Google Play now makes it easier to manage your subscriptions

Mobile app subscriptions are a big business, but consumers sometimes hesitate to sign up because pausing and cancelling existing subscriptions hasn’t been as easy as opting in. Google is now addressing those concerns with the official launch of its subscription center for Android users. The new feature centralizes all your Google Play subscriptions, and offers a way for you to find others you might like to try. The feature was first introduced at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, and recently rolled out to Android users, the company says. However, Google hadn’t formally announced its arrival until today. Access to the subscriptions center only takes one tap – the link is directly available from the “hamburger” menu in the Play Store app. Apple’s page for subscription management, by comparison, is far more tucked away. On iOS, you have to tap on your profile icon in the App Store app, then tap on your name. This already seem unintuitive – especially considering that a link to “Purchases” is on this Account screen. Why wouldn’t Subscriptions be here, too? But instead, you have to go to the next screen, then scroll down to near the bottom to find “Subscriptions” and tap that. To turn any individual subscription off, you have to go to its own page, scroll to the bottom and tap “Cancel.” This process should be more streamlined for iOS users. In Google Play’s Subscriptions center, you can view all your existing subscriptions, cancel them, renew them, or even restore those you had previously cancelled – perfect for turning HBO NOW back on when “Game of Thrones” returns, for example. You can also manage and update your payment methods, and set up a backup method. Making it just as easy for consumers to get out of their subscriptions as it is to sign up is a good business practice, and could boost subscription sign-ups overall, which benefits developers. When consumers aren’t afraid they’ll forget or not be able to find the cancellation options later on, they’re more likely to give subscriptions a try. In addition, developers can now create deep links to their subscriptions which they can distribute across the web, email, and social media. This makes it easier to direct people to their app’s subscription management page directly. When users cancel, developers can also trigger a survey to find out why – and possibly tweak their product offerings a result of this user feedback. There’s also a new subscription discovery section that will help Android users find subscription-based apps through both curated and localized collections, Google notes. These additional features, along with a good handful of subscription management tools for developers, were all previously announced at I/O but weren’t in their final state at the time. Google had cautioned that it may tweak the look-and-feel of the product between the developer event and the public launch, but it looks the same as what was shown before – right down to the demo subscription apps. Subscriptions are rapidly becoming a top way for developers to generate revenue for their applications. Google says subscribers are growing at more than 80 percent year-over-year. Sensor Tower also reported that app revenue grew 35 percent to $60 billion in 2017, in part thanks to the growth in subscriptions.

Full Android to Arrive in Cars Within 2 Years

Google wants automakers to install a full copy of the Android OS—not just Android Auto—in their cars to control windows, air conditioning, and more.

This DIY smart mirror is small, stunning and full of features

Several years ago Google X engineer Max Braun published a medium post on a smart mirror he made and now he’s back with a new version that’s smaller and smarter. This is a smart mirror I can get behind though I still find smart mirrors completely frivolous. He published his project on Medium where he explains the process and the parts a person would need to build their own. This isn’t a project for everyone, but Max gives enough instructions that most enterprising builders should be able to hack something similar together. I recently reviewed a smart mirror and found it a bit silly but still useful. Ideally, like in Max’s smart mirrors, the software is passive and always available. Users shouldn’t have to think about interacting with the devices; the right information should be displayed automatically. It’s a balancing act. At this point, smart mirrors are little more than Android tablets placed behind a two-way mirror. Retail models are expensive to be buy and hardly worth it since a person’s phone or voice assistant can probably provide the same information. After all, how many devices does a person really need to tell them the weather forecast?

LIV is Kickstarting a beefy and bold chronograph for race lovers

LIV Watches is a crowdfunding darling with a number of Kickstarted watches under its belt. Now it’s offering a unique set of watches to backers, including the Liv Genesis GX-AC, an automatic chronograph with date. The watch runs a Sellita Caliber SW500, visible through the see-through back, and features a screw down crown and massive metal pushers. The company prides itself on the size of its watches and this piece is no exception. The GX-AC isn’t wildly big – at 46mm it’s just a bit bigger than most Android Wear watches – and it fits nicely thanks to a rounded rubber band that hugs the top and bottom of the case. There is a small running seconds hand at nine-o’clock and registers for minutes and hours at noon and six. [gallery ids="1654222,1654220,1654219,1654218,1654217"] If you’ve seen automatic chronographs before you know what you’re in for – a standard movement encased in a special steel case that is designed to appeal to a certain demographic. LIV is also Kickstarting a number of other watches, including a Day-Date chronograph that is flight-inspired and a diver, so check them out. However, if you’re into this piece then you’re in for a treat. It starts at $790, far below most mechanical chronographs I’ve seen, and the workmanship and quality of this piece is quite nice. I wore it a little over the past few weeks and found it very comfortable and easy to read. The running seconds hand is a bit small and the lume is limited to the pips and hands but as a fashion/everyday wear piece it’s excellent. If you particularly like the style – F1 racing meets Kylo Ren – then you’re probably going to like this thing and since they’ve already surpassed their goal and hit $602,000 you can expect delivery of your perk. Again, watches like this one require a specific style and taste. The LIV is reminiscent of Alpina and Tissot in its case style and decoration and it pays homage to racing and speed. Grabbing a Swiss made watch for under $1,000 is a treat and this is a good example of the species and well worth a look.

Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over “forced consent”

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four complaints relating to (certain) companies’ ‘take it or leave it’ stance when it comes to consent. The complaints have been filed on behalf of (unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android. Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of “forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service. (And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting.) “It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Schrems writes in a statement. “Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent,” he adds. “In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process.” We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. The European privacy campaigner most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb (aka ‘none of your business’). As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation allowing for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights in an important one, with the potential to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organizations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights. That said, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member States can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection agencies in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record defending privacy rights. Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection agency will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation for defending data protection rights. But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint concerns and where a service crosses borders — so noyb’s action looks intended to test this element of the new framework too. Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract fines as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, implies they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue. That said, given how freshly fixed in place the rules are, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards. However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud. “We probably will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally violated the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR,” writes Schrems. Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new consent flow. “We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said Zuckerberg. He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new consent flow Facebook revealed ahead of GDPR only offers the ‘choice’ of quitting Facebook entirely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a choice given how powerful the network is. (Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data.) Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change — “because giving people control of how their data is used has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning”. “The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past,” he claimed. “I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to put a bunch of work into into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things. “In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build committee a lot of philosophy that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve thought about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and implement but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we’ve thought about this stuff.” Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail. So EU regulators are essentially facing a first test of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image. Privacy laws are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard. Schrems also makes the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm ‘take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to use to extract consent on account of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s a competition concern that GDPR should also help to redress. “The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent,” he writes. “This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small businesses.” Image credit: noyb.eu

Is Android Popsicle next?

Barring any sort of major shakeup at Google’s mobile division, there are two things we know for sure about the next Android’s name: it will start with the letter “P” and it will be a dessert food. That already narrows things down quite a bit — you’ve got pudding, pecan pie, peanut brittle… Then, of course, there’s Popsicle — a fact the company might well be alluding to in its new Spring Wallpaper Collection. 9to5Google noted a colorful array of frozen confections in amongst the selections. Granted, it’s not thematically too far from the rest of the outdoor, sunshine-themed offerings. Google’s never shied away from such cheeky suggestions — and it’s certainly teased us before, including in the lead up to Oreo. Though that could just as easily mean it’s a bit of a red herring — remember Android Pocky? It’s worth noting that Popsicle is, in fact, still a trademarked name — like Kleenex and Xerox and Frisbee. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Google in the past. See such recent examples as Kit-Kat and Oreo. And while Popsicle-owner Unilever has flexed its muscles maintaining its ownership of the name, it’s hard to imagine a better/cheaper promotion than stamping your name across the latest build of the world’s most popular mobile operating system. There is, of course, the issue of the fact that the Popsicle name isn’t as globally synonymous with the ice pop as it is here in the States. You may know it, perhaps, as an ice lolly, ice block or ice drop, depending on where you happen to be reading this. Whatever the case, Google’s probably just happy that we’re talking about it at all.

Google quits selling tablets

Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the “tablets” heading from its Android page. Perhaps it hoped that no one would notice on a Friday and by Monday it would be old news, but Android Police caught them in the act. It was there yesterday, but it’s gone today. We (well, Romain) called tablets dead in 2016, which was probably a little premature, since over 160 million of them shipped last year — but even so, it’s not much of a life they’re living. Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They’ve also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that the company is bowing out. Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. I, for one, have been using the 3rd-gen (1st Retina) iPad since its release approximately 500 years ago and have never felt any compulsion whatsoever to get a new one. What happened to tablet sales? Cheap Kindle tablets from Amazon have proliferated somewhat, presumably as distractions for kids who would otherwise get fingerprints all over mom’s new phone, or for ultra-compact time-wasting on airplanes. Google’s exit doesn’t mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They’ll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon, and a couple others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn’t selling them, it probably isn’t prioritizing them as far as features and support. Fortunately tablets aren’t subject to quite the same feature mania as smartphones, so it won’t really matter if your new Galaxy Tab or what have you doesn’t do all the cool new Google Assistant things. It plays a few games, stores your Pocket articles, and lets you watch Netflix in coach. Something cheap along those lines will always be available, but Google’s done with that whole scene. I’ve reached out to Google for comment and will update if I hear back.

The End Is Near for Google’s Blob Emoji

Redesigned emojis that more closely resemble the circular smily faces you're used to will launch with the Android O operating system.

Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over ‘forced consent’

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four complaints relating to (certain) companies’ ‘take it or leave it’ stance when it comes to consent. The complaints have been filed on behalf of (unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android. Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of “forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service. (And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting.) “It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Schrems writes in a statement. “Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent,” he adds. “In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process.” We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Facebook has now sent the following statement, attributed to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan: “We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we meet the requirements of the GDPR. We have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward.” Schrems most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb (aka ‘none of your business’). As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation allowing for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights in an important one, with the potential to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organizations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights. That said, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member States can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection agencies in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record defending privacy rights. Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection agency will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation for defending data protection rights. But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint concerns and where a service crosses borders — so noyb’s action looks intended to test this element of the new framework too. Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract fines as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, implies they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue. That said, given how freshly fixed in place the rules are, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards. However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud. “We probably will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally violated the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR,” writes Schrems. Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new consent flow. “We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said Zuckerberg. He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new consent flow Facebook revealed ahead of GDPR only offers the ‘choice’ of quitting Facebook entirely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a choice given how powerful the network is. (Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data.) Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change — “because giving people control of how their data is used has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning”. “The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past,” he claimed. “I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to put a bunch of work into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things. “In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build committee a lot of philosophy that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve thought about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and implement but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we’ve thought about this stuff.” Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail. So EU regulators are essentially facing a first test of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image. Privacy laws are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard. Schrems also makes the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm ‘take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to use to extract consent on account of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s a competition concern that GDPR should also help to redress. “The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent,” he writes. “This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small businesses.” Image credit: noyb.eu

The Best Mobile Scanning Apps of 2018

Don't get left holding the paper. Mobile scanning apps turn everything from business cards to receipts into digital information that your business can turn into data and take action on. Not all scanning apps are created equal, so we tested 10 great options covering a range of features and business uses.

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