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Tech News

iHeartRadio adds Spotify-like personalized playlists

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio announced today that it’s adding a new playlist for users to stream — a weekly updated selection of tunes based on what you listen to. Your Weekly Mixtape will be refreshed every Monday and will include 30 to 75 songs chosen for you based on the stations and artists you listen to and the tracks you give a thumbs up. It sounds an awful lot like Spotify’s Discover Weekly, even down to the day it’s released. But iHeartRadio’s chief product officer, Chris Williams, told CNET that there is a difference between the two.

Whereas Spotify’s weekly playlist is more about finding users new music they might enjoy, Williams notes, he says that iHeartRadio’s curated playlist is about giving users a selection of songs they know and love. “We want to make sure they’re getting a playlist they can sing along to,” he said. However, the company says the playlist will also include both new releases and trending music a user might like.

Earlier this year, iHeartRadio opened up its activity-, era- and genre-based playlists to all users. And it’s not the only streaming service to offer a Discover Weekly-like playlist. Pandora announced its version in March while Apple Music has a handful of personalized playlists for users to choose from as well. Spotify’s personalized lists also include its Daily Mixes, Your Time Capsule and Your Summer Rewind.

iHeartRadio’s Your Weekly Mixtape is rolling out to all users, paid and free, now. You can find yours through the “For You” tab on the iHeartRadio website or the “Your Library” section of the iOS and Android apps.

Tech News

After Math: The price of doing business

July 29, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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AFP/Getty Images

Elon Musk just can’t seem to stay out of the news. After last week’s tirade against the Thai cave rescue diver, his girlfriend took to Twitter to defend his large donations to the GOP as “the price of doing business in america [sic].” But that price differs depending on who you ask. For right-wing troll Alex Jones, that price is a 30-day timeout from Facebook and Yahoo, but for MoviePass that price could well be the company’s entire operation.

83 million active paying users: Family plans have long been a staple of mobile carriers as a means of locking in customers (and their families) to long-term contracts and now the practice is bleeding over into streaming services as well. It seems to be working for Spotify, which announced it’s added 8 million new paid subscribers in the last fiscal quarter.

$5 million in loans: MoviePass might not be around for much longer. The company suffered a service outage this week because it didn’t have the funds to buy a sufficient number of tickets, forcing MoviePass’ parent company to borrow $5 million. This is the second such outage this month alone.

$0: If you live in Japan and your iPad was damaged in the recent, deadly flooding, there is a silver lining. Apple announced this week that it will repair or replace any of its products damaged by the rising floodwaters free of charge.

$71.3 billion: Disney and Fox’s proposed merger took another step towards completion this week when the companies’ respective shareholders voted to approve the multi-billion dollar deal. There’s still work to be done before the merger is scheduled for completion early next year. The companies must shed 22 regional sports networks to comply with DOJ anti-trust demands, for example.

30 days: Alex Jones will have to go back to shouting his conspiracy theories on street corners for the next month after both YouTube and Facebook have issued temporary bans on his use of their platforms (as well as removed a number of community standard-violating videos). This, of course, is barely a slap on the wrist and will likely do nothing to dissuade him from arguing that fluoride in the water supply turns frogs gay or whatever he’s making up this week to sell his snake oil brain supplements.

0 loot crates: As the makers of Star Wars Battlefront II can attest, the inclusion of loot crates in modern games is quickly becoming a toxic asset for developers. That’s why Turn 10, makers of the Forza racing series, announced that they’ll be phasing out the crates in Motorsport 7 and won’t include them at all in Horizon 4.

Tech News

Spotify added 8 million paid subscribers thanks to family plans

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

For its second ever earnings report, Spotify said it now has 83 million paid subscribers, up 8 million over its first earnings quarter in May. That’s a pretty significant boost, and at the top end of what investors were expecting. A lot of that growth has come via its Family Plan program, and Spotify notes that people signing up for it tend to stick around longer than individual subscribers.

