Snapchat launches Bitmoji widget chat shortcuts for your home screen

Snapchat is doubling down on private messaging as Instagram and Facebook Messenger clone and steal usage from its Stories feature.

Now you can instantly start chatting with your best friends on Snapchat. Instead of digging a chat thread out of Snapchat, users can select their favorite friends, create Bitmoji widgets for them with their personalized avatars and click them from their iOS Today screen or Android home screen to launch straight into a chat with that friend. A Snap spokesperson confirmed the feature launch to TechCrunch.

Snapchat first started testing this last week in Android beta but today it rolls out to everyone thanks to an iOS and Android app update. Snap acquired Bitmoji in March 2016 for $64.2 million to allow you to make avatars that look like you and send them as stickers in Snapchat.

 To add Bitmoji widgets on iOS, swipe right from your home screen to the Today screen where you see your existing widgets. Scroll down to “Edit,” add Snapchat and your “Snapchat Best Friends” (based on your interaction) who have created personalized Bitmoji avatars for themselves will automatically appear as widgets on the home screen. Tapping the widgets launches a chat with them. On Android, you tap and hold on an empty part of your home page, select “Widgets,” choose Snapchat and choose up to four friends to make into home screen widgets.

While Facebook might be throwing all its might behind cloning Snapchat Stories, it hasn’t so aggressively copied the disappearing messages that Snapchat started with. By redoubling its efforts in chat, Snap could entrench itself as the most casual, low-pressure way to talk with friends since all messages delete themselves by default.

Signal Private Messenger Gets Video Calling, Improved Voice Infrastructure

Last week, Open Whisper Systems was spotted testing the video calling feature in the Signal Private Messenger app’s beta version on Android. Now, the company has officially announced that the video calling feature is now available (still in beta state) with the latest update to the communication app on both Android and iOS. The company says that the update also brings along new infrastructure for voice calls, which it claims, improves voice call quality as well. Users on iOS will further get CallKit functionality, which notably however impact the security offered by the app which is best known for user privacy.

Signal Private Messenger Gets Video Calling, Improved Voice Infrastructure

Open Whisper Systems says that it will be rolling out the video calling feature in stages to receive feedback from users on different phones and networks to ensure “there are no surprises” when it is turned on by default. In order to make video calls, the feature is required to be enabled on both the caller and recipient’s devices. To switch on the feature, users need to go to Settings > Advanced > Video calling beta in the app.

signal video story Signal Video Story

Enabling the new calling features on iOS further provides users with the option to use CallKit functionality that allows them to receive calls directly from the lockscreen itself. Notably, CallKit support also means that the app will sync the time period and the contact information of the calls with iCloud. This leaves the app vulnerable to leaking user information in the form of this meta data. If users want to protect this information as well, they will need to turn of CallKit integration via the Settings > Advanced > Use CallKit. Notably, CallKit integration is two-way, and will only be used if both parties have it enabled.

As Signal has previously found support from privacy icon like Edward Snowden, this vulnerability and dependence that comes along with the latest update should be noted by users. Speaking to Wired, Open Whisper says it is not certain if it will enable CallKit by default, or if it should be an opt-in feature. It could potentially label callers as Signal Users in CallKit to protect privacy, or have a privacy settings walkthrough to educate users of the pitfalls of CallKit.

“CallKit offers a native calling experience to VoIP apps like Signal. As well as being able to answer calls directly from your lock screen, you’ll also see Signal calls in the system’s ‘Recent Calls’ list. This is because iOS treats CallKit calls like any other call, however that also means some information will be synced to iCloud if enabled. This information includes who you called and how long you talked,” the company said in its blog post on Tuesday.

Google Play Movies Starts Rolling Out 4K UHD Resolution Option

Google Play Movies Starts Rolling Out 4K UHD Resolution OptionLast month, Google was spotted testing 4K resolution option for select titles on Google Play Movies in the US. Even though the search giant was expected to announce the rollout of the feature shortly, it didn’t do it right away. Now, Google has announced that the 4K resolution option for select movies is available for rent or purchase in select regions.

The company has already started rolling out the 4K UHD resolution option, starting with the US and Canada but did not mention the rollout plans for other countries in its blog post. As of now, Google Play Movies is offering 125 movie titles with the 4K UHD resolution option, and will be using its own open source video codec VP9.

“You can purchase 4K movies on your Android device or on the Web and stream them on your Chromecast Ultra, your Sony Bravia Android TV, or your Xiaomi Mi Box 3,” the company said in its blog post. The company has further announced that the new customers of Chromecast Ultra can get their first 4K UHD movie for free under a limited time offer that includes titles like Ghostbusters and Captain Philips.

As mentioned in our earlier report, for all titles the option for rental in UHD resolution is available at a price of $7.99 (roughly Rs. 550), compared with $3.99 (roughly Rs. 270) for HD resolution and $2.99 (roughly Rs. 200) for SD version. If we talk about the purchase price, the price difference becomes even more noticeable with 4K content available in a range from $24.99 (roughly Rs. 1,700) to $29.99 (roughly Rs. 2,050), compared with $12.99 (roughly Rs. 900) price tag for HD purchase.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to roll out the 4K UHD resolution option to other countries and whether it cuts down its prices going forward.

