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14 hours ago

HQ Trivia Android app finally exits beta

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HQ Trivia Android app finally exits beta

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

After becoming a worldwide phenomenon on iOS, HQ Trivia launched on Android as a limited beta last Christmas. The beta was then opened up to anyone that wanted to give HQ a shot on December 31, and just about two months later, HQ Trivia's Android app is leaving the beta stage for good.

HQ Trivia is now sitting at v1.2.1 on the Play Store, and while there aren't any big changes to the app now that the beta is over, this will hopefully allow the team at Intermedia Labs to start working on new features and prizes now that all of the major bugs for Android have been worked out.

You can check out our full guide to HQ Trivia if you're new to the game, but the concept is pretty simple. A live host asks you ten multiple choice questions, and if you get all the way to the end, you win or split the prize. HQ typically gives away $2,500 for each game, but Sunday games have gone up to as much as $25,000.

There's still some lag with the livestream here and there, but as long as you've got a speedy Wi-Fi or data connection, there's a lot of fun to be had here.

Download: HQ Trivia (free)

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18 hours ago

Google Assistant gaining 30 new languages, multilingual support, and more

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Google Assistant gaining 30 new languages, multilingual support, and more

Routines will also be available in the coming weeks.

Shiny new hardware like the Galaxy S9, LG V30S, and other handsets will be the stars of the show during MWC next week, but those aren't the only things we'll be keeping an eye out for. A few days before the trade show gets underway, Google's announced a heap of new goodies that are coming to the Google Assistant throughout the year.

Perhaps the most important announcement is the Assistant's expansion to even more languages. Google says the Assistant will support 30 new languages by the end of 2018, including Hindi, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Indonesian, Thai, and Swedish. On that same note, the Google Assistant is also becoming multilingual later in the year. This will allow users to fluently speak to the Assistant in multiple languages on the fly, and it'll first work with English, German, and French.

Google will also be using 2018 to double-down on its Assistant Mobile OEM program. The purpose of this is to allow manufacturers to create better integrations with the Assistant into their phones, including things like device-specific commands and ensuring the Assistant responds even when your phone's screen is off. Perhaps more exciting, Google notes that "we'll also have new integrations from LG, Sony Mobile and Xiaomi."

Routines will combine multiple actions into just one command.

As for user-facing changes, there are a couple big things in the works. You can currently set location-based reminders on your phone with the Assistant, but in the next few weeks, you'll be able to do the same with a smart speaker like Google Home. For example, you can say something like, "Ok, Google, remind me to buy eggs at Walmart", and then get a reminder on your phone when you arrive at the store.

The coming weeks will also see the launch of Routines in the United States. Google first announced Routines last year, and they'll allow you to perform multiple actions with just one command. Six Routines will be available at first, and one will allow you to say "Ok, Google, I'm Home" to turn on your lights, hear any reminders you have, and start playing music.

Android P may launch with a native dark theme

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18 hours ago

Android P may launch with a native dark theme

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Android P may launch with a native dark theme

Our relentless nagging has worked.

Over the past few months, there have been a handful of indicators suggesting that Android will soon offer native theming support. Android Oreo allows users to customize their phones with the Substratum Theme Engine with the use of a simple desktop app, the Pixel 2 introduced white and dark themes that change based on the wallpaper you have set, and now it looks like Android will soon get a native dark mode.

Last November, one user took to Google's official Issue Tracker asking for a "Dark Mode or Night Theme in Android 9.0." Google responded a day later saying that it'd shared this suggestion with its engineering team, but after that, things went dark.

However, during the wee hours of the morning on February 23, 2018, Google updated the thread once more with the following response:

Our engineering team has added this feature. It will be available in a future Android release.

AKA, a dark/black theme is finally coming to Android 🙌

Google's comment doesn't offer any insight as to when this feature will be launched, meaning it could debut as soon as Android P or it may not. This seems like a fairly small addition considering that Pixel and Nexus devices already offer this with accompanying wallpapers, so we'll be sure to keep an eye out for this during Google I/O in May.

Android P wish list: What I want Google to add

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20 hours ago

Samsung Max is a new VPN that's replacing Opera Max

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Samsung Max is a new VPN that's replacing Opera Max

And it's only available for Samsung phones.

A few years back, Opera Max was one of the most popular VPNs designed to help you save as much data as possible while using your phone. The service was discontinued by Opera last August, and now Samsung is digging it out of its grave and relaunching it as Samsung Max.

