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Security

Google Photos’ Locked Folder is now rolling out to more Android phones

Google Photos’ Locked Folder feature, which promises to keep sensitive photos out of your main photo roll, is starting to roll out to non-Pixel phones, according to Android Police. Google said in September that the feature would be rolling out to more Android phones “soon,” and it’s reportedly started to show up on some Samsung and OnePlus devices, according to Android Central. Older Pixel devices that didn’t originally get access to it are also getting it now, based on our tests.

The feature lets you choose specific photos or videos and put them in a passcode or biometrics-locked folder, taking them out of your main photo feed and keeping them off the cloud. It was introduced on Google’s own phones (Pixel 3 and up) in June, after being announced at Google’s I/O presentation in May.

In its presentation, Google used the example of parents hiding pictures of a newly purchased puppy from their children. A valid use case for sure, though I suspect most people will probably use it for less wholesome pictures, alleviating the “what if they swipe too many pictures back and see my butt” anxiety that can come when showing people photos from an unfiltered library. (Surely a relatable concern.)

The feature should be available to phones running Android 6 or later, and I was able to access it on my Pixel 2 running Android 11 by going to Photos > Library > Utilities. Google also said that the feature will come to the iOS version of Google Photos early next year.

If you’ve got the feature and want to use it, it’s worth noting that photos stored in the Locked Folder won’t be backed up to the cloud and will be deleted if you uninstall Google Photos or wipe your device without transferring them. You can read more on Google’s Locked Folder support page.

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Game

Netflix Gaming is rolling out on iPhone and iPad

A week after opening up its games to all subscribers on Android, Netflix is rolling them out on iPhone and iPad worldwide. Users can now download the games from the App Store. 

Starting tomorrow at 1PM ET, you’ll see a dedicated row in the Netflix iOS and iPadOS apps, from which you can pick a game to download. Those with an iPad can find the games through the category dropdown menu as well. 

You’ll be able to launch the games from within the Netflix app. Whether you open them from there or directly on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to authenticate your Netflix account before you can play. 

The initial lineup of games are the same as on Android. There are two Stranger Things titles, Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3, which Netflix started testing as part of subscriptions in Poland in August. The other three are more general-interest casual games: Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up and Card Blast.

Earlier today, details emerged about another title that’s coming to the library soon. Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story, which will arrive on Nintendo Switch and PC later this month, is the first game announced for Netflix after the broader rollout of games on Android.

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Game

Netflix starts rolling out mobile games to all Android subscribers

Netflix is taking a big step forward with its gaming ambitions. Starting today, all subscribers can play five mobile games on Android devices at no extra cost by downloading them from the Google Play store on phones and tablets. The games will be available through the Netflix app starting on November 3rd as part of a gradual rollout. As for iOS users, they can access the games at a later date.

In August, Netflix started testing games in its Android app in Poland with Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3. The test expanded to Spain and Italy the following month with three other casual games — Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up and Card Blast — none of which are connected to Netflix shows or movies.

The games have no ads or in-app purchases. You can access them on your phone or tablet by going to the games section of the app’s homepage or through the games tab. Once you select a game, you can download it from the Google Play Store or (soon) the App Store, and play it via the Netflix app.

Games will default to the preferred language in your Netflix profile. However, if a game isn’t yet available in that language, it will default to English. Some games will work offline too.

Everyone with a profile on a Netflix account can play the games without the need for a separate subscription. However, the games aren’t available on kids profiles. Users who have set up a PIN to prevent access to adult profiles will need to enter their code to play games too.

After experimenting with interactive shows and movies over the last few years, Netflix has made it clear it’s eager to gain a bigger foothold in gaming. During its Q2 earnings call in July, the company said its most serious gaming push to date would start on mobile. 

Netflix says the initial batch of five titles are just the beginning of its gaming aspirations. In September, the company bought a game studio for the first time in the form of Oxenfree developer Night School Studio.

“Just like our series, films and specials, we want to design games for any level of play and every kind of player, whether you’re a beginner or a lifelong gamer,” Mike Verdu, Netflix vice president of game development, wrote in a blog post.

Update 11/2 2:15PM ET: Clarifying the rollout timeline on Android.

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Game

Niantic’s ‘Pikmin Bloom’ mobile game starts rolling out

Pokémon Go’s creator has a new augmented reality mobile game, and this time, it’s all about Pikmin. Niantic is now rolling out Pikmin Bloom worldwide, starting with Singapore and Australia where it’s already live. Similar to Pokémon Go, you’ll have to go out and interact with the real world enjoy the game. It’s really more of a fun and colorful companion for daily walks or hikes, though, since it doesn’t have battles and doesn’t have the incentive of catching rare monsters like Pokémon Go does. 

