With Apple’s iOS 12 arrival in September, iPhone users saw “Screen Time” features make their way to phone screens to counter-intuitively help them spend less time on their phones. But Apple’s built-in phone addiction fighting tool isn’t necessarily the best way to decrease screen time.
Although users could finally track phone and specific app usage while also limiting the amount of time spent on the phone and in apps, it didn’t instantly eliminate the problem. For parents, it offered a way to manage kids’ tech and connected time. The tool was a long time coming (Google’s similar wellbeing tool for Android phones was available in Aug. 2018), but other apps had stepped up over the years to offer phone addicts and parents similar, yet often expanded, features.
A New York Times report Saturday found that 11 of the top third-party screen time and parental control apps have been removed from Apple’s App Store or forced to change features. While that’s concerning about Apple’s power to destroy apps and businesses it views as competitors, it also weakens everyone’s options for better phone control.
It almost feels like Apple’s repeated line that “We don’t want people using their phones all the time,” is as hollow as it sounds. Of course the company doesn’t want users addicted to screens and unhealthily attached to their phones, but as the NYT report makes clear, it seems the iPhone maker is doing a lot to minimize your options around customizing phone usage.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment about the third-party app removals or more about its own tools and features.
Now parents and compulsive phone users are limited to Apple’s native tools, all dubbed “Screen Time.” While for many it’s a perfectly fine solution that reminds you to log off or look away, for others it’s not as powerful as what third-party options once offered.
Some glaring issues immediately come up with Apple’s Screen Time. Mostly that it’s easy to get around the limits. Kids quickly figured out how to game the controls and get into YouTube or game apps that parents had restricted. For adults, time limits for social media apps or others require a lot of self-control. With just your passcode you can allow the phone to let you back onto Facebook all day if you want.
Another issue: for families, Screen Time requires the entire fam to have an iPhone. Other restriction apps gave parents the ability to manage their kids’ Android phone from their iPhone.
Other issues that various apps addressed included weak coverage with Apple’s tool, like how it only blocks content in the Safari web browser for mobile, not Chrome or others; or multiple users using the same device. You don’t want your kid’s limits set while you’re on the same iPad.
Instagram Makes It Easier To Take Back Hacked Accounts.
Instagram is finally addressing a huge problem on its platform: hacked accounts.
The company says it is making a series of changes that will make it easier for people to regain access to a hacked account. The update comes almost a year after Mashable first reported that a wave of bizarre hacks had hit Instagram users, leaving them little recourse to get their accounts back.
With the newly announced changes, which are currently being tested ahead of a wider rollout, Instagram will allow users to access its account recovery tools directly in the app, even if a hacker has changed their account information. So when a person is unable to login to an account, Instagram will prompt users to enter information associated with your account like your email address or phone number. (Users can also access this via "need more help" in the app's login screen.)
From there, Instagram will send a verification code you can use to access your account. Instagram will also remove any other devices logged into your account, so a hacker who has access to your email will be unable to use the recovery code.
This may sound fairly straightforward, but these changes address significant issues with Instagram's previous account recovery process. Because hackers often changed the email, phone number, or username associated with an account, it could be incredibly difficult if not impossible for the actual account owner to navigate the automated support system.
Users have reported Instagram sending recovery emails to the address of their hackers, for example, or inexplicably telling them it could not verify their identity even though they provided the information requested. This caused some people to resort to more elaborate schemes, such as reporting a hacked account for impersonation or leaving voicemails for Instagram support.
This new process will hopefully make those kinds of moves a thing of the past, as Instagram says its goal is to move the entire account recovery process in-app. Additional support will still be available to those who need it though, according to an Instagram spokesperson.
Notably, this new process will also apply to people whose accounts have previously been hacked and unable to regain access.
Additionally, Instagram says it's addressing another major issue often associated with hacked accounts: username theft. Because accounts that have short or original names are considered valuable and desirable, they often face a disproportionate amount of hacking attempts. Hackers will often change a username in order to scoop it up for a fresh account or sell it on shady forums.
