TikTok likes and views are broken as community worries over potential U.S. ban

TikTok likes and views are broken for some unknown portion of the video app’s user base this afternoon. The impacted users are seeing a “zero” like count on TikTok posts, including their own and those of other app users, as well as “zero” views. The company has acknowledged the issue and says it’s working on a fix, but declined to explain what was causing the problem.

The TikTok Support account responded to the problem at 2:43 PM ET, noting it was working quickly to fix things, and then posted again at 3:35 PM ET to say a fix was in progress. The company said that users should soon see their app experience return to normal as the problem was resolved on the company’s end.

While typically an outage like this isn’t much cause for concern — online apps do break on occasion — the problem with TikTok comes at a time when the app is under fire in the U.S. for its ties to China. This week, reports emerged that the U.S. was considering banning TikTok and other Chinese-owned social media app, according to statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. TikTok has already been banned in India for similar reasons.

Today, The Wall St. Journal reported that executives at TikTok parent ByteDance are considering changing the corporate structure of TikTok’s business or even establishing a headquarters for the company outside of China, in order to further distance TikTok from China.

The news has already concerned the TikTok community, who have begun fleeing to rival apps like Byte, Dubsmash, and Likee in the U.S., in order to be prepared for a possible ban.

Because of this possible ban, the issues around Like counts were seen by some users today as a signal that a ban was imminent. But that’s not yet the case.

TikTok likes and views are broken as community worries over potential U.S. ban

TikTok likes and views are broken for some unknown portion of the video app’s user base this afternoon. The impacted users are seeing a “zero” like count on TikTok posts, including their own and those of other app users, as well as “zero” views. The company has acknowledged the issue and says it’s working on a fix, but declined to explain what was causing the problem.

The TikTok Support account responded to the problem at 2:43 PM ET, noting it was working quickly to fix things, and then posted again at 3:35 PM ET to say a fix was in progress. The company said that users should soon see their app experience return to normal as the problem was resolved on the company’s end.

While typically an outage like this isn’t much cause for concern — online apps do break on occasion — the problem with TikTok comes at a time when the app is under fire in the U.S. for its ties to China. This week, reports emerged that the U.S. was considering banning TikTok and other Chinese-owned social media app, according to statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. TikTok has already been banned in India for similar reasons.

Today, The Wall St. Journal reported that executives at TikTok parent ByteDance are considering changing the corporate structure of TikTok’s business or even establishing a headquarters for the company outside of China, in order to further distance TikTok from China.

The news has already concerned the TikTok community, who have begun fleeing to rival apps like Byte, Dubsmash, and Likee in the U.S., in order to be prepared for a possible ban.

Because of this possible ban, the issues around Like counts were seen by some users today as a signal that a ban was imminent. But that’s not yet the case.

Apple expands its free coding courses and materials for educators

Apple today announced its plans for a new, free resource aimed at helping educators of all skill levels gain the ability to teach both Swift and Xcode — the latest in Apple’s educational initiatives focused on encouraging more students to learn app development. On July 13, Apple will begin offering free online training to educators that will serve as an introduction to its Develop in Swift curriculum.

This curriculum has also been completely redesigned to meet students learning styles, based on user feedback, says Apple.

The new series will now include four books, “Develop in Swift Explorations,” “Develop in Swift AP CS Principles,” and “Develop in Swift Fundamentals,” all of which are available today. A fifth book, “Develop in Swift Data Collections,” will become available later this fall. All are available in Apple Books.

The curriculum is geared towards high school and higher education students and focuses on the open-source programming language Swift, designed by Apple, and using Xcode on the Mac.

Image Credits: Apple

For younger learners, grades 4 through 8, Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum instead uses puzzles and games to teach the building blocks of coding in Swift through the Swift Playgrounds app. This course is now being expanded, as well.

For all the students who have already completed the “Everyone Can Code Puzzles” book, they can now move on to a new book, “Everyone Can Code Adventures.” This book includes more advanced activities where students can practice building with Swift while also learning about important programming concepts.

The company says its intention with the new and expanded courses is to supplement the need for computer science instructors in the U.S., where there is often a need.

Apple noted that The Computer Science Teachers Association claims that fewer than 50% of all American high schools offer computer science classes today and many college students aren’t able to get into the computer science courses needed to graduate, due to a teacher shortage.

