• Apps

    by Published on 07-20-2017 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps

    Yup, my Pebble's connected... but not for long.

    Shortly after grabbing this screen from my phone I uninstalled the Pebble app for Android and powered down my Pebble Time Steel. Again. Just to explain what's going on here, it's the notification panel of my phone, with a frame from an excellent Android utility called OS Monitor, showing that the Pebble companion app is using almost 30% of my CPU. That translates to a battery drain of about 10% per hour. Where I often go to bed before midnight with a half-full battery, since firing up my Pebble again my phone has never even made it to dinner on a full charge.

    So what's going on here? According to a user on the Pebble Forums the app is hammering the Pebble servers for some unknown reason. And the only reliable fix for afflicted devices is to force them into offline mode—that is, sever any connection beyond the Bluetooth link between phone and watch. Unfortunately this kills much of the functionality that made Pebble so great: weather data, speech-to-text, Pebble Health... The watch faces I depended on when I was a full-time Pebbler all had weather complications; without them a big part of Pebble's appeal is lost.

    But wait, there's more!

    Pebblers have also reported that thumbnails for their watch faces and apps are disappearing from the phone app, like you can see above (it happened to me as well). This one can at least be fixed. The problem, as described on r/pebble, is a faulty certificate—the thumbnails actually aren't local to your phone, but live instead on Pebble servers for some reason. Running an Android app called Packet Capture can fix the connection and restore your thumbnails, at least temporarily.

    Of course that still may leave you with a watch that murders your phone battery. What I thought would be a fun couple of days getting re-acquainted with my Pebble turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Maybe Fitbit should just shut down their Pebble servers altogether and be done with it.

    Sources: Pebble Forums, reddit

    by Published on 07-17-2017 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    With Alexa and Echo it was only a matter of time, I suppose...

    Yesterday a site called AFTVnews spilled the beans on a survey that's been circulating among Amazon users, indicating that the company is getting into the messaging racket. The name they're going with is Anytime; I've transcribed the text from a separate graphic detailing its features:

    Everything you've always wanted in a messaging app—and a whole lot more!

    Everyone's on it. Reach all your friends just using name. No numbers needed.

    Private & secure. Keep chats private and encryt [sp] important messages (like bank account details)

    Works everywhere. Chat seamlessly across desktop or mobile, iPhone or Android

    Great for groups. With @mentions, fast photo sharing and video chat, group messaging is easy and fun

    High-quality voice & video calls. Call a friend one-on-one or get on a group call; it's always free.

    Express yourself. Mix up your conversations with GIFs, stickers and emojis.

    Filters for photos and videos: Make video calls and pics fun with special effects and masks.

    Game on: Challenge friends and groups to games

    Customize chats: Color code your conversations or add nicknames for your friends

    New ways to hang out: Share your location, listen to music, order food together, split a bill, and a lot more; all in Anytime

    Chat with businesses: Get super service, on your terms: make reservations, check on your orders, and even shop!
    Chatting with businesses will likely be the big—possibly the only—reason for anyone to use this. UPS, for example, would do well to have a chatbot in place at launch to field all those queries for late and/or missing packages.

    Source: AFTVnews.com via TechCrunch, XDA

    by Published on 07-04-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Apps

    Mobile wallet fatigue. It's a thing. And perhaps my only excuse for glossing over the announcement of Paytm in Canada this past spring. Over the long weekend I finally got the chance to download the Android version of the app and have a look. In its current form it's nothing like what users in India would enjoy, but it does hold some value for Canadians.

    The homeland version, viewable at Paytm.com, looks like an Indian equivalent to WeChat—that is, an entire m-commerce ecosystem where you can pay bills, buy goods online, pay for physical goods at a store and send money to friends or family. I can best describe the Canadian version by comparing it to another Canadian Fintech innovation, Plastiq.

    Plastiq is a service that enables the payment of utility bills, taxes and almost any professional service by credit card. It does this by issuing and mailing a cheque on the user's behalf and charging their supported card for the same amount, plus a transaction fee. If you've ever wondered how yours truly can afford to travel so much, a big part of it is my almost fanatical obsession with earning points on my credit cards—and thanks to Plastiq I'm now earning those points on my property taxes and even condo fees.