As a result of this growth (30 percent and 40 percent in paid and ad-supported users, respectively), it saw a 12 percent increase in revenue, earning €1.27 billion ($1.45 million) compared to €1.14 billion last quarter. It’s still not actually making an operating profit, however, having lost €90 million this time around, more than it did last quarter. That can be chalked to bi-annual marketing campaigns that increase revenue, but lower profits, it said.

Another thing that helped Spotify boost its subscriber base beside the Family Plan was its $13 Hulu Bundle. Customers that signed on to that promotion were also more loyal, it said. It also recently revamped its free ad-supported service, and said that helped drive big growth on the non-premium side.

Family Plan continues to be a primary driver of gross adds and lower churn due to strong retention. We also extended our offer of a Spotify + Hulu bundle to Standard $9.99 Premium subscribers in the US, following the early success of the Spotify Student + Hulu bundle launched last fall.

Ads accounted for a relatively paltry €123 million ($144 million) in revenue, but Spotify hopes Active Media, launched recently in Australia, will help. That service allows non-paying Aussies to skip ads, getting back to their music more quickly. In exchange, Spotify will learn from the interactions to “deliver a more personalized ad experience,” it explained.

On the negative side, Spotify notes that it was affected by the new GDPR privacy rules in Europe. That apparently slowed subscriber growth in Europe, where Spotify has its largest customer base (37 percent of total subscribers). However, the streaming company notes that it’s now GDPR compliant, and thinks that the user dip will be a one-time thing. Yesterday, Facebook reported that it also lost about a million users thanks to GDPR issues.

Whether the subscription boost is enough to hold off its main rival remains to be seen, but last we checked, Apple Music had about 40 million subscribers, and will have boosted that considerably over the last few months. At this point, Apple may have more users than Spotify in the US, according to recent reports.

Tech News

Spotify uses your listening history to find festival tickets

July 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dave Benett/Getty Images for Spotify

It isn’t always easy to choose which music festivals to attend. You might not be aware that your dream festival exists, and the ones you do know may only have one or two artists you’d actually like to see. Spotify might just fix this. It’s partnering with Festicket on a Festival Finder that uses your listening habits to help you score tickets (plus accommodations and travel) to events around the world that truly reflect your tastes. Stream a lot of trance? You may get suggestions for Creamfields in the UK and Transmission in Prague.

There’s a waiting list feature for festivals that have yet to offer tickets (up to a year in the future).

The collaboration has an immediate appeal: it might help you find a new favorite festival, or even give you ideas for vacations that you wouldn’t have considered in the past. Festicket also sees this as just the beginning of its larger plans. Ultimately, it’s hoping that its database of 1,000-plus festivals will become an “intelligent engine” for event discovery. There’s a strong financial incentive for Festicket in this, of course, but it could also prove very useful if you want to check out distant festivals without the logistical headaches of finding your own hotels and flights.

Tech News

Spotify lets artists submit unreleased tracks to playlist editors

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Spotify announced today that it’s making it easier for artists and labels to submit new music to its playlist editors. The company has released a new feature, which is still in beta, that will allow artists and managers with a Spotify for Artists account or labels using Spotify Analytics to submit an unreleased song for curated playlist consideration. That track will then be available to the over 100 editors Spotify has around the world, who can search through submissions for appropriate additions to the playlists they design.

Spotify says that it’s important for those submitting tracks to provide as much information as they can about the song. That includes genre, mood, whether it’s a cover, the cultures the artist or the song represent and other data that will help editors find the song and make sure it lands in the right playlists. The company also said that as long as artists and labels tag and submit a song seven days in advance, it will automatically be added to the artist’s followers’ Release Radar playlists.

Recently, the music-streaming giant reportedly began offering advance fees to indie artists and managers who license their songs directly to Spotify, and it began displaying a track’s songwriter and producer credits earlier this year. The company said today that it features over 75,000 artists on its editorial playlists each week and another 150,000 on its Discover Weekly playlist.

Since the submission feature is still in beta, it’s subject to change. “We’ll continue evolving this feature based on your feedback, so artists, labels, managers and partners can all help us create better playlists for Spotify listeners,” Spotify said.

