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Ringo Halts Domestic Call Service in India After Telcos Allegedly Block It

Internet voice calling app Ringo has paused its cheap domestic voice calling service in India. The company said on Monday that some operators are allegedly blocking the service on their networks. Ringo further noted that it is putting the domestic service, which it had launched just last week, on halt for all until it resolves the issue.

Ringo, a popular international voice calling app, announced cheap voice call tariff plans for Indian users last week. As per which, a user could make an STD call or a local call at a call rate of Rs. 0.19 per minute. In comparison, popular telecom operators such as Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea charge roughly around Rs. 1.20 per minute for STD calls, and Rs. 0.40 per minute with any special tariff plan.

And it seems, at least some telecom operators weren’t pleased by it. Ringo claimed some telecom operators started to block Ringo’s domestic calls in the country last week. Ringo hasn’t disclosed the name of the telcos in the blog post it published Monday. The company said that until it resolves the issue, it is putting its domestic calling service on halt for all Indian users.

Ringo insists that its service is “fully legal,” and compliant with all aspects of the DoT (Department of Telecommunications), and Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) regulations. The company also said that it will work with regulatory authorities to get the service unblocked. In the meanwhile, users can use Ringo app to make international calls.

“We will continue to persevere in providing innovative voice solutions, and intend to take relevant remedial action, but do not have an ETA on the same,” Ringo wrote. “As it stands, until we manage to get an intervention from relevant regulatory authorities to unblock our service, none of our domestic calls are going through.”

This wouldn’t be the first time a voice calling or instant messaging client may have irked telecom operators. Bharti Airtel earlier this year hiked its data tariff and said that it would charge separately for VoIP calls. What’s interesting about Ringo is that it doesn’t heavily rely on the Internet to make calls.

For a refresh, when a user attempts to call a person, instead of directly connecting to the recipient, Ringo acts as the intermediary, and calls that person and connects the user to that contact. For this reason, recipients don’t need to have the app installed on their handset, and voice calls work without a reliable data connection.

Ringo said that if it fails to resume its domestic calling service in the next 2-3 days, it will issue refunds to all affected users.

Uber Invests $250 Million to Expand in the Middle East

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Uber Technologies Inc. is investing $250 million (roughly Rs. 1,640 crores) to expand in the Middle East and North Africa, which have some of the ride-sharing service’s fastest-growing markets.

Uber over the next several years will begin service in new cities in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and enter Pakistan, beginning in Lahore, said Jambu Palaniappan, the company’s regional general manager for the Middle East, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. The investment will go toward paying drivers, expanding staff and enhancing Uber’s mobile application.

“We’re really bullish on where we’re headed here,” Palaniappan said Tuesday at Uber’s regional headquarters in Dubai. “Succeeding here is a really important stake for our global business.” The closely held company has a valuation of more than $50 billion.

Uber entered the region two years ago and operates in nine countries overseen by Palaniappan: Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Its app is available in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and English. The company’s service in Israel is run through Uber’s Western Europe office and isn’t part of the new investment.

The Egyptian capital of Cairo, known for its snarling bottlenecks, has become Uber’s fastest-growing city in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, less than a year after the company began service in the country, Palaniappan said. The number of Uber drivers in Cairo has grown sixfold since May. About 40 percent of the company’s drivers in Egypt were unemployed before joining the service, he said.

“When we first went there people said, ‘You’re crazy, there’s no way that will work,'” he said.

Calling sexual harassment a “huge challenge in Egypt,” Palaniappan said Uber has worked with HarassMap, an Egyptian service that tracks such incidents, to train drivers in Cairo about sexual harassment.

The company plans to roll out UberPool in the region soon, allowing several riders to share a car to the same destination. And a month ago, the San Francisco-based company began a pilot project allowing cash payments in Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, responding to user requests for more options beyond credit cards.

In Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive, women make up more than 70 percent of passengers, Palaniappan said. Female Uber drivers are fairly common in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, he said.

The company has gotten creative about meeting challenges in a region known for social and political turmoil. After disputes over a landfill’s location prompted trash to pile up over the summer in Beirut, Lebanon, Uber worked with two nongovernmental organizations to provide recycling pickup through the app. The service moved about two tons of material over a couple of weeks, Palaniappan said.