In addition, the courses are also being offered to parents, many of whom are now making the transition to become homeschool teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Also for parents of homeschoolers, Apple added a new set of remote learning resources for ages 10 and up, including “A Quick Start to Code” with 10 coding challenges on iPad or Mac. Plus, there are resources on Apple’s Learning from Home website, launched this spring. The site includes on-demand videos and virtual conferences on remote learning, and options to schedule free one-on-one virtual coaching sessions, hosted by educators at Apple.

The long-term impacts of Apple’s push for increased coding education still remain to be seen. “Everyone Can Code” was only launched in 2016, for example, and the “Develop in Swift” curriculum arrived just last year. Combined, the programs today reach 9,000 schools and higher education institutions worldwide.

The idea that “everyone” can and should learn to code is still somewhat controversial. While many may be able to learn coding fundamentals, not everyone will enjoy coding or excel at it. Plus, people often turn to coding for the wrong reasons or get duped by coding bootcamps into thinking that a few weeks of training will have them sailing into six-figure careers with ease.

On the other hand, exposing more kids to coding concepts may help to uncover the potential talent and interest in programming that would have otherwise been overlooked. And that interest can then be nurtured by future courses and education as the child grows.

“Apple has worked alongside educators for 40 years, and we’re especially proud to see how Develop in Swift and Everyone Can Code have been instrumental in helping teachers and students make an impact in their communities,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps, and Services, in a statement. “We’ve seen community college students build food security apps for their campus and watched middle school educators host virtual coding clubs over summer break. As part of our commitment to help expand access to computer science education, we are thrilled to be adding a new professional learning course to help more educators, regardless of their experience, have the opportunity to learn coding and teach the next generation of developers and designers,” she added.

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2

As the world continued to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage, and consumer spending. According to new data from app store intelligence firm App Annie, mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April. Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion.

The growth in app usage has been fueled by social distancing and lockdown measures, as countries around the world try to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Image Credits:

In India, for example, time spent in apps grew 35% in Q2 2020 from Q4 2019. Italy and Indonesia saw growth of 30% and 25%, respectively. In the U.S., time spent in apps grew 15%.

App Annie says that now, the average user is spending 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on their smartphones.

Image Credits: App Annie

 

But consumers aren’t just launching apps they already have installed on their phones — they’re also downloading new ones. In the second quarter, consumers downloaded a nearly 35 billion new apps, an all-time high.

Google Play accounted for 25 billion of those downloads, representing 10% year-over-year growth. India and Brazil were the the two largest markets for Google Play in the quarter.

Image Credits: App Annie

iOS downloads grew 20% year-over-year to reach nearly 10 billion. The U.S. and China were iOS’s biggest markets for downloads, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia saw the most quarter-over-quarter growth. The latter was likely attributed to a nationwide lockdown and school closures, driving app downloads in the country to a all-time high in April and 100% year-over-year growth on iOS.

Games were downloaded at record levels in the quarter, App Annie noted, totalling 14 billion games. In the first week of Q2, weekly mobile game downloads broke records at over 1.2 billion, and weekly download levels remained at 1 billion on average throughout the quarter, up 20% year over year.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps represented over half (55%) of the new downloads on Android and 70% of those on iOS.

More specifically, top categories outside of games included “Tools” and “Entertainment” on Google Play and “Photo and Video” and “Entertainment” on iOS. But other categories saw strong growth, including “Business,” “Health & Fitness” and “Education” which saw quarter-over-quarter growth in downloads of 115%, 75% and 50% respectively on Google Play.

On iOS, “Health and Fitness,” “Shopping,” and “Medical” apps saw strong quarter-over-quarter growth of 30%, 25% and 20%, meanwhile.

With record downloads and usage, consumer spending also grew significantly as a result, particularly among streaming video services.

Image Credits:

 

In the second quarter, consumers spent a record $27 billion in apps, up 15% year-over-year to $17 billion on iOS and up 25% to $10 billion on Android.

