iOS apps

Apple may combine ‘Find My iPhone’ & ‘Find My Friends’ apps, launch a Tile-like tracking device

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Apps, Bluetooth, find my iphone, iCloud, iOS, iOS apps, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Mobile, tracker | No Comments

Apple is working to combine its tracking apps “Find My iPhone” and “Find My Friends” into one unified app available on both iOS and Mac, according to a new report from the Apple news site 9to5Mac. In addition, the report says, Apple is developing a hardware product that can be attached to other items that Apple customers want to track — similar to what the Bluetooth tracker Tile offers today.

The idea is the new, unified app would then serve as a way to track anything — Apple devices, other important items like a handbag or backpack, as well as the location of family members and trusted friends. And all of this information would be securely synced to iCloud.

Meanwhile, the new hardware — codenamed “B389,” the report says — would represent a threat to Tile and other Bluetooth trackers on the market, as Apple would be able to capitalize on its massive install base of iPhones and other Apple devices to develop its own crowdsourced tracking-and-finding network.

The new hardware tag will be paired to a user’s iCloud account and users will be able to receive notifications when a device, like their iPhone, gets too far away from the tag. Users will also be able to configure locations to be ignored, and can opt to share a tag’s location with friends or family.

And like Tile, when the item with the tag attached goes missing, users could then put the tag into a “Lost” mode that would alert the owner when it’s found. The “finding” takes place by way of a crowdsourced network that includes every other Apple device owner who’s opted in to use this same tracking service, it would seem.

A large crowdsourced network is today one of Tile’s key advantages.

To date, the company has sold 24 million Tiles, which now connect to 4 million items daily with a 90 percent success rate, thanks to its own community-find feature. A competitive product from Apple could eat away at Tile’s business, while also serving as a new source of device revenue for Apple — and perhaps subscription revenues, too, for access to the crowd-finding network.

The reported merger of Apple’s two tracking applications comes at a time when Apple is rethinking how it wants to position its apps. Another recent report from 9to5Mac had confirmed Apple’s plans to break up iTunes, and instead bring new Music, podcasts and TV apps to Mac users. Apple will revamp its Books app as part of these changes, too, the report said.

It’s worth noting that there’s a big leak at Apple right now, and 9to5Mac is benefiting.

In addition to the news about the unified apps, Tile-like tracker and the breakup of iTunes, the site also leaked a big preview of iOS 13, which is said to include a system-wide dark mode, new gestures, visual changes and more. And just yesterday, the site reported that Apple is working on a feature that will allow users to pair a Mac with an iPad to use as a secondary display — something offered today by companies like Luna Display or Duet Display.

As for the new, unified “Find My…” app and hardware tag, no timeline to a public release is yet known.

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CoParenter helps divorced parents settle disputes using AI and human mediation

Posted by | AI, android apps, Apps, artifical intelligence, artificial intelligence, children, divorce, iOS apps, kids, Mobile, parenting, parents, Startups | No Comments

A former judge and family law educator has teamed up with tech entrepreneurs to launch an app they hope will help divorced parents better manage their co-parenting disputes, communications, shared calendar and other decisions within a single platform. The app, called coParenter, aims to be more comprehensive than its competitors, while also leveraging a combination of AI technology and on-demand human interaction to help co-parents navigate high-conflict situations.

The idea for coParenter emerged from co-founder Hon. Sherrill A. Ellsworth’s personal experience and entrepreneur Jonathan Verk, who had been through a divorce himself.

Ellsworth had been a presiding judge of the Superior Court in Riverside County, California for 20 years and a family law educator for 10. During this time, she saw firsthand how families were destroyed by today’s legal system.

“I witnessed countless families torn apart as they slogged through the family law system. I saw how families would battle over the simplest of disagreements like where their child will go to school, what doctor they should see and what their diet should be — all matters that belong at home, not in a courtroom,” she says.

