NEW YORK, Sept 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Apple and Google want to help you spend less time on their phones - really. Like that time you checked Facebook at 3 a.m. Stats don't lie.
Their new tools for managing screen time will let you see how often you picked up the phone after bedtime or how long you're on Instagram at work (shame on you). Apple's tools also let you control how long your kids spend on their devices, if you're concerned that screens are taking time away from sleep, homework or exercise.
Apple's tools launch Tuesday as part of the free iOS 12 software update for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch. Google's controls are being tested on its Pixel-branded Android phones.
Here's how the controls work:
FOR THE KIDS
Apple's new controls for kids let you manage their time on their own devices, such as an iPad or a hand-me-down iPhone. Once you've got them set up, you can use your iPhone to check when your children are on their devices and what apps or websites they're using. You can restrict particular classes of apps and even establish a quiet period when most apps shut down.
That latter "Downtime" feature is promising, though it has a few shortcomings. For one thing, it only lets you choose a single block of time during the day, so if you're blocking late-night hours, you can't set a separate downtime for school hours. Plus, your selection applies seven days a week; you can't set different hours for weekends unless you want to manually change the settings every Friday and Monday.
A new "Screen Time" feature lets you establish time limits for categories of apps, such as entertainment or games. In this case, limits can be different on weekends. You can also set limits app by app, or for specific websites, but it's tricky. From the Screen Time settings, tap the chart at the top to get a list of apps and websites. Tap on an app or site, and look for "Add Limit" at the bottom.
Songs or podcasts playing in the background don't count toward limits. If your kid has both an iPhone and an iPad, Screen Time can track time spent on both devices against your limits.
When apps run out of time, their icons go dark and the apps won't send notifications. You can exempt useful apps, such as e-books or homework sites - or messaging and phone service for emergencies - from the downtime limits.
It's best to configure all this from your own device using Apple's "Family Sharing" feature, although Apple will also let you set up limits directly on your children's devices. Either way, you'll need a passcode specifically for Screen Time. Be sure to pick one that's different from your phone's passcode, which your kids probably already know.
Kids can ask for more time with a few taps. If you ignore or decline the request, Screen Time isn't supposed to let them keep asking. But for the moment, kids can just reopen the app to bug you with another request. Get ready for a digital version of "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
Apple already had parental controls for blocking R-rated movies, adult websites and podcasts with explicit language, but the settings were buried. In iOS 12, they're part of Screen Time. You'll need to them on manually, or your kid can still watch R and NC-17 movies.
What you won't get from Apple is any help in determining what kinds of limits to set. In fact, the clock is initially set to zero, forcing parents to make choices right off the bat instead of working from default limits. Apple says recommendations among experts vary.
Ultimately, it's best to have a conversation with your kids about screen time. But having software block an app can be easier than pulling a device out of a child's hands.
FOR THE ADULTS
You can set the same limits for your own device, but it requires self-discipline. Want more Instagram? No problem - just tap for extra time. If you really need help, ask a friend or family member to set that Screen Time passcode and keep it secret.
Google has similar controls, called Digital Wellbeing, but they're intended for adults (among other things, there's no passcode, which limits their usefulness for setting limits on kids). This feature is currently only available on the company's own Pixel phones , although Google plans to make it more broadly available in a forthcoming Android update called Pie.
ALL ABOUT THE SCREEN
Another Android feature will let you leech the color from your screen after a certain hour. This option, called "Grayscale," turns everything monochrome, rendering apps - and, heck, the entire phone to some extent - less appealing, presumably making it easier to put the phone down. Apple has a similar setting, although it's buried in the Accessibility settings for disabled users.
Google and Apple features also let you turn your screen amber during designated times. That reduces blue light, which can suppress melatonin and make it tougher to go to sleep.
Ultimately, though, technological tweaks can only go so far in helping you resist technology's allure. It's just like your desire to exercise more, eat better or get more sleep: It comes down to priority and discipline. At most, these tools can nudge you in the right direction.
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 14, 2018 (News Wires) - September 2018 sees Google celebrate its 20th anniversary.
To mark the milestone, we'll be looking back at the early days of one of tech's biggest success stories with a selection of pictures from the firm's beginnings.
After briefly setting up in Palo Alto, Google later moved to 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in nearby Mountain View, to what would become, in time, the firm's immense Googleplex.