Games accounted for $19 billion of the spend, up 15% quarter-over-quarter. Google Play saw sizable growth at 25% quarter-over-quarter, which was 2x the growth rate on iOS.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps were 35% of the spend on iOS. The U.S. and China the largest contributors in both games and non-game apps on iOS in the quarter. However, the U.S. notably took back the top position as the largest market for consumer games — a spot previously held by China — with 30% quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2.

Non-games were 15% of the spend on Google Play. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea were the largest markets in both non-games and games alike on Google Play.

Top Google Play categories in addition to “Games” included “Social” and “Entertainment.” Growth in the “Entertainment” category was driven largely by Disney+ and Twitch, App Annie noted.

On iOS, “Entertainment” and “Photo and Video” were the largest categories by consumer spend, in addition to “Games.” Here, TikTok drove growth for the “Photo and Video” category, becoming the No. 1 top grossing app on iOS App Store globally in Q2 2020 thanks to sales of virtual gifts used to tip streamers.

Image Credits: App Annie

While much of the activity taking place on mobile devices during the pandemic is related to having fun — like watching videos or playing games, for example — several of the top apps in the quarter were work-related.

Zoom, for instance, became the No. 2 of most downloaded app globally in Q2 2020.  Google Meet was No. 7.

TikTok, meanwhile, was the top app by downloads and spending, and the No. 7 by monthly active users. That will likely change in the months ahead, due to its ban in India. A proposed U.S. ban has also recently seen TikTok rivals gaining ground. Amid this disruption, local competitors in India have seen increased usage, and elsewhere, competitors like Byte and Likee have surged.

 

 

 

 

YouTube Kids app is now available on Amazon Fire TV

YouTube Kids, the family-friendly version of YouTube with built-in parental controls and a curated selection of kids content, is now available on Amazon’s Fire TV. The app’s arrival comes after Google and Amazon came to a mutually beneficial agreement that also allowed YouTube to launch on Fire TV last year and Amazon’s Prime Video to make its way to Chromecast and Android TV.

The agreement was meant to soon see the additions of other YouTube apps, including YouTube TV and YouTube Kids, on the Fire TV platform. But while YouTube TV arrived on Fire TV last September, YouTube Kids has seen a significant delay, considering it was promised to arrive sometime in 2019.

In any event, the YouTube Kids app is here now, offering parents a somewhat less risky version of YouTube’s service for younger children. Parents can create individual profiles for each child, customized to one of several age groupings, like preschool, younger and older — the latter meant for the tween crowd. However, the app’s content isn’t hand-selected. Instead, YouTube’s automated systems determine what’s considered age-appropriate. This can sometimes lead to mistakes, which parents can report using in-app tools.

For those who want a more customized and controlled experience, YouTube Kids also allows parents to handpick which channels the child can access.

Amazon says the YouTube Kids app will begin to roll out to Fire TV customers starting today, July 9, 2020.

For those not on Fire TV, YouTube Kids also recently launched on Apple TV earlier this spring. It’s not yet available on Roku.

In addition to news of the YouTube Kids launch, Amazon also today announced that Fire TV Cube owners in the U.S. and select markets will be able to watch over-the-air TV and use Alexa to tune to various channels. This will require customers to attach their own over-the-air tuner, which is configured in the Settings menu under “Equipment Control/Manage Equipment/Add Equipment” and then “Live TV.”

Once set up, customers can ask Alexa to change the channel using either its name or number.

These Fire TV updates follow yesterday’s news about Fire TV updating its Live TV experience to integrate top live TV streaming services, YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Hulu + Live TV.

 

Amazon U.S. sellers will have to display their name and address starting Sept. 1, 2020

Amazon on Wednesday informed its U.S. sellers they will soon have to display their business name and address on their Amazon.com seller profile page. For individual sellers, this will include the individual’s name and address. A similar system is already in place across Amazon’s stores in Europe, Japan, and Mexico, due to local laws. Amazon says it’s making the change to ensure there’s a more consistent baseline of seller information across its platform, so online shoppers can make informed buying decisions.

The change, of course, is not just about transparency.

Amazon’s U.S. marketplace is its oldest and largest, with 461,000 active U.S. sellers out of its 2.2 million worldwide actives. In total, there are 8.6 million registered sellers worldwide and Amazon adds around a million more per year, according to Marketplace Pulse data.

