an in-depth view of their child’s activity while Kid’s view is more restricted. It allows children to see their stats, badges, and more, but can be turned on and off by the parent.

But Fitbit also made sure the information kids had access to wasn’t going to impact them negatively. So, statistics like body fat percentage or calorie count won’t be accessible for them to see.

When it comes to battery life, the Ace should be able to last kids up to five days but this could vary depending on use. Since it’s showerproof, both parents and kids won’t have to worry about ruining it when there’s a spill. There are also 10 clock face designs to choose from which show goal progress, date, and time, among other information.

The Fitbit Ace is currently available for pre-order on Fitbit’s site, and will cost $100.

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Amazon is recalling 260,000 AmazonBasics power banks after reports of burns

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If you recently bought an AmazonBasics external battery, you may want to send it back. Amazon has announced that in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it’s issuing a voluntary recall of six models of the AmazonBasics Portable Power Banks. The news was first picked up by The Verge.

Included in the recall are the 16,100mAh, 10,000mAh, 5,600mAh, 3,000mAh, 2,000mAh with Micro USB cable, and 3,000mAh with Micro USB cable models. Amazon says it will be sending out emails to all customers that bought affected models, and will recommend to those customers that they immediately stop using the power banks. Customers will also get a link to return the product and get a refund. The devices were sold between December 2014 and July 2017

According to the U.S. CPSC, around 260,000 units are affected by the recall, which isn’t small. Of the 260,000 people that bought, Amazon received 53 reports of overheating, including one instance of chemical burns and four reports of property damage.

While Amazon’s name is on the power banks, they’re not actually built by Amazon — just branded as such. Instead, they’re built in China by a company called Guoguang Electric Company Ltd. According to a report from Gizmodo, it’s possible that Guoguang Electric may also be involved in building products for the likes of Bose and Harman — though that hasn’t really been confirmed.

If you have an AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank and did not receive an email, Amazon is urging you to head to the recall site, where you can get more information about the recall and register for a refund.

Power banks are a great way to ensure that you have enough battery to last you through the day, and they’re getting better and better. They now offer a ton of extra juice, not only for a smartphone, but also for other devices. Some even have an AC power outlet, meaning you can use them to charge devices like a computer.

AmazonBasics products are known for being decent quality, but inexpensive and, as the name suggests, basic. While you won’t get any fancy features, you will get the product at a reasonably price, and usually it will be reliable. Of course, as the recall proves, cheap manufacturing means that reliability can’t be 100 percent guaranteed all the time.

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Google Assistant multi-step routines are now live in the U.S.

Google Assistant is about to start doing more without quite as much talking on your part. Long-awaited multi-step routines are just today starting to roll out to users in the U.S., as first spotted by Android Police.

In the case of “Good Morning,” which seems to be the first of the multi-step routines to go live, you can get Assistant to do stuff like turn on your lights, tell you about your calendar or the weather and traffic, and then pop on some tunes or a podcast all with a single command.

Google will be starting with six specific routines according to the company’s support page on the topic, with “Good morning,” “Bedtime,” “Leaving home,” “I’m home,” “Commuting to work” and “Commuting home” being the phrases you’ll get to stylize. It sounds like the rest of these commands will be available in the coming days. It is very peculiar that certain options are only available for certain phrases; you would imagine that they’d build the pipeline in a more customizable manner.

These routines will also change depending on who’s talking to the Google Home, so if you have loaded your profile it will give calendar alerts specific to your account.

I’ve been pretty pumped about this — home assistants are at their worst when you get home and have to rattle off two or three different commands to get your stuff turned on. Stringing commands together reliably would be awesome, but having a few generic catch-alls is a good place to start that takes care of a lot of the use cases.

Alexa has notably already had this feature for a few months, and their app is a bit more fleshed out in this regard. Still waiting on this feature for HomePod though.

How to connect your phone to an Xbox One with the Xbox app

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Microsoft’s dedicated Xbox smartphone app is a great way for players to stay engaged with their gaming friends while on the go.

Like Sony’s PlayStation app, the Xbox app allows users to purchase games, share content, view their achievements, and send updates to their followers on Xbox Live. It also provides additional tools for viewing achievements, controlling movie playback, and accessing social elements such as profiles and messaging, all of which is much more convenient than logging onto your console or PC to do the same thing.

All it takes to gain complete control over your Xbox experience is a little bit of patience. The process for pairing your devices is now easier than ever, so read on for our quick-hit guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One on Android and iOS.

Step 1: Download the Xbox app


Before downloading the Xbox app for iOS or Android, you’ll want to update your smartphone or tablet to the latest version of its respective operating system. Users of iOS need version 9.0 or higher to run the app. Microsoft recommends Android users have version 4.0 or higher. Once updated, head over to either iTunes or the Google Play Store and enter “Xbox” in the search field to locate the app.

Tap the Install button to begin downloading the app to your smartphone or tablet, and launch it once it’s installed. Then sign into your Xbox account when prompted.

Download for:

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Step 2: Connect to your network


To sync your Xbox One and your phone, both devices must be online. To check your network on the Xbox One, go to the Settings menu, then select Network, and finally “Network Settings.” On your smartphone, go to the network/Wi-Fi menu in your device’s system preferences or settings. If your Xbox One is not connected, select Set up wireless network, choose your desired network, and enter the respective password if prompted. Both devices must be within range of your network to connect.

