Apple Adds Virgin to US Carrier Lineup as Virgin Ditches Android

Apple Inc will soon start selling wireless plans from Virgin Mobile USA, the first new carrier offered by the iPhone maker’s since 2013, the companies said on Wednesday.

Virgin Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Sprint that licenses its name from the Virgin Group co-founded by Richard Branson, struck the deal as part of a broader revamp of its business that will see it ditch Android phones in the coming years and become what it claims is the first iPhone-only network.

Virgin Mobile USA will first be offered in Apple’s stores then online. Apple currently offers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, the last of which was added in 2013.

Branson, wearing an Apple Watch on his left wrist and traditional watch on the other, told Reuters in an interview he sees similarities between the Apple and Virgin brands because both advocate for human rights and other social causes.

Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts “has been tremendously supportive of this and loves the proposition,” Branson told Reuters before a launch event in San Francisco. “We were knocking on (an) open door.”

Apple Adds Virgin to US Carrier Lineup as Virgin Ditches AndroidVirgin Mobile USA piggybacks on Sprint’s network. Virgin customers pay full price for their phone upfront but are not locked into a contract.

Under the deal with Apple, customers who buy a new or refurbished iPhone from Virgin or Apple will get up to one year of service for $1 (roughly Rs. 65) a month, with service costing $50 (roughly Rs. 3,200) per month after that. The refurbished phones will come with an Apple warranty.

Because Virgin does not spend money on its own physical stores or big advertising campaigns to acquire customers, the company believes it can make a profit off much less revenue than larger carriers, Virgin Mobile USA CEO Dow Draper said.

“The amount of money we have in these customers from an acquisition standpoint is minimal,” Draper said. “Once they make one ($50) payment, we’re back in good shape. Because of the strategy with going through Apple retail and Virgin Mobile’s site, we’ve got a really efficient cost structure.”

Virgin Mobile USA also hopes the iPhone push will bring it in line with the rest of Virgin’s brands. Virgin Mobile USA is seen as downmarket because it offers pre-paid phones. Most of Virgin’s other business, such as airlines, hotels and wine clubs, target more upscale consumers.

Apple Music Now Has a Rs. 1,200 Annual Subscription; Android App Updated

Apple Music now has an annual subscription option at Rs. 1,200 in India, and $99 in the US. You’ll have to work a bit to get it, though. It seems Apple doesn’t want everyone to know about it, given the lack of an announcement despite it being available since a few months. Separately, the Android app has also been updated with performance improvements.

It’ll help you save Rs. 240/ $20 per year on the monthly individual subscription, so it’s worth the hassle if you’re committed to Apple Music. It’s also not available at first sign-up, so you’ll have to be an existing subscriber to follow these steps. Here’s how: open the App Store, scroll down to the bottom and click on your Apple ID.

Apple Music Now Has a Rs. 1,200 Annual Subscription; Android App UpdatedThen, you should see a total of four options: Individual (1 Month), Family (1 Month), Individual (1 Year), and Student (1 Month). The third option – Individual (1 Year) – is the new option, which should reflect Rs. 1,200 if you live in India. Unfortunately, there’s no annual plan for family or student memberships yet. Hopefully, that’s on its way soon.

Meanwhile, the Apple Music app on Android has received a minor update, which brings some “performance improvements”, according to the changelog on the Google Play listing. It follows the big April update that (finally) brought it in line with the iOS 10 redesign that hit iPhone and iPad all the way back in September 2016.

WhatsApp Support for Android 2.3 Gingerbread Extended till 2020

WhatsApp clearly does not want to reduce its user base too early. With over 1.2 billion monthly active users in February, WhatsApp is available on a multitude of platforms, including ageing mobile platforms like BlackBerry OS, Nokia S40, Nokia S60, and older versions of Android. Recently, the company announced extension of its services on BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms. It has now officially announced that smartphones running Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread and older versions will continue to be supported by the app till February 1, 2020.

