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Pinterest Next on Facebook's Scope with 'Hobbi': A Similar Photo, Video Sharing App

Social media giant Facebook has quietly released a new app like Pinterest called ‘Hobbi’, a photo and video sharing app designed for documenting users hobbies. The app is available for iPhone users and it was created by New Product Experimentation (NPE) a team within Facebook tasked with experimenting new products and services, CNET reported on Thursday.

According to its page in the App Store, in this photo-sharing app one can capture and organise their creative process like cooking, baking, arts and crafts, fitness or home decor. The app is currently available in 84 countries, including the US, Australia as well as Canada, according to Sensor Tower and has fewer than 5,000 downloads. Facebook so far has launched just a handful of NPE Team-branded apps. Last year, it launched a chat app for making friends called Bump and a social music app Aux. Additionally, a meme editor called Whale, has already shut down.

It will be interesting to see whether Hobbi also attracts the attention of antitrust regulators across the world. Facebook spent the best part of 2019 defending itself against a slew of lawsuits alleging the company of anti-competitive practices. That led to multiple calls for removing Mark Zuckerberg from his position of absolute authority in the company, and breaking up Facebook in order to dissolve its overwhelming might in the internet economy.

Pinterest, on the other hand, presently has a sizeable user base of 322 million active users as of end-2019. Going forward, it will be important to observe how Hobbi is roped into the Facebook ecosystem of services that already has Instagram and WhatsApp. The exact nature of the service, coupled with the impact it has on the industry, will be important to see in parallel with how Pinterest fares on its own accord as well. As of now, Pinterest’s shares are already down, signifying tough times ahead for the independent app.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Snapchat Testing New App Redesign for iOS and Android Users

Image for Representation

(Image: Reuters/Eric Thayer/File Photo)

Image for Representation

(Image: Reuters/Eric Thayer/File Photo)

The redesigned Snapchat app rearranges multiple sections to make the usage experience more cohesive.

  • Trending Desk
  • Last Updated: February 13, 2020, 8:33 PM IST

Snapchat users may soon get to see a redesigned app for Android and iOS. The latest version of the app will also sport a breaking news section. The Verge reported that it has received screenshots from a tipster that showed that the latest developments are being tested and have been rolled out to some of its users. The redesigned app will have a new home for the Snap Map and video programming. In another expected update, one will be able to stay connected to the happenings around the world as the app is likely to provide headlines of breaking news.

In the redesigned multimedia messaging app, Snap Map, which with the help of an animated map displays a friend’s physical location. This can be seen on the left side of the chat. Till now, it was used by dragging down from the camera screen. Additionally, Snapchat’s Discover option in the latest version has been renamed as Community.

“This test’s UI offers more space to innovate and increases the opportunity to engage with and discover even more of what Snapchat has to offer,” The Verge quoted a Snapchat spokesperson as saying. The report added that the news briefs feature that is also in the testing phase is called “Happening Now”.

It includes the latest headlines from publishers like NowThis, The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. It features one-sentence headlines, and once clicked, takes you to a full-screen news brief with a photo and relevant information.

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Apple Launches Swift Playgrounds App to Help Bridge macOS and iOS Software Gap

Representative Image. 
(Reuters)

Representative Image.
(Reuters)

Apple’s Swift Playgrounds does not require any prior coding experience and is aimed at students who are just starting out with coding.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: February 13, 2020, 3:36 PM IST
  • Edited by: Chhavianshika Singh

Apple has launched the Swift Playgrounds app for Mac as part of the company’s Catalyst app initiative, designed to help bridge the software gap between its macOS and iOS platforms. The app requires no coding knowledge to use and is ideal for students who are just starting out with coding.

“Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app for iPad and Mac that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. Solve puzzles to master the basics using Swift, a powerful programming language created by Apple and used by the pros to build today’s most popular apps,” the company said in a statement.

Swift Playgrounds is built around a collection of Apple-created lessons, using puzzles and an interactive 3D world. “Now you can make robots do incredible things with code you write yourself. Learn to program-connected devices like the Sphero SPRK+, Lego Mindstorms EV3, and drones by Parrot, and watch them come alive right before your eyes,” the company added.

Swift Playgrounds for Mac is available from the Mac App Store and it is a free download.