    The only problem is that Plastiq's commission is pretty high, up to 2.5% on each cheque they cut depending on which credit card you charge it to. And this is where Paytm swoops in to save the day: as part of their launch promotion you can currently use it to pay most of the same bills without incurring any extra fees. Plastiq does give you the ability to manually add a payee yourself, but Paytm has an impressive payee list of its own. So far I've been using it to pay my mom's utility bills while my brothers and I figure out what to do with her house.

    Some additional factors that might sway you towards one service or the other: Plastiq is currently available in app form for iOS only (Android users can use a mobile or desktop web browser), but Paytm offers no browser login whatsoever—it's app-only for Android and iOS. And while both Paytm and Plastiq are available in Canada, Plastiq is the only available option for our friends in the USA.

    Links: Paytm Canada, Paytm.com, Plastiq

    by Published on 06-15-2017 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    This isn't going to end well...

    I've nothing but respect for XDA recognized developer topjohnwu, but brazenly tweeting Google to boast that you've thwarted their tampering detection for Android is kinda dumb. I mean, it's fantastic that he was able to do it, just dumb to brag about it.

    I first wrote about topjohnwu's Magisk last month, and have been relying on it ever since. It's killer feature, Magisk Hide, does what no other Android rooting solution has been able to: hide root from SafetyNet-enabled apps. So Android Pay now works with root; ditto for other banking apps, Netflix, Nintendo games, and so on.

    The first hurdle for Magisk came two weeks ago, when the Magisk Manager app was pulled from the Play Store, not a huge deal because the flashable zip file—which includes the Magisk Manager apk—remains on XDA. Now a SafetyNet update seems to have broken Magisk Hide, but the issue is easily solved by updating to a beta version of Magisk. The sole developer of this incredible effort took to XDA to assure users:

    I personally think there really is no effective method to prevent magiskhide to work, unless there exist some ways that's beyond my knowledge; they add more checks, and I hide more. Since Magisk is running as root but the SafetyNet checks are not, we are more privileged than the detection method, and as a result we have MUCH more control over what the SN process can see.
    I don't doubt any of this, but I really hope that topjohnwu's Twitter braggadocio doesn't draw the ire of Google and end up ruining Magisk for everyone.

    Sources: @topjohnwu on Twitter, XDA (1) (2)

    by Published on 06-12-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    Here's another bombshell from WWDC last week: iOS 11 brings with it a brand new file format for storing photos. It's called the High Efficiency Image Format and uses the unwieldy suffix you see above. It's a new standard developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is used in video compression as well.

    I found a helpful side-by-side visual comparison of HEIF and other file formats on this Nokia Github page. While I'm not seeing the claimed 50% smaller file sizes for still images, HEIF does very well against animated GIFs. So there's an obvious benefit here for Apple's proprietary Live Photos.

    But here is also where HEIF gets a bit contentious. The HEIF image format is also part of a new video codec called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) which will compete against another video codec called AV1. Whereas HEVC support requires licensing from no less than four patent pools, AV1 will be royalty free. Perhaps because of this AV1 already has broad support from companies including Adobe, Amazon, AMD, ARM, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix and Nvidia.

    How you feel about open standards versus user experience will very likely influence your opinions on HEIF. But hopefully our apps, browsers and desktop streaming boxes will be able to support both.

    Sources: JPEGmini Blog, Nokia Tech Github, XDA

    by Published on 06-06-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Congratulations, Apple fans! Your iOS 11-powered device looks to be less like an electronic appliance and more like a proper pocket computer. According to The Next Web one of the many features coming to the new version of Apple's smartphone OS is a native file manager; The Verge's reporting on the same story points to a placeholder listing for an app called "Files" on the App Store.

    You might think that such a basic utility would be a prerequisite for any modern smartphone, but in my experience that hasn't been the case. Android only recently added file managing functionality, buried in your device settings—you can access it by navigating to Settings > Storage > Explore. Some OEM Android ROMs, like Oxygen OS on my OnePlus 3, do have their own native file managers, as do the majority of custom ROMs (at least the ones I've tried). And there are, of course, a variety of third-party file managers available on both Google Play and the App Store.

    It must also be remembered that with the iPhone Apple brought smartphones to the masses, and along with it the danger of overwhelming new users with features that they may not need, at least not right away. Conversely, anyone who has ever used a desktop computer should be able to grasp the relatively easy concept of browsing files on a device.

    Here's a question for iPhone users reading this: what have you been using for file management up to now?

    Sources: The Next Web, The Verge

    by Published on 06-02-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Everything you need to know is in this image, really, but I'll walk you through it just so you're clear.

