Apple Maps vehicles equipped with LiDAR sensors have begun collecting street-level data in Montana and North Carolina for the first time this week, raising the total number of U.S. states the fleet has at least partially covered to 45.
The vehicles have been collecting mapping data in the United States since at least 2015. Apple periodically updates a list of locations where the vehicles will be driving on its website. To our best knowledge, the only states yet to be surveyed are Alaska, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The vehicles have also surveyed parts of Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Last month, Apple confirmed that mapping data and imagery collected by the vehicles will be used to rebuild Apple Maps “from the ground up,” aided by high-resolution satellite imagery and “probe data” collected from anonymized, random segments of navigation sessions by opted-in iPhone users.
The gist of it is that Apple will be switching to its own base map, reducing but not fully eliminating its reliance on third-party providers like TomTom, which will yield significant improvements to traffic, real-time road conditions, road systems, new construction, changes in pedestrian walkways, and more.
The overall look and feel of Apple Maps is mostly the same, but zooming and panning reveals more details like grass, trees, and parking lots. Apple also says search results should be more relevant, hopefully making navigation more reliable.
Apple says the underlying efforts to revamp Maps have been underway for the past four years, but the improvements are currently limited to Northern California on devices running the iOS 12 beta. Apple says the new Maps will roll out section by section across the rest of the United States over the next year.
Apple hasn’t said if and when the new Maps will be available outside of the United States, but given the vehicles have surveyed 10 other countries, it is likely on the roadmap. We’ve reached out to them to see if they are willing to confirm.
Tags: Apple Maps, Apple Maps vehicles
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Facebook Launches ‘Watch Party’ Allowing Friends to View and Comment on Videos Together in Real Time
Facebook today announced the global launch of “Watch Party,” a desktop and mobile feature revealed in May that allows Facebook Groups to join in and watch videos on the platform together in real time. The videos themselves can be previously recorded or live videos, and members in the Watch Party can comment and send reactions as the video plays.
To start a Watch Party, one member (the “host”) navigates to a Group page, taps the new Watch Party icon, writes a message, and finds videos to add to the playlist. From there, hosts can invite friends in the Group who can join instantly and watch the videos together. Only hosts can scrub the video’s playback and choose new videos to watch. Facebook says it is looking into starting Watch Parties outside of Groups as well.
Other features include a “co-host” ability, so that hosts can designate other members to control the Watch Party, and a crowdsource ability that lets all Watch Party members suggest videos for the host to play next. Facebook says Watch Parties are great for both small groups of friends and family members, as well as large organizations hosting Q&A sessions and more.
Today, we’re launching Watch Party to all Facebook Groups around the globe. Watch Party is a new way for people to watch videos on Facebook together in real time. Once a Watch Party is started, participants can watch videos, live or recorded, and interact with one another around them in the same moment. We’ve been focused on building new ways to bring people together around video, create connections, and ignite conversations; Watch Party is the next step in bringing this vision to life.
Multiple brands are joining in on Facebook’s “Weekend of Watch Parties” this Friday, July 27 through Sunday, July 29, including Buzzfeed’s Tasty Group, Jamie Oliver’s 5-Day Veggie Challenge Group, and more.
Services that allow you to sync up videos in real time have grown in popularity, with major companies like Google and Skype trying out similar features in the past. Google’s own “Uptime” app launched in a test phase in March 2017, expanded to the public in June 2017, but now appears to have left the iOS App Store.
These platforms tend to be more popular on desktops and laptops, however, with websites like Rabbit and Gaze offering the ability to stream YouTube, Netflix, and more together with friends, sometimes offering a mobile app as well. Facebook’s Watch Party solution will be available across mobile and desktop, which could be an advantage for some users, as long as the videos they want to watch together can be found on Facebook’s platform.
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The Curiscope Virtuali-Tee is one of our favorite uses of mobile augmented reality technology, as it neatly combines educational benefits with some jaw-dropping visuals that inspire both awe and yucks. The newest addition to the app is a way to measure your heart rate using the camera on the phone, and then visualize it in real time on the t-shirt itself. Yes, really.
If you’re not familiar with it, the Virtuali-Tee is a specially designed t-shirt that when looked at through a smartphone, suddenly comes to life and reveals a window into the wearer’s body. Curiscope first made the t-shirt available through Kickstarter in 2016, and since the end of the successful campaign, the company has produced several other exciting virtual and augmented reality projects, including Operation Apex, a VR undersea adventure with a conservation twist.