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Coronavirus Outbreak Causing Unexpected Growth in Games, Video App Downloads in China

Illustrative image of Plague Inc, a strategy simulation game that lets players infect the world . (Photo: Reuters)

Illustrative image of Plague Inc, a strategy simulation game that lets players infect the world . (Photo: Reuters)

The prospect of being stuck in quarantine is leading to games and video streaming apps being one of the very few to benefit from Coronavirus, as per Reuters.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: February 4, 2020, 4:07 PM IST

Online games and short video apps have been among the few beneficiaries of China’s virus outbreak, raking in millions of views and downloads as people stuck in self-quarantine at home seek entertainment and ways to beguile their time. The shift has even drawn companies more used to doing business in showrooms, such as carmakers Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, to promote products heavily online during the week.

Chinese travel and gather with family and friends during the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, but many postponed or cancelled their plans over concerns sparked in mid-January about the spread of a new virus that has killed 420. “I only use my mobile phone for three hours a day at work, but at least eight hours every day during the Spring Festival, because it’s so boring,” Lu Zhang, a junior high school teacher in eastern Shandong province, said of the enforced holiday.

Investors have seized on the trend, with shares of Chinese game publishers, such as Tencent, rising 2% in Hong Kong on Tuesday, outstripping a rise of 1% in the benchmark, while in New York, NetEase rose nearly 3%. U.S.-listed shares in Chinese video platform Bilibili rose almost 7%, while shares of search engine Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba also rose. Five mobile game developers, including Ourpalm, surged by the maximum allowed 10% on Tuesday.

Weekly downloads jumped 77% on ByteDance’s Xigua video app from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, after it announced plans to stream the premiere of a movie, “Lost in Russia” for free, data from performance tracker App Annie showed. “My screen time yesterday exceeded 10 hours,” one Shanghai resident, identified only as Wang, said in a social media post, adding, “What do you all suggest I do other than look at my cellphone?” Also popular are health and fitness apps, such as Keep, which livestreams fitness classes. Its revenue surged 15% for the week, while healthcare app Pingan Good Doctor saw downloads jump 1,186%.

“We believe that China internet and logistics companies are somewhat sheltered,” from the impact of the virus outbreak, analysts from Bernstein Research wrote in a Monday note, amid a growing trend for all products and services to move online. Tencent’s blockbuster mobile game, “Honour of Kings” made up to 2 billion yuan ($286 million) on the Jan. 24 eve of the holiday, estimated Pei Pei, an analyst with Sinolink Securities Co, exceeding all the Chinese mobile games on Apple’s app store during the entire week-long break in 2018. Tencent declined to comment.

Strategy simulation app “Plague Inc.”, which jumped to the top of the charts in Apple’s app store, retained its popularity. The game, which allows users to create and evolve a pathogen to destroy the world, generated 78,000 downloads in January, up from 16,000 in December, according to Sensor Tower. “Many students play games during the Spring Festival,” said the junior high teacher, Lu, adding that she spent more than five hours each day playing poker, among other games. “Sometimes they invite me to join when they see me online.” U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc, which started delivery in December of cars built at its $2-billion Shanghai plant, stepped up daily livestreamed sales events on video app Douyin to highlight features of its vehicles.

Several sales dealers for Mercedes Benz also took to the WeChat app with a link to a 360-degree interior view of its GLB compact SUV, simulating the passenger experience and offering close-ups of the seats’ leather stitching details and dashboard. “Not leaving home, so use virtual reality to look at cars!” one of the representatives exhorted viewers.

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Tech

TikTok Testing Instagram-Like App Redesign: Facebook to Taste Its Own Medicine?

The new app design puts more emphasis on user bios, and also allows them to add links to better monetise their accounts.

IANS

Updated:February 4, 2020, 2:00 PM IST

TikTok Testing Instagram-Like App Redesign: Facebook to Taste Its Own Medicine?
The new app design puts more emphasis on user bios, and also allows them to add links to better monetise their accounts.

Chinese short-video making platform TikTok is testing a user profile redesign similar to Facebook-owned photo and video-sharing platform Instagram. “We are always looking for ways to improve the user experience on TikTok. We are currently testing profile designs and functionality to ultimately give users more ways to personalize and engage with their profiles,” a TikTok spokesperson confirmed to The Verge on Monday.

