Instagram quietly (and slowly) launches Snapchat rival, Bolt

We knew Instagram’s effort to nab a bit of Snapchat’s thunder was imminent thanks to leaked promo banners, and now, the app has officially arrived… for some. Bolt, the filter-driven photo app’s own ephemeral messenger has hit iTunes and Google Play for folks in Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. The software’s claim to fame is speed: instead of having to fiddle through a series of options, tapping a contact’s picture both captures and sends a photo — no further swiping required (tap and hold records video). So long as they’re in your favorites list, of course. There’s also an undo feature that allows you to retrieve a message in the first few seconds by shaking your phone. While Bolt doesn’t require a Facebook or Instagram account, you will have to sign up with your phone number for sorting through your contacts. For now though, most of us have to find solace in just reading about it, since a select few locales are privy to the initial rollout. Instagram’s word on that particular strategy is situated after the break.

“Bolt is the fastest way to share an image or a video — just one tap to capture and send. We decided to start small with Bolt, in just a handful of countries, to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience. We expect to roll it out more widely soon.

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Canon’s new PowerShot cameras are for super-zoom lovers

Despite the popularity of smartphone (and tablet) cameras increasing by the minute, companies like Canon aren’t ready to throw in the towel for classics such as the point-and-shoot. With that in mind, the Japanese camera maker has introduced a pair of compact, super-zoom shooters: the PowerShot SX400 IS and PowerShot XS520HS. For starters, the entry-level SX400 IS, priced at $250, comes with a 16-megapixel CCD sensor, Digic 4+ image chip and 30x optical zoom, plus a number of “Smart Auto” features that Canon hopes make it easy for users to snap some great quality photos and video. The SX520 HS, on the other hand, is $400, but the heavier price tag, naturally, signifies a better spec sheet. There’s a 16-megapixel High-Sensitivity sensor (with the same image processor as the SX400), 42x optical zoom and a mini-HDMI, as well as speedy autofocus and enhanced stabilization systems. If you’re interested, you won’t have to wait long to get one — Canon’s bringing the new PowerShots to market soon, starting with the SX400 IS in August and SX520 HS the following month.

Canon’s PowerShot SX400 IS and PowerShot SX520 HS

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Netflix cut a deal with AT&T, just like the ones with Verizon and Comcast

Almost as soon as news broke in February that Netflix had agreed to pay Comcast for a direct connection to its network, Verizon and ATT were in line with their hands out as well. Verizon reached a deal months ago — that so far has done little to resolve streaming issues — and now Netflix and ATT have confirmed that they reached an agreement in May, as first reported by Mashable. In a statement, they said the process of turning up the connections should take place “over the coming days.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings already laid out his disapproval of the ISPs and their policies, and more recently suggested that if the Comcast / Time Warner Cable merger goes through, the combined behemoth should be barred from charging for interconnects. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear something similar about the proposed ATT / DirecTV combo too, and with the FCC’s recent statements on this issue we suspect things are far from settled.

Netflix / ATT:

We reached an interconnect agreement with ATT in May and since then have been working together to provision additional interconnect capacity to improve the viewing experience of our mutual subscribers. We’re now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days.

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Playdate: We’re livestreaming ‘The Last of Us: Remastered’ on PS4! (update: it’s over!)

Welcome, ladygeeks and gentlenerds, to the new era of gaming. The one where you get to watch, and comment, as other people livestream gameplay from next-gen consoles. Because games! They’re fun!

Developer Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic opus The Last of Us released last June, delivering at least a few punches to the guts of almost everyone who played it on the PlayStation 3. Despite the some 80 million (and counting) PS3′s sold worldwide, though, Sony estimates that there’s still a bunch of people who haven’t experienced the game. So, with no small amount of effort porting it from the PS3, we now have The Last of Us: Remastered on the PlayStation 4. But, let’s say you’ve already played through the game and its downloadable episode on Sony’s last-gen console, is it worth double dipping? Join me today at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific as I stream it, and find out. I’ll be starting a few hours into the campaign, but bear in mind that there’s a very high chance for spoilers, especially if you missed playing the game last year.

