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Not to be outdone by Instagram, Snapchat unveils custom Stories of its own

Just a few hours following Instagram’s announcement regarding all-new location and hashtag-based Stories in the app’s Explore tab, rival Snapchat just announced custom Stories of its own. Now there’s a new way to create Stories in Snapchat 10.9 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

You can create a custom Story in a specific location or with your cherry-picked friends. “It’s perfect for a trip, a birthday party or a new baby Story just for the family,” notes Snap.

Tap the Create Story icon in the top-right corner of the Stories screen to get started.

Song: “Sunroof” by courtship

Of course, you have the tools at your disposal to control who can add to your Story and who can view it. And by using geofencing, you can attach your Story to a specific location. Your custom Story disappears automatically if no one has contributed to it in the past 24 hours.

Aside from custom Stories, this edition of Snapchat puts your own Bitmoji selfie inside your Snapcode. To change the mood of your Bitmoji, just tap the Edit Bitmoji command.

Grab Snapchat for free on App Store.

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Upcoming HomeKit support will let you voice-control your Ikea smart lighting

Furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories giant Ikea announced on Tuesday that its inexpensive Trådfri smart lighting system will soon gain support for HomeKit, Apple’s smart home management platform.

German publication reports that Ikea is readying a software update to its Trådfri app to make its smart lighting products controllable not only via Apple’s HomeKit system, but also through Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home smart speakers.

The new firmware update should arrive in the summer.

HomeKit will let you use Siri to voice-control Ikea’s smart bulbs and incorporate HomeKit-enabled Ikea products in your custom scenes through Apple’s Home app on iPhone and iPad.

The official Trådfri app, seen below, allows different family members to easily customize the light and atmosphere however they want, depending on their activity (i.e. choose a light for early mornings, another for late evenings and a third for cooking or working at home).

Announced in March 2017, Ikea’s extensive smart lighting lineup sports plug-and-play simplicity at significantly lower prices than similar systems from the likes of Philips and others.

Starting at $12 a piece, for instance, Ikea’s smart bulbs cost half as much as Philips’ Hue range at $30 per white bulb (goes all the way up to $50 per bulb if you want color). With Ikea’s app, you can dim, turn off, turn on and switch your Ikea smart bulbs from warm to cold light.

The full range of smart lighting systems from Ikea includes LED bulbs, dimming lights, illuminated panels, a motion sensor kit and a gateway device. It was unclear at the time of this writing whether or not Ikea is planning on eventually making its whole range of smart products for the connected home compatible with the HomeKit platform, which would be splendid.

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Apple promotes human resources chief Denise Young Smith to VP of Diversity and Inclusion

Apple’s holistic view of diversity, that looks beyond the usual measurements to include the varied perspectives of its employees, was on display today as the company has created a new Vice President role for its Diversity and Inclusion team. Denise Young Smith, who is Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Human Resources, will now head diversity programs for the Cupertino giant, according to her updated LinkedIn profile.

For more than a decade, Denise sat on the leadership team that built Apple’s retail organization. Before retail, the executive ran human resources for Apple’s Worldwide Operations and Corporate Employee Relations teams.

Prior to joining Apple back in 1997, she offered talent, HR and management consulting expertise to early-stage businesses including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers portfolio companies.

with 9to5Mac. The executive shuffle will see the creation of a new VP role for Apple’s Diversity and Inclusion team with Smith reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. Sources say Smith has long had a passion for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives at the company and the newly created position reflects an increased focus on the company’s efforts.

Check out Apple’s Inclusion & Diversity webpage for more information. “Diversity is more than any one gender, race or ethnicity,” the webpage quotes Young Smith as saying. “It’s richly representative of all people, all backgrounds, and all perspectives. It is the entire human experience.”

Young Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a master’s degree in Organizational Management from Grambling State University in Louisiana.

Denise’s new position means Apple will be without a permanent Vice President of Human Resources. As per sources, Luca Maestri, the company’s Senior Vice President and  Chief Financial Officer, will fill that role temporarily.

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iTunes carrier billing expands to France and Turkey

If you live in France or Turkey and don’t have a credit or debit card, you can now buy apps, media and Apple Music subscriptions from Apple’s content stores and have those purchases billed to a monthly mobile phone bill from your carrier.

iTunes carrier billing in France is currently supported for Bouygues Telecom customers.

In Turkey, the feature works with Paycell.

According to Apple, carrier billing is now available in the following countries:

Our step-by-step tutorial explains the process of setting up carrier billing as a payment method for App Store, iTunes Store and iBooks Store purchases across your devices.

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Instagram rolls out location and hashtag Stories in Explore tab

Photo-sharing service Instagram today announced that all-new location and hashtag-enabled Stories are now available through the app’s Explore tab. These newly added Stories features require Instagram version 10.22 for iPhone and iPad, available at no charge via App Store.

“Now you can see what’s happening around you and find stories related to your interests,” says Instagram. Location-based Stories appear in a new Story ring at the top of Explore.

Additionally, you can now search for any location around the world.

When you search for a location, you’ll see a Story ring for that place at the top of the location page. Location and hashtag-enabled Stories appear at the top of the Explore tab only if their creators have used location stickers or a new hashtag sticker.

“We’re also beginning to introduce hashtag stories on Explore to help you find Stories related to your interests,” added the company. “When you search for a hashtag, you may see a Story ring at the top of the page filled with Stories using that hashtag.”

If your location or hashtag-enabled Story was included in the larger Story on Instagram, you’ll see a line at the top of your Stories viewer list which tells you how many people saw your Story as part of the larger Story. To use a location or hashtag sticker without your Story appearing on the Explore tab, tap the “X” on your Stories viewer list.

Instagram’s previous update brought out Snapchat-like face filters for your selfies, an eraser brush and a new hashtag sticker. Location stories on Explore are available on iOS and Android as part of Instagram version 10.22 in App Store and Google Play.

Hashtag stories will be rolling out over the coming weeks.

You can learn more about these features in Instagram’s Help Center.

Instagram for iOS is a free download from App Store.

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