Ellsworth also notes that 80 percent of the disagreements presented in the courtroom didn’t even require legal intervention — but most of the cases she presided over involved parents asking the judge to make the co-parenting decision.

As she came to the end of her career, she began to realize the legal system just wasn’t built for these sorts of situations.

She then met Jonathan Verk, previously EVP Strategic Partnerships at Shazam and now coParenter CEO. Verk had just divorced and had an idea about how technology could help make the co-parenting process easier. He already had on board his longtime friend and serial entrepreneur Eric Weiss, now COO, to help build the system. But he needed someone with legal expertise.

That’s how coParenter was born.

The app, also built by CTO Niels Hansen, today exists alongside a whole host of other tools built for different aspects of the co-parenting process.

That includes those apps designed to document communication, like OurFamilyWizard, Talking Parents, AppClose and Divvito Messenger; those for sharing calendars, like Custody Connection, Custody X Exchange and Alimentor; and even those that offer a combination of features like WeParent, 2houses, SmartCoparent and Fayr, among others.

But the team at coParenter argues that their app covers all aspects of co-parenting, including communication, documentation, calendar and schedule sharing, location-based tools for pickup and drop-off logging, expense tracking and reimbursements, schedule change requests, tools for making decisions on day-to-day parenting choices like haircuts, diet, allowance, use of media, etc. and more.

Notably, coParenter also offers a “solo mode” — meaning you can use the app even if the other co-parent refuses to do the same. This is a key feature that many rival apps lack.

However, the biggest differentiator is how coParenter puts a mediator of sorts in your pocket.

The app begins by using AI, machine learning and sentiment analysis technology to keep conversations civil. The tech will jump in to flag curse words, inflammatory phrases and offensive names to keep a heated conversation from escalating — much like a human mediator would do when trying to calm two warring parties.

When conversations take a bad turn, the app will pop up a warning message that asks the parent if they’re sure they want to use that term, allowing them time to pause and think. (If only social media platforms had built features like this!)

 

When parents need more assistance, they can opt to use the app instead of turning to lawyers.

The company offers on-demand access to professionals as both monthly ($12.99/mo – 20 credits, or enough for two mediations) or yearly ($119.99/year – 240 credits) subscriptions. Both parents can subscribe for $199.99/year, each receiving 240 credits.

“Comparatively, an average hour with a lawyer costs between $250 and upwards of $500, just to file a single motion,” Ellsworth says.

These professionals are not mediators, but are licensed in their respective fields — typically family law attorneys, therapists, social workers or other retired bench officers with strong conflict resolution backgrounds. Ellsworth oversees the professionals to ensure they have the proper guidance.

All communication between the parent and the professional is considered confidential and not subject to admission as evidence, as the goal is to stay out of the courts. However, all the history and documentation elsewhere in the app can be used in court, if the parents do end up there.

The app has been in beta for nearly a year, and officially launched this January. To date, coParenter claims it has already helped to resolve more than 4,000 disputes and more than 2,000 co-parents have used it for scheduling. Indeed, 81 percent of the disputing parents resolved all their issues in the app, without needing a professional mediator or legal professional, the company says.

CoParenter is available on both iOS and Android.

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iOS developers will soon be able to offer discounts to their existing and lapsed subscribers

Posted by | Apple, Apps, developers, iOS, iOS apps, Mobile, mobile app developers, subscriptions, tvos | No Comments

As subscriptions continue to grow into a sizable revenue stream for mobile app developers, Apple has had to make adjustments to its guidelines, rules and even its tools for subscription management in recent weeks. It issued stricter guidelines around how subscriptions are to be presented to consumers, and it made the setting for canceling existing subscriptions more accessible. Now, Apple is rolling out new tools for developers that will help them retain their current customers and win back lapsed subscribers.

The company announced on Friday that apps with auto-renewable subscriptions will soon be able to offer their subscriptions at a discounted price for a specific period, as a means of growing and retaining their customer base. This will give the developers more control over their subscription pricing than was available before.

