Apps

Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo joins Huawei’s effort to build a Play Store alternative

Preparing for a Google-less future

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Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo recently collaborated with Huawei to build the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA). GDSA aims to create a single app store aimed at simplifying app uploads and downloads for developers and consumers.

At first glance, GDSA seems like a competitor for Google’s Play Store. Over the years, the rising hostility of the US towards Chinese tech companies led to tariffs and outright ban from using its technologies. For example, Huawei suffered an entity ban last 2018 due to suspicions of spying for the Chinese government.

Such precedence may have stoked fear among other Chinese companies that a ban could be leveraged by the US in the future. Dependence on Western technologies is crucial for these companies. As such, a ban would represent a great loss, considering that most of these companies have established markets in many countries.

To counter this scenario, these tech companies are slowly building their own alternatives to established apps and services. Huawei, for its part, had already pushed out AppGallery as an alternative to Google’s Play Store. Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have their own app stores in China due to a continuing ban on Google’s services in the country.

A unified app store

A unified app store will greatly simplify the process for developers who have to deal with these multiple app stores. GDSA will unify the backend of these app stores so developers can publish once and have their apps appear on the brands’ respective app stores.

For now, details about GDSA are scarce. Pilot countries for its deployment include 9 key regions including India, Russia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A prototype website has been set up, but developers cannot sign up for it yet.

But if GDSA really pushes through, Google will face some serious competition on Android app distribution. Furthermore, the issue of fragmentation will only deepen in the ecosystem as companies build their own version of Google apps.

Xiaomi’s statement

Xiaomi already responded with a statement stating that they have no plans to position GDSA as a Play Store competitor. The company reiterated GDSA’s function to simplify the app uploading process. Furthermore, there was no mention of Huawei in their statement.

Huawei and Google have yet to release a statement. However, it is clear that Google will not welcome this development. Considering that Google has an iron grip on app store distribution outside China, a viable competitor will only compel the American company to further control the Android ecosystem.

With a tightening grip on Android, other tech companies will only intensify their efforts to build an alternative OS. Huawei, as an example, launched HarmonyOS for its devices in the future.

An alternative app store will also open up another potential avenue for hackers targeting users with malware. This will only contribute to security and privacy problems in Android, which has long been dealing with notorious malware and data breaches.

Source: Reuters

 

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Airbnb sets aside $250 million for hosts affected due to cancellations

Protecting the hosts, the real assets

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Airbnb announced it has set aside US$ 250 million to help hosts recoup some of the income they lost as a result of the company’s Coronavirus policy, which lets travelers cancel trips and get a full refund.

The hosts weren’t particularly elevated with the idea of full refunds and sought to social media to show their disappointment and frustration. Many relied on business from Airbnb as their primary source of income and were now suddenly running out of cash flow.

While Airbnb’s decision greatly helped the guests (their users), it put all the financial burden on the hosts. Many have posted videos explaining how the company’s decision has been one-sided and the hosts are the only assets Airbnb has.

The company usually gets a 12 percent cut from the amount guests pay. But when guests cancel, the company refunds those fees to them. Ultimately, about 88 percent of the returned amount to travelers comes out of the hosts’ pockets.

As the world economy faces plunging stock markets and unprecedented unemployment claims, short-term rental hosts are assessing their own sudden loss of revenue. To help them recover and get through these tough times. Airbnb has set aside $250 million and its spokesperson said the company expects that sum will be enough to cover any losses that are made.

There’s no doubt that every industry across the world has taken a hit due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. But, the travel industry is has come to a sudden halt worldwide. With countries blocking off their border for foreigners, travelers or backpackers are non-existent right now. The aviation industry alone is bound to receive a humungous $50 billion bailout package from the U.S. government.

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Zoom, Skype now used for virtual drinking parties

Yep, it’s a thing now

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The ongoing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted to lots of people staying at home. To pass time, some are resorting to binge-watching Netflix episodes or reading free e-books. However, some people are doing something different: virtual drinking parties.

Since most people in the world are using video conferencing apps nowadays, some have thought of a fun way to pass time while on self-quarantine. In some parts of the world, people are using WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and HouseParty to hold virtual drinking parties. As a matter of fact, some hangout spots are hosting their own virtual beer-drinking sessions.

Some people are even holding virtual drinking sessions for coffee. An ecology and biology professor have resorted to using Microsoft Teams to catch up with her colleagues over a cup of coffee.

To beat the boredom brought about by having to stay indoors, people are holding virtual parties that enable them to connect with one another. Virtual drinking parties just takes it to another level.

SEE ALSO:
Quarantined man asks neighbor on a date through a drone, posts video on TikTok
WhatsApp usage rises significantly due to Coronavirus

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WhatsApp usage rises significantly due to Coronavirus

Everyone’s busy chatting

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As the Coronavirus pandemic wraps the world, WhatsApp has seen a 40 percent increase in usage, according to a study by Kantar, a data and consulting company. WhatsApp is the social media app experiencing the greatest gains in usage as people look to stay connected.

The Facebook-owned instant messaging app is people’s go-to option in many markets, India being the largest. The country is on complete lockdown for 21 days, that’s until April 15. While everyone stays indoors and practices social distancing, the only way to communicate is through the internet. Naturally, WhatsApp has seen the highest surge since it’s used by literally everyone in the country with a smartphone.

WhatsApp usage increased to 27 percent during the early stage of the pandemic. This rose to 41 percent during the mid-phase and then shot to 51 percent in the late phase. Keep in mind, these are global figures, not just a particular market. The report doesn’t provide region-wise numbers but highlights that Spain witnessed an unprecedented rise of 76 percent.

Further, the report mentioned that WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram saw an over 40 percent increase in their usage from users below the age of 35. It’s evident that the younger generation is more tech-savvy and habituated to social media. When there’s no option to venture out, the internet is their comfort zone.

The report also highlighted that these apps were surely the preferred means of communication but not in providing trustworthy news. WhatsApp is infamous for being the top medium to spread misinformation. The Government of India has launched a mass-scale advertising campaign to educate citizens about spreading forwarded messages responsibly.

Workplace-messaging service Slack also disclosed it had added paying 7,000 customers between February 1 and March 17. The same day, Microsoft said its rival Microsoft Team service had gained 12 million active daily users in seven days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also created a chatbot with whom users can message and gain verified information about Coronavirus and other help related material.

Similarly, video streaming services have also experienced a massive surge in usage. This prompted them to reduce default video streaming quality to ensure too much bandwidth isn’t consumed. Higher bandwidth usage would mean more stress on a telecom carrier’s infrastructure, leading to slower transfer speeds and high latency.

SEE ALSO: How to disinfect your tech from the coronavirus | Coronavirus porn is trending on Pornhub | Here’s how Facebook is trying to fight coronavirus


As general rules, the CDC or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed these to help with preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces

Coronavirus: Where to donate

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