Tech News

Spotify users still can't block followers, but that could change

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Spotify isn’t as much of a haven from harassment as many might like. Since the service shares your plays with followers by default, it’s possible for harassers to keep up with your listening habits and exploit that to their advantage (say, by finding out when you’re in a sad mood). The company has remained quiet on the prospect of a blocking feature in response to this, but it now appears to be more receptive to the idea. BuzzFeed News has discovered that Spotify recently labeled a years-old request for a user blocking feature as a “good idea.” It’s not on the company’s “current” roadmap, according to the notice, but that’s a distinct improvement from the approach so far.

Don’t count on it coming in the near future. In a statement, Spotify said it “does not have any timeline on plans for a block feature.” That doesn’t rule out work on an addition, but you won’t want to pin hopes on the feature arriving any time soon.

The apparent change of heart came right as Instagram has confirmed that it’s testing an option to remove followers. And in both cases, the philosophy is the same: they’re acknowledging that users don’t want a binary choice between totally private accounts and opening themselves up to abuse. It similarly recognizes that internet harassment can involve passive activities, not just threatening messages or doxxing.

Gaming News

How to Download Everything from Your Favorite Streaming Services

July 11, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Gizmodo

Don’t let a long flight or a loss of signal get in the way of your music and video streaming: Just about all the popular services let you cache downloads for offline use, and Netflix just upgraded its download mechanism to be smarter—downloading the next episode of shows you are watching and automatically deleting the old ones. Here’s how to take advantage of it, and find the features in all the other streaming services you use too.

In all of these cases, you’re going to end up with a proprietary, DRM-locked download that’ll only work in the app it’s intended for and only for a limited time—so you can’t download the whole of Orange is the New Black and transfer the videos to your computer. They’ll also only work in actual apps—so you’ll need a phone or tablet to take advantage of offline viewing.

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Netflix

Screenshot: Gizmodo

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Netflix downloads have been with us since 2016, though what you can download depends on the rights and licenses Netflix has worked out with the content providers. All the Netflix Originals can be downloaded for sure, but everything else is a bit hit and miss.

Netflix offline downloads just got smarter too: If you’re binge-watching a series, the app will download the next one in advance, and delete older recordings as they’re viewed—it means you should be all queued up for your next period of patchy wifi. The feature is rolling out now for Android devices and coming later this year to iOS.

Tap through on any series or movie and if offline viewing is available, you’ll see a download icon to the right—tap on this to download the video. At any time you can tap on the Downloads tab at the bottom to view and delete cached content.

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Hulu

Screenshot: Hulu

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Hulu is currently lagging behind Netflix in the download stakes, as you can’t yet cache content to watch offline on your devices. However, the feature is coming soon, at some point “during the 2018-19 upfront season” according to a statement from Hulu.

If your subscription plan includes ads, then your downloads will include ads; if you’re on the top tier without commercials then your saved content won’t have commercials either, so you get what you pay for in terms of the download experience.

For the time being we’re not sure exactly how the feature is going to work inside the Hulu apps, but we’re assuming it’s going to be along similar lines to its big rival Netflix. As yet, it’s not clear which shows and movies are going to be available for offline viewing.

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Amazon Prime Video

Screenshot: Gizmodo

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When you’re not taking advantage of free shipping as part of your Prime membership, you can tune into a wealth of content on Amazon Prime Video—and much of this content can be saved locally to a device and watched offline.

As on Netflix, just look for the download icon (a downward arrow) next to movies and shows (in the case of shows, go into the actual episode list). Also just like Netflix, you’ll find that some titles can’t be cached for offline use—it depends on the licensing rights.

One useful touch is the option to choose the quality of your downloads (and thus how long they take to download and how much room they take up). You can get at your saved videos by tapping the menu button (top left) and choosing Downloads.

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YouTube Premium

Screenshot: Gizmodo

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If you’ve stumped up the $12 a month for YouTube Premium (previously known as YouTube Red) then you have a way of legally downloading videos that’s all above board. YouTube Music Premium is included, so you can download audio-only tracks too.