    This past Wednesday Mobile Syrup reported that Android Pay was officially available in Canada, and then quickly added an addendum that it was actually only partially available—RBC and TD joined AMEX in not being a launch partner. Here's what RBC had to say on the matter:

    “While we are not participating in the launch of Android Pay at this time, RBC clients with Android mobile devices can use their RBC Wallet to safely and securely pay for purchases. The RBC Wallet on Android gives users convenient access to their payment and gift cards at the point of sale.”
    Except that it doesn't.

    Launch the RBC Wallet and you must choose your RBC card as the default for NFC payments. Launch the AMEX Android app and you must likewise choose your AMEX card as the default for NFC payments. I haven't tried the TD app but I imagine it's the same story. Want the option of using your AMEX, RBC and TD cards for NFC payments? You'll have to wait until those banks quit their bulls**t and start supporting Android Pay.

    Until then make no mistake: mobile payments are still broken in this country, just not quite so much as they were before.

    Links: Mobile Syrup (1) (2)

    by Published on 05-29-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers,
    3. Apps

    Here's my story. I'm hoping you'll share yours as well...

    On the morning that my mom died I was waiting for a text from my older brother, the main point of contact for the hospital where we had brought her the day before. I did get a phone call shortly before 7am but again, the text never came—and I had been awake and waiting for it since about 4.

    As an Android user my first instinct was to blame iMessage, but the more I think about it the more I believe it was some combination of iMessage and MMS. I actually have two older brothers and both of them use iPhones, much to my dismay (not really). What happened was that the brother who was contacted by the hospital sent a group text to my other brother and I. The oldest brother received the message on his iPhone without issue; the youngest brother on his Android phone (me) did not.

    SMS has been a fairly critical means of communication for me over the past two years; I've relied on it to organize my mom's around-the-clock care. In my experience the only way that bulk texting works reliably is if I set my app to send group texts as individual messages. This isn't ideal because it makes it harder to read through replies, but at least it works. My current Android SMS app does this by default; surely there's a similar option for iMessage...?

    Again, in my case it wasn't the absolute end of the world. But if you have to call someone and ask them if they got your text then messaging has failed for both of you. I personally have been using SMS for at least 17 years, and the technology has been around longer than that. This stuff should have been figured out by now, but clearly hasn't.

    Please feel free to name and shame your carrier, app and/or mobile messaging technology below.

    by Published on 05-19-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To,
    4. Apps

    I spend a lot of time here making the case for smartphones as true pocket computers, not just Internet and app-enabled appliances. I try to demonstrate how you can fully exploit the potential of an Android-powered device with an unlocked bootloader and root, and how you can use these tools to blocks ads, backup, restore or freeze apps, change your theme or even your file system.

    But I'll let you in on a little secret: a couple of weeks ago I bought a Kindle.

    I know, right? Hypocritical much? This single purpose device riddled with DRM is pretty much the polar opposite of a generative computing device. But the Kindle is technically a tablet and tablets are technically mobile, and that's the justification I'm using for what I actually want to talk about, the Kindle DRM—which can be easily, almost trivially, stripped out of your Amazon purchases using a desktop computer.

    To be clear, I did buy a Kindle and I think it's a fine ebook-reading device, but I would never had bought the thing without the means to liberate my legal Amazon ebook purchases from it.

    You'll need two bits of software to do the same, both of which are 100% free. The first is the Calibre ebook management app, which you can install on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. You'll also need a plugin called DeDRM, which you can read about on the author's blog and download from GitHub. Both the app and the plug are open source—that is, free as in freedom as well as free as in beer.

    Get your plugin installed by following the instructions on the author's site and you're nearly done. If you're on a PC or Mac you'll also need the desktop Kindle app (free as in beer only) as this will include Amazon's encryption key. On my Linux box I had the extra step of entering my Kindle's serial number.

    At this point you can open your legal Amazon purchases in Calibre, and export them to any file format of your choosing. Stripping DRM may technically be illegal depending on where you live, but it's certainly better than pirating books—this way Amazon, the publishers and authors all get their money, and you get full property rights to the ebooks that you've paid for. Of course I would prefer if Amazon sold DRM-free books in the first place, but as workarounds go this one's pretty easy.

    So that's why I bought a Kindle... and if none of this is mobile enough for you, what about my first purchase for it?