Until the change, developers could only make introductory offers to entice consumers to sign up for the first time. For example, developers could lure customers with a one-time introductory price, offer a free trial or offer a discounted rate for a specific period of time before the subscription converted to the full price.

But these offers could only be made to first-time customers. The new promotional offers will allow developers to cut similar deals for existing subscribers or to win back the business from those who used to pay for the subscription but had canceled.

While the new promotional offers allow for the same sort of discounts as introductory offers, they’re more flexible in terms of how they’re used.

With introductory offers, developers were allowed one offer per subscription, per territory. With promotional offers, developers can activate up to 10 offers per subscription. This allows them to test which ones work best for their customers, instead of having to pick just one.

And developers are in control of when an offer displays to a customer, in which territories and how many offers a customer can redeem.

In addition, while introductory offers may display in the App Store when promoted, the promotional offers will not. That means developers can use business logic that targets winning back their most valuable customers with offers that may be better from those shown to others — and no one would be the wiser. It also means developers can offer different deals to lapsed customers — like maybe a discounted subscription — compared with promos meant to retain current subscribers.

Developers will also be able to use receipt validation tools to find subscribers who turned off auto-renewal, which allows them to target those customers with new offers before their subscription lapses. They may also decide to target those who cancel during the free trial with different offers than those who cancel after using a paid subscription for a time.

As an end-user looking to save money, these changes mean it may be worth toggling off your subscriptions from time to time to see if you’re offered a better deal to resubscribe.

Developers were alerted to the new features last week, but the offers themselves aren’t yet publicly available.

To create the offers, developers have to download the latest Xcode 10.2 beta and will need to implement the new StoreKit APIs. They can then test their offers on the latest beta version of iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4 and tvOS 12.2. Apple said the offers will be made available to the public “soon.”

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Opera Touch brings website cookie blocking to iOS

Posted by | Apps, cookies, iOS apps, Mobile, Opera, web browser, Website | No Comments

Last fall, Opera introduced Opera Touch for iOS — a solid alternative to Safari on iPhone, optimized for one-handed use. Today, the company is rolling out a notable new feature to this app: cookie blocking. Yes, it can now block those annoying dialogs that ask you to accept the website’s cookies. These are particularly problematic on mobile, where they often entirely interrupt your ability to view the content, as opposed to on many desktop websites where you can (kind of) ignore the pop-up banner that appears at the bottom or the top of the page.

Cookie dialogs have become prevalent across the web as a result of Europe’s GDPR, but many people find them overly intrusive. Today, it takes an extra click to dismiss these prompts, which slows down web browsing — especially for those times you’re on the hunt for a particular piece of information and are visiting several websites in rapid succession.

The cookie blocking feature was first launched in November on Opera’s flagship app for Android, but hadn’t yet made its way to iOS — through any browser app, that is, not just one from Opera. The company says it uses a mix of CSS and JavaScript heuristics in order to block the prompts.

At the time of the launch, Opera noted it had tested the feature with some 15,000 sites.

It’s important to note that the default setting for the cookie blocker on Opera Touch will allow the websites to set cookies.

Here’s how it works. When you enable the feature, it will hide the dialog boxes from appearing, allowing you to read a website without having to first close the prompt. However, when you turn on the Cookie Blocker option, another setting is also switched on: one that says “automatically accept cookie dialogs.”

That means, in practice, when you’re enabling the Cookie Blocker, you’re also enabling cookie acceptance if you don’t take further action.

But Opera says you can disable this checkbox, if you don’t want your browser to give websites your acceptance.

In addition to the new cookie blocking, the browser has a number of other options that make it an interesting alternative to Safari on iOS or Google Chrome.

