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Facebook takes on Shopify, Tinder considers its future, contact-tracing tech goes live – News Brig

Erin Fox

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Houseparty battles Messenger, Telegram drops crypto plans, Instagram Lite is gone – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications. Notably, we saw the launch of the Apple/Google exposure-notification API with the latest version of iOS out this week. The pandemic is also inspiring other new apps and features, including upcoming additions to Apple’s Schoolwork, which focus on distance learning, as well as Facebook’s new Shops feature designed to help small business shift their operations online in the wake of physical retail closures.

Tinder, meanwhile, seems to be toying with the idea of pivoting to a global friend finder and online hangout in the wake of social distancing, with its test of a feature that allows users to match with others worldwide — meaning, with no intention of in-person dating.

COVID-19 apps in the news

  • Fitbit app: The fitness tracker app launched a COVID-19 early detection study aimed at determining whether wearables can help detect COVID-19 or the flu. The study will ask volunteers questions about their health, including whether they had COVID-19, then pair that with activity data to see if there are any clues that could be used to build an early warning algorithm of sorts.
  • U.K. contact-tracing app: The app won’t be ready in mid-May as promised, as the government mulls the use of the Apple/Google API. In testing, the existing app drains the phone battery too quickly. In addition, researchers have recently identified seven security flaws in the app, which is currently being trialed on the Isle of Wight.

Apple launches iOS/iPadOS 13.5 with Face ID tweak and contact-tracing API

Apple this week released the latest version of iOS/iPadOS with two new features related to the pandemic. The first is an update to Face ID which will now be able to tell when the user is wearing a mask. In those cases, Face ID will instead switch to the Passcode field so you can type in your code to unlock your phone, or authenticate with apps like the App Store, Apple Books, Apple Pay, iTunes and others.

The other new feature is the launch of the exposure-notification API jointly developed by Apple and Google. The API allows for the development of apps from public health organizations and governments that can help determine if someone has been exposed by COVID-19. The apps that support the API have yet to launch, but some 22 countries have requested API access.

From television to the internet platform, Erin switched her journey in digital media with News Brig. She served as a journalist for popular news channels and currently contributes his experience for News Brig by writing about the tech domain.

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Lenovo’s 7-inch Google smart display is on sale for $80 at Best Buy

Erin Fox

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Lenovo's 7-inch Google smart display is on sale for $80 at Best Buy

While both smart screens have 7-inch displays, Lenovo’s model throws in both more powerful speakers as well as a camera with a privacy shutter and microphone mute button. You can use this for more than checking the weather or playing a YouTube video, in other words. While it’s not going to replace a beefy speaker or a larger display like the Nest Hub Max (which does have a camera), it should be more than enough to waft music through a room or keep in touch with friends and family.

Follow @News BrigDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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NASA orders Lunar Gateway’s crew cabin from Northrop Grumman

Erin Fox

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NASA orders Lunar Gateway's crew cabin from Northrop Grumman

NASA already awarded space technology company Maxar a $375 million contract to develop the PPE last year. The agency says launching both components at the same time reduces costs and technical risks, since it will eliminate the need to dock two separate elements in the orbit where the Gateway will operate.

The $187 million contract NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman is enough to finalize the design of all systems and subsystems for a preliminary review expected to happen by the end of the year. If everything goes well, the company will sign a second contract to fabricate and assemble the actual HALO module that’s scheduled to blast off to space in 2023.

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When the NBA returns it may use ‘NBA 2K’ for crowd noise

Erin Fox

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When the NBA returns it may use 'NBA 2K' for crowd noise

The NBA is moving toward restarting its season with 22 teams playing games at Disney World in Orlando, now that the NBA Player’s Association has approved further negotiations on the plan. One issue they’ll face is playing games without fans in the arena, and according to a report from The Athletic

, discussions are ongoing but there’s a proposal to pipe in crowd noise from the NBA 2K video game.

NBA 2K also serves as the platform for the league’s official esports series and has already simulated its own end to the 2019-2020 regular season, and its attention to details of the basketball experience may help fill in the blanks. Some leagues that have returned to action during the coronavirus pandemic already use piped-in sound, including Bundesliga soccer, and Sky Sports is planning to use EA’s FIFA 20 game to a similar effect on Premier League broadcasts.

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