All posts in “iOS apps”

Zoosk relaunches dating app Lively as a way to meet new people while playing trivia games

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of trivia applications like HQ Trivia, dating app maker Zoosk has just released an experimental app that combines trivia with the potential for meeting someone new. The app is a relaunch and complete makeover of Zoosk’s Lively, which first debuted in July 2016 as a dating app that used video to tell stories, instead of static profile images.

The new version of Lively is nothing like its former namesake.

As Zoosk explains, the previous version of Lively’s group video chat app was fun, but people didn’t know how to connect and relate to one another using the video format. It felt awkward to start conversations, with no reason to be there besides wanting to date.

The company went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to think about what sort of experiences could bring people together. Trivia, naturally, came to mind.

Lively aims to reproduce the feeling that comes with competing at a bar trivia night. When you join, you’re placed in a group video chat team of two to four people. Together, the team works to answer a series of 12 questions while discussing the answers over video in real-time. When they finish the questions, they’ll be able to see how their scores compared with other teams.

The “dating” component to the app isn’t quite what you would expect. In fact, it’s less of a way to find a date for a night out, than it is to just make new friends. After the game wraps, you’ll have the option to continue chatting with the other players, if you choose. You can also add people as a friend, if you hit it off.

And when trivia isn’t in session – the games run twice daily at 3 PM and 7 PM PST – you can group video chat with others on Lively.

Because you’re not added to a team with nearby players, your ability to make friends who are also possible real-life dating prospects is decidedly limited. That’s something that Lively could change to support in time, if it’s able to grow its user base. But for now, it needs to match users with any live players in order to fill out its teams.

It’s understandable why it went this route, but it doesn’t lend itself well to meeting someone special – unless you’re open to meeting people anywhere (which some are), or are fine with just making new friends and seeing where that leads.

Unlike HQ Trivia, which features live streams with a host, Lively is just group video chat with a trivia component. That means it won’t be as challenging for Zoosk to operate, as it doesn’t have to worry with bandwidth issues and other costs of putting on a live game show. Also, because there are no prizes or payouts, you can join anytime during the 30-minute gaming session to be placed into a team and play along.

Lively is not the first app to support a group video chat interface where gameplay is an option. A number of video chat apps over the years have integrated games into their experience, including older apps like Tango or Google+ Hangouts, Line, and more recently, Facebook Messenger. But none have integrated games for the purpose of facilitating new relationships.

Zoosk today has 38 million members, but wanted to find a way to reach a younger demographic, which is why it originally launched Lively. The app was the first product to emerge from Zoosk’s in-house incubator, Zoosk Labs, where the company experiments with new ideas to expand its core business.

Whether or not Zoosk can turn trivia players into love connections remains to be seen, but it’s interesting how HQ Trivia’s success has led to this wider market full of knock-offs (e.g. Genius, Joyride, Cash Show, The Q, TopBuzz, Live Quiz,, Halftime Live!, Jam Music, etc.) and other tweaks that follow its idea of live trivia games.

Lively is available on iOS only for now.

Microsoft Pix can scan business cards to your contacts, find people on LinkedIn

LinkedIn used to have its own business card scanning app, CardMunch, which served a useful purpose in a world where paper cards simply refuse to die. But that app was shut down back in 2014, with LinkedIn suggesting users move to Evernote instead. Today, Microsoft is bringing back business card scanning – but this time, not with a dedicated card scanner app, but with its multipurpose, A.I.-powered camera app, Microsoft Pix.

Since its launch in 2016 as an iOS app that helps you take better pictures, Microsoft has increasingly found more productivity-related uses for Pix. In September, for example, the app was updated to include a way to snap better photos of documents, post-its, whiteboards, and yes, business cards.

But with today’s update, Pix’s business cards smarts are being upgraded – this time with a LinkedIn integration. In the latest version of the iOS app, Pix includes a new business card feature that will add new contacts both to your iPhone’s address book, as well as to your LinkedIn account.

