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iMessage apps: Which should you download first and how to install them?

Apple made a number of changes in iOS 10, with one of the main overhauls appearing in its Messages app.

The app now offers multiple methods of inputting iMessages from handwritten notes to the Apple Watch’s Digital Touch feature. Users are also able to react to individual messages and customise how the receiver sees the messages you send. You can read all about the new Messages features and how to use them in our separate feature.

One of the most exciting new features in Messages is the App Store integration though. This feature means you can download third-party apps and share information from them without having to leave the Messages app at all, whether that’s scanning a document or sharing your location.

Here is how to access, download and install the iMessage apps, along with the best ones to download first.


How to download, install and manage iMessage apps

You’ll see the App Store icon to the left of the input field when you start a new iMessage. If you can’t see it, tap the grey arrow on the left and the icon will appear, along with the Digital Touch option and a camera icon.

After a tap on the App Store, click on the four dots in the bottom left hand corner and then hit the “+” icon that is labelled “Store”. This will take you to the App Store designed specifically for Messages.

The left tab is called Featured and this is where you’ll find new apps to download and install. The right tab is called Manage. This is where apps you have already downloaded on your device that are compatible with iMessage will appear.

You can choose to toggle them on or off from here, as well as choose whether or not to automatically add compatible apps to your iMessage drawer when you download them on your device.

To download an iMessage app, tap on the one you want and hit “Get” to install it, as you would in the normal App Store. After it’s downloaded, you’ll see it appear in the iMessage drawer where you found the “+” Store icon earlier. You’ll also be able to swipe between the various apps in the drawer below the input box.


Which iMessage apps should you download first?

There are a number of iMessage apps available already, but we have picked our favourite for you to try first.


The OpenTable iMessages app allows you to suggest restaurants, vote on favourites and book a table all from the Messages app.


The iTranslate iMessage app allows you to write something in your language and send it with the translation to the recipient’s language appearing underneath. No more lost in translation.


Planning a trip away? The Airbnb iMessage app allows you to share homes with friends and vote for a group favourite.


The ScanBot iMessage app enables you to scan a document directly in the Messages app and send it. No need more coming out of the app, opening another app and having to go back in to attach.


The CityMapper iMessage app lets you send your location to your friends, appearing as a little map that the recipient will then be able to click on for directions to you. Handy, very handy.

Words with Friends

Words with Friends for iMessage allows you to invite friends from your contact list and play your amazing, winning-words directly from Messages.


The IMDb iMessage app allows you to search the database in Messages and send links to showtimes, as well as film, TV and celebrity pages.

Pennies Mini

Got a hen or stag to plan and need to stay within a certain budget? The Pennies Mini iMessage app lets you share and collaborate on spending budgets with friends and family directly from the Messages app.


Sports fan? The ESPN iMessage app allow you to share scores with your friends and watch game highlights directly from Messages.

The Weather Channel

Going on holiday or just meeting up, the Weather Channel iMessage app allows you to share mini forecasts directly from Messages so you can see what you’re in for.


Poll for iMessage is great for group decisions. Can’t decide where to go for dinner, or what time to meet? This app will come in very handy.

Super Mario Run Stickers

Everything is great when Mario is involved. The Super Mario Run stickers app lets you add a moustache and Mario hat to anyone. You can just send Mario himself too though and there are plenty to choose from.

Star Wars Stickers

Like Mario, Star Wars makes everything more fun. The Star Wars sticker pack lets you add a Stormtrooper to your morning message. Whose day wouldn’t be made after that?


‘Gravity Rush 2’ expands a portable adventure to PS4 scale

The original Gravity Rush was a key launch title for the PlayStation Vita — a (rare) original adventure that wasn’t a portable iteration of something that already existed. But when it came to the sequel, Sony’s Japan Studios wanted to bring it to home consoles and Gravity Rush 2 was announced alongside a PS4 remaster of the first game. I got to play the latest demo of the sequel here at the Tokyo Game Show, and it looks and feels like a bigger game in nearly every way — exactly what GR2 needs if it wants to stand out on Sony’s main console against stiff competition.

In Gravity Rush 2, you still play as Kat, wielding gravity-warping powers that let her tumble up, sideways and (boringly, realistically…) down. Combined with a surprisingly intuitive control scheme, you’re soon soaring around towns and locales, while the relatively simple fight system lets you fight back against invading inter-dimensional blobs of black stuff.