You can download just about everything (we haven’t seen any significant restrictions yet)—just tap the Download button under any video, or tap the More button (three dots) next to a video thumbnail and choose Download. Offline videos are saved for a maximum of 30 days without an internet connection, or forever if you keep regularly connecting to the web.

As on Amazon, you can choose the video quality for your cached content. To find your downloads on your next subway trip, head to the Library tab then tap Downloads. To remove a file, tap the More button (three dots) then Delete from downloads.

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Plex

Screenshot: Gizmodo

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Those of you who make use of Plex to set up your own personal Netflix can save your videos (and music) locally to a device easily enough—though it’s not included in the free plan. You’ll need the Plex Pass subscription to take advantage.

Once you’ve paid up, and got the Plex apps configured (a server on your computer, a mobile app on your phone), open up the mobile app and tap through to a movie or show. You’ll see a small download icon (a downward arrow)—tap on this to start the download, then Save. In some cases you can choose the video quality, and Plex will actually re-encode the files if required.

To find your downloads, tap your avatar (top left) then choose Sync from the menu. You can remove videos from here, restrict the use of mobile data for syncing, and put limits on how much of your device’s storage space can be taken up.

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PlayOn

Screenshot: PlayOn

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PlayOn exists in a somewhat gray area legally, but the service continues to operate and offer users a way of recording streaming video content from a wealth of sources, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Essentially the PlayOn Cloud apps sit between the stream and your mobile device, using screen capture technology to save what’s coming through as a local download rather than putting it up on the display. The recordings are yours to keep for as long as you like, on multiple devices.

You pay per recording using a credits system (from $0.20 per recording). From the opening tiled screen of services, pick the one you want to use, then select the movie or show you want to save—PlayOn will take care of the rest.

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Spotify

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If you pay each month for a Spotify Premium subscription then you can easily sync playlists and albums to your various devices. While you can stream songs on as many devices as you like, you can only cache them on three at any particular time.

To see the phones, tablets and computers you’ve cached tracks to, head here and log in. If you see a device you’re not using any more, or that you want to replace with something else, click the Remove button on the right.

Downloading songs is straightforward: You’ll see a Download toggle switch at the top of every playlist and album, which you can toggle on to start the download. Tap Your Library then the settings cog (top right) to set download quality and to enable Offline mode (where only downloaded songs are shown).

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Apple Music

Screenshot: Apple

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Apple Music has its heritage in iTunes and music downloads of course, from back in the days when you actually had to sync songs to a phone from a computer. That local sync is still available, but you can also cache your streaming playlists too. Up to 10 devices can be connected to your Apple ID.

As you make your way around the app, you’ll notice small download icons, which look like a cloud with a downward arrow coming out of them. If the symbol doesn’t appear, you need to add the tune to your library first—which is simply done via the Add button.

The music playback for your selected albums, playlists and songs will continue without an internet connection. If you want to see all the music stored on your device, tap Library then Downloaded Music.

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Google Play Music / YouTube Music Premium

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These two apps will eventually be rolled into each other, but for the time being they remain separate, and you can download tracks for offline listening in both. 

In Google Play Music, you can save playlists or albums locally by tapping the download button (the downward arrow) on each individual page, or by tapping the More menu (three dots) on the browsing screen and picking Download. It works the same whether these are songs you’re streaming from Google’s catalog (if you’re a subscriber) or that you’ve uploaded from your computer.

In the dedicated YouTube Music app, you need to be a paying member to enable the download functionality. On playlists and album pages, you’ll see a download icon (a downward arrow)—tap this to save the songs locally. You can also tap the More menu (three dots) next to an album or playlist and choose Download.

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Tidal

Screenshot: Tidal

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Tidal prides itself on its high-fidelity music, and if you’re on the go with a limited data plan or limited signal, then you can play your tunes straight from your device rather than the cloud. A total of three devices can be used offline simultaneously.