The heart rate tracker update to Virtuali-Tee is technically impressive, yet very simple for everyone to use. It works through a technique called contact photoplethysmography. By using images obtained by placing your finger over the phone’s camera lens, where it measures the amount of light it sees, the app can work out your pulse. You’re guided through the process in the app, and the end result is as polished as we’ve come to expect from Curiscope.
When the camera sees the Virtuali-Tee t-shirt, it adds a beating heart on to the already incredible-looking, anatomically accurate image of your insides. Sound gross? Well, it is a bit; but that’s half the appeal. If you’re wondering why you’d want such a thing, not only is it an awesome way to really demonstrate how cool AR technology is, but it’s a fantastic piece of educational tech, too. Because the heart rate is displayed in real time, it’s a perfect way to visually show kids the impact of exercise, and how the body changes from rest.
Curiscope often gets asked whether what the app shows on the t-shirt is actually the person’s organs, and the answer until now has always been no. That line is blurred with the heart rate tracking, as it genuinely is an image of what’s happening inside the body. If you already own a Virtuali-Tee, the heart rate tracking feature is available as an app update now. For those who now want one of the most unusual pieces of AR tech we’ve used, then it’s yours for just $30, or 25 British pounds, through Amazon or Curiscope’s own website.
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The world of robotic home companions suffered a setback this week when one of its potential stars walked out of the door.
Mayfield Robotics said on Wednesday that it’s ending work on its Kuri robot following three years of development.
The startup, which began with backing from German tech giant Bosch, said it felt “crushed” to announce the news of Kuri’s demise. But it said it had no choice after an extensive review concluded “there was not a business fit within Bosch to support and scale our business.”
For those not in the know, Kuri stood 20 inches high and was more of “an intelligent pet than a robot butler,” according to Mayfield. The cute-looking, wheel-based bot acted as an interactive and mobile videographer, capturing everyday moments around the home via its 1080p camera.
Kuri responded to voice commands and could navigate its way around autonomously. The owner could also control it remotely via a smartphone app if they wanted to check on their premises from afar. You could even talk through it, so if you saw your house being burgled, you could yell at the crooks to “get the hell out.” Similar to SoftBank’s Pepper robot, singing and dancing was also part of Kuri’s repertoire.
Mayfield said in a blog post on Wednesday that Kuri production will cease and that any that have been made will not be shipped. “All pre-order deposits will be refunded to our customers,” it confirmed in the post.
Kuri turned a lot of heads when it was first unveiled at CES 2017, impressing many with its mobility, awareness, and personality smarts.
“It doesn’t feel like a robot in the traditional sense,” Mayfield’s Chris Matthews told Digital Trends at the time. “It connects to people in a different way than normal tech. It’s very much about what people feel.”
Mayfield said its creation fulfilled its vision to create robots that are “joyful, useful, and inspiring,” but added that creating such a design had been a “massive undertaking.”
Its announcement comes just weeks after Honda announced it was ceasing development of Asimo, a talented robot that could run, hop, handle objects, and converse with humans. Honda said it would transfer Asimo’s technology to existing projects for single-person mobility vehicles and autonomous cars.
According to Mayfield’s statement, the Redwood City, California-based startup will live to see another day, as it’s opted to merely “pause operations” rather than end them entirely. That suggests it’s not yet done with the development of robotic technology, even if it’s curtains for Kuri.
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If you thought Heelys (those wheeled sneakers that every preteen in the United States used to careen about in) were odd, you may want to take a seat. Segway is here to prove that when it comes to strange methods of transportation, it’s the top dog. Meet the new Segway Drift W1s. They’re self-balancing roller shoes, and can be compared to a hoverboard that just lives on your foot. Well, I suppose it would technically be two halves of a hoverboard living on each foot.
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The Drift W1s are apparently the first product in the company’s new e-Skates category, and they leverage Segway’s self-balancing technology that was first put to use in the original Segway scooter — you know, that thing that let users lean into the direction they wished to travel.
These new shoes are in some ways a 21st-century answer to roller blades and in-line skates, though it does feel a bit like Segway is trying to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with. But never to be deterred, the company, which was acquired by Ninebot back in 2015, is calling its Drift W1s the new trend of 2018.