WhatsApp support for Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread

In an update to its original blog post announcing the discontinuation of its services on various older platforms, WhatsApp has laid out the timeline for some mobile operating systems that will continue to support the messaging app’s services. Starting with Android, the versions 2.3.7 Gingerbread and older version will support services until a significant time span of February 1, 2020. However, according to recent Android version distribution data released by Google, there are a limited number of devices powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with the version having just a 0.8 percent share of active devices.

WhatsApp Support for Android 2.3 Gingerbread Extended till 2020The company further mentions in the blog post that the Nokia S40 and BlackBerry OS (including BlackBerry 10) platforms will support WhatsApp till December 31, 2017 and December 31, 2018 respectively, which we recently mentioned in a report and wherein the end-of-life timeline for Nokia S40 devices was thought to be a typographical error. In addition, the eligible devices running Windows Phone 8.0 and later will too keep WhatsApp support till December 31, 2017. Meanwhile, Nokia S60 devices will stop being supported by the app by the end of this month.

“Because we will no longer actively develop for these platforms, some features may stop functioning at any time”, also reads the blog post issuing an alert for the users who own devices running on unsupported mobile platforms. It could mean that even before the last dates, WhatsApp services may be disrupted on these platforms.

To recall, the company had last year announced it would stop providing support on older mobile operating systems and devices like Windows Phone 7, iOS 6, BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10, Android 2.1, and Android 2.2 by the end of 2016. However later, the deadline got pushed back for few mobile platforms to June 2017. Yet again, the deadlines were changed to the aforementioned timeframes but only for select platforms. For now, it’s unclear whether Android 2.1 and Android 2.2 will continue to be supported.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a Chat

Google this week rolled out an update to its messaging app Allo that enables users make a Duo video call directly within the chat window.

To be able to use the feature, both Allo and Google’s video calling app Duo need to be installed on both ends, the company said in a statement.

“So when you’re at the mall and are finding it difficult to pick the perfect pair of shoes, quickly starting a Duo video call with your friend makes it so much easier than typing a description of those great-looking runners,” the statement added.

A Duo icon in the upper-right corner of the chat screen immediately launches a Duo call by tapping it.

Google Allo Can Now Make Duo Calls Within a ChatWith the Allo update, users can also add stickers to their photos before sending them in a chat. The latest Allo update is available for both Android and iOS platforms.

Earlier this month, Google rolled out the v12 update of Allo, bringing the big Selfie Clips feature, along with other changes like a redesigned compose bar.

Selfie Clips essentially lets you use the front camera to make GIF loops of yourself or anything in the front camera view, and send them in chat conversations. Earlier, to send GIFs, you’d have to use third-party material, and a tool to create one was not available in-app. With this update, Allo adds the ability for iPhone and Android users in-app. This feature was announced by Allo team head Amit Fulay. Furthermore, the selfie sticker feature that was only launched for Android first, has now been made available to iPhone users as well.

The new compose bar was also mentioned by Fulay and it basically gets rid of the ‘+’ icon that hid all the compose buttons, and shows them all above the message bar itself. This makes them more accessible than before, as earlier they were hidden behind the ‘+’ button, and could only be seen when the button was pressed.

Firefox Focus Browser With Built-in Ad Blocker Comes to Android

Mozilla last year launched the Firefox Focus privacy-minded browser for the iPhone and iPad. The new browser from Mozilla is finally available on Android.

Much like the iPhone and iPad version, the new Firefox Focus app for Android allows users to browse the Internet without being tracked by “tracking ads,” which essentially track user behaviour without any consent, and also slow down the Web on a mobile device. The biggest attraction of the browser is that it comes with built-in ad blocker which means it works automatically without the need to switch on the feature. Apart from blocking ad trackers, Firefox Focus can also block analytic trackers and social trackers.

Mozilla has introduced some new features to Firefox Focus for Android like ad tracker counter, which counts the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app; disable tracker blocker, which lets users disable the tracker blocker for some sites that are not loading correctly, and notification reminder, which reminds users when the Focus browser is running in the background. The Focus browser will also users erase browsing history, passwords, and cookies with just one tap.