    Links: Calibre, DeDRM

    by Published on 05-18-2017 08:35 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    It seems that Netflix has joined the wrong side in the war on general purpose computing, denying access to their service on rooted Android devices. How and why would root be a threat to Netflix? Honestly, I've no idea; the only means I could find for capturing and saving Netflix streams are desktop PC apps.

    Android Police reports that the technology that enables this B.S. is a new function of the Google Play Console—specifically a check box which can disallow devices that fail Google's SafetyNet. So what's a rooted Android user to do? Use Magisk, that's what!

    Magisk is short for "Magic Mask", and is described as a universal systemless interface by XDA recognized developer topjohnwu. It's installed in the same way as Chainfire's SuperSU—a zip file flashed via a custom recovery—but offers a lot more functionality via installable modules. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the old Xposed Installer that for Android modders was all the rage back in 2014. Magisk includes a root module (obviously) but can also hide root on a per-app basis, meaning that you can now enjoy Netflix on your rooted phone or tablet, along with Super Mario Run and Pokémon GO.

    And if that's not enough, you can extend Magisk even further with a module that blocks ads system-wide.

    From the official XDA thread, here are the steps to get it up and running:

    Restore your boot image back to stock;
    download the latest Magisk zip file;
    reboot to a custom recovery;
    flash Magisk zip;
    update Magisk Manager to the latest version on the Play Store.

    Requirements are an unlocked bootloader and custom recovery.

    Full disclosure: I've not yet installed Magisk on any of my devices; I'm prepping my OnePlus 3 for it right now, will report back if anything goes horribly wrong...

    Links: Android Police, Play Store, XDA

    by Published on 05-09-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    Cool, they turned Google Keep into an operating system. </s>

    Seriously, this is what Mountain View is calling Armadillo, the UI layer of a mobile OS called Fuchsia, which could one day replace Android. And here's Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica with his best attempt to explain what's going on:

    Above the profile section are a bunch of cards labeled "Story [something]." The readme describes stories as "a set of apps and/or modules that work together for the user to achieve a goal." That seems pretty close to a recent apps list, maybe (eventually) with some kind of grouping feature. Tapping on any card will load it as a full-screen interface, and since one is labeled "email," it's pretty obvious that these are apps.

    Perhaps this video demo, where the grabbed screen comes from, will enlighten us:

    Nope, still not getting it.

    But hey, if you want to try Fuchsia and Armadillo for yourself Kyle Bradshaw, the author of the video, has compiled an .apk of Armadillo that you can install and run on your Android device.

    Me? Nah, I'm good.

    My derision for Google's latest flight of fancy stems from the project's proprietary nature. At present all the sources for Fuchsia are available on Github, which is great. But here's the bad news: if it ever sees a commercial release Fuchsia won't run on the Linux kernel but instead an in-house microkernel with a less-open software license. Which means no kernel sources. Which means no custom ROMs. Which means no thanks.

    Source: Hotfix IT via Ars Technica

    by Published on 05-04-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Apps

    First, the good news: unless you clicked on a screen like this yesterday afternoon, both you and your contacts are probably safe.

    It was around that time that stories started popping up in my news feeds about a phishing scam seeking access to users' Google accounts through Google Docs. Everything I saw linked to this reddit thread, which summarized the threat as follows:

    • uses the existing Google login system
    • uses the name "Google Docs"
    • is only detectable as fake if you happen to click "Google Docs" whilst granting permission
    • replicates itself by sending itself to all your contacts
    • bypasses any 2 factor authentication / login alerts
    • will send scam emails to everyone you have ever emailed
    Pretty scary, right? That reddit thread was posted just before 3 pm Eastern; at 6:20 pm
    Google Docs tweeted this statement:

    We have taken action to protect users against an email impersonating Google Docs & have disabled offending accounts. We’ve removed the fake pages, pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again. We encourage users to report phishing emails in Gmail.
    Even better, Android Police reported before midnight that Google had published a new version of the Gmail app for Android, with phishing protection baked in.

    I see a lot of phishing emails on my non-Google email accounts, and I'm pretty impressed with how quickly Google moved to neutralize this threat. Hopefully no one reading this was affected by it!

    Sources: Android Police, @GoogleDocs on Twitter, reddit

    by Published on 05-02-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    It's no secret that messaging is broken on Android. Where different services once talked to each other via XMPP, today a user will likely have multiple and incompatible messaging apps and services installed on their phone. And Google certainly isn't helping; not only are they removing SMS integration from Hangouts but they're turning Hangouts itself into an enterprise app.