Similar to Opera Max, Samsung Max will help users cut back on their monthly data usage while also ensuring their online connection is as secure as can be. As such, Samsung Max consists of two primary modes — Data Saving Mode and Privacy Protection Mode.

As the name suggests, Data Saving Mode is all about helping you use less data and potentially save money with your wireless carrier bill. Samsung Max will notify you when it detects applications that are using considerable amounts of data, it can compress images, videos, and music files for lighter web-browsing, and users can choose to automatically block background data from being used by certain apps.

On the other hand, Privacy Protection Mode gives users a one-tap solution that protects them with encryption, tracker blocking, and a DNS mask when using public/unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Samsung Max is being launched as part of Samsung's "Make for India" program, but it'll come preinstalled on Galaxy A and Galaxy J devices in Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam, in addition to India. Users in other countries with Samsung phones can also download Samsung Max through both the Play Store and Samsung's Galaxy Apps.

See at Google Play

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1 day ago

Businesses can now send RCS texts to Android Messages users

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Businesses can now send RCS texts to Android Messages users

Launching first in the U.S. and Mexico.

We're expecting Google to go all-in with Android Messages later this year to turn it into a true iMessage competitor, but until that day, folks in the U.S. and Mexico are getting a small treat of what's to come. Thanks to Google's never-ending push of Rich Communication Services (or RCS), businesses can now tap into this to offer more engaging experiences.

Instead of sending bland SMS texts, companies can use RCS to send rich and interactive messages to their customers that use Android Messages. Businesses like 1-800-Contacts, Booking.com, Subway, and OpenMarket will be leading this charge in the U.S., and Mexico will soon follow suit with 5 Piso, DHL, Secretaria de Salud, and more.

Per Google's official announcement:

This means, for example, that a retailer can send beautiful images of their products, rather than a text message, and even let the customer select and buy something, all without leaving the messaging app. Best of all, customers who have already opted in to SMS messages from a business get this upgraded experience automatically in Android Messages.

Google says that it's partnering with Sprint for this initial business rollout of RCS in the U.S., but there are 43 different carriers around the globe working on adopting Google's Jibe RCS Hub.

Android Messages is Google's best chance to compete with iMessage

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1 day ago

Google Pay Send now starting to replace Google Wallet

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Google Pay Send now starting to replace Google Wallet

More of the same.

Earlier this week, Google announced that it was finally ready to say goodbye to Android Pay and replace it with Google Pay. The end goal of Google Pay is to offer all of the functionality of Android Pay and Google Wallet in one single app, but in the meantime, we get to mess around with the v22 update to Google Wallet that rebrands it as Google Pay Send.

You'll see a splash screen after getting the new update to remind you of the name change, but aside from a new paint job, all of the core functionality remains mostly the same.

The main page offers easy access to send/receive money with a full history of your past activity below it, a bell icon near the top right shows any notifications you have, and your hamburger menu on the left lets you access your payment methods, settings, and more.

Google Pay Send brings a blue/white paint job to replace Wallet's green/white one, and in addition to this, now allows you to set reminders for recurring payments. You can access these by going to the Reminders tab from the hamburger menu, and here you can choose to create a reminder to either request or pay money, choose how much it's for, how often you want to be reminded and on what day/time, and create a note for yourself.

Along with popping up in the Google Pay Send app, you'll also see these reminders in Google Home, Google Calendar, and Inbox.

The v22 update is rolling out to the Play Store now, but if you haven't received it yet and want to start messing with Google Pay Send right now, you can download the APK file here

Download: Google Pay Send (free)

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1 day ago

Channels officially launches for Android TV and Amazon Fire TV

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Channels officially launches for Android TV and Amazon Fire TV

Having been in preview for a while, Channels has now launched properly as a TV viewer on the Android TV and the Amazon Fire TV.

When it first emerged, Channels was interesting firstly for jumping from iOS and Apple TV, and secondly because the DVR portion can be set up on the Shield. So your Android TV box can become a DVR for an iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

Crossing the streams.

Work has been ongoing and Channels is now available officially as a viewing app for live TV. And it's also made an additional jump to the Amazon Fire TV as well.

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2 days ago

Google's Reply app is here and works surprisingly well

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Google's Reply app is here and works surprisingly well

Earlier this month, Google's Area 120 experimental division announced its latest creation – an Android app called "Reply." Reply essentially brings Allo's Smart Reply feature to all of your communication apps, and it's now available for anyone to download.