To take advantage of this option, you just launch the app and point it at the business card. Pix then automatically detects what it’s seeing, and asks you if you want to “Add Contact” or “Find on LinkedIn.”

When you tap to add the contact, Pix captures and organizes the contact information – like name, phone, address, and URL – into the correct fields, and adds the newly created contact to your iPhone’s Contacts app. If you opt for LinkedIn, you’re able to view the person’s profile in the LinkedIn app on your iPhone, and optionally add them to your list of connections.

The business card scanning feature, like others in Pix, leverages A.I. technology under the hood to enhance and improve the image. In the case of business cards, Pix is able to detect the edges of the cards, sharpen focus, and tweak the angle of the photo to render the image in a straight-on perspective so it can extract the information from the card.

The Pix update is just one of several ways Microsoft has integrated with LinkedIn since acquiring the company for $26.2 billion in 2016. It has also tied LinkedIn into its other products, including Office 365,, Dynamics 365, Word, and Windows 10.

The updated version of Microsoft Pix is rolling out today. You may not have it yet, as it has to propagate across the App Store, so keep your eyes peeled.

Anchor’s new app offers everything you need to podcast

Broadcasting app Anchor, which helps anyone record and share audio, is relaunching its app today with a new focus on serving the larger podcaster community. While in the past, Anchor was carving out a niche for itself in the short-form, social audio space, the new version – Anchor 3.0 – aims to be everything you need to record, edit, host, publish, and distribute a podcast of any length, as well as track how well the podcast is performing.

The changes follow Anchor’s close of a $10 million Series A from Google Ventures and Accel last fall, and arrive at a time when interest in podcasts is continuing to grow. Half of U.S. homes are now podcast fans, Nielsen has said, and 22 percent consider themselves “avid” fans. In addition, the rise of smart speakers with voice assistants has made it more convenient to listen to audio recordings in the home, helping to boost adoption further.

Anchor’s general belief has been that anyone should be able to easily record and share audio without the need for special tools or technical know-how. The new product represents a doubling-down on that belief, as it aims to remove the many obstacles that would-be podcasters face, from hosting fees, to the needs for special editing software, and the lack of insight into how well podcasts are being received by listeners, among other things.

Though Anchor had been targeting short-form audio, professional podcasters began using its app in greater numbers last year to take advantage of several of its tools. This included Anchor videos, which turns audio into shareable, video clips (which will be re-added to the new app in a later release), as well as a “call-ins” feature which allows them to receive voice messages from listeners that could be later integrated into a new episode.

But most of all, they were using the one-touch podcast feature that lets anyone record and distribute audio with a tap of a button.

“That’s when the floodgates opened, and we saw all this interest around podcasting, specifically using Anchor tools,” explains Anchor CEO Mike Mignano.

He says the team then looked to see how they could better serve their podcaster user base, and found that it was still surprisingly hard to create a podcast today.

“It seemed crazy how difficult it was to make an actual podcast. There’s the expensive microphone you have to buy, the difficult software you have to manage on your computer and learn. And there’s the process of uploading and paying to host your audio files,” he says. There’s also dealing with the podcast’s RSS feed, which not everyone understands.

What’s New

The new app will now drop users straight into a podcast creation screen, with color-coded buttons for using Anchor’s various features in addition to the big, red “Record” button.

There are buttons for recording with friends; for call-ins (now called voice messages, meant for direct, private conversations); for adding music from Apple or Spotify; and for adding transitions from Anchor’s built-in library of sounds.

As you create and use these components, they appear as drag-and-drop modules in a visual editor on the screen, so you can move them around to create your podcast episode.

This all color-coded as well, as is a bar at the top of the screen showing the length of each audio piece you’ve assembled. And Anchor has dropped the 5-minute limit on recording your voice, too.

Anchor will also now host your podcasts for free, and allow you to easily import your back catalog if you want to make a switch from your current hosting provider. There are no limitations on who can use this feature.