Amazon’s marketplace also accounts for around half the retailer’s sales. But as it’s grown, it’s been afflicted by a variety of issues and fraud, including problems with counterfeit goods.

Though Amazon has long been accused of avoiding these issues, it’s more recently pledged to spend billions to address the problem. Amazon even inserted itself into legal battles with fraudulent sellers and counterfeiters over the past couple of years, including those with designers and accessory makers, as well as others participating in the fake reviews economy.

Last year, Amazon also launched a set of tools for brands and manufacturers under its “Project Zero” initiative, which work to proactively combat counterfeiting.

And just this April, Amazon announced it was piloting a new system aimed at verifying the identity of third-party sellers over video-conferencing — a shift from its in-person verifications that had to stop due to the coronavirus outbreak. Through this system, Amazon checks that the individual seller’s ID matches the person and the documents they shared with their application, among other things.

Now Amazon is telling its U.S. sellers their business name and address will need to be on their profile by September 1, 2020.

The change will help businesses fighting fraud or taking legal action against sellers over counterfeit goods. Consumers will also have an address in case the product has caused harm and they need to contact the seller or even initiative legal action of their own.

Once the new system goes live in the U.S., the seller’s storefront on Amazon.com will display an expanded set of information about their business.

A photo from Marketplace Pulse shows how this may look, with a comparison of a U.K. seller page with its current U.S. counterpart:

 

Image Credits: Marketplace Pulse

In a statement, Amazon says the change is about consistently, avoiding the topic of online fraud.

“Over the years, we have developed many ways for sellers to share more about their business, including through features like the seller profile pages, ‘Store’ pages for brand owners, and Handmade ‘Maker Profile’ pages,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “These features help customers learn more about sellers’ businesses and their products. Beginning September 1, we will also display sellers’ business name and address on their Amazon.com seller profile page to ensure there is a consistent baseline of seller information to help customers make informed shopping decisions,” they said.

K4Connect, a startup bringing tech to senior living centers, closes its $21M Series B

K4Connect, a startup focused on bringing new technologies like voice assistance, home automation, digital messaging and more to older adults and those living with disabilities, has closed on $21 million in Series B funding. The B round had originally wrapped in October 2018, but was extended with the recent addition of $7.7 million led by Forte Ventures.

Others taking part in the round include existing investors Sierra Ventures, Intel Capital, AXA Venture Partners, the Ziegler Link•Age Fund, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest, Topmark Partners (formerly Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners) and Traverse. As a result of the new funding, Forte Ventures’ Louis Rajczi will join the startup’s board. To date, K4Connect has raised $31 million in venture funding.

Image Credits: K4Connect

Notably, the additional funds were raised amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has been disproportionately impacting older adults in care facilities, cutting off their communication from loved ones and disrupting their daily activities.

The K4Connect platform, which today serves over 800 continuing care, independent living and assisted living communities across the U.S., can help to address many of the challenges these communities are now facing.

The startup was co-founded in 2013 by Scott Moody, the entrepreneur whose biometrics company AuthenTec sold to Apple, where it became the basis for Touch ID.

Now K4Connect’s CEO, Moody had moved to Raleigh, N.C. to retire, but soon realized he still had energy left to start another company. Originally, the startup’s focus had been on bringing smart home technologies together through what’s now K4Connect’s patented operating system, FusionOS. But the team hadn’t initially narrowed in on a particular market.

That changed when Moody met a man, Eric, who was an advocate for the homeless and living with MS. He told the founder that when he wakes up the morning, he has the energy for about a thousand good steps during his day — and how he uses those steps defines the quality of his life. He said the smart home tech K4Connect was developing could help him make his life better.

Moody immediately pivoted the company to redirect its focus on serving those in similar situations, which didn’t just include individuals living with disabilities but also the broader senior market.

Image Credits: K4Connect

Today, the FusionOS-powered platform integrates a suite of solutions designed for residents in independent or assisted living facilities as well as other care facilities. This includes tools to stay connected to their families though voice and video messaging, as well as those for accessing a digital resident directory, playing games, and staying informed on the latest community news — ranging from COVID-19 updates to daily meal menus to updated visitation policies, or anything else the facility wants to broadcast.

