Apps

Say ‘allo’ to Google’s ‘duo’ of new messaging apps

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Expectations were high at the keynote address that kicked off the Google I/O developer conference. But before you close the tab and move on to reading about a topic that actually interests you, hear me out: This year, the tech giant from Mountain View presumably had a lot of genuinely interesting products that would take us to the future.

Okay, maybe not that far ahead.

But to a future where a device reminiscent of Vegeta’s scouter (to be clear, we’re referring to Project Aura, formerly Google Glass) is actually something people would want to wear.

A tomorrow where smartphones are more like Lego (Project Ara) and less like single slabs of plastic or metal.

And self-driving cars are safe enough for widespread use.

Google instead seized the limelight to introduce two new communication apps — and two more answers to the question “What comes after Hangouts and Messenger?” And Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp. And Snapchat, Viber, Line, WeChat, Skype, BlackBerry Messenger, and, well, you get the picture.

Say “allo” to Allo, Google’s new messaging app.

allo google

But whereas Hangouts and Messenger don’t add anything fresh to the conversation, Allo leverages on Google’s AI strategy (by way of an integrated virtual assistant) to make itself heard.

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It understands how we use language and can respond to messages without you typing anything, which sounds unsettling and a bit like when the IT guy gains remote access to your computer.

remote access

It’s even smart enough to respond to photos. So if someone sends you a picture of, say, a bowl of pasta, you may see a suggestion like “Yummy!” or “Oh-em-gee,” if you’re an “Oh-em-gee” type of person. Allo also learns over time, so the suggestions should get better as you use the app.

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Also part of the attraction is how it can make your conversations more expressive. You can enlarge or shrink the size of an emoji or text by dragging the Send button upward or downward, giving the effect of screaming or muttering into the digital void.

There’s also Incognito Mode for sending messages that disappear into the ether, just like Snapchats, or encrypted ones that not even the big G can breach.

Then there’s Duo, a video-calling app that’s also encrypted end-to-end and performs well on slow networks.

google duo

But its billboard feature is called Knock Knock, which lets you see callers and the context in which they’re calling before picking up.

Your boss looking annoyed or stressed? Answer immediately. A college mate who’s been pestering you about investing in one of his ideas? That can wait indefinitely.

Both Allo and Duo will be available for Android and iOS “this summer.” Which begs the question: Can you nudge your loved ones to use yet another messaging service?  We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?

[irp posts=”8314" name=”5 Reasons why I love Google Home”]

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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Instagram is finally getting a dark mode

Out on iOS, beta on Android

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The spookiest and scariest month is upon us! A week into October, we can’t wait to sink our teeth into Halloween. While we wait for our monsters to wake up, the tech world is slowly paving the way for a scary month. For one, Instagram, Facebook’s popular photo-sharing social media network, has started embracing the dark side.

The app has released a much-awaited update for its iPhone variant. The update includes a dark mode, in collaboration with the newly released iOS 13’s native dark mode support. Finally, Instagram turns off the lights on its iconic (and sometimes obnoxiously bright) white theme. We can now browse throughout feeds in eye-pleasing darkness.

Sadly, the new dark mode is not accessible using a normal on-and-off switch. The mode switches on based on your own iPhone’s settings.

In addition to iOS, Instagram is also slowly rolling out the update for Android users. Unfortunately, the update is available only for Instagram Beta users. Even then, the Android update is only starting to trickle down to users worldwide.

Regardless, Instagram’s dark mode is a welcome addition to our growing list of dark mode-friendly apps. It’s getting easier to distract yourself from startling jump scares during those inevitable horror movie marathons on your couch this Halloween.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Dating is now live with Instagram integration

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This is Huawei’s alternative for missing Google Play services

Filling up the vacuum

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2019 has been an awfully difficult year for Huawei. While the US and China are embroiled in a trade war, the Chinese telecommunication giant is stuck in the cross-fire. Like every other phone maker, it relies on Google’s Android operating system and services to deliver a complete experience to the end user.

However, President Trump has barred American companies from doing any business with Huawei, which means the brand can no longer leverage Google Play services. Google has been banned from China for the longest time, so this won’t have any effect on Huawei’s sales in the country, but it will completely derail Huawei’s plans of global domination.

To counter these missing Google apps, Huawei has released a plethora of in-house apps that will ensure the user doesn’t feel left out. AppGallery is will replace the Google Play Store and can be used in 170+ countires. Launched way back in 2011, it was initially released for users in China only. In 2018, it was shipped to non-Chinese users and became a pre-installed package on all new phones.

Similarly, Huawei Browser replaces Google Chrome, Huawei Mobile Cloud replaces Google Drive, and Huawei Music replaces YouTube or Play Music. There’s also an addition of Huawei Themes, Huawei Assistant, and many more.

Thanks to the open-source nature of AOSP, Huawei is not completely barred from using Android on its smartphone. The recently launched Mate 30 series runs on Android, but doesn’t come with Google apps out-of-the-box, including Google Play Store.

This reminds us of Samsung’s Galaxy phones that usually ship with Google apps as well as Samsung’s own suite of apps. They are pretty much meant to do the same job, but come from two different vendors. Ultimately, offering more options to the user.

Will you be fine with these replacements or are Google apps necessary? As Plan B, Huawei has already announced its Harmony OS and we expect it to be ready for phones in the coming years. But, that’s still a long way down the line.

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