In Pikmin Bloom, you’ll find seedlings when you walk that you can pick up and grow into plant-like creatures that’ll follow you around. The more you walk, the more Pikmin you can pluck and the more Pikmin will follow you around. Onscreen, you’re depicted as a Mii avatar, with a bunch of creatures walking behind you and making more flowers bloom along your path. You’ll also be able to collect items on your walks, including clothes Pikmin can wear and fruit you can feed your creatures to make flowers bloom on their heads.

Niantic CEO John Hanke said in the game’s video announcement that the flowers the Pikmin make can be viewed by other players, so you can create shared gardens with your neighbors. Pikmin Bloom is now live for Android and iOS in Singapore and Australia, and it will be arriving in more countries and regions “shortly.”

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Security

Ring’s end-to-end encryption is rolling out globally

Ring’s end-to-end encryption for video streams is leaving technical preview, is now available to US users, and is currently rolling out globally, the Amazon-owned company announced on Tuesday. The opt-in feature makes it so that your video streams can only be viewed by you on an enrolled iOS or Android device, meaning that Ring can’t access that footage even if it wanted to.

The feature works with 13 Ring cameras, and you can see the full list of compatible models and follow the steps on how to set up end-to-end encryption on Ring’s website. Ring’s battery-powered video doorbells and cameras don’t support end-to-end encryption, according to that page.

Ring’s end-to-end encryption settings menu.
Image: Ring

End-to-end encryption is a boon for customers who want to ensure Ring can’t access their footage — turning it on ensures that Ring can’t turn over captured video to law enforcement, for example. Ring first announced video end-to-end encryption in September 2020 and launched the technical preview in January.

Alongside end-to-end encryption, Ring is introducing new features to help customers protect their accounts. If you use two-step authentication to provide extra security to your account, Ring now supports authenticator apps, which can be more secure than SMS. The company is also rolling out CAPTCHA in both the Ring and Neighbors app, which can prevent bots and spammers from logging into your account.

Ring is also making it easier to transfer ownership of a used Ring device. Right now, that process requires that you call Ring’s customer service department, but in the “coming weeks,” you’ll be able to transfer ownership of a used device to yourself right from the Ring app.

Correction: End-to-end encryption is supported on 13 Ring cameras, not 12. We regret the error.

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Game

Xbox Cloud Gaming’s next-gen upgrade begins rolling out

Microsoft leadership said earlier this month that it was transitioning Xbox Cloud Gaming to more powerful Xbox Series X hardware, and now it appears that some games are getting the upgrade. As spotted by The Verge, players now have the option of 120fps and updated graphics for titles like Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Rainbow Six Siege, while others like Dirt 5 are simply loading faster. For now, Microsoft isn’t ready to confirm the change, telling the publication to expect news on datacenter upgrades soon. 

The company launched the xCloud mobile game streaming service on Android in September using Xbox One S-based blade servers, but in the lead up to E3 said that it would move to Xbox Series hardware. Alongside improvements in load times, framerates and optimized games, the change was intended to support streaming on larger screen devices.

The company has big plans for cloud gaming in general. Just days ago, Microsoft hired Portal co-creator Kim Swift to lead its efforts to build games for the cloud. As part of its early E3 reveal, Microsoft also confirmed that it’s building a game streaming stick. Like Google Stadia and Amazon Luna before it, the company is working to get Game Pass on to smart TVs, too.

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Tech News

Wyze Lock Google Home integration is now rolling out

There has been an explosion in smart home appliances in the past years but the most common kind has been smart lighting and smart locks. The latter has sometimes proven to be a bit controversial, considering their security implications. Wyze’s smart lock, however, has been criticized for a different flaw, one that prevented it from connecting to Google’s nearly ubiquitous smart home platform. That has finally changed, however, and the Wyze Lock now finally speaks Google Home’s language so that you can lock or unlock your door with the power of your voice.

The Wyze Lock does actually have voice control, but that was limited to Amazon Alexa when it launched back in 2019. It teased a physical wireless keypad as an additional input method and promised support for Google Assistant in 2020. That didn’t happen last year, obviously, but Wyze has finally made good on its promise.

The latest update to Wyze’s Android app includes support for Wyze Lock’s integration with Google Home. This means that owners will be able to manage and control their smart lock from a single Google Home hub, be it a smart speaker or a smartphone. It also means being able to unlock the Wyze Lock by voice using Google Assistant, presuming you took the necessary steps to set it up.

Those necessary steps involve setting up a PIN for the lock. It seems that you will have to speak out this PIN when unlocking your door with your voice, which can be awkward and cumbersome, not to mention less secure. As Android Police recounted, it can also be error-prone at times.

The Wyze app’s update on Android does also have other goodies for other Wyze products. That includes a Vacation Mode indicator for the Wyze Bulb as well as a new no-go zone rotation for the Wyze Robot Vacuum. If anything, the update shows just how many smart home products Wyze has under its belt, most of which can be controlled via Google Home, now including the Wyze Lock.