For example, if offers built-in ad blocking, cryptocurrency mining protection (which prevents malicious sites from using your device’s resources to mine for cryptocurrencies), a way to send web content to your PC through Opera’s “Flow” technology and — most importantly — a design focused on using the app with just one hand.

Since the app’s launch in April, the company has rolled out 23 new features in total. This includes a new dark theme, as well as the addition of a private mode, plus search engine choice, which offers 11 options, including Qwant and DuckDuckGo, and other features.

The app is a free download on iOS.

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Netflix launches ‘smart downloads’ feature on iOS to automate offline viewing

Posted by | Apps, cord cutting, Downloads, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, Netflix, offline, streaming, streaming service, streaming video, tv, Video | No Comments

Netflix today is launching a new feature on iOS devices that will help make it easier to watch its shows when you’re offline. The “smart downloads” feature, as it’s called, will automatically delete a downloaded episode after you’ve finished watching, then download the next one — but only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

The idea is that users will no longer have to go through the tedious work of managing their downloads — deleting those they’ve watched or downloading new titles, for example. Instead, the app can manage the downloads for you, so people can spend more time watching Netflix shows.

Smart downloads make sense for those who plan for intermittent connectivity — like commuters who take underground trains, for instance, or those who travel through dead spots where wireless coverage drops. It also makes sense for those on limited data plans, who are careful about not using streaming video apps unless they’re on Wi-Fi.

Offline features like this are key to attracting and retaining users in emerging markets where connectivity concerns are the norm. That’s likely why Netflix prioritized Android over iOS, for the initial launch of smart downloads.

The feature had first arrived on Android last summer. It’s now offered across platforms, including iOS and in the Windows 10 Netflix app, the company says.

Offline access is only one area where Netflix is focusing on the needs of those in developing markets. The company late last year also began testing a more affordable, mobile-only subscription.

Non-U.S. users accounted for 7.31 million of the 8.8 million new subscribers Netflix added in the last quarter, as the U.S. market has become more saturated.

To use smart downloads on iOS, you can toggle the option in the Netflix app settings. It then turns itself on when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, to ensure your data plan won’t be used and your device storage won’t fill up as you watch offline. The feature will alert you when the episode in question has been downloaded.

“The faster our members can get to the next episode of their favorite stories, the better. Now, fans on the Netflix iOS app can get in on the fun and convenience of Smart Downloads, spending less time managing their downloads and more time watching,” said a Netflix spokesperson in a statement about the launch. “The feature is one more way we’re making it easier for Netflix fans to take the stories they love wherever they go,” they added.

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App Store Review guidelines hint that users will soon be able to gift in-app purchases, not just apps

Posted by | app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, gifting, in-app purchase, iOS apps, Mobile, subscriptions | No Comments

Apple will allow iOS users to gift in-app purchases, not just paid apps, according to a change to the company’s App Store Review Guidelines spotted this week. This means developers may soon have the tools to allow users to purchase virtual goods or even subscriptions through their app, which can then be gifted to others.

The changes to the company’s App Store guidelines were first discovered on Wednesday by MacRumors, which confirmed both the prior and current wording as follows:

Before: “Apps should not directly or indirectly enable gifting of in-app purchase content, features, or consumable items to others.” 

After: “Apps may enable gifting of items that are eligible for in-app purchase to others. Such gifts may only be refunded to the original purchaser and may not be exchanged.”

It’s unclear at this time how the change will be implemented, from the developer’s side. It’s likely Apple will soon share more information with its developer community to inform them of how to get started.

The move makes a lot of sense, given the App Store’s larger shift away from paid apps toward in-app purchases and more recently, subscriptions, as a way for developers to monetize their businesses.

Gamers would often like to receive in-app currency or other virtual goods as gifts. Meanwhile, subscriptions have become so popular they’re expected to contribute heavily to both iOS and Android app stores’ growth next year. Combined, the app stores are forecast to pass $122 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie.