As per report, the new profile shifts follow count to the left and places more emphasis on user bios. Additionally, TikTok has also begun a limited test of a feature that lets its users to add links to e-commerce sites to their profile bio as well as offer creators the ability to send their viewers to shopping websites effortlessly to monetise its platform. Recently, TikTok reached 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on the App Store as well as Google Play and India leads the chart with 466.8 million or about 31 per cent of all unique installs.

In 2019, the app accumulated 614 million downloads — six per cent more than it had last year, reported mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. India has been a fast adopter in 2019, driving up 277.6 million downloads so far this year, or roughly 45 per cent of all global installs. Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether the app redesign does to TikTok what Facebook does with its rivals — beckon people over to their own platform by taking a leaf out of others’ books.

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Apple Has Started Rolling-Out Redesigned Maps App in the US

The revamped Apple Maps has some features similar to those in Google Maps, such as local street pictures, AI to sync flight status and reservations to the calendar.

Apple Has Started Rolling-Out Redesigned Maps App in the US
Apple on Thursday said it has finished rolling out an overhauled map app in the US in another attempt to challenge Google’s popular smartphone navigation software.

(Image: Apple Maps Logo/ Wikimedia.org)

Apple said it has finished rolling out an overhauled map app in the US in another attempt to challenge Google’s popular smartphone navigation software. Apple spent years rebuilding the application, its cars travelling millions of miles to map roads after a version launched in 2012 was so problematic it prompted a rare public apology from chief executive Tim Cook. Mapping programs on mobile devices is seen as a way to stay in tune with smartphone lifestyles and pursue opportunities to make money connecting people with nearby offerings such as restaurants, theatres, clothing shops and other businesses.

Apple said the redesigned “Maps” program is fast, accurate, and comprehensive, even weaving in transit options in some locations. Maps will begin rolling out in Europe in the coming months. “We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet that is reflective of how people explore the world today,” Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue said in a release.

“It is an effort we are deeply invested in and required that we rebuild the map from the ground up to reimagine how Maps enhances people’s lives, from navigating to work or school or planning an important vacation, all with privacy at its core”. Apple Maps had some features similar to those in Google Maps, such as pictures of locations taken at street level and artificial intelligence to check the status of flight reservations noted in email boxes or on calendars.

As with other products, Apple stressed work done to protect user privacy, such as obscuring search terms, routing, and other data, according to the company.

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This is The End of The Road For Vodafone m-Pesa as a Payments App

Vodafone m-pesa was one of the 11 companies given the license to run a payments bank by the RBI, back in 2015.

This is The End of The Road For Vodafone m-Pesa as a Payments App
Vodafone m-pesa was one of the 11 companies given the license to run a payments bank by the RBI, back in 2015.

The Reserve Bank of India has officially cancelled the Certificate of Authorisation (CoA) of Vodafone m-pesa, after the company voluntary surrendered the Certificate of Authorisation (CoA) as a Payment System Operator (PSO). This means that Vodafone m-Pesa cannot handle any transactions or do business of issuance and operation of Prepaid payment Instruments.

“The Reserve Bank of India, in exercise of the powers conferred on it under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007, has cancelled the Certificate of Authorisation (CoA) of the below mentioned Payment System Operator (PSO) on account of voluntary surrender of authorisation. Following the cancellation of the CoA, the company cannot transact the business of issuance and operation of Prepaid Payment Instruments. However, customers or merchants having a valid claim on the company as a PSO, can approach the company for settlement of their claims within three years from the date of cancellation i.e. by 30.09.2022.,” says the official statement by the RBI.

Also Read | Here is Why RBI Has Imposed Penalties on Vodafone m-pesa, PhonePe & Others For Regulatory Violations

The central bank’s clarification means that customers or merchants who have a valid outstanding claim with Vodafone n-Pesa as a prepaid payments instrument can now approach the company till September 30, 2022, for the settlement of their claims within three years from the date of cancellation. Vodafone Idea had decided to close m-Pesa payments system last year, after the Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Ltd (ABIPBL) shut down in July. Vodafone m-Pesa was expected to be merged with ABIPBL. Vodafone m-pesa was one of the 11 companies given the license to run a payments bank by the RBI, back in 2015. At present, Paytm Payments Bank and Airtel Payments Bank are two of the most popular payments banks in India

It should perhaps be noted that Vodafone had not pushed the m-Pesa platform across its own apps and websites over the past few months either, including for allowing Vodafone prepaid and postpaid subscribers to recharge their mobile connections or pay bills.