“In 2018, this is just the way it should be – there shouldn’t be hosting fees holding people back from this,” says Mignano.

After you’ve finished your edit, you can push a button to publish the podcast for availability on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Overcast, Pocketcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Alexa devices, Google Assistant devices, Apple HomePod, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and, as of today, Spotify.

Also in the new app, and to a greater extent on the web, Anchor now offers podcast analytics which show things like plays per episode, total plays, downloads, and more. On the web, these are available as charts and graphs, and there’s a section showing which platforms listeners are coming from, too.

The web version offers a more advanced editor with the ability to upload audio files from your computer and re-use recordings from your Anchor history.

Of course, there is one concern for professional podcasters migrating to Anchor’s platform – and that’s whether it will be around in the long-term.

For now, the company isn’t generating revenue – it’s living off its funding. Podcasters who pay for hosting or self-host don’t generally have to worry with whether they’ll one day have to quickly migrate elsewhere because the company is shutting down or being acquired – and that’s always a concern with startups.

Mignano says Anchor’s plan is to eventually introduce monetization tools for podcasters, which will play a role in Anchor’s business model. (Specifics were not available, but Anchor would likely take a cut of the revenue it helped to generate, as is standard.) This seems like a good bet, especially considering how popular the format has become.

Several big names are launching on Anchor 3.0.

This list includes: Reshma Saujani & Girls Who Code, BuzzFeed, Relay FM, Penguin Random House author Alison Green, Tiffany Zhong and Zebra Intelligence, Seeker, Fatherly, Eniac Ventures, Abby Norman, The Outline, Cheddar, The Players Tribune, and Atlantic Records.

Along with hosting, every podcaster gets their own custom URL for their show, which includes buttons to subscribe anywhere its hosted – like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, etc.

Partners, and other Anchor broadcasters, will continue to see their work featured within the app, as before, but in a redesigned “browse” section that has more of an iTunes-like look-and-feel.

Anchor 3.0 is rolling out to iOS and Android, and on the web, starting today.

The NYT debuts its first augmented reality-enhanced story on iOS

Apple’s investment in AR technologies has been ushering in a new wave of apps, from those that let you perform more practical tasks – like visualizing furniture placement in rooms – to those with mass consumer appeal – like AR gaming, including Niantic’s upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. But AR can also be used to create unique experiences within more traditional apps, too, as The New York Times is showcasing with today’s launch of its first-ever AR experiment for storytelling.

In The NYT’s iOS app for iPhone and iPad, the company is debuting its first AR-enabled article, offering a preview of the Winter Olympics.

The article focuses on top Olympic athletes, including figure skater Nathan Chen, snowboarder Anna Gasser, short track speed skater J.R. Celski, and hockey goalie Alex Rigsby.

In the app, NYT readers can view the athletes appear in the room beside them, zoom in and out, and walk around in 360 degrees to see them from every side.

This lets you get up close and personal with the Olympians, where you’re able to see things like how high Chen’s skates are off the ice when performing a jump, the offset of Celski’s skates, or how far open Alex Rigsby’s glove is when making a save.

iOS users who want to try the AR experience will need to have the latest version of the NYT iOS app, the latest version of iOS, and an iPhone SE, an iPhone 6S or newer, a fifth-generation iPad or an iPad Pro.

To get started, you’ll need to give the app access to your iPhone or iPad’s camera, when requested, then point your phone at some non-reflective surface, like the floor in the room, for example. When you see the image, you can tap to place it into position, then walk up to it and around it. You can even bend down and look up at the image, too.

The overall experience is sponsored by Olympic Official Outfitter Ralph Lauren, and it also includes a Ralph Lauren AR advertisement.

The ad gets you up close with the athletes, as well, but instead of showcasing their abilities, it focuses on their clothing. In it, ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani appear in AR, modeling the official Ralph Lauren Team USA Opening Ceremony Parade uniforms.