Said blobby aliens (with handy glowing red weak spots) are still around, with some sort of dimensional disaster occurring between the end of GR and the start of GR2. For not-fully-explained reasons, there are now a few powerful upstarts with powers of their own (self-healing brawlers, crystal-winged angels), as well as military forces with both giant mechs and high-tech battle suits built to go toe-to-toe with anyone with gravity powers. This already sounds like it will help alleviate some of the battle tedium that I felt when playing the original game — everyone likes a good boss battle.

It was even cooler when Raven — the gravity-powered antagonist from the first game — started fighting alongside me. She would often team up alongside Kat as I charged up my most powerful attack, ensuring I did more damage to the giant mech robot attacking us. Both fighting and exploration is made even more interesting by the introduction of two new gravity power styles: Jupiter (slow, hard-hitting) and Luna (light as a feather, but weedier in a fight).

Luna style was the most fun for me, at least during my short play-through. Kat skates along the ground as if it’s ice; she even can stand on water or thin branches. She can also leap pretty damn high without even needing to tap into her gravity mojo. Both styles add a change of pace mid-battle, and you can interchange between the new styles and your normal power-set by swiping up and down on the DualShock touchpad. By the way, slamming into the ground with the Jupiter style is so, very, very satisfying:

You can further augment abilities through a new talisman system (you’ll find them in side-quests as well as during the main campaign), which will let you boost and fine-tune your skills. You will be able to swap between talismans in-game, meaning you can equip yourself better for whatever particular task you’re trying to complete. Harder kicks, longer lasting powers, more things to magically throw with your gravity powers were all outlined during my briefing, but this is just scratching the surface. Combine this with the three power styles mentioned above, and Gravity Rush 2 looks like a deeper game — the kind that PS4 owners would expect.

As the sequel was built for the home console, it all looks predictably far gorgeous and grander than handheld-bound Gravity Rush. There’s a heavy stylistic tone to the series, but Sony’s console has the power to deliver the vision on a bigger scale; to add fluffy cloud surroundings to the skies, to fill street markets with a bunch of people without choking on the graphical fumes. Stand somewhere high, and you can see for (possibly) miles.

There’s a learning curve to both navigating the skies and nailing the black blobs with your kicks and gravity skills. New players will be introduced to Kat’s existing skill set gradually throughout the start of the game, but if you’ve played the first title on Vita, if not the PS4, you’ll be soaring and falling in no time. And to those that didn’t get what they wanted from the original story-wise, Director Toyama ensured the audience during a Q&A session that many of the game’s mysteries, including the origin of Kat, will be answered in the game.

The in-game world will be at least twice, if not three times, as big as the original, with each region having a particular flavor, delivered through building and character design and through the soundtrack. The music is rich, big-budget orchestral pieces, while in-game characters are still talking in something nonsensical that sounds like a language from both North Europe and South America all at once. The attention paid to both audio and design was what helped make the original stand out, so while it’s nice to see the game take a slightly more exotic twist on design, it looks like Japan Studios have also given the sequel just as much attention, perhaps more. The demo I played showed a world that was busier than the original, and as I said before, just grander.

While more places to explore is great, there will still be extra missions and challenges to help you power up your character, with a new mining side-quest letting you challenge other players online. This challenge system existed in the first game, but the introduction of customizable talismans suggests canny item management could trump raw gaming skills. Inside the mining areas, you’ll also be able to find gems and upgrades, as well trinkets from players who died in that area. Which is a bit morbid. And if mining sounds a bit like glorified grinding for new powers and cash, Toyama insisted that it will not be necessary for finishing the game, but more like an extension for those who want to play more.

Gravity Rush 2 launches in the US and UK on December 2nd, and November 30th in the rest of Europe.


Elwing adds electric power to a standard-size skateboard

One of the biggest factors holding electric skateboard fans back from picking up a new ride is price, with most decent boards selling for north of $1,000. The high cost of electric motors is still a hurdle, especially for skaters who don’t want to compromise on quality, but Elwing’s new board is more affordable than most. It’s slated to hit the market at $750, but with the help of its newly launched Indiegogo campaign, you could pick one up for $500 or less, if you strike during the early-bird window. There are a few tradeoffs for this price, but some of them may even be to your liking. I recently had a chance to test out Elwing’s prototype for a few days and, setting aside issues the company plans to address before final production, the money saved could be worth it — depending on your needs, of course.

If you ride longboards you’ve been lucky, as most electric models usually run around 38 inches long, which definitely helps with stability and comfortable cruising. However, if you’re more familiar with a standard street or ramp deck, Elwing’s option might sway you simply because of its 31-inch length, concave design and kicked-up nose and tail. Not only does this make the board lighter and more portable — it’s a tolerable 9.9 pounds — but it also gives you more leeway for tight turns and you can pop it up off the ground as you’re riding. (Or in technical terms: You can ollie.)