Almost 20 years later, the firm has offices in more than 160 cities in almost 60 countries worldwide and counts more than 80,000 members of staff.
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 8, 2018 (News Wires) - Google sent out invitations to an October 9 event at which it is expected to unveil new models of its Android-powered Pixel smartphones.
Invitations displayed little more than the internet titan’s logo along with the time and place of the event, set for a studio in New York.
The Silicon Valley-based company has a history of introducing new "Made by Google" smartphones in October, and there have been a flood of leaked photos and details about third-generation Pixel handsets heading for market.
The update to the Pixel line-up would also come on the heels of an Apple event next week that is likely to star new iPhone models.
Google took to making its own smartphones to showcase the capabilities of the Android operating system that it makes available free of charge to handset makers. Android smartphones have come to dominate the market.
Rumours buzzing include that Google plans to release new Pixel models and perhaps an updated Android-powered smartwatch to go with the handsets.
NEW YORK, Sept 8, 2018 (News Wires) - Google-owned YouTube will now allow users to pause their YouTube TV membership from four weeks to six months instead of outright cancelling it.
"You can cancel or pause your YouTube TV membership at any time. When you cancel or pause your membership, you'll still have access to YouTube TV until the end of your payment period," YouTube TV Help wrote in a post on Thursday. Users would be able to pause their memberships after their on-going billing cycle is completed.
"When your paused state ends, you will automatically be charged at your normal monthly price for a new month of service, and that date becomes your new billing date," the post added. During the pause-period, neither the user nor the shared members would have access to YouTube TV and no new programme would be recorded, however, the previously saved recordings would be saved until the end of the paused state.
Users would be allowed to un-pause and resume their membership at any time before the scheduled resume date and the date of resuming would be taken into consideration as the new billing date.
The subscription is priced at $40 per month and it comes with an accommodation of six accounts per household with personal logins, notifications and Cloud digital video recorder (DVR) with no storage limits. YouTube TV expanded its programming earlier this year, adding networks like CNN, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies and more.
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Twenty years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to organize all of the internet's information, the search engine they named Google has morphed into a dominating force in smartphones, online video, email, maps and much more.
That resounding success now has regulators and lawmakers around the world questioning whether the company has become too powerful as its ubiquitous services vacuum up sensitive information about billions of people hooked on its products.
Google's search engine remains entrenched as the internet's main gateway, and its digital advertising business is on pace to generate about $110 billion in revenue this year. Much of that revenue now flows through Google's Android operating system, which powers 80 per cent of the world's smartphones.
Google also runs the biggest video site in YouTube, the most popular web browser in Chrome, the top email service in Gmail and the maps that most people use to get around.
Not bad for a company that started 20 years ago Friday with an initial investment of $100,000. Google and its sibling companies operating under the umbrella of Alphabet Inc. are now worth $800 billion.
Although Google wouldn't comment for this story, the company has repeatedly pointed out that its mostly free products are so widely used because people like them.
Google's success often draws comparisons with Microsoft.
NEW YORK, Sept 7, 2018 (News Wires) - Google is toeing the line between helping you save time and creeping you out as it turns to machines to suggest email replies on your behalf.
The customized auto-responses come in the latest version of Gmail on the web and expand on a feature already available on Android devices and iPhones.
They’re just one more example of how artificial intelligence is seeping into everyday online life, whether it’s to tailor product recommendations or correct spelling.
So far the new feature has been drawing mixed responses from users.
The new feature, called Smart Reply, offers three short responses, like “It was great seeing you too,” or “I’ll look into it.”
Unlike standard auto-replies when on vacation, for instance, these are customized to an individual email based on its context.
If you select one, you can either send it immediately or else edit it before sending.
The responses are automatically created using Google’s artificial intelligence systems. Humans aren’t reading people’s emails, but machines are scanning them.
Although Google stopped scanning email to target advertising in 2017, it still scans them to filter out junk mail, identify phishing scams and, now, to create suggested replies. (Yahoo and AOL, both owned by Verizon, still scan email for advertising.)
Google’s suggestions draw on the text of your email. Google says it doesn’t analyze anything else, like attachments or photos, even though it scans them for security risks.
The analysis can include past conversations. For example, if someone says “Thanks!” more often than “Thanks,” with no exclamation point, the suggested response would likely reflect that.