“The new Segway Drift W1 brings all the fun and coolness you expect from Segway’s consumer products line, combined with the high-quality engineering consumers expect from the Segway brand,” the company stated in an announcement. The skates purport to be easy to carry, lightweight, and relatively small. Based on images and videos that we’ve seen, it looks like each Drift W1 fits exactly under your foot, so you don’t have too much room for error (or experimentation).
The tires are purportedly meant to improve stability and your ability to steer, and thanks to slip-resistant foot mats, you should be at least relatively safe when you step on the W1s. Of course, it’s likely that it will take awhile for you to get used to this new-age method of transportation, so we wouldn’t recommend running around on these W1s without some protective gear.
Apparently, Segway agrees, and if you buy a pair of these shoe things, you’ll get a free helmet. Seems reasonable.
A pair of Drift W1s will set you back just under $400, and shipping is expected to begin in August. Each W1 will weigh about 7.7 pounds, and will be able to take you up to 7.5 miles per hour. The total riding time is contingent upon riding style and terrain, but Segway says that you can expect 45 minutes of fun per charge.
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By now, most of the average phone-buying public has forgotten about the whole Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. That thing where many Note 7s had batteries that failed (sometimes dangerously), leading to a recall and replacement program, which was followed again by the new units failing just as spectacularly.
Samsung, carriers and local regulatory bodies have gone to extensive lengths to make Galaxy Note 7s unusable. It started with a software push that nagged you to return your phone. Then a software update that limited your battery charge — and another that limited it further. Then the carriers stepped in and started to block SIMs that were used in a Note 7. Eventually Samsung issued software updates that made it difficult or impossible to charge the phone.
Still, people who love their Note 7 held on tight (hopefully not too tight) and are still using their phones today — albeit in a diminished state. They’ve skipped software updates, rooted their phones or modified them in another way to keep them in use. There are some workarounds actively being discussed to get the software back up and working. The barely-alive Galaxy Note 7 subreddit still has a little activity, and if you search around you can still find diehard Note 7 users out there — despite the newer Note 8 being on sale for 11 months now, and refurbished Note 5s being available for a steep discount. Heck, even the Note 7 Fan Edition is available in some regions.
Despite all of the effort, as of April 2018 even Samsung’s own recall page notes that “nearly all” recalled Note 7s have been returned — yes, that means there are still active devices out there.
Somehow, Samsung hasn’t been able to capture every recalled Note 7 yet.
For the first few months after the reports of Note 7 battery failures rolled in, despite our calls for everyone to return their Note 7 right away, it was at least a partially understandable position to hold onto your Note 7. Now, it isn’t — and honestly it hasn’t been for about a year now. The Galaxy Note 7 was a really great device before it started to exhibit its horrible battery safety flaw. But it’s been replaced with products that are newer and more capable — and critically, ones that don’t catch fire.
This has to stop, folks. Nobody should be using an original Note 7 anymore. Contact Samsung or your carrier and return it for a refund. And when you do, get ready to upgrade to the new Galaxy Note 9 — it’s time to move on.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
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- Do you plan on upgrading to the Note 9?
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- Join our Galaxy Note 9 forums
Fuchsia isn’t going to be a thing you can see on your phone; it will power the things you can see on your phone.
A long time ago, in 2016, the internet learned about a supposed Google initiative to merge Chrome OS and Android. It was to have the codename Andromeda and would unify all of Google’s computing platforms so that they all used the same operating system. It made sense in many ways; it is similar to what Microsoft is doing with mobile, tablet and desktop software and supposedly the direction Apple is moving with iOS and macOS. Codenames and rumors aside, what ended up happening was the ability to visit the Google Play Store with a Chromebook and run Android apps natively.
This was a big deal, and if it was what Andromeda turned out to be it was certainly enough. Everyone benefits from having Android apps available on Chromebooks — Google can sell more and we can use them better because there will be an “app for that” whenever we need one. But the idea of Android and Chrome merging never really went away. It just got a new codename: Fuchsia.
More: These are the Chromebooks that can run Android and Linux apps
Fuchsia got its name, according to some of the developers, from existing projects.