To power this board, the company chose a lithium-ion battery and 500W hub-based design, which puts the brushless motor inside one of the rear wheels. This helps cut down on costs a bit and, depending on how you ride, you might not need much more. While I’ve often found hub motors to be slower out of the gate (and braking) than a drivetrain design, for some the slower acceleration can help avoid over-throttling mishaps, letting you ease into the desired speed without falling off. (Pro tip: Always lean in when throttling.)

The controller is a 2.4GHz RF hand-held unit rather than Bluetooth. Like the skateboard itself, the version I tested was a prototype. The new design should include battery indicators for the board and controller, plus a wider throttle slider for easier acceleration and braking control. The company did choose to go with dual AAA batteries instead of a USB chargeable unit, but they last longer and you won’t have to recharge every day. If you simply pick up a few swappable rechargeable batteries, this could be a nonissue.

Once you get the Elwing going, it moves pretty quickly and its rated max speed of 18 miles per hour seems accurate. I managed to get up to 27.3 MPH on a downhill (according to Strava, at least), but my average cruising speed was generally about 11 MPH around the city. The single motor was definitely up to the challenge of handling speed and range. It also matches specs from competing boards, like the upcoming Unlimited EON Solo (although that’s priced around $930 for a complete setup).

There’s regenerative braking here too, which is helpful when you’re riding a device that can move at these speeds. While the version I tested didn’t have reverse, I’m told that’s also in the works for either the first production model or a subsequent update.

Elwing’s lithium-ion battery is supposed to provide a range of up to seven miles. After 40 minutes of riding, I managed 6.8. That’s with fast mode selected on the controller, plenty of top-speed throttling and several hills that went beyond the listed 10-degree rating. The battery doesn’t include any built-in LED headlights running off it, but there’s a USB port, so you could potentially rig something yourself.

Overall, the Elwing board was fun to ride, though the acceleration and braking could use some work. Indeed the company is aiming to improve both before the final release. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line electric cruiser and have the budget, the $1,500 (and up) Boosted Dual+ may still be the way to go. However, if money’s an issue and you’re looking for a normal-sized deck rather than a longboard, the Elwing is more than capable. The drivetrain design for the Boosted Boards provides far more torque, getting you up to speed quicker, but there’s a downside to that too: They’re a bit sluggish to push like a normal skateboard if you run out of juice. Elwing’s hub motor offers less friction, and the board is much easier to push around when the battery runs out of power.

On that note, you’ll get a fast charger with Indiegogo orders, and it should also be available as an optional accessory for around $100. These chargers will expedite power-ups during a coffee-shop stop, going from zero to full in about 45 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half.

I had my doubts about whether this board would be powerful enough to validate the savings versus more expensive models, but I was pleasantly surprised. As long as the company makes good on the promise of a few software tweaks to smooth out acceleration and braking, this is a great, standard-size board to ride for the money — especially if you can get in on one of the early-bird deals.


Get a lifetime subscription to Windscribe VPN, now under $40

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SwiftKey for Android is now powered by a neural network

From today, the popular keyboard app SwiftKey will be powered by a neural network. The latest version of the app combines the features of its Neural Alpha, released last October, and its regular app in order to serve better predictions. It’s the first major change to the main Swiftkey app since Microsoft acquired the London-based company earlier this year.

Understanding why the new SwiftKey is going to be better than what came before it requires a little effort, but the real-world benefits are definitely tangible. See, the regular SwiftKey app has, since its inception, used a probability-based language algorithm based on the “n-gram” model for predictions. At its core, the system read the last two words you’ve written, checked them against a large database, and picked three words it thought might come next, in order of probability.

That two-word constraint is a serious problem for predicting what a user is trying to say. If I were to ask you to guess the word that comes after the fragment “It might take a,” the first suggestion you come up with is unlikely to be “look.” But with a two-word prediction engine, it’s only looking at “take a,” and “look” is the first suggestion. There had to be a better solution. Simply upping the number of words it looks at is impractical — the database grows exponentially with every word you add — so SwiftKey’s initial solution was to boost its n-gram engine with less fallible, personalized data. If you regularly use phrases, SwiftKey uses that data to improve predictions. And you could also link social media and gmail accounts for better predictions.