Uber faces competition in the region from local apps such as Careem, which operates in Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco and Pakistan.

“It forces us all to stay on top of our game,” Palaniappan said.

Apple Music for Android Screenshots Leaked Ahead of Launch

When Apple officially introduced Apple Music back in June, it promised to release an Android version of the service by this fall. Now, a bunch of screenshots purported to be of Apple Music for Android have leaked, indicating that the Cupertino-based company may release the app for the Android platform soon.

The leaked screenshots show the Apple Music app for Android in detail and was first reported by Mobile Geeks. The website has also shared a Google community link that tips the app is currently in beta testing with limited number of users. When we tried to signing-in with our Gmail credentials, thepage read, “A testing version of this app hasn’t been published yet or isn’t available for this account.”

It further added, “If you’ve been invited to become a tester, make sure that you’re signed in to the account that was invited to the testing program. If you’ve been invited to a Google Group or Google+ Community as part of the program, make sure that you’ve joined the Group or Community.”

apple_music_android_leaks_mobile_geeks.jpgThe Apple Music for Android settings can be accessed with a swipe from left menu. Majority of Apple Music features from iOS such as Beats 1, For Me recommendations page, and Apple Music Connect are available for Android users. The Apple Music for Android will also offer users ability to change size of cache for offline music stored on the device. Notably, the screenshots show that the Apple Music for Android supports the entire Apple Music catalogue.

Going by leaked screenshots, the Apple Music app for Android app retains much of the design of the iOS app, but brings new design elements for the platform such as the traditional menu access option. This could mean that Apple will try to make its Apple Music Android app look and feel like an iOS app just as Google tries to keep its Material Design alive in its iOS apps.

Considering that Apple had announced a fall release for Android version of its Apple Music, the company can be expected to announce it by next month.

It’s worth noting that the Apple Music for Android will get some serious competition from already popular services such as Google Music, Spotify, and Rdio, among others.

Apple to Issue Revamped Privacy Policy Website

Fire up the new Apple News service for the first time on your iPhone, and it’ll ask for your favourite topics and news outlets. Use it over time, and you’ll find that it is behaving like your personal news recommendation engine.

Read a lot about gardening, and you’ll see more stories about hardy perennials. Click on every story about the Red Sox? Get ready for more bullpen analysis. But eventually you may start to wonder – just how much does this app know about me?

You may think you know the answer, given that we live in a world where our every click and scroll is obsessively tracked by tech companies eager to sell us personalised ads. Apple, too, has been using its targeted advertising service in apps sold on the iTunes store since at least 2010, though that business is a small one, the company says.

In a revamped privacy policy website, a copy of which was reviewed by The Washington Post, Apple on Tuesday attempted to lay out how its philosophy on data collection splits from its tech industry rivals.

In essence, the company said is telling customers it is not interested in their personal data, even as it must use more of that data to deliver personalized products.

“We knew coming in that building a personalized news product could be very sensitive – and the first thing we thought about was we really don’t want to associate news with your personal Apple account,” says Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy.

Apple News, which can deliver a stream of headlines right onto one of the home screens of the iPhone, launched this month into a crowded space. Tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have long been using algorithms to serve piping hot headlines from the Web to consumers while tying their reading habits into the vast trove of data the companies keep on every user.

Apple’s offering is different in that its stories are also curated by a small team of journalists working at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino. And the company hopes a selling point will be its pledges that it will protect people’s privacy.

“We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers,” chief executive Tim Cook wrote in a letter introducing its privacy website. “We don’t ‘monetize’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud.”

The news service app, for instance, collects data on what each user is reading so it can offer personalized headlines and ads. But the service does not tie reading habits to an Apple account and uses a unique identifier – this functions only within the News app – to provide information to advertisers. When readers clear their history in the app, the information is deleted, Apple said.

Apple details how the system works in a revamped section of the company’s website dedicated to privacy and set to publish on Tuesday.

The site reads like an educational campaign for Apple’s privacy philosophy. Others such as Facebook have also tried to write data use policies in everyday language, but Apple’s attempt is notable for being clear while not shying away from the technical details. To keep from overwhelming users, it is broken down into several sections – some old, some new.