Firefox Focus Browser With Built-in Ad Blocker Comes to AndroidAfter being available on App Store for over six months, the Firefox Focus is now available to download via Google Play.

Barbara Bermes, Product Manager, Firefox Mobile announcing the Android availability said, “I’m thrilled to announce that we’re launching our Firefox Focus mobile app for Android. For Android users we also made Focus a great default browser experience. Since we support both custom tabs and the ability to disable the ad blocking as needed, it works great with apps like Facebook when you just want to read an article without being tracked. We built Focus to empower you on the mobile web, and we will continue to introduce new features that make our products even better.”

Instagram Stories Gets Live Video Replay as It Hits 250 Million Daily Active Users

Photo-sharing app Instagram has announced it will introduce an option to share a replay of a user’s Live video to ‘Stories’ feature for 24 hours. The feature comes with the v10.26 update available on the App Store and Google Play for iOS and Android respectively.

“We’re also celebrating 250 million daily users on Instagram ‘Stories’, up from 200 million announced in April,” the company said in a statement.

Previously, all Live broadcasts disappeared once finished. That made them feel raw, spontaneous and urgent to watch.

Starting June 21, “we’re introducing the option to share a replay of your Live video to Instagram ‘Stories’. Now, more of your friends and followers can catch up on what they missed”, Instagram said.

Instagram Stories Gets Live Video Replay as It Hits 250 Million Daily Active UsersWhen your broadcast has ended, you’ll be able to tap “Share” at the bottom of the screen to add your replay to Instagram ‘Stories’ for 24 hours.

You can also tap the toggle and choose “Discard” and your Live video will disappear from the app as usual.

When someone you follow shares a replay, you’ll see a play button under their profile photo in the stories bar. Tap it to watch the video and see comments and likes from the original broadcast. You can also tap the right or left side of the screen to go forward or back 15 seconds, or tap “Send Message” to reply.

New smartphone app can alert drowsy drivers

Scientists have developed a new smartphone app that can alert a car driver if they are sleepy, an advance that may help avoid fatal accidents caused by fatigue driving. The new approach adopts a smartphone’s real-time video to track and analyse the facial features of a driver, in particular, the changes in his eyelids and head position, which are prominent fatigue symptoms.

With the app installed in a smartphone, a driver just has to put it near the steering wheel with the front camera facing him in his normal driving position. When the camera captures features like drooping eyelids, drowsiness or even nodding off, an alarm is automatically set off. To ensure that the driver is awakened, the driver has to turn off the alarm either by voice or by hand.

smartphone app, drowsy app, wake up app, car app, indian express, science, mobile news, mobile technologyThe method, developed by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) in China, requires only a smartphone without any additional devices or sensors. It is cost-effective, simple to operate, portable, detects accurately, highly reliable, and supports online system updates.

As the system can activate the rear camera of the smartphone, it can also be utilised as a normal driving recording system, as used by many drivers now. The results of fatigue driving should not be underestimated, said Professor Cheung Yiu-ming from HKBU.

The new system is suitable for all drivers, but especially for professional drivers and machinery workers who have long working hours. Yiu-ming added that the system may also interest corporations with a vehicle fleet, or insurance companies.

Fatigue-driving detection systems are currently installed only in a few luxury models offered by car manufacturers. Those systems require additional devices and sensors installed in a vehicle, making them non-portable, expensive and difficult to fit system updates, thus not beneficial to general drivers.

Polaroid Enters LED TV, Monitor Market in India

US-based consumer products maker Polaroid on Friday forayed into LED TVs and monitors segment in the Indian market.

The company has tied-up with Indian manufacturing company Powerful Technologies Pvt Ltd, an authorised Polaroid licensee, to assemble and manufacture LED TVs and monitors in their Noida factory, Polaroid said in a statement.

Initially six models have been launched – three Polaroid LED TV models and three monitor models. The products are currently available on e-commerce platform Amazon.

It will be available on other online retailers, besides distribution and retail channels.

The LED TVs are priced at between Rs. 7,999 and Rs. 13,999, while the LED monitors are priced at Rs. 3,499-Rs. 4,599.