Watch live video from Engadget on Twitch

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Physicist concocts ice cream that changes color when you lick it

What happens when a physicist decides to become a chef? If they’re anything like Manuel Linares, then you can expect a fusion of food and science to come out of their kitchen. For instance, one of the Spaniard’s masterpieces is an ice cream that changes colors when you lick it. He calls it the Xamaleón, a play on the Spanish word for chameleon, and it originally starts as a periwinkle blue frozen treat until it’s spritzed with Linares’ “love elixir,” a super secret mixture he concocted himself. This mixture reacts to changes in temperature and saliva, causing the tutti-frutti-flavored ice cream to turn into purple, then into pink as you lick.

As unusual as it sounds, this is just the beginning of Linares’ foray into the color-changing ice cream business: he also plans to whip up ice cream that turns from white to pink, and another one that glows under ultraviolet light. You can only get a scoop of this chameleon ice cream from one the creator’s shops in Spain right now, but he’s looking to export it to other countries, according to The Mirror. Until that happens, you can check out this video that shows how the yummy dessert transitions from purple to pink.

[Image credit: Manual Linares/IceXperience / Cocinatis]

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Engadget Daily: EA Access, upgrading your dumb home on a budget and more!

Today, we review LG’s Heart Rate Monitor earphones, learn how to upgrade your dumb home on a budget, check out Apple’s new Retina Macbook Pros and learn about a new Xbox game-streaming service called EA Access. Read on for Engadget’s news highlights from the last 24 hours.

How to make your dumb home smarter without spending a fortune

Want to make your home smarter, but can’t afford premium services like ADT Smart Home or Vivint? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a list of the best (and more importantly, affordable) gadgets that can upgrade you abode.

‘EA Access’ subscription on Xbox One brings all-you-can-eat gaming for $5 per month

Look out PlayStation Now. Earlier today, Microsoft and EA announced their own game subscription service called EA Access. For only $5 per month, users get unlimited access to a vault of games, including Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4.

Apple gives Retina MacBook Pros a speed boost ahead of Yosemite rollout

OS X Yosemite is reportedly due sometime this October, but Apple’s not waiting around to revamp its line of Retina Macbook Pros. As of today, both the 15- and 13-inch models received a few upgrades in preparation for the upcoming OS.

LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

LG’s Heart Rate Monitor Earphones (which do exactly what you’d expect) mean you need one less gadget to track your workout. The only problem? These Bluetooth buds sound pretty bad.

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Skullcandy’s Method sports buds will get tunes stuck in your head

If you’ve ever gone running with earbuds, you’ll be familiar with the condition “pushem-backin-itis.” It’s an affliction that troubles many music-loving joggers once they break a sweat. Some companies prescribe over-ear hooks, or “wing tips” to combat this; Skullcandy is taking a different approach. Its new “Method” and “The Chops” in-ear lines come with sensual “Stickygel” technology. No points for figuring out what that is. Skullcandy claims their proprietary bud gels are 30 percent more loving to your earlobes (well, the skin at least) than standard tips. We mean loving in the attachment sense of the word. The sensual part? The adhesive action only kicks in once you work up a sweat, so you’ve got to earn that affection. As per always with Skullcandy, there’s a choice of colors and styles — and at $30 for the Methods, the grabby part doesn’t extend to your wallet, either.

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Facebook is killing its Gifts service, still wants you to buy stuff

Mark Zuckerberg’s experiment in social network retail has finally come to an end: on August 12th, Facebook Gifts will close forever. The company’s gift feature grew from its acquisition of the social gifting app Karma, selling teddy bears, socks and chocolates drop shipped directly to your Facebook friends. Eventually Facebook discovered that gift cards took the lion’s share of sales and discontinued physical gifts altogether. Now the company says it’s refocusing its resources on programs that help businesses increase sales through Facebook, rather than selling product themselves. So, in short, the “Buy” button is here to stay, but you’ll have to enable your friends’ Starbucks habit elsewhere.

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Google now shows what you can do near your hotel

Google's hotel-based searches in action

When you land in a strange new city, your first instinct may be to see what there is to do near your hotel. However, searching Google for nearby attractions can be a hassle if you don’t remember your hotel’s name or address by heart. That memorization is no longer necessary after today, though — Google has updated its search engine to use the booking confirmation in your Gmail as a locator. If you want to look for a late-night diner, all you have to do is ask Google to “show restaurants around my hotel.” You can also get directions to or from your accommodations, so you should reach a welcoming bed (or your flight) just a little bit faster. The addition makes the most sense if you’re using voice search in one of Google’s mobile apps, but any traveler can give it a spin.

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