Google Now Lets You Search via Twitter, by Tweeting Emoji at @Google

Google’s introduced a nifty new feature for Twitter addicts. This feature brings the ability to search for local results without leaving the Twitter app. Users can search for things to do by just tweeting an emoji @Google, and you will get search results on the Twitter app.

Google Now Lets You Search via Twitter, by Tweeting Emoji at @GoogleAccording to Mashable, the tech giant has built-in interactions for over 200 different emoji. The emoji search will then deliver search results ranging from food to local activities. For example, you’re looking for a pizza place around the corner, just tweet the pizza emoji @Google, and Google will serve you results of pizza places nearby. This even includes a Map with restaurant listings on it.

There are several easter eggs also included in the mix, like Google seems to think that the peach emoji is ‘bootylicious’ , and interesting results show up for ‘cow’, ‘poop’ and even ‘eggplant’ emoji as well. Google is looking to promote local search results with this tweet to @Google feature. The tech giant used the #KnowNearby hashtag to imply that the search results are location based.
Google Search recently integrated the Google Maps’ ATM finder feature on its India homepage, and launched the ability to find ATMs in the vicinity easily. Below the search box on google.co.in, you will now find the ‘Find an ATM near you’ link. Clicking this link will open Google Maps, which will use your location data to show you all the ATMs in your vicinity. The feature is available on both desktops and mobile devices. Unfortunately, the Google Search tool does not show if the ATM has cash or not.

Reddit CEO Admits to Tampering Hate Comments From Donald Trump Supporters

Reddit CEO Admits to Tampering Hate Comments From Donald Trump SupportersIn a shocking revelation, CEO of hugely popular Internet message board Reddit – Steve Huffman – has admitted that he used his admin rights to edit some of hate comments from Donald Trump supporters, directed at him on the website. However, Huffman has clarified that instead of editing the content, he replaced his own username to change the target of the insults.

Huffman said that he replaced his own username in the insult comments from members of the pro-Donald Trump subreddit, r/the_donald, with those of the moderators of same subreddit. Huffman was receiving insult comments from this particular community and decided to fiddle with the comments for “about an hour.”

Huffman, who operates with username spez on the website said in his post, “Yep. I messed with the “f*** u/spez” comments, replacing “spez” with r/the_donald mods for about an hour… As the CEO, I shouldn’t play such games, and it’s all fixed now.

Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again.”

Addressing another issue referred to as “Pizzagate” regarding a popular conspiracy theory that tries to link Hillary Clinton with a secret paedophile ring, Huffman said, “It’s been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff. As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a paedophile constantly.”

Reddit banned the “Pizzagate” conspiracy board from its website on Thursday citing its policy against posting personal information of other people.

Even though Huffman has said that he will not be making changes to the user comments in future, the site might end up losing some trust from its users after the entire episode.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Meet EU Antitrust Chief Next Week

Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Meet EU Antitrust Chief Next Week: Report

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai will meet Europe’s antitrust chief next Thursday for the first time since his appointment last August, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who has accused the world’s most popular Internet search engine of favouring its shopping service over rivals’ when delivering search results, is considering whether to penalise Google.

Possible sanctions could include ordering Google to change its business practices, as well as a fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.

The case has dragged on for more than five years since the EU competition enforcer launched an investigation in November 2010, followed by three unsuccessful attempts by Google to settle the issue with concessions.

Vestager may also scrutinise Google’s back-tax deal with British tax authorities following a complaint from the Scottish National Party. Google agreed last month it would pay GBP 130 million ($187 million or roughly Rs. 1,284 crores) to settle tax claims covering a 10-year period, but opposition parties have called the amount derisory.

The sources described Pichai’s visit as an introductory meeting. He will also meet EU telecoms chief Gunther Oettinger,a vocal critic of US might in a sector where German media companies have, for example, been lobbying to protect content from online giants.

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso declined to comment.

Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt met Vestager in March last year but failed to appease her.

German Court Rejects Suit by Publishers Against Google

German Court Rejects Suit by Publishers Against Google

A Berlin court rejected on Friday a legal complaint filed by German publishers which said Google was abusing its market power by refusing to pay them for displaying newspaper articles online.

Germany’s biggest newspaper publisher, Axel Springer, and 40 other publishers had accused AlphabetInc’s Google of unfair treatment.

The conflict centred on a long-standing row over payments for newspaper content, which Google makes freely available via its online platforms Google News, YouTube and other services.

While some in the media industry accuse Google of making money at its expense, the Silicon Valleycompany says publishers profit from advertising revenue generated through its site.

The unfair treatment allegation centred on what German publishers said were threats by Google to punish those media outlets which demanded payment by displaying abbreviated versions of their stories.

But the court declared Google’s business model to be a “win-win” proposition for both parties and said that although Google had a 90 percent share of the German market, it was not treating certain publishers unfairly.