However, some subset of apps have been abusing subscriptions by making it difficult for consumers to even use their “free” app without committing to a subscription, or tricking users into free trials that convert in just days, among other things. Apple will need to get a good handle on the bad actors before rolling out in-app gifting of subscriptions more broadly.

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Microsoft’s new expense tracker Spend hits the App Store

Posted by | App, Apps, expenses, Finance, iOS apps, Microsoft, mileiq, Mobile | No Comments

The team behind mileage-tracking app MileIQ, a company Microsoft acquired a few years ago, is out with a new application. This time, the focus isn’t on tracking miles, but rather expenses. The new app, simply called “Spend,” arrived on the App Store on Thursday, offering automatic expense tracking for work reimbursement purposes or for taxes.

Spend doesn’t appear to be a part of some grand Microsoft plan to take on expense tracking industry giants, like Expensify or SAP-owned Concur, for example. At least, not at this time.

Instead, the app is a Microsoft Garage project, the App Store clarifies.

Microsoft Garage is the company’s internal incubator when employees can test out new ideas to see if they resonate with consumers and business users.

Through the program, a number of interesting projects have gotten their start over the years, like the Cortana-based dictation tool, Dictate; mobile design creation app Sprightly; short-form email app Send; the Word Flow keyboard for smartphones; a Bing-backed alternative to Google News; and dozens more.

The new Spend app, at first glance, looks well-designed and easy to use.

Like most expense trackers, it offers features like the ability to take photos of receipts, expense categorization features, and reporting.

However, what makes Spend interesting is the app’s automated tracking and matching, and its user interface for working with your receipts.

The app begins by automatically tracking all your expenses from a linked credit card or bank account. You can then swipe on the expenses to mark them as personal or business. These expenses are automatically categorized, and you can add extra tags for added organization.

You can also add notes to purchases, split expenses, and customize expense categories, in addition to tags.

And the app can generate expense reports on a weekly, monthly or custom bases, which can be exported at spreadsheets or PDFs. There’s a web dashboard for when you’re using the app at your computer, but Spend doesn’t appear on the MileIQ main website at this time. It does, however, have a support site.

How well this all works, in practice, requires further testing.

MileIQ had been the top-grossing finance app in Apple’s App Store for the last 20 months at the time of its acquisition back in 2015. Microsoft had said then the team would work on other mobile productivity solutions going forward.

Since joining Microsoft, the team that created MileIQ has added capabilities to MileIQ, such as MileIQ for Teams, new intelligence features and a partnership with Xero. MileIQ is also now included with Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium plans

However, Spend is the first standalone app built by the team in that time.

The company says the new Spend app is an early version, and they plan to revise it going forward as they make improvements.

Microsoft responded to a request for comment, but didn’t provide any details about its eventual plans for Spend, like whether it will have business model or be included with Office subscriptions.

10/19/18: Updated after publication with information about Microsoft’s comments.

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Spotify’s Premium app gets a big makeover

Posted by | Android, Apps, iOS apps, Media, Mobile, Music, Spotify, streaming, streaming service | No Comments

Spotify has given its app a big makeover, with a focus on making the experience better for its paying subscribers. The company has simplified the app’s navigation by reducing the numbers of buttons and has revamped its Search page, which now incorporates elements previously found in “Browse,” like favorite genres or music to match a mood. And it’s given its Radio service a redesign as well, with the addition of new and easy-to-use Artist Radio Playlists.

The most immediately noticeable change is the app’s navigation.

Spotify has always felt a bit cluttered, with its five navigation buttons – Home, Browse, Search, Radio and My Library. The new app has chopped this down to just three buttons – Home, Search, and My Library.

Recommendations will appear on the Home page, following the update, while discovery is powered by Search.

The Search page lets you seek out artists, albums and podcasts by typing in queries, as before. But the page is also now personalized, showing your own “Top Genres” beneath the search bar – like R&B, Rock, Hip-Hop, Kids & Family – or whatever else you listen to. This is helpful because users’ tastes can change over time, or they may share their individual Spotify account with others (instead of opting for a Family plan), which can garble their recommendations.

