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Apple has released a new app called Music Memos that lets you record basic songs on your iPhone, edit them a little, and then if you like, port them to GarageBand for heavy duty changes. It seems to be intended for sketching out song ideas -- particularly on acoustic guitar and piano -- when you're out and about, although the tools included and uncompressed, high-quality audio let you put together an impressive song just with the app itself, especially if you elect to connect an external mic.
Once you record the song, you can add in a virtual drummer and bassist which play along intelligently, speeding up or slowing down as appropriate. Hit the source for demos of this in action -- the result is surprisingly professional.
Android Central, finding performance issues across multiple phones, determined the Facebook app to be the primary culprit. Uninstalling it, it found the issues were "gone entirely". I've had issues myself on my Moto G recently so naturally I gave it a go, at which point I did indeed experience majorly improved performance.
You might be thinking, "Well that's no good to me -- I need my Facebook to live." Turns out the Facebook mobile website is pretty great, and if you access it via Chrome, you still get notifications. For the chat aspect, you can simply use the Messenger app only. There are some features hardcore users will miss, but most should be plenty satisfied.
As of today, the Starbucks app will now tell you what music is playing while you're in the store. Not only that, you can save the songs to Spotify playlists, "Love" songs to influence your Starbucks playlists, share the songs online, and play the songs on Spotify. And with Spotify itself, you can check out playlists curated by Starbucks, even if you're a Free user.
Currently, only US stores and US Spotify customers will be able to make use of this; we've asked Starbucks if and when the feature will make it to other parts of the world and will update this story if we hear back.
Some have reported Google has allowed you to install apps directly from its search results for about a month now, but as of about today, it looks like a wider roll-out of the new feature has taken place.
By directly we mean you click the install button (which already shows up for everyone), then instead of going to the Play Store, you are immediately prompted to install the app without having to leave your search.
It didn't work in our testing, but try it for yourself by simply searching for an app via Google and let us know what you find. If nothing new, sit tight: Google may well release the feature to everyone soon.
Google Maps has been updated to version 9.19. With it comes a new "Driving Mode" that predicts your destinations based on where you've been before and your web search history and provides traffic updates, gas prices, and ETAs as you go. To enable it, sign out of Maps, sign back in, then check the box for it on the Navigation Settings screen (if it's not checked already). You can also make sure it's disabled if you're concerned about privacy.
Note a separate shortcut is available for Driving Mode on the Android widgets screen. You can also access it through the sidebar menu (look for "Start driving") after clicking the standard Maps shortcut.
Other features in 9.19: various interface tweaks (including the return of the mute toggle) and location history timeline settings (pertaining to data collection, among other things).
Back in November, screen dimming, sleep-friendly software f.lux was given the boot off iOS by Apple. The app developer claimed this was due to a misunderstanding over direct install privileges; some speculated because it isn't a true open source download, it contains major security vulnerabilities.
Then this week, we learned Apple had built its own take on f.lux. Named "Night Shift", it will debut in iOS 9.3 this quarter. In response, f.lux has expressed it's happy Apple is joining the cause, but it still has interest in getting back on the operating system.
The slow rollout of Skype Translator began about 14 weeks ago following its creation nearly two years ago; now it's finally public for everyone.
Translator lets you converse with others who don't speak your language, translating what each of you says with text so you can both understand each other. This works with video or text chats, although far fewer languages are supported for video at the moment (more will come).
To try it out, bring up a conversation window in Skype and click the globe icon just below the call button. If you don't see it, click Help > Check for Updates in the same window.
The German Government has just released a free smartphone app in order to help refugees understand German society and culture while assisting them in applying for state-based assistance.
The app is named Ankommen and means Arrive, with the official website describing this product as "The guide for your first weeks in Germany." Set to be an all encompassing information application, this new product offers asylum seekers information on German customs and values, a simple language course, work and study information plus a help for an asylum seeker application, as explained by Gizmodo.
Developed by numerous government departments and Bayerischer Rundfunk, a radio and TV business, this app will also feature updates in order to keep newcomers informed on policy changes and other important pieces of information.
Apple had its biggest holiday season for the App Store to date, with a record-setting $1.1 billion in app sales from December 20 to January 3. January 1 was the biggest day of the bunch, with over $144 million in sales, ahead of the second biggest day: Christmas. Both of these days broke records unto themselves. Total year sales were over $20 billion, and total sales since the App Store launched in 2008 are $40 billion. In other words, this was an absolutely ridiculous year for Apple and app developers.
Gaming, Social Networking, and Entertainment were the most popular categories. Minecraft, Trivia Crack, Heads Up!, Clash of Clans, Monster Strike, and Game of War - Fire Age and Fantasy Westward Journey dominated games; Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Snapchat took over the social space, and Netflix, Hulu, and Match were at the top for Entertainment.
Plex is now free to use on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. When it launched in January, a Plex Pass subscription was required, but that's no longer the case after a recent update. If you don't know about Plex, it organizes your media collection and lets you play it on virtually any screen.
Other changes -- for PlayStation owners only -- include navigation improvements and some changes to button mapping, among other things.
Head here for the full PlayStation notes, and of course download or update the app via your console.