Pink + Purple = Fuchsia (a new Operating System)
Project Pink was an original idea from Apple’s engineering team when they decided it was time to build a new object-oriented operating system with a new user interface, and the notes were written on pink index cards. Project Purple was the original name given to prototype production of a touchscreen phone from Apple; the iPhone. The original developers of Fuchsia are well-versed with this history, as they were also part of former projects like BeOS, iOS, and WebOS.
But an operating system needs more than a name. And without Google telling us anything about its new project, we’re left to piece together all the breadcrumbs the internet can find. Here is what we know so far.
Fuchsia is not going to replace Android or Chrome OS
Android is a complicated thing. It can be thought of as a complete operating system that you would find on a smartphone or tablet, or it can be a small part of an operating system that is built to run applications as we saw from BlackBerry on OS 10 devices. Most of all, Android is familiar to about two billion people and has a huge ecosystem of software, devices, accessories and support staff. You never abandon something this successful — you build on it instead.
Google learned the benefit of using their own software from Oracle in the courtroom.
Fuchsia will probably replace the part of the software you don’t see; the part that makes the hardware run and lets you tell your phone to do something when you tap the screen or talk into the microphone.
Right now Android uses the Linux kernel and a handful of utility programs written to work with Linux. Linux is great in many ways. It’s built to work with almost anything hardware-wise, has a huge community that contributes and makes every version better than the last one, and will be around a lot longer than any hardware you buy today that uses it. Chrome is mostly the same way. Its’s a bunch of user-facing services and utilities that run atop the Linux kernel. So is Android Auto, and Android TV, and Wear OS.
But Linux doesn’t “belong” to Google and it wasn’t designed specifically for mobile hardware. These are two things Google wants and eventually will need in order to continue to compete.
Fuchsia will be built for 2019 and beyond, not for the legacy of the past.
Google needs a mobile operating system built from the ground up at every level designed for 2018. It has to be lean and easy on resources, be able to compute quickly without taxing the chips inside our phones, and it has to be able to instantly respond to all the ways we can “talk” to it like touch, mouse and keyboard, or voice. And it has to do all of this while still being the same user-friendly Android we already know and still run the millions of applications written for Android.
In short, Fuchsia is replacing Linux and parts of Android (and probably Chrome, Android TV, Android Auto, etc.) with something that works better for Google’s purposes. The user interface — what you and I see on our phones or Chromebooks or watches — has nothing to do with this part of the operating system. Besides, Fuchsia is too hard to spell.
Benefits of the change
As mentioned, Google wants software they have more control over and that was designed to be lean and fast on the relatively low-end hardware we see in mobile products. But there are two other very important benefits from moving to a custom operating system, and this time we do get to see them.
Developers will be able to use more current programming languages to write applications. We’re already seeing this with programming tools like Dart and Flutter making their way to Android, and any new OS is certainly being written with modern programming tools in mind.
Sometimes you need a sledgehammer. Other times you need something more delicate.
There is nothing wrong with programming in C or Java. Both languages are very robust and can make any hardware do anything. But that also means they are designed to do a lot of things a mobile app developer doesn’t need, and this can make them a little cumbersome to learn and use. An Android app developer doesn’t need his code to communicate directly with the CPU using machine code. But an app developer does need access to easier and more efficient ways to have smooth UI transitions or scalability for different screens. C++ is great for powering a robot, but Flutter is great for building a great app interface. Letting developers leverage tools that help make better apps means we get better apps.
These new tools combined with a unified bottom layer of software across all devices means one app can work everywhere. That’s great, but Android already lets one app work everywhere, and to be frank, that means apps mostly suck on any device except a phone. Different size screens need different user interfaces, and most developers only code for a phone-sized one because it’s not easy to make an app look great everywhere.
Better developer tools mean better apps on every screen.
That will change with tools like Flutter and that’s our second benefit. Right now it’s difficult to build an Android app that works on a small 5-inch display but transforms to take advantage of a 12-inch display. It can be done beautifully — see the Gmail app for an example — but the work involved usually puts developers off the idea. If the tools would let a developer define a few different ways to use the full display to give us the right amount of information with just a few steps, most developers would do so.
Fuchsia demo installed on the Google Pixelbook.
This is what Fuchsia looks like on the Pixelbook. Developers can easily define what goes into the smaller content fields, what is used as a pleasant background, how things are laid out and how much content we need to see with just a few steps. Right now there are only examples and demos, but those give us an excellent idea of what to expect. Compare it to Fuchsia on a phone-sized display below.