The Neural Alpha launched last year did away with all those additional layers, and instead relied solely on a neural network for predictions. A neural network is a loose term that defines an algorithmic system, modelled on the way the brain processes information, that can learn from datasets. To train its network, SwiftKey used millions of complete sentences and applied “tags” to each word. These tagged terms helped the network to understand what the sentences “meant,” or more accurately, how they were structured. This tagged database essentially a broad pool of interconnected synonyms, but rather than linking words by meaning, like a thesaurus, SwiftKey’s database links them by their linguistic use.

The SwiftKey that users will be updating to today is fully trained. It’s trained to use its database of tags to examine entire sentences, stringing together words as though they were code to find more accurate suggestions. The sequence of tags that makes up “It might take a” will throw up more suggestions than can possibly be displayed on-screen, but the neural network puts a probability on each, and displays the three most likely.

Neural Alpha’s prediction system was obviously, at its core, far superior to the n-gram method. So why has it taken 11 months for SwiftKey’s users to feel the benefit? Aside from the usual stability and quality assurance side of things, there were some major hurdles to overcome. First, last year’s release was powered by a phone’s GPU, which drastically limited the number of devices that can run it. Second, while Neural Alpha outperforms n-gram, it didn’t always outperform SwiftKey’s personalized predictions engine.

Over the past year, engineers have been working on both those issues. It very quickly became apparent that using GPUs to power the network was not a viable long-term option. Yes, GPUs are better suited to running the math, but there are literally thousands of different Android phones out there, all with slightly different configurations. Executing code on the many different Android GPUs around just isn’t practical, and there was no way to use cloud computing for something that needs to always be working.

What nearly every Android phone does have is an ARM or ARM-compatible processor inside. With that base level of compatibility to work from, SwiftKey reworked its engine to run entirely off the CPU. Naturally, that brings up a worry of speed being affected — the last thing you want is a laggy keyboard. But speaking with Engadget, SwiftKey project manager Ben Leavett said “across all the devices we currently support, people will be able to use this tech, and there will not be a discernible difference in speed.”

As for personalized predictions, the solution they went with seems so obvious: run both the customizable n-gram engine and the neural network simultaneously, and have them compete against each other for your keyboard’s affection. Leavett compared the competition as the two engines trying to see “which can shout the loudest.” The more technical explanation is that both models attach a probability of their predictions being correct, and the app displays the top three.

Part of the challenge of combining these engines was that SwiftKey had to balance the “volume” of these “shouted” predictions. The n-gram system’s opinion of its guessing abilities was far higher than it should’ve been when compared to the neural network’s. In the final app, for the majority of predictions at least, the neural network will now win out. But when you’re typing a phrase you use often, the n-gram system will jump in and “shout louder,” and its suggestion will be the first you see.

Running local neural networks is only just becoming viable on smartphones. Apps like Google Translate can process translations using machine learning, and in recent months Prisma has added offline processing to its iOS app. But neither of these apps are used with the same frequency as you use your keyboard. And SwiftKey’s Android install base is in the “hundreds of millions” range. Overnight, the app’s neural network will become one of the most utilized in the world, and almost certainly the most used on mobile. And very few people will know.

SwiftKey decided not to make a big deal about the switch from n-gram to neural network. The team had considered some sort of notification on installing the update, but quickly realised the tough truth: the majority of users couldn’t care less what’s happening behind the pixels on their phone display. Informing users of the change in an disruptive way was more likely to draw ire and confusion than a celebratory applause for the engineering team. “If it makes the experience better, they’re fine with it,” Leavett explained. Hopefully, it will.


Pandora relaunches its mid-level $5 monthly subscription tier

After nabbing the remnants of Rdio out of bankruptcy last year, rumors have swirled for months about Pandora Radio’s upcoming streaming subscription services. Last month, it seemed that all standing in the way was getting the appropriate licensing which they got on Tuesday from over 30 major and independent labels . Today, they’re relaunching their mid-level $5-per-month subscription radio service as Pandora Plus with a few new features. Unfortunately, this won’t be their much-anticipated $10 monthly on-demand music streaming service, which will supposedly come later this year.

Instead, Pandora Plus aims to ride a middleground, streaming automated radio playlists at a discount but offering a few new features than its previous version to make that less of a compromise. First, a predictive offline mode will automatically switch over to a user’s top station when their device loses signal, keeping the music flowing. The second lets users to replenish their limited supply of replays and skips by voluntarily watching video ads.

Pandora Plus goes live today on desktop and will roll out to iOS and Android in the coming months, while it won’t expand to Australia and New Zealand until 2017. It’s still unclear when they’ll launch their full on-demand streaming option to compete with Spotify and the other music services.