For the facilities who purchase the software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for their communities, there are other productivity tools they can use, like those for event management, resident surveys, resident and family management, communications, prospect communications, and more. Due the coronavirus outbreak, K4Connect is even developing an expanded video chat service that will allow residents to video call staff for their requests, instead of having staff enter their rooms.

 

Another key aspect to K4Connect’s solution is its smart home automation functionality.

The company provisions Alexa devices for residents, so they don’t have to configure devices themselves — they just plug them in. It also supports other home automation devices like smart thermostats, smart lights, motion sensors, sleep tracking devices, and more. 

This is all managed by way of the company’s “K4Community” solution powered by the underlying FusionOS technology. Residents can access this as an app their own smartphones, on preprovisioned tablets, or even through digital signage in the facility itself.

The SaaS solution is priced based on per-resident basis and the cost depends on which modules the facility wants to use in their own setup. This can range from a few dollars per month per resident to tens of dollars per month per resident, Moody says, and includes support.

Image Credits: K4Connect

As it turns out, K4Connect had a bit of a head start in terms of working on solutions more specifically designed to meet the needs of its communities amid the coronavirus outbreak, thanks to advice from its investors.

“Having investors like Intel and AXA did provide a wider perspective,” says Moody. “I figured, look, they’re really concerned. They’re seeing this issue from a wider geographic perspective than we are,” he explains.

Moody already knew that even the flu impacted older adults more than the general population. Due to K4Connect’s market of seniors, he multiplied what investors were saying could be the impact of coronavirus by a much larger factor.

“We kind of saw it coming,” Moody admits. “Many people were not completely bought in yet at the end of February. But just at the start of March, we launched something called ‘Project COVID 911.’ I just thought it was going to have a significant impact on the economy, but more importantly, the people we serve. And we had to be in a position to react and support,” he adds.

“If I was wrong, then we were going to be more prepared. And if I was right, then we would be in a situation where we can actually help serve people,” says Moody.

K4Connect adjusted its roadmap to focus on specific areas, like communications, content delivery, and pre-provisioning the Alexa Dot speakers, in order to limit time spent installing in residents’ rooms, among other things. Today, its solution offers features like resident-to-resident video chat for those now stuck in their rooms, tools for booking time slots in the dining area for facilities limiting large groups, access to live streamed content — like those yoga classes you can’t attend in person — and more.

With the added funding, K4Connect, now a team of 57 full-time, plans to further expand into the senior market, including not only those in facilities and senior communities, but also those living in affordable housing on their own. The team is actively developing solutions for this market segment, Moody says.

We are incredibly fortunate in our investor relationships in that they not only believe in our vision but equally value our mission,” Moody said, in a statement about the new funding. “Forte Ventures is a prime example of that relationship and we’re proud to welcome them to the bench of our valued investors. With their support, and all of our investors, we’re continuing to accelerate to serve as many older adults through technology as possible.”

Tinder now testing video chat in select markets, including U.S.

Tinder announced this morning it will begin to test video chat in its mobile dating app with some members in select worldwide markets, including in the U.S. The feature, which allows Tinder matches to go on “virtual” dates when both opt in, will first be available to users in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia and Colorado in the U.S., as well as in Brazil, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Peru and Chile, also with some members.

Parent company Match had first promised it would introduce video chat in Tinder as part of its Q1 2020 earnings report and touted the feature as a way Tinder was evolving its business in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The company had also then detailed the pandemic’s impact on its app, which had slowed Tinder user growth in the quarter as social distancing requirements and government lockdowns went into effect.

Tinder ended Q1 with 6 million subscribers, up from 5.9 million in December 2019 — meaning it only added 100,000 paid subscribers during the quarter. For comparison, in the year-ago quarter it added 384,000 paid users. Tinder’s average revenue per user (ARPU) also grew just 2%, mainly due to purchases of à la carte features, not subscriptions.

Tinder says it had tested video at various times before the COVID-19 outbreak, but said it never saw significant adoption. The pandemic has changed things, however. Today, Tinder allows users to search for matches worldwide through its Passport feature, making its dating app more of a social network. Meanwhile, Tinder users who do want to date now feel almost forced to use video for their early interactions instead of going on briefer “getting to know you” coffee or drink dates, as before.

