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.
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.
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
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.
WhatsApp could soon let you use the same account on multiple phones
No need to maintain different numbers soon
WhatsApp is working on a feature that has been in-demand for ages. The ability to use the same account (phone number) across multiple phones. So far, WhatsApp does not permit a single account on multiple devices. The only exception being the WhatsApp Web feature which can only be accessed on browsers.
However, companies including Samsung, Vivo, OPPO, and Huawei offer Dual Apps mode, allowing users to switch between two different accounts of the same chat app. This doesn’t exactly serve the purpose because you still end up having two different accounts.
With multiple device support, the chats will be synchronized across all logged-in devices. Similar to how it works on other instant messaging apps like Messenger and Telegram.
The feature was spotted by WABetaInfo in November 2019. However, it was a very limited release and didn’t exactly shed light on how multiple devices shall be leveraged. The new WhatsApp beta v 2.20.110 release was spotted by WABetaInfo recently and the team was successfully able to test the feature.
For now, a few questions remain unanswered because the company hasn’t officially released the feature. Will the first phone you logged in from become primary and the rest of the devices will rely on it to send messages, just like WhatsApp Web? Or can the feature make even the second phone run independently?
Moreover, this is exciting news for anyone who relies on more than one phone daily. Currently, you’ll have to enable two different numbers to use WhatsApp on both the phones. Considering the competition, the feature is pretty standard and we’re glad WhatsApp is finally taking cognizance of it.
Lastly, keep in mind the feature is still in beta. It could take months to reach the normal Joe and maybe never even come. That’s the point of releasing it via the beta channel. To test whether the feature or product is successful and doesn’t hinder regular usage.
Apple acquires the popular weather app, Dark Sky
Will iOS users see improvement in the Weather app?
Aside from pushing its hardware front and center, Apple is also busy expanding its ecosystem. Over the years, Apple has acquired smaller companies to improve its software offerings. Today, the company acquires Dark Sky, a popular weather app with millions of users.
In a blog post by Dark Sky, the company announced its acquisition by Apple. There will be no changes to the iOS app after Apple takes over. However, Android users are not so lucky, since the app won’t be available to download on Play Store starting today. The app won’t function beyond July 21, and premium users will receive a refund for any existing subscriptions.
Meanwhile, Dark Sky’s website will close by July 21. App developers are also affected by the acquisition as APIs will only work until 2021.
Apple’s acquisition of Dark Sky will further expand its growing portfolio of services. It is also a sign that the company is doing something new to its aging Weather app. Perhaps, Apple might introduce new powerful features in the app and give it a fresh coat of paint. A subscription plan for weather forecasts may also be in the cards, considering the company’s push for subscription-based services.
Zoom isn’t as safe as you might think
Doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption, leaks personal emails
As working from home finally rises in popularity, teleconferencing apps are also getting their share of the limelight. Amidst all this, Zoom has become one of the most popular choices today, upending Skype and Google Hangouts for the top spot. The app offers ease of use and convenience in the work from home era.
Convenience, of course, is just one aspect of good app development. Cybersecurity, especially now, is another. Unfortunately, new investigations have revealed the software’s dubious caveats.
First reported by The Intercept, Zoom is not offering true end-to-end encryption, contrary to what it’s advertising. Conventionally, end-to-end encryption ensures that only the meeting’s participants can access the information shared in a call. Ideally, no one can access the call’s video, audio, and text messages.
According to the company’s website, Zoom offers this exact service. However, from a spokesperson’s exact words, the platform can’t provide this service at all. Instead, it offers the more rudimentary TLS encryption.
In contrast, TLS encryption is a step below true end-to-end. Though it still protects the information from malicious third parties, it does not protect data from Zoom itself. The company can still access your call. If anything, its only truly encrypted feature is text messaging during calls.
Of course, Zoom emphasizes its respect for cybersecurity. “Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously. Zoom only collects data from individuals using the Zoom platform as needed to provide the service and ensure it is delivered as effectively as possible,” the company said in a statement.
Now, in a completely different report, Zoom is taking a more reactive approach to cybersecurity. Reported by Vice, the company is potentially leaking everyone’s personal emails to other users.
The platform offers a feature called “Company Directory,” which collates all users using the same domain. Naturally, the feature is helpful for companies with its own email addresses. For example, if you own an “@companyxyz.com” email, you’ll be able to see other Zoom users with the same email.
However, if you use a personal email, this can lead to weird consequences. In the report, several users who did just that have seen unknown persons appearing on their Company Directory. Thankfully, Zoom doesn’t list more popular domains in this feature. Gmail and Yahoo users are safe for now. Still, if you use a non-standard domain for your personal email, you might be in for a surprise.
Fortunately, Zoom is blacklisting domains as they get reported. The domains listed on the report have already been removed from the feature. Regardless, Zoom’s recent hiccups can turn into a warning call. Even in the age of telecommuting, take care of your own security online.
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