Apple, which makes most of its money from selling gadgets rather than services, has been betting hard on privacy in recent years, pitting itself against a tech industry that largely relies on monetizing personal information. Cook struck a similar tone in June when accepting an award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center via livestream.

“I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” he said. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong.”

The privacy pitch has also put the company at odds with police and Obama administration officials, who have publicly complained about Apple’s move to make it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads – even when the authorities have a search warrant.

But as Apple has dug in on privacy, the company has grappled with how to deliver the convenient experiences customers have come to expect from devices and Web services. And it’s not even clear how much consumers understand – or care – that their personal data is part of the fundamental economic trade-off that powers many of the “free” services available online such as e-mail and social networks, privacy experts said.

Almost everything done online can be tracked. That’s the reason the shoes you were looking at buying online suddenly seem to start popping up in ads on nearly every site you visit.

Smartphones raised the stakes in the online advertising industry because they allow companies to collect an even more information about what people are doing, such as where they are or who they call the most.

Now tech companies are asking for consumers to trust them with more and more sensitive connections, including digital payments, health information, driving data from cars and information from connected devices in your home that could be hanging on your every word.

Apple, already a dominant player in the mobile device marketplace, is now pushing into products and services that require more data. With HomeKit and CarPlay, Apple is trying to enter the market for home- and car-connected devices. Apple Music, Apple Maps and its digital assistant, Siri, are other products that rely on consumer behavior to improve.

These services may be a reason Apple is investing so much time in explaining to consumers why they should care about privacy.

“It’s important for Apple because it’s a business differentiator,” said Rich Mogull, chief executive of Securosis and an analyst who has covered Apple for nearly a decade.

“When consumers are educated they do care about privacy,” he added.

China’s Didi Kuaidi Firms Up Anti-Uber Alliance, Invests in Ola

China’s most popular ride-hailing app Didi Kuaidi said on Monday it has invested in Indian peer Ola, forging a new alliance within a network of companies challenging US rival Uber Technologies Inc.

Didi joins existing investors including SoftBank Corp, Falcon Edge, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and Tiger Global Management. A spokesman for Didi declined to specify the size of the investment.

SoftBank is the common investor backing most of the firms that are taking on Uber across Asia and in the United States. The Japanese telecoms conglomerate already had stakes in Didi, Ola and Southeast Asian firm GrabTaxi.

Didi has also invested in Uber’s US rival Lyft, which shares common investors with the other companies, including Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Ola controls 80 percent of India’s taxi-hailing business, and completes more than 750,000 rides per day, according to Monday’s statement. Last month, Uber said it plans to average more than 1 million rides a day in India over the next six to nine months as it steps up investments to take on Ola.

In August, GrabTaxi said it had also raised money from Didi, which recently conducted a $3-billion fundraising round.

Uber and its biggest rival Didi are locked in a subsidy-intensive fight for market share in China, one that is costing them each hundreds of millions of dollars.

Assam government launches disaster management app

Apart from being located in the high seismic Zone V, the state is also in a frequent flood and landslides prone area. The app can also be used in the event of other disasters like fire.<br />
GUWAHATI: And now, an app for smartphone users of Assam, which is highly prone to very high disasters, to seek not just support in the event of any emergency but enable them to send distress messages.

Apart from being located in the high seismic Zone V, the state is also in a frequent flood and landslides prone area. The app can also be used in the event of other disasters like fire.

Billed as the first of its kind mobile android application, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) as launched this “Disaster Ready Assam” (DRA.) The app will be available for downloading in the ASDMA website and Google Play Store, officials said.

“The app has various inbuilt features which will disseminate safety information on various hazards and users will be able to seek support in case of any emergency. The app is not only a modern day IEC tool but it would also enable the users to send in-built distress messages. Using a real-time location tracking system, the users’ location can be identified and ASDMA can alert the concerned agencies for necessary action,” the official said.

Like most other popular apps, the users have to first create a profile to register their mobiles. Hologram, a Guwahati-based private IT firm engaged by ASDMA has prepared the mobile application.