Notice the similarities, then notice the differences. This is how one piece of software, in this case, a simple user interface or “home” app, can be changed to perform on two different size displays. This is what Android in its current state is lacking. This is what we need to happen. This is why Google — and we — want Fuchsia to become a real thing.
Nothing is final, everything can change
As mentioned at the top of this article, we’ve built this on a mixture of rumors, source code uploads, tidbits of insider information, and a dash of imagination. Google has said nothing about any future where Fuchsia is a reality.
That’s important because this is a HUGE undertaking. It’s even bigger than creating Android in the first place was because much of it involves coding for the bottom layer instead of depending on existing software. Android was built atop Linux, iOS was built atop BSD, Fuchsia is being built from the ground up. It will take a few years until we could see a consumer version or even a version for the public to test that’s not just a proof of concept demo. This is hard work that will take thousands of hours to finish.
I believe that Google does have plans for Fuchsia and it’s not just a pet project of some talented developers or something Google will start and never finish. I’m paying close attention to all of this, not just because it’s how we make our living, but because we’re both interested and amazed at what might develop from the project. We’ll continue to revisit this space and add information as it becomes available, but for now, there is mostly educated guessing and plenty of wishing involved.
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Control your temperature from anywhere.
The ecobee3 smart thermostat comes in a bundle with three room sensors for just $199.99 total on Amazon right now. The thermostat by itself with one sensor is more than expensive than this deal. The two sensors sell in a pack for $79 outside of this bundle.
This is ecobee’s previous-generation model, which has since been replaced by the ecobee4 with Alexa built-in. The ecobee3 doesn’t have Alexa built in, but it can still connect to Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo Dot if you want to replicate that functionality. The room sensors will help keep an even temperature across your whole home by accurately measuring and managing cold and warm spots in the house.
See at Amazon
Two big phones with one big difference.
We now know the Galaxy Note 9 will be unveiled at an event in New York City on August 9, and that gets all of our wheels turning thinking about the possibilities of what we can expect and whether it’s worth waiting for. For Samsung fans looking to make the move to a new phone, there really are two options: buy a Galaxy S9+ today, or wait for the Galaxy Note 9.
Let us help you down the path of choosing which one is right for you, and whether you should wait it out.
Who should buy a Galaxy S9+ now
The Galaxy S9+ has a massive advantage here: it’s actually available to buy. The Note 9 will likely be available to pre-order about a week after announcement, but retail availability will probably take a week more, meaning we’re still well off from having a true head-to-head comparison here. Smartphone fans may be willing to wait for a specific phone to come out, but you may not be so flexible. If you need a phone right now, don’t try to scrape by for a month and a half with a broken phone (for example) just to get the Note 9 — pick up a Galaxy S9+ and you’ll be happy.
Unless you have a strong affinity for the Note line, just get a Galaxy S9+ now.
Now we don’t know exactly what the Galaxy Note 9 will offer in terms of specs or features yet, but we can make an educated guess based on previous releases. We can count on the Note 9 to basically match the GS9+ in terms of internal specs, with the same processor, RAM and storage options — though the base storage may bump up to 128GB, that isn’t really an advantage considering the GS9+ has that option already. The screen will likely be a little bigger, but keep the same resolution — and the Galaxy S9+’s screen is fantastic still no matter what. The cameras are likely to be the same or ever-so-slightly tweaked for a new feature. The software will also be similar, since Samsung typically reserves the Galaxy S release to debut altogether new software designs and features.
So really, the core of the Note 9 experience will just be the same as the Galaxy S9+. That bodes well for Note fans, because they’re getting a preview of how great their next phone will be, but it’s also good for anyone who just wants a Samsung phone now — you won’t be missing out on much. If you don’t have any affinity for the Galaxy Note line, it makes the decision even easier to just buy a Galaxy S9+ now and start enjoying your new phone. The Note 9 promises to be even more expensive than the GS9+ as well, so you’ll save some money in the process.