    Meanwhile, over on iOS everything seems to be fine.

    I'm not an iPhone user myself, but from what I understand Apple has worked hard to make iMessage the only messaging app their users are likely to need. It takes the ubiquity of SMS and adds in the convenience of being able to text from a phone, tablet and/or computer. Wouldn't it be great if there was a solution like this for Android?

    There is, and it's called Pulse SMS.

    I read a glowing review of the app on Greenbot over the weekend, and after testing it for the past few days I can say it works exactly as promised. Once I set up an online account I could install a tablet version and text from that device as well. For the web there are no less than three ways to access your account: a browser plugin (which I'm currently using) a Chrome app and a regular web login. Pulse supports the dual SIM cards on my OnePlus 3, along with full support for Android Wear—meaning that I have full access to messages on my wrist, not just the notifications for new ones. And if, for some reason, you need to text from the 4K display in your living room, Android TV is fully supported as well.

    The one catch is that the service is not free, but you can at least enjoy a seven-day free trial before you pick one of the paid subscription options. I immediately went for the one-time payment of $13.99 CAD ($10.00 USD) instead; it's already proved to be 100% worth it.

    Sources: Greenbot, Play Store

    by Published on 03-31-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers,
    3. Apps

    With Congress having cleared the way for U.S. operators to sell your browsing history to advertisers, Verizon is wasting no time, partnering with the developers of the popular Android launcher Evie to bring a new search tool to its customers on that platform. Unlike Evie, this new Verizon app isn't exactly getting rave reviews. Here's Cory Doctorow to explain why:

    "AppFlash" will come pre-installed on all Verizon Android handsets; it's a Google search bar replacement, but instead of feeding telemetry about your searches, handset, apps and activities to Google, it will send them to Verizon.
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation pored through Verizon's privacy policy for AppFlash, and found proof that your data will indeed be sold to third parties:

    “AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experience and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices.”
    If you're an Android user with a Verizon-branded phone, you might want to look into rooting and de-bloating it.

    Sources: Android Police, Boing Boing, EFF, The Verge

    by Published on 03-28-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    Here's British Home Secretary Amber Rudd telling the BBC how law enforcement needs access to WhatsApp. A lone attacker who killed four people and injured fifty more in London last week apparently accessed the messaging service just before the attack began.

    The pertinent sound bite from Ms. Rudd:

    "It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other."
    The issue is, of course, that WhatsApp deployed end-to-end encryption across its platform in late 2014. That date is not insignificant; the Snowden revelations of 2013—that is, the indiscriminate spying of citizens by the NSA, GCHQ and other Five Eyes partners—are at least partly responsible for the rise of encrypted messaging, and indeed the full disk encryption now standard on both Android and iOS.

    To believe that compromising WhatsApp will immediately make the world safer is more than a bit naive; The Independent ran a recent story on the former computer security chief for the UK's Ministry of Defence, who points out rather obviously that those wishing to spread terror will just move on to something else.

    Sources: BBC News, The Independent

    by Published on 03-27-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    So Nintendo's Super Mario Run finally came to Android last week. For some reason it's not yet available to Canadians but no worries, eh? You can download and install the official Android package from APK Mirror. Only problem is that if you do that, especially on a rooted Android device, you will eventually be locked out of the game and presented with the error message above.

    A Google search of support code 804-5100 yielded this possible fix:

    1. Download/install a (root) file manager app from the Play store and open it.
    2. Go to the following directory on your device’s internal storage — /data/data/com.nintendo.zara
    3. You'll see the deviceAccount:.xml file inside the folder, delete this file.
    4. Open the Super Mario Run game again and sync it with your Nintendo account.
    Not sure what syncing the game to a Nintendo account has to do with anything, but I dutifully followed the instructions above and was still locked out of the game.

    In one sense it's no big deal, because Super Mario Run seems to be a pretty average gaming experience at best. Before I was locked out I got the thrill of playing through two plodding tutorial levels and sitting through a bunch of cut scenes that I couldn't skip through—nothing at all like the best mobile games I've played where you're dumped right in to the action and have to figure things out as you go.

    In another sense, however, it represents yet another attack from the bad guys in the war on general purpose computing, just like Pokémon GO. It's fairly arrogant to presume that someone would root their Android device for the sole purpose of cheating a game, and in the specific case of Mario I've yet to hear of any such cheat. If it's not root but a geo-blocking issue, that would only make sense if Nintendo was trying managing the load on their servers—because, if you didn't know, this particular game title requires a persistent data connection to work.