“India is one of the fastest growing markets worldwide, and we are confident that local partnerships are the right way to tap into this growing market and further introduce the Polaroid brand to India,” Polaroid President and CEO Scott W Hardy said.

Polaroid Enters LED TV, Monitor Market in IndiaPowerful Technologies is the Polaroid licensee for LED TVs and monitors in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Powerful Technologies Managing Director Aditya Gupta said: “With our strong online and offline sales channels and excellent after sales service we are confident Polaroid will be a huge success in India”.

Polaroid is currently present in India in the segments such a cameras, sunglasses, mobile printer and headphones.

Digital Payments Grievance Helpline 14442 to Come Up Soon

The government is working to set-up a toll free phone number 14442 for grievance redressal of customers related to digital payments.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT along with National Payments Corporation of India is working on a mechanism to provide a common number 14442, where customers of all digital payments platform, including mobile wallets, Unified Payments Interface and BHIM, will be able to register their complaint, according to official sources.

“The Department of Telecom has allocated 14442 to NPCI for setting up its grievance redressal mechanism for customers of all digital payments. The guidelines are in process,” an official source said.

The government’s efforts to curb black money in the country has pushed digital transaction on various platforms by up to 8,800 percent.

Digital Payments Grievance Helpline 14442 to Come Up SoonDigital payments on UPI platform have grown from Rs. 3,721 till November 8, 2016 to Rs. 3.31 lakh as on May 17, 2017.

Similarly, transaction on mobile wallets have grown by 104 percent, Aadhaar enabled payments system by 390 percent and Rupay debit card transactions by 270 percent during the same period.

Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) launched on December 30, 2016 has been downloaded by over 2 crore people and total transaction value on it have crossed Rs. 1,406 crores.

At present, digital wallet companies offer helpline numbers but customers on social media have expressed dissatisfaction with the existing facility.

There are no helpline or grievance redressal mechanism in case customer faces any issue on BHIM application.

“The draft grievances redressal rules will be placed before public for their views before guidelines are firmed up,” the source said.

The government has been running a toll free number 14444 with IT industry body Nasscom but it is only limited to creating awareness about the digital payments and not for grievances redressal.

Telecom Subscriber Base Crossed 1,198 Million in April: TRAI

The telecom subscriber base in the country reached 1,198.89 million in April but growth continued its downward trend in line with slower pace of new customer additions by Reliance Jio.

“The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1,194.58 million at the end of March 2017 to 1,198.89 million at the end of April 2017, thereby showing a monthly growth rate of 0.36 percent,” TRAI said in its monthly subscriber report.

Total wireless or mobile subscribers base increased by 0.38 percent to 1,174.60 million in April from 1,170.18 million in March.

The growth rate is at a seven-month low from the peak of 2.67 percent registered in October, when Reliance Jio had added 19.6 million customers.

Reliance Jio maintained its lead in terms of customer acquisition despite the end of its free 4G service offer.

The company accounted for about 87 percent of total new mobile customer additions in April

The growth of the company’s net subscriber addition, however, slowed down to 3.87 million in April from its peak of 20.2 million new customer additions in December 2016.

Telecom Subscriber Base Crossed 1,198 Million in April: TRAIJio was followed by Bharti Airtel which added 2.85 million new mobile subscribers, BSNL with 0.81 million, Vodafone 0.75 million and Idea 0.68 million.

Tata Teleservices was biggest loser of mobile subscribers in April. The net subscriber loss of the company was 1.46 million. Reliance Communications lost 1.32 million subscribers, Aircel 0.33 million, Sistema Shyam 0.27 million and MTNL 2,137 subscribers.

After registering a growth of 0.22 percent in March, the landline or the wireline subscriber base declined by 0.42 percent by losing 0.1 million customers. State-run BSNL lost 1.86 million customers followed by MTNL which lost 7,888 customers.

Private companies Tata Teleservices, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone gained new landline customers in April. The number of broadband subscribers increased to 284.23 million in April from 276.52 million in March, as per the report.