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Microsoft Launches Global Ad Campaign to Boost Work-Communication App Teams

To beat out the similar design of Slack, the company launched its ad campaign in the US during the NFL playoffs on January 19.

Microsoft Launches Global Ad Campaign to Boost Work-Communication App Teams
microsoft teams logo
(Source: Wikimedia)

Microsoft is launching a new advertising campaign for Teams, its work-communication app, in a bid to defeat Slack Technologies for leading the workplace. Slack basically provides a chat room to the entire company, designed to replace email as the primary mode of communication.

Microsoft’s Teams tool was launched in 2016. It is a collaboration tool that offers chat, meetings, calling and file collaboration.

To beat out the similar design of Slack, the company launched its ad campaign in the US during the NFL playoffs on January 19 (Sunday). Microsoft’s agency, Interpublic’s McCann, worked on the campaign which will include TV ads, podcasts, digital and out-of-home placements.

The campaign will be launched in the UK, France and Germany in February.

After the announcement of the ad campaign, shares of Slack dropped heavily, CNBC reported. The company, however, sounded positive about the campaign as it would ultimately “drive awareness” to the fact that there was a better way of working than via email. Speaking to CNBC, a Slack spokesperson said that the firm wanted more and more people to know that there was “an alternative to email.”

The report added that the company refused to disclose specific figures on the spending on the Teams campaign. Here is the video featuring Microsoft Teams, uploaded by the tech giant on YouTube.

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WhatsApp Clocks 5 Billion Downloads on Android; TikTok is The Second Most Downloaded App

Facebook owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

Image for Representation (Image altered by News18)
Image for Representation
(Image altered by News18)

Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp for Android has now notched up a staggering five billion downloads, making it only the second non-Google app to achieve this milestone. According to Statista, WhatsApp is most popular global mobile messenger app worldwide with approximately 1.6 billion monthly active users, outranking Facebook Messenger at 1.3 billion and WeChat at 1.1 billion users in 2019. Following Facebook and YouTube, it is the third most popular social network worldwide. As with most Android applications that reach large amounts of installs, this number does not just include downloads from the Play Store, but also pre-installed copies like Samsung and Huawei has bundled the app with some smartphones in the past, AndroidPolice reported.

As for the Google Play store, South Korea was the fastest-growing WhatsApp market, with downloads of the mobile messaging app increasing almost 56 percent in 2019. Additionally, Google for the first time in five years, unseated Facebook as the top publisher of mobile apps. In the last quarter of 2019, Google amassed close to 850 million downloads compared to Facebook‘s nearly 800 million, analytics firm Sensor Tower revealed recently. When it comes to overall downloads for the year, however, Google still trails behind Facebook.

While Google raked in nearly 2.3 billion downloads, Facebook gained almost 3 billion downloads over the past 12 months. Facebook owns four out of the top five most downloaded apps worldwide, including WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, that does not come as a surprise. ByteDance-owned video sharing app TikTok was the world’s second-most downloaded app in 2019.


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Instagram Has Removed the IGTV Button From its App

Although Instagram has removed the IGTV button from the app, the feature will still be available and users can continue to watch the long-form vertical videos.

Instagram Has Removed the IGTV Button From its App
Although Instagram has removed the IGTV button from the app, the feature will still be available and users can continue to watch the long-form vertical videos.

Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram has decided to remove the IGTV button from its interface. According to reports, out of the one billion Instagram users, a maximum of seven million people downloaded the IGTV stand-alone app. This is being done primarily because the usage of this feature is not as expected.

As per a Facebook spokesperson, “As we’ve continued to work on making it easier for people to create and discover IGTV content, we’ve learned that most people are finding IGTV content through previews in Feed, the IGTV channel in Explore, creators’ profiles and the standalone app. Very few are clicking into the IGTV icon in the top right corner of the home screen in the Instagram app. We always aim to keep Instagram as simple as possible, so we’re removing this icon based on these learnings and feedback from our community”.

However, even though the button has been removed the IGTV feature is going to be available. Users can continue to watch the long-form vertical videos as they used to. Apart from watching IGTV videos on Instagram, users can also download the stand-alone IGTV app for watching long-form videos. IGTV was introduced in June last by Facebook as a separate effort to lure video makers away from YouTube, offering ways to make money on the Facebook app.