Now, Instagram says that a previously used username will not be available for anyone else for several days in order to make it more difficult for hackers to steal valuable usernames. (The company isn't disclosing exactly how long names will be inaccessible to others but a spokesperson says it will be "multiple days.")
While it's unlikely these changes will put a stop to hacking attempts, or the massive business of buying and selling stolen accounts, it could make life more difficult for hackers — at least until they find new ways to circumvent Instagram's policies. But it should also give users more power to get their accounts back.
YouTube Reportedly Considers Moving All Children’s Content To YouTube Kids.
YouTube is reportedly considering major changes after a long string of terrible headlines involving everything from pedophiles to gun-wielding Disney characters.
The company might remove all children's content from YouTube and show it exclusively in the YouTube Kids app, a new Wall Street Journal article says.
The other option under discussion involves entirely turning off auto-playing recommended videos on children's content. This is the system that leads viewers from a seemingly harmless video to extreme content and conspiracy theories.
These changes would be immense for YouTube. The platform has reportedly been relying on down-ranking and reducing the reach of controversial content, rather than removing it outright. But turning off the recommendation algorithm for children altogether would amount to some sort of admission that it's the platform's architecture — not the content — that is the problem.
It could also potentially affect revenue by moving a sizable chunk of videos off the platform, away from YouTube's advertisers. YouTube Kids does have ads, but there are additional requirements for advertisers there.
The Journal also reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai has recently been taking a more active role in the management of YouTube, which is run by Susan Wojcicki. Recent scandals involving the wildfire-like spread of the Christchurch shooting video and pedophilia rings enabled by YouTube's recommendation algorithm have reportedly caused internal upheaval.
In 2018, YouTube Kids added controls to allow parents to manually select the channels and creators that their kids would be able to watch. It also added more human moderators to remove harmful content. But not all kids watch videos on the Kids app alone, which means they currently could be exposed to the same algorithmic wormhole that adults are.
YouTube told the Journal that it considers "lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that—ideas."
Google Desperately Wants To Win Over Geeks’ Hearts
Google's acting really strange these days.
First, the company basically says "fuck it," then both confirms the Pixel 4 and its huge square-shaped camera bump. And now they company has publicly admitted to Business Insider that they've canceled two unreleased tablets and will instead focus on making Pixelbook laptops.
These two PR moves are unusual for a tech company. Usually, outfits like Google never acknowledge upcoming products. Why would they? It would take all the excitement out of their own launch event.
Moreover, tech companies don't ever talk about canceled products because they'll never see the light of day. No point in getting people all worked up over products that technically don't exist.
That's why it's so out of character for Google to suddenly be so open. What's the goal here?
Maybe these two instances are unrelated, but to a tech observer like myself, it sure looks like Google's trying its hardest to court geeks in an effort to convince super fans that it's serious about hardware this year. In fact, these moves feel like they're coming straight out of startup phone maker OnePlus' playbook, which has built its fanbase catering to geeks as well.
Apple Recalls MacBook Pro Batteries Over ‘Fire Safety Risk’
If you have an older MacBook Pro, you might need to get its battery replaced.
Apple is recalling 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops sold between between September 2015 and February 2017 over a battery issue it says poses a "fire safety risk."
"Apple has determined that, in a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units, the battery may overheat and pose a fire safety risk," the company writes on a support page about the recall.
Affected laptops should not be used until the company can issue battery replacements, Apple says. The recall only applies to 15-inch Pro models and other MacBooks are unaffected. Even if you're not totally sure if your laptop is impacted, it's probably a good idea to double check.
Here's how Apple recommends you check to see if your laptop is affected:
To confirm which model you have, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu () in the upper-left corner of your screen. If you have “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015),” enter your computer's serial number on the program page to see if it is eligible for a battery replacement.
The recall comes shortly after one musician posted videos of his smoking MacBook Pro, which he said "exploded" after normal use. The musician, who goes by the name "White Panda," told Mashable in an interview that he had his laptop in his lap when smoke suddenly began pouring out of it. It later "popped" and caught fire.
It's not clear if the current recall is related to that issue, but Apple does make it very clear that the MacBook Pros in question could pose a serious safety risk.
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