T Brand Studio worked with Ralph Lauren on the ad’s creative design and concept, and the ad itself was then produced by NYT experiential design agency Fake Love. The ad appears further down in the AR-enhanced article, but is also available in The Times news feed.

This is the first time an advertiser has offered an AR ad experience in The NYT app for iOS, the company says.

Editorial production for the AR piece as a whole was done in-house, including the platform side development. The team is currently using Apple’s ARKit, but says that it’s working to develop similar AR experiences for Android users.

Google’s ARCore technology is still in developer preview, but The NYT expects to offer AR in its Android Newsreader app shortly after ARCore publicly launches.

The NYT regularly tests out new technologies for use in storytelling, including things like VR and 360-degree video; it was only a matter of time until it added AR to that lineup, too.

“The Times has been among the most innovative digital storytellers for many years. On desktop, mobile, in our exploration of data visualization and other forms of visual journalism, including virtual reality, we’ve been committed to creating the most compelling and vibrant report possible, and this experiment in AR is a part of that,” said Steve Duenes, NYT’s assistant masthead editor, in a statement.

“The Times covers today’s most compelling news events from around the world. And now, our readers can get closer to these stories and subjects, from a possible border wall to a figure skater’s quadruple jump. They can take in the size, shape and details of the objects at the center of our coverage,” he added.

The NYT told us the reference to a “possible border wall” is meant to offer an example of where AR could enhance a reader’s understanding of the story, by displaying an object in three-dimensions, where scale matters, and were human interaction – like walking up to the wall – could give you a better idea of what it’s really like.

However, the company hasn’t yet committed to building out an AR “border wall” as of yet. It says it’s still planning out its editorial calendar for AR for now.

Yahoo Finance launches social savings app Tanda, an alternative to credit cards

Yahoo Finance today launched a new app called Tanda that allows small groups of either five or nine people to save money together for short-term goals. The app uses the concept of a “money pool” – that is, everyone participating in one Tanda’s collaborative savings circles will pay a fixed amount to the group’s savings pot every month. And every month, one member gets to take home the full pot.

But Tanda is not a gambling app. That is, users are not contributing in the hopes of “winning” the pot of money – everyone in the savings circle gets a chance to take home the full pot at some point.

The app is based on the age-old “rotating savings and credit associations” (ROSCA) concept, which pushes people to save through the use of collective pressure.

In other words, while it’s true that you could just set aside a set a fixed amount of money on your own, Tanda’s makes saving a more collaborative and social construct.

The other difference between saving in Tanda and saving on your own is how the app handles payouts. The first two people to receive their money pay a fee, but the last payout position receives a 2 percent cash bonus. This rewards users who are willing to wait to receive their turn at the pot, though some will want higher positions in order to get the large payout sooner.

A higher position is obviously more desirable if you have a more immediate need for the funds – like buying books for school or replacing a dead laptop, for example. Of course, you still have to pay into Tanda to take money out, so it’s not a direct replacement for a credit card. But, with some planning, it could used as an alternative to charging larger purchases.

As a user participates in Tanda by making contributions, their “Tanda score” increases. With higher scores, the user gains access to higher value savings circles and earlier payout positions. These savings circles can reach up to $2,000.

And if someone drops out, Tanda will step in to cover their positions.

Tanda is also working with its partner Dwolla to vet users before they can begin saving, the company says.

Yahoo explains that the app is designed to help individuals achieve their financial goals without racking up more debt.

The company hopes this will allow Tanda to attract a millennial audience, which is already drawn to social apps in the finance space, like Venmo. In addition, this younger demographic is facing a variety of financial struggles, like higher costs of living, difficulties in finding work, and they often struggle to save on their own.

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The app is being released under the Yahoo Finance brand.

Yahoo, like (disclosure!) TechCrunch parent company AOL, combined to form Oath, which is now owned by Verizon. But Yahoo continues to maintain its own app store presence through apps like Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Newsroom, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Fantasy Football, Yahoo Mail, and many others.

Tanda is available today in both English and Spanish on Android, and will arrive on iOS within the next few days.