Reasons to wait for the Galaxy Note 9
With so much shared in the core platform of the Galaxy S9+ and Note 9, the differences are going to be minimal — but just in case you’re looking for the absolute best, the Note 9 is expected to improve in a couple areas. The Note 9 is purported to make an improvement in battery size, perhaps going up to 4000mAh, which would be a welcomed return to the Note series offering more capacity than the plus-sized Galaxy S. The Note 9’s display may make another leap in brightness and outdoor visibility, too. And then of course there’s the one feature the Galaxy S9+ can’t match: the S Pen stylus.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Everything you need to know
Diehard Note fans shouldn’t settle for the Galaxy S9+ — especially this close to announcement.
To put it simply, if you’re a diehard Note fan you won’t be satisfied with a Galaxy S9+. Yes the screen is almost as big, but the GS9+ is missing the feature that makes the Note name so important to people: the S Pen. If you’ve spent your time getting used to the power and precise input of the S Pen on your current Note — perhaps a Note 5 or even Note 8 — it’ll feel like a downgrade moving to the Galaxy S9+ even though it’s a great phone in itself. We don’t know what changes Samsung will make to the precision, pressure sensitivity or software of the S Pen, but even without any improvements it would still be far and away the best smartphone stylus available.
If you’re happy with your current phone and not in dire need of a new device, the best course of action is to just wait it out. With the Galaxy Note 9 launch event on the horizon, it’s an easy task to simply wait a bit until you have all of the information in front of you for a proper decision. Even if you’re not all that enamored with the idea of an S Pen, an extra month of patience can help you out with a potential reduced price for the Galaxy S9+ if you decide to go that direction.
Are you going to wait?
Whether to grab a currently available phone or wait for a new model to be released is a constant debate, but it’s never more heated than when we’re talking about Samsung flagships. Are you inclined to wait for the Note 9, or just pick up a Galaxy S9+?
Update July 2018: Added the latest information and rumors on the Galaxy Note 9’s release.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
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Instagram is the most popular photo-sharing social network, and Stories is one of its most intimate components.
A few years ago, Instagram was just a simple competitor to services like VSCO and Hipstamatic, known for heavy-handed filters, square crops, and hashtags. Today, with over a billion monthly users, it’s one of the largest social networks around, and its ephemeral Stories feature has already has far surpassed Snapchat, the app that it, ahem, borrowed from.
Snapchat on Android: Everything you need to know
No matter your feelings on Instagram essentially cloning Snapchat, it’s hard to argue against reaching a larger audience. With over 400 million daily users, Stories is a great way to keep up with friends and idols alike — of course, it’s yet another way to keep them in the loop about your own life, too. The simpler interface versus Snapchat doesn’t hurt either, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still complicated. Lucky for you, there’s a comprehensive guide for that — and you’re looking at it.
Download: Instagram (free)
Getting familiar with Instagram Stories
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How to view stories
Maybe the most straightforward part of using Instagram Stories is viewing them. From the main screen (denoted by a home icon in the bottom left corner), you’ll notice a row of circular icons at the top displaying the profile pictures of the users you follow who have posted stories within the past 24 hours. You can scroll through the list to find a particular user and tap their icon to view their story, or just hit the Watch All button above the icons. Once you’ve viewed someone’s entire story, the red outline around their profile picture (indicated unseen content) will turn gray.
While you’re viewing a user’s story, their username is displayed in the top left corner of the screen, along with how long ago the content was posted. A bar at the top indicates the length of the story, and if there’s more than one entry in the story that line will be split into equal segments for each part. From there, you can tap on the left or right side of the screen to progress forward or backward through each story — once you finish a user’s story, you’ll automatically advance to the next user in the list until you’ve seen every new post.
One more thing — you can do more than just look while you’re viewing someone’s story. You can send a private message to a user in response to part of their story by tapping the camera icon or text field at the bottom. You can also send part of someone’s story to another user by tapping the paper airplane icon.
How to post your own stories
Alright, so it turns out viewing someone else’s story is pretty simple after all. Now let’s tackle posting stories of your own.
Start by swiping right from the main feed to access the camera; you’ve undoubtedly done this by accident a few dozen times by now, and you’d be forgiven for confusing this panel for the camera accessed by the plus icon in the middle of Instagram’s navigation bar (which is for capturing photos and videos to post on your profile). Instead, this is the hub for all of the tools that’ll help you post the best stories possible.
Near the bottom of this screen, you’ll see a few tools; namely a shortcut to your recent shots, a flash toggle, the shutter button, the camera switcher, and face filters. There are also a few shooting modes beneath those tools, including Type, Live, Boomerang, Superzoom, Focus, Rewind, and Hands-Free, as well as a shortcut to your story settings in the upper left corner.