Without a video option in the app, these users often turned to third-party apps like Snapchat or other video chat apps for these early connections. Meanwhile, daters who prioritized a video option may have even made the switch to rival Bumble, which has offered video for a year. Facebook also recently said it would add video for its Facebook Dating users, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Tinder’s hand.

Image Credits: Tinder

The new feature itself is simple to use. Once two people have matched and are chatting in the app, they can indicate they’re ready to move to a video session by tapping the new video icon. The clever part is that the feature itself isn’t enabled until both matches opt in. The company notes that Tinder users won’t be informed if a match toggles on the video chat feature. The idea is to wait until the discussion comes up naturally, as it often does in a text-based chat.

When both users have toggled on video chat, they have to agree to ground rules before the chat begins. Tinder says calls should remain “PG,” with no nudity or sexual content. The chats are also supposed to stay “clean,” meaning no harassment, hate speech, violence or other illegal activities. Users also agree calls will need to be age-appropriate, meaning without minors involved.

The feature, which Tinder calls “Face to Face,” is enabled on a match-by-match basis, not universally for all matches.

How exactly Tinder plans to properly moderate what appears to be a fantastic new solicitation platform remains less clear. In addition, Tinder’s move to embrace video means it could be putting sex offenders in front of the camera. As an investigative report last year from ProPublica found, most of the Match-owned dating apps, including Tinder, were not screening for sexual predators.

For now, Tinder says users are asked to review the call when it wraps.

In a pop-up, users who finish a video call will be asked whether they would go Face to Face again. Here, they’ll also have the option to report the user, if needed. These sorts of retroactive rating systems don’t do much for anyone who feels unsafe in the moment, of course, and it’s not clear to what extent Tinder will step in to police calls in progress.

Asked for specifics, Tinder declined to share. (In an earlier report, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman suggested Tinder would use machine learning models to monitor chats.)

Also unclear is to what extent Tinder would step into to stop what may otherwise be consensual sexual activity, including of the paid variety.

Tinder doesn’t seem worried about these off-brand use cases for video chat, however. It says it recently surveyed around 5,000 members in the U.S. and around half of them have already had video dates with a match off its platform over the past month, indicating a willingness to try video for online dating. In addition, 40% of Gen Z members said they wanted to keep using video as an initial step before agreeing to meet in real life, even when places like restaurants and bars were re-opened.

“Connecting face-to-face is more important than ever, and our video chat feature represents a new way for people to get to know one another in-app no matter their physical distance,” said Rory Kozoll, head of Trust and Safety Products at Tinder, in a statement about the launch. “Face to Face prioritizes control to help our members feel more comfortable taking this next step in chats if and when it feels right for them. We’ve built a solid foundation, and look forward to learning from this test over the coming weeks,” Kozoll added.

The feature is launching in testing only starting today, in select markets.

Spotify’s new personalized playlists are designed for your workouts

Spotify is adding to its collection of personalized playlists with a new feature aimed at those who like fresh music for their workouts. But unlike its flagship offering, “Discover Weekly,” which shows up automatically based on your listening history, the workout playlists are built for you after you answer a short quiz hosted on the microsite, Soundtrack Your Workout.

Here, users will click through and answer a few questions about the type of exercises they do, their workout length, who they work out with (kids, alone, with a partner, etc.), intensity level and mood. Spotify will then sync this information with your musical tastes in order to customize a workout playlist for you. You also can opt to have both music and podcasts combined in this playlist, if you choose.

You can retake the quiz at any time to create more personalized playlists by answering the questions differently as you change your workout activity. These are also then added to your collection of playlists in the Spotify app for easy access in the future.

Workout music is already hugely popular on the streaming service, particularly among younger users. The company found that more than half (53%) of those streaming workout tunes were ages 18 to 29, for example. And under coronavirus lockdowns, interest in workout music has remained high, despite users’ inability to hit the gym. In the past two months, for instance, Spotify listeners have created more than a million workout-themed playlists.

“Workout audio has always been a big focus for listeners on Spotify around the globe, and now more than ever, users are finding creative ways to stay active and healthy in this current climate,” noted Spotify’s Trends Expert, Shanon Cook, in a statement about the launch.

To kick off the new feature, Spotify partnered with celebrity trainer Corey Calliet who created his own personalized soundtrack, which is shared here.