Reply is still in beta, and if you want to download it, you'll need to sideload the APK file as it isn't available on the Play Store. Assuming you're comfortable doing this and have a phone running Android 7.0 or later, getting Reply is just a few taps away.

Once you open the app, sign in with your Google account, and enable notification access, you'll get a quick rundown of all the features Reply has to offer. In addition to automated responses based on the context of a conversation you're having, Reply can also generate responses using your location data, send a heap of automatic replies based on your work calendar and certain keywords, and more.

I tested out Reply for a few minutes on my Pixel 2, and whether I was using Android Messages, Hangouts, or Facebook Messenger, it worked just as it's advertised. The suggested replies are certainly what users will interact with the most, but if you take some time to set up all the automation features Reply has to offer, you could turn it into a really powerful tool.

There are still some bugs here and there (I personally wasn't able to set my home or work address), but even so, it's remarkable how well Reply works in such an early form. If you want to give it a try, you can download it here.

Reply wants to add Smart Replies to all your messaging apps

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3 days ago

Samsung Pay's rewards program just got a lot less awesome

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Samsung Pay's rewards program just got a lot less awesome

Now it takes twice as long to get the goodies you want.

Along with supporting older MST terminals, another area where Samsung Pay has an advantage over Android Pay (well, now Google Pay) is with its rewards program. Samsung Pay gives its users points they can redeem for gift cards, raffles, and more as they continually use the app, but in an unexpected move, Samsung's making this rewards system not nearly as fun.

According to multiple users, Samsung Pay is taking the points you earn with its multiple tiers and cutting them in half. Because of this, the rewards system now looks like the following:

  • Member users earn 5 points per purchase instead of 10
  • Silver users earn 10 points per purchase instead of 20
  • Gold users earn 15 points per purchase instead of 30
  • Platinum users earn 20 points per purchase instead of 40

This move wouldn't be so crummy if Samsung adjusted the cost for prizes to go along with the reduction in points that are earned, but this doesn't seem to be the case. In other words, you'll now have to make twice as many purchases as you used to in order to accumulate enough points for the things you love. Yay 🙃.

Samsung Pay updated with a cleaner and more traditional UI

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3 days ago

Best theming widgets for Android

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Best theming widgets for Android

Finding widgets that work with one theme can be hard. Finding widgets that work with many is like a diamond in the rough, and here they are, ready to shine.

Android has hundreds of thousands of home screen widgets out there for you to try out, from advanced widget creators to those that come with your favorite apps. Some are beautiful, some are extravagant, and some are refined, but above all, they have to work. Widgets have to earn their keep on my home screen, or they'll be deleted and replaced with something I actually use.

Not all apps have customizable widgets, and no matter how good some of those widgets are — like Google Keep — if they don't play well with themes, then I can't count on them when I'm building my home screen.

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3 days ago

Google Pay launches to replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

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Google Pay launches to replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

The rebrand to end them all.

At the beginning of the year, Google announced that it'd be merging its Android Pay and Google Wallet services under one new umbrella called "Google Pay." A little more than a month since that announcement, the Google Pay app is now rolling out to users via an update on the Play Store.

What does this change mean? Admittedly, not a whole lot. The Android Pay app on the Play Store is being changed to Google Pay, and while there's a new logo and tweaked UI, all of Android Pay's core functionality is still here. You can view all of your linked cards, pay for things in stores without having to first open the Google Pay app, and make payments online when you see a "Buy with G Pay" button.

Google says that users in the United States and the United Kingdom will be able to use the main Google Pay app to send and receive money from friends and family members in "the next few months", but until then, the Google Wallet app is being changed to Google Pay Send with an updated UI and branding, too.

The Google Pay branding is showing up in the Play Store on my end, but I've still got the old Android Pay interface on my Pixel 2. It'll likely take a couple days for the changes to be rolled out to everyone, so don't fret if you aren't seeing the new look right away.

If you do already have the new Google Pay app, what do you think about it so far?

Download: Google Pay (free)

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3 days ago

Swype Keyboard is officially being discontinued

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Swype Keyboard is officially being discontinued

Time to move to Gboard.

Like a lot of my fellow Android users, I often used to jump back and forth between keyboard apps on my phone. I've dabbled with just about every popular option out there, but today the Play Store is losing one of its long-standing champs as development for Swype Keyboard has officially ended.