Source: Pandora


Playing ‘Rez’ on PlayStation VR made me fall in love again

I haven’t been able to find someone at Engadget who doesn’t enjoy Rez. (Although now that I’ve written that I’m sure I will.) And if anyone does dislike it, they should play it in VR, because they’re wrong and they need to be corrected. Yes, Rez Infinite, in high resolution, 60 frames-per-second loveliness, comes to the PS4 with PSVR compatibility and it cranks the already addictively immersive experience up a notch. I played it yesterday, and this is definitely what I’ll be playing on my PlayStation VR come October.

The game is a well-established critical hit, originally released on the Dreamcast a whole 15 years ago, that’s been retooled and tailored to VR. But the interesting part is that it already feels made for VR: Anachronistic “hacking the mainframe” concept, “immersive experience” back-of-the-game-box sales pitch. The music! The addiction! Oh no, not again!

Your targeting reticule (gameplay summary: you shoot down pretty much anything that moves) is in the center of your vision, so you can look at what you want to shoot, tap or hold the ‘X’ button, and it (usually) goes down. This, coupled with the simple game mechanics (like the lack of movement controls), make it the most accessible launch game I’ve played on PSVR. No motion sickness, no confusing controls. You sit down, strap in and play Rez. And chill.

I bopped my head as I (effortlessly!) cleared the demo level. Some people stared, while others recorded awkward gifs — but I didn’t care. I can’t wait to play the whole game all over again. And if you’ve never played it, well there is (probably) no better way to play it.


Jon Snow is evil and angry in ‘Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare brings the war (and the fare) to space, and it’s taking Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington and UFC fighter Conor McGregor along for the ride. Unfortunately, Activision and Infinity Ward didn’t take this opportunity to make the world’s best buddy-cop action-comedy game. Instead, Harington plays the evil Admiral Salen Kotch of the Settlement Defense Front and McGregor is his muscle, Captain Bradley Fillion. They’re a pair of bad dudes in space suits and in the story campaign, it’s your job to take them down.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare - Story Trailer

The Infinite Warfare story trailer shows some of the space fights and moon missions that are new to this installment, though the game doesn’t seem to stray far from Earth’s side.

Infinite Warfare hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on November 4th, and it’s the only way to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. Special editions of the game, ranging from $80 to $120, come with Modern Warfare Remastered and it isn’t being sold separately at this time.


Hopefully the new ‘Resident Evil 7’ demo won’t make you queasy

If the first demo for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard didn’t leave you with a headache or worse (yeah, even in 2D), it might’ve left you scratching your noggin. Well, the “Beginning Hour” demo is getting an update, according to a post on the PlayStation Blog. The Twilight update “expands on what you can do and explore” in the run-down shack. Over on Capcom Unity the publisher-developer teases that even if you’ve explored every corner of the house that “we’ve got something special in store for you.” So maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a use for that severed finger. Hopefully the update means the flashlight’s incessant bobbing and swaying been fixed, too.

The patch is scheduled for arrival today, so chances are it’ll be waiting when you turn your PlayStation 4 on next. More than that, this new demo isn’t locked behind a PlayStation Plus subscription like it was previously. In other revisions, the digital deluxe version is getting a price bump, but with it comes the promise of an additional add-on episode. If you previously purchased for $80, no worries as you’ll still get the extra episode. Everyone who’s tempted by the new demo will have to cough up $90 though.

Oh and there’s a new trailer embedded below, too, if you needed further convincing to make a return trip. Here’s to hoping Twilight is more along the lines of the “Lantern” demo from Gamescom last month.

Source: PlayStation Blog, Capcom Unity


Apple’s iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case Offers 26% More Charge Than iPhone 6s Version

As customers around the world begin receiving Apple’s iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case, it has now been confirmed that the charging case is rated for 2,365 mAh, a 26% increase over the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case’s 1,877 mAh rating.

Chinese technical certifications revealed that the iPhone 7 likely has a larger 1,960 mAh battery, as previously rumored, meaning Apple’s Smart Battery Case can charge the smartphone fully with roughly 17% capacity remaining.

iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case is 2365 mAh, up from 1877 for iPhone 6.

— Nick Guy (@thenickguy) September 14, 2016

Apple officially says a fully charged iPhone 7 with a fully charged Smart Battery Case can provide combined talk time up to 26 hours, internet use up to 22 hours on LTE, and video playback up to 24 hours.

When the Smart Battery Case is turned on, a battery status is displayed on the Lock screen and in Notification Center to keep track of its charge level. The case has a silicone exterior in white or black, while the inside has a soft microfiber lining.

The iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case is available now for $99 on Apple’s website.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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