Tap the More menu (three dots) to the right of a playlist or album then pick Download, or go to the actual page for the playlist or album and turn the Download toggle switch to on. You can find albums or playlists through search or the My Collection tab.

To find all the content you’ve saved, open up the main app menu and tap Offline Content. You can also force offline mode from the same menu, which limits what you can see inside the app to the playlists and albums you’ve already synced.

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Tech News

Spotify finally lets Android users reorder playlists

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

SOPA Images via Getty Images

Spotify users on Android are finally getting a basic function for a music app: the option to reorder songs within playlists. Spotify confirmed to Engadget that the feature is a new addition to the app, though iOS users have been able to do this for a long time. It seems Spotify is rolling out the change on its servers, so you won’t necessarily need to update your app for it to work.

When you tap the three-dot menu button in your killer list of jams, you’ll see an Edit Playlist option. You can move around your songs as you see fit and save when you’re done. It’s certainly good news if you ever accidentally added a song in the wrong place, putting an end to an annoying quirk in the app.

Tech News

Tencent is bringing its music division to the US

July 9, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

Tencent’s push onto American entertainment is going beyond gaming and movies. Now the Chinese conglomerate will bring its Tencent Music Entertainment division to domestic shores, as spotted by TechCrunch. Over the weekend, the company announced (PDF) that it will put its music division on a “recognized stock exchange in the United States.” Last year, it was rumored that Tencent tried buying Spotify, but those talks fell through.

Considering that it took Apple Music, which launched in the US a full four years after Spotify’s domestic debut, to apparently overshadow Spotify, established players on the scene probably don’t have too much to worry about.

The interesting rub here is that, quietly, Tencent has been making investments in US entertainment companies for awhile as it looks to expand its empire. In the past 12 months alone, the company has inked partnerships with JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot for a gaming venture, served as producer on Kong: Skull Island and has/had a hand in the upcoming Terminator reboot and last summer’s Wonder Woman, respectively.

Oh, Tencent also is responsible for PUBG Mobile and it holds the rights for the forthcoming Fortnite mobile port. That’s in addition to owning almost 50 percent of Fortnite developer (and gaming technology company) Epic Games. Whoops, almost forgot to mention that Tencent also has made investments in Ubisoft and Activision Blizzard. And League of Legends maker Riot Games and Snapchat and Tesla and celebrity-vanity-game developer Glu Mobile.

So, regardless of what happens with the company’s music business, even if it tanks in the US (comparatively), it’s not like Tencent won’t make money off other domestic investments.

Tech News

Apple Music reportedly has more US subscribers than Spotify

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Apple

Thanks to a Wall Street Journal report in February, we knew Apple Music was poised to overtake Spotify in terms of US subscribers this summer. Well, it reportedly has happened. According to sources from Digital Music News, Apple’s streaming service now has more than 20 million paying users in the States. The report claims that Spotify also has in excess of 20 million paying customers in the US, but Apple is now in the lead. DBN didn’t mention specific numbers, but says its source is a “US-based, major [music] distributor.”

Spotify still leads outside of the US, tallying 75 million subscribers as part of its first earnings report in May. However, considering the company filed to go public in the US in April, reports that its primary competition there has made up what was once a massive lead won’t be welcome news, especially to investors. But subscriber numbers may not be the only place Spotify is lagging behind Apple.

A recent report from Music Business Worldwide offered a deep dive on the early stats both service released on Drake’s Scorpion. In the first day, Spotify notched 132.4 million streams globally while Apple Music counted 170 million. As MBW notes, there are a number of factors that could’ve contributed to this, including the fact the album appeared on Apple Music right at midnight while it wasn’t available on Spotify until a couple hours later. However, this comparison also indicates Apple Music is more popular in the US than Spotify. And when it comes to one of biggest — if not the biggest — release of the year, that’s a problem for a company trying to prove its profitability.

Earnings season is coming again soon, so we’ll probably get some exact numbers to compare then — if not before.

Nathan Ingraham contributed to this report.