Apps

Google wants to assist users without depending on the Internet

And Google Pay just got more exciting!

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Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.

Google Assistant

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?

A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.

Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.

Google Pay

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.

Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.

The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.

New AI Lab

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.

Apps

Google discontinues Datally, its mobile data saving app

It’s gone from the Play store

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Using the Datally app from Google? It’s time to move one and find another as Google officially discontinues its mobile data saving app.

In the official support page of Datally, Google notes that the app is not available on the Play store. True enough, visiting the link to Datally throws the app not found error.

Users of the mobile data saving app can continue using it, but the app will not receive future updates. To speed up its discontinuation, the app is giving a warning that it is incompatible with Android 10. So, users who upgraded to the latest OS can’t use the app anymore.

Datally launched last 2017 to help users control their mobile data usage. The app shows the data usage of every app as well as overall data usage metrics. It also let users block background data.

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Apps

Google Maps will now show you speed traps

You can also report road closures and accidents

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Google Maps is borrowing several features from the company’s other popular navigation app, Waze. Google today announced a series of new features that will allow drivers using the Maps app on iOS to report accidents, speed traps and traffic jams.

Hazard reporting was introduced on Android earlier this year, but this is the first time that iPhone users can also help crowdsource traffic snarls. Google has also expanded the types of road hazards that can be reported through its incident feature to encompass ‘construction, lane closures, disabled vehicles, and objects on the road.

These features have been unique to Waze and many users preferred to use it over Google Maps. It was long-speculated that when Google purchased Waze for US$ 1.1 billion five years ago that the features would be swiftly migrated to Google Maps. The transition has been extremely slow, but it’s finally happening.

To report an incident, open Maps and start navigating to your destination. You’ll see a small location pin with a + sign button on the left side, tap it. Now, you’ll have multiple options that include speed traps, construction, lane closure, and more. Simply select one and you’re done.

Google’s algorithm constantly looks out for these reports and helps in rerouting other riders. These crowdsourced features made Waze a perfect alternative to Google Maps and many users claim they’ve reached faster.

A few months back, Google also added augmented reality support for pedestrian navigation. The feature has been highly appreciated since GPS accuracy may not always be very on-point.

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Apps

Hong Kong protests: Apple succumbs to pressure from China

Trying to please both the sides

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Every international company, whether based in China or the US, is now stuck in the middle of the Hong Kong protests. While the people want pro-Democracy ideals to govern their city, China refuses to back down and continues its passive-aggressive push.

Apple has reportedly removed the Quartz app from the App Store at the request of the Chinese government. Quartz’s Investigations editor John Keefe confirmed the app has been removed from the App Store and even the website has been blocked in Mainland China.

The publication has been covering the Hong Kong protests in detail and this hasn’t gone down well with the government in Beijing. China has a long history of suppressing free speech and it’s not surprising to see them block off content that doesn’t suit their narrative.

Though, users are furious at Apple for not taking a stand and bowing down to pressure. A few days back, the Cupertino-based giant removed the Taiwanese flag from its keyboard for some users to please the Chinese officials.

Apple was also in the news this week due to its initial rejection of an app that kept a tab on police movement in Hong Kong. Back in 2017, Apple removed the New York Times app from App Store after the Chinese government requested its removal because it was “in violation of local regulations.”

It is necessary for Apple to stay on good terms with China because of its business interests. Almost every other product designed by Apple will find its roots back in China, where everything is built — components as well as finished iPhones.

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