According to one Redditor that contacted customer support at Nuance (the company behind Swype), they were told that "Swype+Dragon for Android has faced end of development." This was then followed up by a message from Swype's Product Team that reads:

Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We're sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses.

Shortly after this, XDA Developers received a statement from Swype's PR department confirming what the Reddit user was told.

Swype has been on the Android Market/Google Play Store since as far back as 2013, and at the time of publishing this article, the Play Store indicates it has between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 installs. In addition to being around on the Play Store for so long, many Huawei devices still ship with Swype preinstalled out of the box.

The Swype Keyboard app is still on the Play Store, but it won't receive any future updates from here on out. I've personally been using Gboard for well over a year as my keyboard of choice, and while it can take some time to understand all of its different features, it really does offer one of the best typing experiences on Android.

If you're currently a Swype user, what keyboard app will you be moving to?

Android P wish list: What I want Google to add

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4 days ago

Android P wish list: What I want Google to add

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Android P wish list: What I want Google to add

Please and thank you, Google ❤️

With each new year that comes, we get a heap of new hardware from the likes of Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Google, and more. However, as exciting as this hardware is, something that I personally get more enthusiastic about is the release of brand-new Android versions.

Last year's Android Oreo may not have been the most visually different upgrade compared to 2016's Nougat, but even so, the additions of picture-in-picture, Google's Autofill API, adaptive app icons, etc. make it the most mature and well-polished version of the software to-date.

2019 will see the release of Android P, and while some of you may think it's too early to speculate about what we'll see in the next big Android release, it'll be here before you know it. A report from February 12 shed some light on features we can expect in the update, and in just three short months, we'll get our very first look at Android P during Google's annual I/O developer conference.

As such, these are the features/changes I'm hoping to see the most in Android's latest and greatest.

A refreshed user interface

Although there have been little tweaks here and there over the years, Android's looked more-or-less the same since the Lollipop update in 2014. This is when Google introduced the world to Material Design, and its design language has easily been my favorite one Android's ever had. With that said, coming up on four years of the same general aesthetic does leave me yearning for something new and different.

Android is due for a visual update, not a complete overhaul.

Thankfully, it looks like we may get something along these lines. The Chromium Gerrit has been spotted with references to something called "Material Design 2" – suggesting that Google is working on a successor of sorts to the Material Design we know and love today. Not much is known about Material Design 2 just yet, but there are references to tweaked colors, new icons, and better readability of some items.

If Google's wants to spruce up Android's look, this is the way to do it. A complete overhaul would just cause more unneeded fragmentation, but adding new elements and visuals to the same general design principles would allow Android P to look fresh without causing developers to completely redo the look and feel of their apps.

A more powerful Google Assistant

We've seen a lot of updates to the Google Assistant since its debut on the 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL, and as much as I love using it on a daily basis, there are some features I'd like to see added with Android P.

The Google Assistant excels when it comes to asking random questions and controlling smart home gadgets, but performing in-app functions is a very different story. You can do simple things like asking the Assistant to open YouTube and search for a video, but that's about it.

As much hate as it gets, Samsung's Bixby currently has an edge over Google Assistant in these regards. When I briefly used the Galaxy S8 late last year, I loved being able to use my voice to tell Bixby to open Samsung Health and add a cup of water to my daily intake tracker. This direct tie-in with applications is one of Bixby's greatest strengths, and it's something I'd like to see added to Google Assistant.

Tighter integrations with Chrome OS

On a similar note, I'd also like Google to use Android P as a way to get serious about better-connecting Android and Chrome OS. I tried using an iPhone 7 for a few months last year, and while Android will always be my preferred mobile operating system of choice, Apple is killing it when it comes to the relationship between iOS and macOS.

Google needs to give Android users a reason to use Chrome OS, and vice versa.

Things like AirDrop, Universal Clipboard, and a desktop iMessage app that also syncs with your SMS conversations give iPhone owners a reason to buy and stay with MacBooks and iMacs for their computing needs, and this is something Google needs to follow through with, too.

We saw something called "SMS Connect" in October with Android 8.1 suggesting that Google was working on a way for Android users to natively receive and reply to SMS messages on a Chromebook. This was a pleasant surprise, but it never came to fruition with 8.1's public release.

Along with this, Google already offers some benefits to Pixel 2 and Pixelbook owners, such as being able to unlock with the Pixelbook by using the fingerprint sensor on your phone and allowing the Pixelbook to automatically tether to a Pixel 2 when it detects there are no available Wi-Fi networks.