The “Browse” section has moved to this Search page in the redesign, and points to things like top charts, Spotify’s programmed playlists, your own personalized playlists, plus music by mood, genre, activity and more.

The Radio section got an overhaul, too.

With the update, you can search for a favorite artist or song, then immediately start listing to one of the brand-new Artist Radio playlists. These are personalized, endless streams based on your own tastes – and they’re updated regularly to stay fresh, Spotify notes.

This latter feature appears to address a recent challenge from Pandora, which tapped into its Music Genome to create dozens of personalized playlists for its users. Spotify, effectively, is turning its radio stations into personalized playlists now, too. Instead of asking users to thumbs up/down its selections, it will just create stations it knows you’ll like, based on the data it already has. These radio playlists also work offline, the company says.

The updated app for Premium users follows a redesign of the app for its free customers, announced back in April. That redesign made it easier for free users to access over a dozen playlists with songs on demand, which also included the option to skip tracks. It also reduced the number of tabs in the bottom navigation.

This week, the company also rolled out a new Android Wear application. Plus, the third-party manufacturer Mighty launched a new version of its Spotify player, which is basically an iPod Shuffle-like device that works with Spotify instead of Apple Music or iTunes.

The changes to the Spotify app comes at a time when the company is losing ground in North America to Apple. Pandora was just snatched up by Sirius XM for $3.5 billion, which could make for increased competition in the U.S., as well.

Spotify’s Premium Subscribers grew to 83 million in Q2 2018, and it has 180 million monthly actives, including free customers, which still puts it ahead of the competition, in terms of user base size.

Spotify says the redesign for Spotify Premium is rolling out to all Premium subscribers on iOS and Android globally starting today.

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Macaw will curate Twitter for you, help expand your network

Posted by | Apps, iOS apps, Mobile, Social, tweets, Twitter | No Comments

Twitter today inserts activity-based tweets into your timeline, alerting you to things like the popular tweets liked by people you follow, or those Twitter accounts that a lot of people in your network have just started to follow. These alerts can be useful, but their timing is sporadic and they can be easily missed. Plus, if you turn off Twitter’s algorithmic timeline (as may be possible for some), you’ll lose access to this sort of info. A new Twitter app called Macaw aims to help.

Macaw, which recently launched on Product Hunt, offers a set of similar information as Twitter does, with a few changes.

Macaw works by first pulling in a list of people you follow. It then tracks what tweets they like throughout the day and turns that into a feed of tweets that were most popular. Macaw does the same thing for users, too – that is, it shows you if a number of people have suddenly started following someone, for example.

Beyond this, Macaw will also show you the “Latest” tweets receiving likes from your network in a separate tab, as well as tweets where someone has asked a question.

This “Asks” section will highlight tweets where someone on Twitter has asked something like “Does anyone know…?” or “what are the best…?”, for example. This can help you find new conversations to participate in and help you expand your network.

The end result is a curated version of Twitter, where you can catch up with what’s important, without so much endless scrolling through your timeline.

Even if you’re on Twitter itself a lot, Macaw can still be useful.

Its default setting will hide top tweets posted by someone in your network – because, chances are, you’ve already read them. With this setting turned on, you’ll only be shown top tweets by users you don’t yet follow.

You can also configure how many likes are required for something to be considered a “top” tweet. By default, this is set to 25, but you can change it to 10, 100, or even 1,000. You can adjust the default setting for the age of the tweet, too, from 6 hours to 2 hours, 24 hours, or 96 hours, based on how often you check in.

The app, however, is not a Twitter client.

That is, it doesn’t take the place of Twitter or other apps like Twitterific or Tweetbot, as you can’t use it to post tweets, access direct messages, update your profile, or follow users. You’ll need a different app, like the main Twitter client, for that. But a tap in Macaw will launch Twitter for you, making the transition feel seamless.