Porn app takes secret pictures, then blackmails users

The &ldquo;Adult Player&rdquo; app lures users into downloading it by claiming to be a pornographic video player. But users that open it instead see a picture of themselves, and a message demanding that they pay $500 (&pound;330).&lt;br /&gt;
An Android app that has been found that claimed to offer porn and instead just took pictures of users, before threatening to make them public if they did not hand over cash.The “Adult Player” app lures users into downloading it by claiming to be a pornographic video player. But users that open it instead see a picture of themselves, and a message demanding that they pay $500 (£330).

The software locks the phone so that users can only see the note and nothing else, whatever they do. It presents itself as a message from the FBI — including a log of the IP address and an apparent case number — and tells users that they have been fined $500.

The screen will stay on screen even if users turn off the phone and turn it back on.

It also cannot be uninstalled using normal methods. Users can boot it into safe mode, remove administrator privileges for the app and then uninstall it as normal.

But the researchers that found the software, ZScaler, said that users should be careful to avoid downloading it in the first place. The app can’t be downloaded from Google Play, and the security company suggests only downloading apps from trusted sources.

Phones can be forced only to download software from such places by checking the “Unknown Sources” option in the phone’s security settings.

Xcode 7.0.1 Fixes Bugs Related to iOS 9 App Thinning

Apple announced earlier this month that it was delaying the release of an iOS 9 feature called ‘app thinning’, also known as ‘app slicing’, due to an issue affecting iCloud. The company on Monday released Xcode 7.0.1 for developers that comes with fixes for related bugs, suggesting that the release of the aforementioned feature might happen soon enough.

App thinning is a feature in iOS 9 that allows Apple to make your device download only the app assets that are relevant for it and leave behind resources that are developed for other models. The company had announced last week that an iCloud bug is preventing it from enabling this feature. “App slicing is currently unavailable for iOS 9 apps due to an issue affecting iCloud backups created from iOS 9 where some apps from the App Store would only restore to the same model of iOS device,” the company had said.

Xcode 7.0.1, the latest version of the IDE tool that allows developers to make apps for OS X and iOS operating systems, comes with fixes for “bugs related to app thinning”, and Apple does not elaborate further than that. At this point it is not known whether Apple has fixed all the concerning bugs that are stopping it from releasing the app thinning feature. The company has also not offered a definite release timeframe for the rollout of app thinning feature, but the release of Xcode version suggests that it could happen soon enough. App thinning was first introduced for developers with Xcode 7.

As of current, iOS mobile app developers create only one variant of their app – known as universal version – that works with a range of products sporting different screen sizes and hardware specifications. This version consists of assets for a number of devices. Bundling extra assets, as you can imagine, eats up more storage, which is something concerning for space-conscious users especially those who purchase 16GB variant of iPhone or iPad.

Google Now Gets Offline Voice-Command Support for Some Functions

Google earlier this month rolled out an update for its Google Search (aka Google app) bumping the version to 5.3. The company also announced some improvements to its Voice Search last week claiming that the feature would now use less computational resources, will be more accurate, faster, and robust. The company may have also enabled a new offline voice-command feature which is said to work for some functions without the need of an active Internet connection.

Some users are reporting that the latest Google app now allows them to perform certain voice-search functions without an Internet connection. A screenshot shared by a Google+ user shows the Google app offering “Offline voice tips” with a description that read, “you can still tap the mic, then say”, when trying to search without an active Internet connection.

google_offline_search_peter_isemann_google_plus.jpgThe list of suggested offline commands included Play Music, Open Gmail, Turn on Wi-Fi, Turn up the volume, Turn on the flashlight, Turn on airplane mode, Turn on Bluetooth, and Dim the screen.

Android Police points out that the Open offline command can be used for any app that is installed on the device. While the ‘Turn off’ command will work for all functions that can be accessed by ‘Turn on’ command.

Until now, the Google Search use to throw “Something went wrong” message when trying to use the voice-command feature in offline mode.

The Google app version 5.3, which started rolling out earlier this month, brought the Now on Tap feature which provided contextual information to users within apps garnered much interest. Apart from Now on Tap for Android M users, the updated Google app brought changes to the Google Now launcher as well – adding a vertical app drawer layout for apps and widgets.