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Tech News

Twitch is finally rolling out threaded replies in chat for everyone

Following a limited test of the feature, Twitch is finally rolling out threaded replies in chat for everyone, adding some organization to conversations that, historically speaking, tend to be chaotic and hard to follow. As you’d expect, the threaded replies feature indents replies under the original comment, making it easier to follow the conversation.

Twitch launched its threaded chat replies test last August, giving some users the opportunity to use the feature and send in their feedback. Based on that communication, Twitch added some features to the new replies option and is now delivering it to all of its users. With the feature, users can reply to a chat message and have their response appear underneath it.

Users are able to reply to a chat message by either clicking on an icon next to it or using a keyboard shortcut for those times you don’t feel like using the trackpad. Users will notice the ‘Chat’ button change to a ‘Reply’ button when they start typing a response to an existing chat message, helping keep clear where the reply will go.

Users may also get access to a ‘See Thread’ link, depending on whether the message they’re commenting on is the original chat for a thread. Users will be able to exit the reply thread by clicking an ‘X’ button, after which point the ‘Reply’ button reverts to the ‘Chat’ button we’re all familiar with.

Of course, your message will appear in the chat thread for other users to see. Twitch users have the option of setting these threads to expanded or minimum view depending on their chat appearance settings. Twitch details the new chat feature, including its shortcuts and related explanations, in a support document.

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Tech News

Galaxy Tab S6 One UI 3.1 update is rolling out two months early

Given how people complain when things arrive early, it’s no surprise that they all celebrate when things arrive a lot earlier than expected. Not expected until May, it seems that Samsung has started the ball rolling to bring One UI 3.1 and Android 11 to its 2019 premium slate, the Galaxy Tab S6. Given the company and the type of device, this could be even more proof that Samsung has definitely matured and changed for the better, at least as far as updates go.

Although it does make a fuss over its most recent Galaxy S and Galaxy Note phones, Samsung didn’t always bring Android updates to its other phone models in a timely manner. That’s sometimes even worse for tablets, where its latest Galaxy Tab S doesn’t always get preferential treatment at all. To its credit, Samsung has indeed been getting better at that and this might be one more point going for it.

With the update, the Galaxy Tab S6 jumps from One UI 2.5 and right into One UI 3.1, which means it’s also being upgraded to the so-far latest Android 11 version. That’s already a big jump under the hood but even more when it comes to the visual refresh that was introduced in One UI 3. There are, of course, new features as well but those might be harder to pin down on tablets.

For example, it isn’t certain which of the features announced in the Galaxy Tab S7 One UI 3.1 update will be available on the older tablet. The previous announcement does make mention of 360 Audio support becoming available on the Galaxy Tab S6 and SamMobile adds Auto Switch support when paired with a Galaxy Buds Pro. It will be terribly disappointing if new S Pen functionality, like Pen to Text in Samsung Notes, will be missing in this update.

The one small catch is that the One UI 3.1 update has so far been reported only for the LTE model of the Galaxy Tab S6 in Germany. Barring a mistake on Samsung’s side, the update should also start rolling out to other countries and both LTE and Wi-Fi models soon. Given the early release, there’s also a chance that the Galaxy Tab S6 Lite will join the party earlier than May as well.

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Tech News

Spin rolling out remote-control e-scooter to park them properly

Spin is an electric scooter company that operates in various cities around the United States, providing mobility scooters that can be rented and parked when done. However, Spin says an improperly parked scooter can be a hazard to pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities. In San Francisco, California, where Spin has its largest fleet of scooters, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority requires operators to respond to improperly parked scooters in under two hours and can fine operators $100 for each incorrectly part scooter.

The point of the fine and the response requirement is to prevent scooters from cluttering sidewalks. The company says it takes that seriously and its average response time over the last three months is 54 minutes. Spin wants to respond even faster and has begun looking at ways to reposition scooters without employees having to respond. To make that happen, Spin has announced an alliance with Tortoise on a new scooter called the Spin S-200.

The scooter is a remotely-operated e-scooter and will be deployed to cities in North America and Europe in 2021. The scooter will be part of the Spin Valet platform, making it possible to remotely operate the Spin fleet and reposition scooters out of the way of pedestrians and other traffic within seconds. The new scooter was co-developed with Segway-Ninebot, and the first pilot city will be Boise, Idaho.

Starting this spring, Spin plans to deploy 300 scooters for the program and use what it learns there to inform future programs with partners worldwide. Spin Valet will leverage front and rear cameras built into the new S-200 scooters and GPS to allow precision location. Remote operators from Tortoise will be able to safely relocate the vehicle at a speed of 2 to 3 mph allowing for repositioning of improperly parked scooters.

The platform will also allow the repositioning of scooters into one location to be used during times of high demand. The scooters will also feature swappable batteries, and the company says eventually, riders will be able to hail an e-scooter and have it come to the pickup location.

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