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Amazon gives Alexa a new iOS widget and the ability to assign reminders

Amazon has updated the Alexa app on iOS so that you can access the voice assistant right from your home screen via a new widget. Everyone can use the assistant to remind specific members of your household to do tasks through a new “assign reminders” skill.

Due to the somewhat restrictive nature of the widgets on iOS, the new Ask Alexa widget isn’t so much Alexa itself as it is a link directly to the iOS app. But if you have the Alexa widget placed on any of your screens and you’ve already given the Alexa app permission to use your iPhone’s mic, you’ll be able to start making requests with a tap.

The Ask Alexa widget in iOS.

And now those requests can get a bit more granular. Amazon’s given Alexa the ability to assign reminders to specific members of your household if they have an Alexa Profile set up on the same Amazon account. So if you say “Alexa, remind Jeff to take the lasagna out of the freezer at 10AM,” Alexa will be able to deliver the reminder to the right person, at the right time, provided they’re logged in to their Alexa app.

You can create an Alexa Profile (up to 10 per Amazon account) each time someone new logs in to the Alexa app for the first time. Amazon says you can assign relationship nicknames to each profile, like mom, dad, daughter, etc. Additional Voice Profiles can also be added in Settings, so Alexa can recognize who’s speaking and making reminders based on their voice.

Alexa picks up new features and skills on a monthly basis, but Amazon also announced plans in June to open up Alexa even further to third-party developers. Among many new APIs, developers will be able to create custom widgets for the Echo Show.

Update August 6th, 7:00PM ET: Added information from Amazon on creating Alexa Profiles.

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Tech News

Google Photos Memories widget incoming: You can never escape

Google Photos has a feature in which the system intelligently gathers and surfaces sets of photos called “Memories.” Users are notified that Google Photos created a “Memory” for them – usually a gallery of images – that they’ll then be encouraged to look through and interact with. This smart system allows Google Photos to remain active in the minds and on the screens of users even when the user isn’t usually taking the time to sort through, look at, download, or share their photos in the Google Photos system.

With the Memories system, Google remains comfy and current on all users that have the Google Photos app on their smartphone or tablet. In October of 2020, Google released an iOS update for Google Photos that allowed users to have a homescreen widget with Memories inside. Android users have no such widget as of this moment.

To further keep the attention of Google Photos users on Android, there’ll be an update to the app that’ll deliver an Android version of said widget – or so the code for the app suggests. Per an APK teardown by XDA developers, there’s a Google Photos “Photos Widget” in the mix.

The Photos Widget as it stands today looks to resurrect memories from exactly 1 year ago “this week”. It’s likely the options will expand with this feature by the time it’s made public in Google Photos for Android. For now, the code exists, the code is in the latest update for Android, but the code does not allow the app itself to create a widget – not just yet.

Take a peek at the timeline below for more information on how Google Photos has been updated recently and info on where it’s going next – with your photos, or without your photos if you’ve just realized the term limit for the original Pixel Phone is done.

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Tech News

Pandora launches a new home screen widget for iOS and iPadOS

This week Pandora updated its app for iOS and iPadOS users. The streaming company says the goalie update was to make it easier for users to enjoy their favorite music and podcasts. Part of the update is a new home screen widget that makes it much easier to access and control music playback without having to launch the app.

Users of the Apple devices can customize their device by selecting from three sizes of the Pandora widget, allowing viewing and control of as many of seven of their most recently played songs, albums, stations, playlists, and podcasts. The controls are accessible directly from the vice home screen.

Pandora says for users to install the home screen widget for the Apple devices, they need to be running the latest version of the Pandora app for the iPhone and the iPad. Users long-press the home screen and hold it until it begins to wiggle. Once the wiggling starts, users can tap the plus button, search for Pandora, and then select from the three available sizes for the home screen widget.

Once a size is chosen, the user taps add widget, and it appears on the home screen. IPad and iPhone users do have to be running at least version 14 of both operating systems to enable the widget. Pandora is a music and podcast streaming service similar to Spotify but not as popular.

The latest version of the Pandora app is available to download right now for both the iPhone and the iPad. Last month, Pandora announced that T-Mobile subscribers were able to get a special experience with additional perks.

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