We’ll get to all of that in a bit, but the first thing to do is just take a photo! You can tap the shutter button to quickly take a photo, or hold it down to start capturing video — you can shoot for up to 15 seconds, or let go at any time to stop recording early. If you want to zoom while recording, just slide your finger up or down from the shutter button. Sometimes you might want to share something you’ve already shot, and that’s okay too — just tap the camera roll button in the bottom left corner or swipe up from anywhere in the viewfinder to access all of the photos and videos you’ve captured in the last 24 hours. Once you’ve captured something worth sharing, you can post it by tapping Your Story at the bottom of the screen, or just hit Save to keep the shot in your gallery.
Adding text or drawings
Before you post your first story, you might want to spruce it up with some text. You can tap anywhere on the screen to bring up a text input field, and resize your text, change colors, or even change your font by using the accompanying tools. Typing @ followed by someone’s username (like, oh I don’t know, @androidcentral or @hayatohuseman) will tag that user in your story, notifying them of the post and creating a link for other users to view their profile. You can also make your text more visible by tapping the button in the middle of the top row to create a white or translucent background.
For a little added pizazz, you can draw on your story by tapping the marker icon in the upper right corner. There are a few different brush tips to choose from, including a marker, a highlighter, glowing ink, and chalk, as well as an eraser and an undo button to fix small mistakes. Just like with text, you can choose from some different preset colors, or pull a color from your shot using the dropper tool.
Would it really be a Snapchat clone without silly face filters? You’ve probably already noticed the smiley face icon in the bottom right corner that looks like a toggle for beautification mode. Tap it or press and hold anywhere in the camera viewfinder, and a scrollable row of face filters will appear at the bottom of the screen. It isn’t just the feature itself that’s been ported over, either — the filters themselves are nearly identical replicas of some of Snapchat’s most popular effects, including a cat and dog, sunglasses, and an actual beautification filter.
Still, original or not, these face filters are a fun way to add some flair to a selfie, and the tracking is actually surprisingly good. The filters are able to detect facial movements like raising your eyebrows, opening your mouth or nodding your head, and they react accordingly with different effects and animations.
Latest Instagram update adds face filters and more
Filters are yet another whimsical addition to your stories that can add context, viewer participation, or just simple amusement. To access stickers, tap the icon in the top right corner next to the text and marker icons. You’ll be greeted with a vertically scrolling list with dozens of custom stickers, along with all of your phone’s supported emoji to use as stickers. Options range from seasonal stickers to labels that are clearly catered towards millennials (lit, yasss, it me, ugh, savage, etc).
There are stickers to add the current time or temperature to your story, and you can use the location sticker to tag places of interest just as you would with a regular photo upload on Instagram. You can also use the hashtag sticker to reach a wider audience through Instagram’s search tools, or search for GIFs provided by Giphy.
If you ask me, though, the most fun comes from Instagram’s interactive stickers. It started with a simple emoji slider, but these days you can run a poll amongst your followers or even let them ask you questions that you then answer in the form of individual posts in your Story. These stickers can be some of the best tools for connecting with your followers — give them a try!
Instagram’s new Q&A feature is a bigger deal than you think
Back to those different shooting modes in the Stories camera. If you’ve ever wanted to announce to your followers without taking a picture, Type is a great way to do it. It’s simple to use — once you switch to Type mode, you can tap anywhere on the screen to start writing out a message. As with any other shooting mode, you can change your font and text alignment, though you can’t change the font color. Instead, you can tap the circular icon in the lower left corner to change the background, cycling through different colored gradients. The downside of Type mode is that you can’t resize or reposition your text; it stays dead-center on the screen, so using Type too often can lead to a boring Story.
Live on Instagram
Instagram wasn’t satisfied with just taking on (and overtaking) Snapchat, so it went after live streaming platforms like Periscope as well. From the viewfinder, slide the mode selector all the way to the left to access live mode. You can hit Start Live Video to begin publicly streaming, and Instagram will send a push notification to some of your followers letting them know you’re live. Viewers can comment in real time, and at the end of your broadcast the entire stream can be rewatched in your story, denoted with a play button in your story icon.
