Apps

Amazon launches lightweight Android web browser

It’s designed for low-powered devices

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Amazon has released a lightweight internet browser for Android smartphones in India, simply called Internet. The app itself weighs just about 2MB in size and is designed to offer an efficient way to browse the internet on devices with limited processing power and available storage space.

Compelling features of the Amazon Internet browser include privacy, with Amazon claiming no extra permissions are required to use it and no private data is collected, as well as private tabs to ensure websites can’t capture your data.

Among many features, the web browser’s homepage gives a glimpse at general headlines, while offering specific news such as cricket scores. The home page also offers previews for various tabs and an automatic full-screen viewing option. The browser comes with a download manager as well, and while the default search engine is Bing, you can change it to Google from the settings.

Amazon has designed the app for Android 5.0 Lollipop and higher, but it cannot be downloaded on devices running newer versions of Android as of now, citing incompatibility as the reason on the app’s Play Store listing. Amazon had recently launched the Kindle Lite app, which too weighs less than 2MB in size.

The major reason why India has been such as an attractive market for tech companies is because of its increasing data consumption. On December 21, 2017, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant tweeted that India has become the “World’s No. 1 mobile data consuming the country.”

Earlier this year, Google released Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, Google Go, Gboard Go, and the completely new Files Go app as part of the Android Go initiative. Android Go is based on the latest Oreo update but is a less resource-intensive version of the operating system, tailored for budget phones with lower specs — as low as 512MB of RAM.

Apps

Twitter is probing its AI’s racial bias in picture previews

They’re working on improving it

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Twitter uses a neural network to show you relevant previews of all the pictures that are posted on the microblogging platform. If the image contains text, the area is prioritized for a preview. Similarly, human faces are also given preference.

The preview makes it easier for the viewer to get a gist of the tweet without the compulsion of opening the entire picture. Although, the feature isn’t up-to mark since a lot of users have complained about the AI’s racial bias.

Several users posted a picture that has both, a white man and a black man’s face. But the preview often shows the white man’s face only. Users noticed the difference after a similar anomaly was observed on Zoom, where the facial recognition technology failed to identify a black man’s face, but had no trouble when the skin tone was changed.

 

Liz Kelley from Twitter’s communication team said they had tested the neural system for bias, but didn’t come across gender or racial bias during testing. She also confirmed that they’ve got more analysis to do and shall be open-sourcing all the work for others to review and replicate.

Twitter’s Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis and Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal were quick to acknowledge the shortcoming and said they’re “investigating” the neural network.

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Apps

TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the US

So, did the Oracle deal go through?

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After months of escalating, the US Commerce Department has announced it’ll ban business transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The two apps are owned by Chinese giants ByteDance and Tencent, respectively.

Practically, you won’t be able to directly download the app via stores like Play Store and App Store. Furthermore, companies are also barred from hosting these apps in the US. Essentially, the user won’t be able to download the app from third-party websites that are hosted in the US.

It also blocks US companies from providing services through WeChat “for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.”

However, it remains unclear whether the announcement means the Oracle-TikTok deal won’t be going through. The Trump administration wanted ByteDance to sell its local TikTok operations to an American company.

In the last few months, multiple American giants like Walmart, Twitter, and Microsoft were interested in getting their piece of TikTok. But things haven’t moved smoothly and the Chinese government isn’t keen on handing over TikTok’s algorithm to an American company.

While Oracle has been chosen for a deal with ByteDance, the latter continues to maintain that the ongoing process isn’t an acquisition and Oracle shall be a technology partner. This is in stark contrast to what President Trump envisions as a business takeover.

The app ban could be a tactic to pressure the Chinese, but we can’t be certain of that right now. Going by the latest statements, it’s clear that the administration wants to completely block user’s access to these apps and is willing to go the extra mile.

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Google removes one of India’s top payments app for violating policy

But there’s nothing to worry about

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Google removed one of India’s top payments app Paytm from the Play Store for allegedly violating guidelines. To be more precise, the app violated the app store’s policy by promoting gambling. The app is still available on Apple’s App Store though.

In response, Google said, “The app was blocked for violation of play policies – a clarification of our policy was released earlier today ahead of the IPL tournament.” It further clarified that users aren’t affected and only the app’s availability from the Play Store has changed.

Google strictly prohibits digital casinos or ungoverned gambling apps on its Play Store in India and Paytm’s app was found in violation of this policy. Recently, it launched a fantasy sports service called Paytm First Games and embedded links to this service within the Paytm app.

The standalone Paytm First Games app has also been removed. However, other apps like Paytm Mall, Paytm Money, and Paytm Business are still available and remain untouched. Google said the developer is always notified and the app shall remain unavailable till it complies with the norms.

Paytm has also assured all users that their accounts, wallets, and bank accounts are safe and there’s nothing to worry about. When the news broke, there was some initial panic because the memories of India’s app ban are still fresh and people are worried about their favorite apps going off the shelf instantaneously.

Fantasy sports games and other gambling apps have radically risen in India. The country loves cricket and the Indian Premier League is scheduled to start from tomorrow. Making the coming weeks a very lucrative period for these apps.

All these apps do not depend on Google’s Play Store for distribution and have to be downloaded externally via the developer’s website.

Paytm is hugely credited for encouraging India’s digital economy and has transformed itself into a super app. Besides bill payments and peer-to-peer fund transfer, the app can also be used for tickets, shopping, and entertainment.

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