It's evident that Google wants Android and Chrome OS to better communicate with one another, and while these little touches here and there have been encouraging to see, I really hope this is something Google gets serious about with Android P. Apple gives consumers a reason to own an iPhone and iMac – it's time Google does the same with the Pixel and Pixelbook.

More user customizations out of the box

My last point is something of a pipe dream, but I decided to put it in here because — why not?

Android is often said to be superior to iOS due to the greater user customization options that are available, but I'd like to see these expanded even more with Android P. Android Oreo introduced Adaptive Icons and gave users the ability to change their shape, and the Pixel 2 allowed for elements like the notification tray, folders, and app drawer to change between a light and dark theme based on which wallpaper you currently have.

These are things I love messing with, and it'd make me happy to see Google expand on them even more. Allow third-party icon pack support for the default launcher, make the auto-changing themes a standard across Android and not limited to just the Pixel line, and give users some control over the color of the UI like OnePlus does with its own OxygenOS.

There haven't been any reports or rumors hinting that this is something Google's working on, but hey – a guy can dream, right?

What are you looking forward to?

Those are the things I'm hoping to see the most in Android P, but what about you? What are the top features or upgrades you'd like to see in the next version of Android? Sound off in the comments below!

Android Oreo

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4 days ago

Google Tez now supports bill payments

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Google Tez now supports bill payments

Since its debut last September, Google Tez has become one of the most popular peer-to-peer payment services in India. Tez crossed 12 million users just a couple months after its launch, and today, the app is adding a new bill payment feature.

Google announced that this was something it was working on back in December, but now that it's launching, we have more details on how exactly it'll work. To add a new bill, all you have to do is go to New Payment -> Pay your bills. From here, you'll be able to choose from a list of over 80 billers, enter your account info for the ones you'd like to add, and start making payments right away.

Users will be sent notifications as new bills come in, and in addition to paying current ones, you can go through your billing history to see which ones you've already paid and how much you're paying month-to-month. Bill payments you make are categorized by each biller, and you can set up bill payments for multiple accounts.

Supported companies for this feature include the likes of Reliance Energy, BSES, and DishTV. More providers will be added down the road, and in honor of its launch, Google is giving away scratch cards for the chance of winning up to ₹1000 for each biller you add to Tez during February.

Samsung Galaxy A8+: Everything you need to know

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5 days ago

How to design and order Google Photo Books

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How to design and order Google Photo Books

This year, give the gift of memories.

Smartphones cameras just keep getting better, and you've probably taken a few photos over the years that you want to commit to memory forever. Sure, you can post them on social media or get individual prints at your local convenience store, but there's nothing like a nice photo book to organize all of your favorite shots in one place.

Luckily, Google makes it easy to order customized books through its Photos backup service. Whether you're using the website or the app on your phone, it just takes a few minutes to create something special.

How to create a Photo Book

Much like backing up images to Google Photos, creating a Photo Book is actually pretty simple.

  1. In the Google Photos app, swipe over from the left side of the screen (or tap the overflow button) in the upper left corner.
  2. Tap Photo books.
  3. In the Photo Books menu, you can choose from suggested books or albums, or tap start a book to choose your own photos.

Keep in mind that you can only choose from images in your Google Photos library. If you want to add other images, you'll need to back them up to Google Photos first.

How to configure your book

Once you've selected the photos you want to include, have a scroll through the pages of your book. It's time to organize and configure your book.

  1. Press and hold on any image in the list to enter the editing screen.
  2. Drag photos around to rearrange the list to your liking, or tap the X in the upper right corner of a photo to remove it from the book.
  3. Once you're happy with the layout, tap the checkmark in the upper left corner of the screen.
  4. You can change the layout of individual pages, as well. Tap an image, then select your preferred crop — you can use the entire image or punch in and fill the page.

How to order the book

Once you're happy with the layout, it's time to set it in stone. Well, paper anyway.

  1. Tap the shopping cart icon in the bottom right corner.
  2. You can choose from either a 7" softcover or a 9" hardcover. Both include up to 20 pages for a flat rate, then charge per additional page afterwards; $0.35 and $0.65, respectively.
  3. Once you've chosen a book, tap Select.
  4. Select the quantity, add a gift message if desired, and tap Checkout to complete your order.

That's it! Once you tap Checkout, you'll receive a confirmation email from Google, and a followup with shipping details shortly afterwards. Once it arrives, share it with your friends and enjoy your new photo book!

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