This is not the first time Spotify has made use of a microsite to promote its service. The company more recently launched efforts like Listen Local, which directs users to answer a quiz and optionally connect with Spotify for local recommendations in select markets. It also launched Listening Together to showcase when people are starting to play the same song at the same time, for example.

But it’s less common for Spotify to require a quiz to collect information before customizing a playlist on users’ behalf. In this case, it was more necessary because workouts can be very different experiences. That is, the tunes and tempo you want while centering your mind during a yoga session and the music that keeps you running on the treadmill are often very different.

Spotify may be able to use the information collected here in other ways, we should note — perhaps to suggest future playlists that match your interests or for advertising purposes.

Of course, like any personalized playlist Spotify makes, the result is only as good as the data you’ve already fed the service. If you’ve allowed kids or other family members to use your account or don’t often use Spotify in favor of a different service, the playlist may not perfectly reflect your interests.

The new Soundtrack Your Workout destination is live today.

Amazon Fire TV now pulls in live TV content from Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV

Amazon is upgrading its Fire TV’s live TV experience through new integrations with several live TV streaming services, including Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV. Live content from these services will now appear within key areas with the Fire TV user interface, including the Fire TV’s Live tab and Channel Guide, making Fire TV feel even more like a cable TV replacement than before.

Already, Amazon Fire TV had offered integrations with nearly 20 other apps in a similar fashion, including live TV apps like Philo and Pluto TV, as well as its own Prime Video Channels.

But the addition of Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV brings in the three largest and most popular apps among cord cutters who are paying for a live TV experience. Sling TV has 2.31 million subscribers; YouTube TV has over 2 million; and Hulu + Live TV has 3.3 million.

Live content from these apps will be found within three main sections: the Live tab, the “On Now” rows and the multi-app Channel Guide.

Streaming live TV over the internet has become a more popular option for cord cutters over the years, as it offers a less expensive way to have a cable TV-like experience. Unfortunately, that gap has been closing in more recent months, as live TV users have been subjected to continual price increases as the services expanded their channel lineups.

However, many live TV customers remain because even with the increases, it can still be slightly less than cable and offers more flexibility — like working across platforms and not tied to a cable box.

This trend toward live content has also been seen on Fire TV, Amazon says.

The Live tab has become the second-most-visited destination on the Fire TV interface after the Home screen, due to its integrations of live content, the company noted. In addition, live TV streaming apps on Fire TV have seen the total time spent in app and active customers more than double, on average, since Fire TV added its live TV discovery integrations.

Image Credits: Amazon

“Fire TV is hugely popular among Philo fans. Since integrating with Amazon’s live streaming discovery features, the number of active Philo users is up nearly 2.5x on Fire TV,” said Philo CEO Andrew McCollum, whose TV streaming app was one of the earlier additions to Fire TV.

To use new integrations, you’ll first need to log into the streaming app you subscribe to with your current account information. You can then access the app’s live content across the Live Tab, which organizes live content in the familiar Netflix-like style of scrollable rows. Here, there are rows for things like “Live Sports” and “Live News,” plus content from your subscriptions’ channels.

From here, you can hop into the Channel Guide, which offers the more traditional grid guide, similar to cable TV.

This format is proving popular among live TV service subscribers.

On Monday, for example, Roku introduced its own Live TV Channel Guide, accessible via a new tile, which allows Roku users to browse the free live and linear content Roku offers in a similar way.

Amazon’s Fire TV platform, however, has the perk of Alexa integration.

That means users can ask Alexa to open the Channel Guide or even change the channel, by saying “Alexa, tune to [name of channel],” for example. This works via built-in Alexa on the Fire TV Cube, via a paired Echo device, or by using the Fire TV’s Alexa Voice Remote, depending on your setup.

“We’re excited to welcome Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV into our integrated suite of Live TV discovery features,” said Sandeep Gupta, VP of Fire TV, in a statement. “We believe the future of Connected TV is one that brings live content forward, simplifies the streaming and OTT landscape, and enables customers to discover the programs they want to watch with ease,” he added.

Sling TV’s integration began rolling out earlier this year, Amazon clarifies, but is being officially announced today.

YouTube TV will be available starting today, and Hulu + Live TV will become available in the coming weeks.