Certain features, like using your phone as a remote control for the Xbox One, require both your Xbox One and phone to be connected on the same Wi-Fi network. Others, such as checking your achievements and activity feed, work as long as both devices are connected to any internet connection.

Step 3: Sync your smartphone with your console


While using the Xbox app, tap the three horizontal bars in the upper-left corner to bring up the main menu. From here, you can access most features, but for now, just tap Console. After a second, a Connect to your Xbox One option should appear near the top of the screen.

Tapping that should bring up a list of available Xbox consoles that you can connect to. Assuming yours is the only one on the list, tap the icon — labeled Xbox-SystemOS, unless you’ve renamed it– and then Turn on. Voila! Your smartphone and your Xbox are now soulmates. You should now be able to use your smartphone as a controller and keyboard, though this functionality is limited to the Xbox OS. There’s currently no in-game, second-screen integration.

Step 4: Use the app


Connecting is easy, but learning how to use the Xbox app takes a little time and understanding. Again, tapping the three horizontal bars in the upper-left corner of the app will bring up the menu, which allows you to view your profile and achievements, as well as your recorded clips and screenshots, and access the Xbox Store, among other things. Tapping your avatar icon will bring up your friends list, while the icons next to it control messages and notifications, respectively. A new icon, represented by three avatars, even allows you to start a party chat while on the go.

Updated with terminology to reflect new version of Xbox app, added information on party chat.

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EasyEmail is autocomplete for Gmail

Despite wave after wave of startups vowing to kill email, electronic mail has never been stronger. It seems the best way to live with emails is to let AI steal the job of writing them.

EasyEmail, emerging from Y Combinator’s latest batch, is aiming to get inside your inbox and help you navigate future messages using the past as a guide with an autocomplete-like feature.

After downloading the Chrome plugin, the service spends 10-20 minutes pouring through your sent messages and building up a good idea of how you write emails. From there, the service lounges in your “compose message” window bringing the insights of autocomplete to the body of your message. The interface can get a little crowded and the utility takes some effort curating responses early on which you can actively delete from future suggestions.

Compared to the predictive text features on your phone which may complete a word or two, EasyEmail is ambitiously trying to complete your sentences based on how you usually complete your sentences in emails.

Your mileage with the plugin will depend strongly on what you use it for. In its earliest iteration the app seems most useful to those trapped in sending a lot of monotonous messages. If you’re working in something like sales or PR where you’re making the same pitch over and over again and dealing with a lot of the same questions, I can imagine the time saved is a lot more palpable. For me, the plugin was surfacing a lot of nonsense for the sake of quantity over quality, clearly communicating that there’s still a long way to go in improving the plugin’s smarts.

What may be more useful to a broader base of users is how the plugin lets users define hotkeys and bring up oft copy-pasted bio info or links into the body of their emails without the pain of searching for the info over and over again.

Co-founder Filip Twarowski tells TechCrunch that the next step here is finding how you respond to certain people and catering responses so that suggestions are more casual with acquaintances and more formal with people that might be managers or work associates.

EasyEmail has a great deal of promise as a tool and is clearly tackling some big challenges. Depending on how you use it, the plugin is a lightweight add-on that could save you a load of time navigating the minutiae of sending tons of emails.

Despite previous claims, MoviePass CEO says the company isn’t tracking users

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MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe caused significant concern among privacy-conscious customers last week when he boasted about how much data the company had on its users while speaking at an industry event. In an attempt to minimize the backlash, the company issued an update to its iOS app that it said “removed unused app location capability.” Now the CEO is saying that he misspoke.

“I said something completely inaccurate as far as what we are doing,” Lowe told Variety. “We only locate customers when they use the app.” The CEO also posted a letter to customers apologizing for the confusion his remarks caused.

Lowe is referring to what he said in a keynote titled, “Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?” in which he began to talk about just how much data MoviePass has on its customers. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” Lowe said. “We watch where you go afterwards.”

The CEO said that the company’s reasoning was to help its service provide a full night out the movies. Presumably, data about where customers are coming from or going to after the movies could be used to help offer dinner recommendations or provide customers with ideas for where they might want to go when a film is over.

Now, Lowe is adamant that he was mistaken when he made the above comments. “If you get in your car and drive five miles, we don’t know where you are or where you are going,” he said. The MoviePass app checks users’ locations in two use cases: When they’re looking for a theater in their area that participates in the MoviePass service, and when they check into a theater. At least, that is the case now that the other location capabilities have been removed.

Lowe says that the company hasn’t ruled out using location data in other situations to create the “night at the movies” he mentioned in his keynote, which could include special offers from nearby restaurants. If this happens, however, the CEO says that each customer will be able to individually opt in or out. Lowe also insists that while the app did have the ability to track users’ locations at all times, it was never turned on, and that personal information about users is never shared with the company’s partners.

MoviePass launched at a somewhat pricey $50 per month, but cut its pricing to $10 per month over the summer. The service is proving popular with moviegoers, having recently passed 2 million subscribers. It’s accepted at more than 91 percent of theaters in the U.S., though some major chains like AMC Theaters don’t participate.

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