“We don’t want to have legal disputes with publishers,” Google said in a statement after the ruling. “We’d much rather collaborate with them to direct visitors to their websites and apps in order to strengthen digital journalism.”

A related ruling on whether publishers should receive payments from Google for displaying their news articles is still outstanding.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Meet EU Competition Commissioner for Antitrust Talks

Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Meet EU Competition Commissioner for Antitrust Talks

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai will meet with the European Union’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in Brussels in the coming week, a source familiar with the matter said Saturday.

European competition officials have been investigating the US tech giant for years over alleged monopolistic practices involving its search engines, but any resolution has been elusive.

Three successive proposals by Google for an amicable settlement have been rejected.

Vestager last year sent a “statement of objections.” It said Google had diverted traffic from rival price-comparison services like Kelkoo, which operates in several European countries, to favor its own comparison shopping service.

Google responded in late August that Brussels’s findings were wrong and based on a flawed evaluation of the market.

If no agreement is reached and the group is found to have broken the EU’s antitrust rules, it could face fines amounting to billions of dollars.

In addition to the initial inquiry into Google’s search engines which began in late 2010, the European competition service opened a second one in April to examine the group’s Android mobile operating system. This software, used by a wide range of brands, is installed in more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones.

Pichai became Google’s chief executive officer during a restructuring last year that installed a new holding company, Alphabet, as Google’s parent.

Google now focuses on its core businesses – online activity, Android, YouTube – while its peripheral interests such as driverless cars are overseen directly by Alphabet.

Pichai is scheduled to be in Brussels on Thursday, where he will meet with Vestager as well as Gunther Oettinger, the EU commissioner for digital economy and society, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Topics to be discussed include the digital single market as well as digital skills and jobs.

Earlier, Pichai will be in Barcelona on Monday and Tuesday for the Mobile World Congress, and in Paris on Wednesday to meet with publishers.

After Google, Now Indian Firm Joister Wants to Offer Free Wi-Fi at Railway Stations in Maharashtra

After Google, Now Indian Firm Joister Wants to Offer Free Wi-Fi at Railway Stations in Maharashtra

After launching free Wi-Fi services at about 500 locations in four major cities of Maharashtra, broadband and gaming provider Joister Infomedia has offered to provide free Wi-Fi at all railway stations in the state. Google had last year announced that it will provide free Wi-Fi access at 400 railway stations in the country, and started the rollout in January.

Joister Infomedia, which offers free Wi-Fi to about two lakh registered users in Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Navi Mumbai, has approached Central Railways and Western Railways to offer free Wi-Fi at all stations in Maharashtra.

“We appreciate the government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign and to lend our bit of support, we have sought permissions from Central Railway and Western Railway to give free Wi-Fi facility at all railway stations of Maharashtra,” said Nikunj Kampani, Chairman and Managing Director, Joister Infomedia.

“It would be really encouraging if domestic players like us are also given equal chance to partner in Digital India initiative, just as foreign companies like Google have been given,” he added.

A senior railway official confirmed that this proposal has been received, but said only the Railway Board or Railway Ministry can take a call on it.

Joister Infomedia recently launched its free Wi-Fi service at Nair Hospital in Mumbai, and KEM Hospital in Mira-Bhayander

Municipal Corporation. It aims to expand its services to 30 more cities, including Solapur, Satara, Sangli, Chiplun, Nashik and Nagpur, in the next six months, Kampani said.

Opera Max Now Alerts You About the Background Data Consumption of Apps

Opera Max Now Alerts You About the Background Data Consumption of Apps

Facebook app was recently accused of eating up a huge chunk of Internet data, battery, and other resources on a user’s iPhone and Android smartphone. But it turns out, it is not the only app to exhibit such habits. A new study from Opera finds that many popular apps including WhatsApp account for a significant data drainage.

Opera also claims that a significant percent of all mobile-data usage is wasted in the background, and that its updated data saving app for Android – Opera Max – can now not only help set limits on the background data consumption of apps, but notify users with Smart Alerts about the data being consumed by individual apps – any app that consumes over 10MB per week. The Smart Alerts show up inside Opera Max as a card in the Data usage timeline, a card in App management, as well as in the OS notification bar.

opera_max_infographic.jpgOpera says that it has found 30 percent of all mobile-data usage is consumed by apps syncing in the background. The company adds thatFacebook Messenger,WhatsApp and Gmaildrain are among the apps that utilise a lot of data in the background. In fact, according to Opera’s finding, Facebook Messenger and Gmail account for 73 percent of the total usage happening in the background. Other apps that also sip a lot of Internet data in the background includeGoogle Drive andGoogle Hangouts.

Opera explains that apps sip Internet data in the background to keep their content updated, and fetch ads among other things. This happens by default. However, eating up unnecessary data, of course, means that your Internet bills are going to be more than what you have imagined.

“Most apps are made to give a great user experience, not to save data. If you fetch background data through your data plan, it’s like throwing away $1 out of every $3 you spend on your mobile data plan,” says Sergey Lossev, Product Manager at Opera Software. “Most people are not aware of this background data drain and may not have authorised it, nor do they know how to stop it from happening.” he added.