You can also add a second person to your live stream using the Add icon near the bottom right of the screen. A list will appear with the users currently watching your stream, any of which can be invited to join in a split-screen view. This feature is great for increasing audience engagement during a live stream, and you can remove the second party at any time.
Instagram now lets you live stream with a friend
Boomerangs are one of my favorite parts of Stories. They’re essentially just animated GIFs for Instagram, with the bonus of not igniting tired arguments over pronunciation. To start capturing one of your own, swipe over to the Boomerang mode in the Stories viewfinder. An infinity symbol will appear in the shutter button, and tapping it will record a one-second looping video that you can edit and share to your story just like any other capture. You can also press and hold the shutter button to capture a longer Boomerang, cutting off after about three seconds.
It hasn’t been updated in over a year, but there’s also a standalone app for capturing Boomerangs, which you can then share to Instagram or Facebook. The nice thing about both the app and the shooting mode in Instagram is that if you really enjoy a particular capture, it doesn’t have to stay confined to your story — you can post Boomerangs to your regular feed the same way you would a photo or video.
Download: Boomerang for Instagram (free)
Superzoom is a just-for-fun feature that, while not particularly useful, will still probably get a laugh out of you when you use it. When recording in Superzoom mode, a dramatic sound effect will play as the camera automatically zooms in on a subject. Switch to the Superzoom shooting mode and a box will appear, denoting where the camera will zoom. The camera immediately begins searching for a face to track, and if none are found it will default to the center of the frame. Once you start shooting, it’s just like any other video — edit away and share it to your story!
One of Instagram’s newer shooting modes is Focus, which emulates the portrait mode effect bundled on most phones these days. Whether you’re using the front or rear camera, Instagram creates a narrow depth of field, blurring out the background behind you to make you stand out more in a shot. Like most artificial bokeh effects, it isn’t always perfect, but it’s a great option to have, especially for those whose phones don’t have portrait mode built in. Best of all, Instagram’s Focus mode even works for video!
How does Instagram’s new Focus mode compare to your phone’s portrait mode?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. From the rewind shooting mode, you can either tap the shutter button or press and hold to begin recording a video. Once you’ve finished, Instagram will take a second to process the footage and begin playing it back in reverse. This is a bit less robust than Snapchat’s rewind function, which is applied as a filter rather than an entire shooting mode; because of this difference, you can’t change a reversed clip to play back the right way if you change your mind, so make wise use of this effect.
As a guitarist who sometimes like to share snippets of songs I’m working on to my story, I really appreciate Instagram’s final shooting mode for Stories, hands-free video. In this mode, you can simply tap the shutter button to begin recording a video, as opposed to needing to press and hold in the normal shooting mode. If you aren’t musically inclined, that’s okay — there are plenty of handy uses for this feature, none of which can be done on Snapchat.
It’s worth mentioning that this feature can be subverted by simply uploading an existing video clip you shot in your phone’s native camera app, but there’s just something different about recording directly from the app you’re sharing to.
Android versus iOS
Unfortunately, even major platforms like Instagram still leave Android out of some of the fun when it comes to new features. For the most part, you can have the same Stories experience on either platform, but iOS does get a few exclusive features. If you’ve tried to answer questions on an Android phone, you’ve probably noticed that you can only type over a gradient, rather than taking a picture or pulling from your gallery like your iPhone-toting friends. That’s not the only time text is handled differently — when adding text to a photo in your story on iOS, Instagram provides magnetic guidelines to perfectly line up your message. On Android, you can straighten out your text but it won’t attach to any particular part of the image.
Aligning images also works a bit differently depending on your platform. On iOS, imported photos and videos either shrink to fit the screen horizontally (creating ample letterboxing) or expand to fill it vertically. On Android, you can pinch and zoom to manipulate the image to whatever size and placement you like — though unlike iOS, it won’t lock into place.
I really like Stories, and Instagram as a whole, but neither is without its flaws. Luckily whenever there’s a problem, Instagram is quick to resolve it, but it’s still good to be aware of the occasional setbacks.
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Got any other tips or tricks?
We tried to make this as detailed as possible, but if we missed anything, let us know in the comments below and we’ll update the article as new features come to Instagram Stories.
Update, July 2018: Added sections for Type, Focus, and Android versus iOS, and updated surrounding sections to reflect new features.