The app was built by Zachary Hamed, who had previously built Daily 140 for tracking a similar set of data, shared via email. He says he started building Macaw as a side project and launched it into private beta in August. It doesn’t currently have a business model, beyond a plan to maybe charge for additional features later on.

In some ways, Macaw is similar to Nuzzel, another Twitter summarization app that provides a list of top links that your network is sharing and discussing. But many of the best things on Twitter aren’t links, they’re individual tweets or tweetstorms. (Like that recent Google+ rant, for example).

Hamed admits Nuzzel was a source of inspiration for Macaw (a bird that screams constantly, by the way. Ha!)

“I was actually inspired by those notifications in the main Twitter app since I’ve always found them fascinating and by Nuzzel, which is one of my most used apps – and whose founder Jonathan I really respect,” Hamed says. “I think there is a lot of hidden insight to be found in posts people have liked and who they start following, especially if there is momentum around certain names or topics. As of now, Twitter only shares one to two of those recommendations, not all of it,” he adds.

*While we do like Macaw, the app, one thing we’re not a fan of are the fake reviews on the Macaw website, which pretend to be from @Jack, Mary Meeker, and Chamath Palihapitiya. It’s obviously meant to be a joke, but it falls flat – Macaw doesn’t need this sort of false promotion, and it’s wrong because it could confuse less savvy users.

Macaw is a free download on the App Store.

 

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Amazon’s revamped Alexa app makes it easier to manage your smart home

Posted by | Alexa, Amazon, Apps, echo, iOS apps, Mobile, smart home | No Comments

Amazon’s Alexa app has just been given a major visual overhaul, largely focused on helping users set up and control their smart home. From the app’s new devices tab, users can view all their different Alexa-enabled devices and groups on one screen, as opposed to switching between tabs like before. And the app is much more colorful, too. Instead of a set of white icons on a dark background, Alexa’s device groups — like Living Room, Kitchen, Bedroom, etc. — now feature colorful backgrounds, so you can find the one you need with just a glance.

An overhaul of the devices section was needed, not only for aesthetic reasons, but because Alexa owners are stocking their house with more than one smart device.

According to a Nielsen report on smart speaker adoption released earlier this month, four out of 10 U.S. smart speaker owners today have more than one device, for example. Smart home device sales are also expected to reach nearly $96 billion in 2018 and grow to $155 billion by 2023, another report estimates.

Amazon itself sells a variety of smart devices, like Cloud Cam, Ring doorbells and Ring cameras. And it just introduced a whole mess of new Alexa-enabled devices at an event in Seattle last month, including everything from wall clocks to subwoofers to Alexa-powered microwaves.

It’s clear the retailer expects people to continue to build out their smart home, and its app needed to adapt accordingly.

In the new version of the app, the device types are displayed as icons across the top of the screen — starting with “Echo & Alexa” devices, then “Lights,” “Audio,” “Plugs” and others. Below this are the colorful groupings of devices by room, each with their own “On/Off” button.

A small “+” button at the top right of the screen allows you to easily add your newest device, too.

Adding Bluetooth speakers to multi-room music groups is also now supported, the app’s update text says.

The redesign also makes it simpler to call, message or “drop in” on your other Alexa devices — the latter being the feature that turns Echo speakers into a voice-controlled intercom system of sorts, triggered by saying “Alexa, drop in on…” followed by the device name. It’s especially handy for larger homes, where there is an upstairs and downstairs, for example, or for reaching family members in another part of the house. You can also drop in on trusted contacts, like grandma or grandpa.

Now, these communication options each have their own button at the top of the messaging screen in the app, so you can just push a button to call, message or drop in, as you prefer.

The new Alexa app is live on the iOS App Store. Amazon hasn’t made a formal announcement about the changes, as they still be rolling out to users following the update.

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