    Whatever the case, if you're an Android user with root don't bother wasting your time on Super Mario Run. You've likely got better, more important things to do with your device.

    Links: Cory Doctorow, Howard Forums, The Android Soul

    by Published on 03-24-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    This may not affect every Android user reading this, but it's unfortunate news nonetheless. Android Police reports that G Suite administrators have received email notices from Google warning that SMS will no longer be supported in Google's de facto chat app as of May 22nd. Affected Hangouts users will be seeing the above in-app alert starting March 27th.

    Hangouts has supported SMS since Android 4.4; those who made use of it—myself included for a time—enjoyed the benefits of needing one less icon on their home screen and, more importantly, having all of their non-email messages contained within a single app.

    I can think of at least one technical reason why the change needs to happen: with RCS coming to text messaging it might be too daunting for Google to add Hangouts support, especially when Hangouts itself is already undergoing a fairly significant makeover.

    There may well be another, more pragmatic reason, as a redditor on this r/Android thread explains:

    Hangouts Users: "Why would I use Allo when Hangouts has IM and SMS?"
    Google: "Good point.... Aaaaand fixed."
    Sources: Android Police, reddit

    by Published on 03-17-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    I think it's supposed to rhyme with "ATM". And honestly, that's about the only thing about this story that makes any sense.

    Mobile Syrup reported yesterday that Paytm, the largest mobile payments company in India, was coming to Canada. In fact, it's technically already here—they've apparently been renting office space in Toronto since 2014.

    How does it work? I found these instructions from Gadgets360, an Indian tech site:

    1. Set up a Paytm account using your mobile number and email;
    2. Add money to your Paytm Wallet from your bank, debit or credit card;
    3. Select 'Pay or Send' to transfer money to someone else;
    4. Make a payment by scanning a QR code, or...
    5. Send money to another Paytm user via their phone number.

    So the business model here is fairly obvious; at any given time Paytm is making interest off of whatever cash their 150 million users have deposited in their mobile wallets. And while I can certainly appreciate the value of a mobile wallet in a country where maybe not everyone has a credit card, I don't think that's so much the case in Canada. Furthermore, there are existing solutions already offering some or all of Paytm's features—SmoothPay, PayPal, and ZenBanx are similar apps that I've previously covered here.

    If you're a Canadian with business and/or family in India (or vice versa) then the arrival of Paytm in this country is probably great news. But I'm struggling to see any value in it for anyone else.

    Sources: Gadgets360, Mobile Syrup, Paytm

    by Published on 03-16-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    The inspiration for today's post comes from a story this week on ZDNet, about how Pidgin, an IM client for Linux, is unable to support popular platforms like Slack or WhatsApp. This may sound crazy, but not so long ago there was a time when such disparate chat service could all be accessed by the same app.

    For desktop Linux Pidgin did a great job, and for my S60-powered Nokia smartphones of the late 2000s there were even more choices—Fring, IM+ and Nimbuzz each enabled me to connect to Facebook Messenger, Hangouts (then Google Talk) and more, all from a single interface. The magic that made this possible was, in most cases, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol—XMPP for short.

    So what happened? Facebook XMPP support unofficially ended in the summer of 2015, after their chat API was officially depreciated that spring. The story with Google is a bit more complicated, but boils down to the XMPP-supported Google Talk being supplanted by the non-XMPP-compatible Hangouts.

    And what about those Nokia chat apps? Of the three, Nimbuzz is the only one still in service, now running its own proprietary IM platform and pseudo-VoIP service. Walled gardens, it seems, are the way of the future when it comes to chat.

    Links: Disruptive Telephony, Slashdot, XMPP, ZDNet

    by Published on 03-10-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    The important thing here is that they didn't ruin Hangouts altogether.

    I'm not even sure that Google—nor Android users, for that matter—realize what a good thing they have had in Hangouts. Though the days of proper XMPP support are long gone, there is still data portability via Google Takeout and, perhaps more importantly, clients for Android, iOS and desktop web browsers.

    You could partly blame carrier SMS charges on the rise of WhatsApp, along with technical issues hindering content shared through MMS. Whatever the case, WhatsApp is now immensely popular, leading Google to chase after it with their in-house clone called Allo. In the same way, the company is now targeting a darling of start-up culture, Slack, with a complete overhaul of the Hangouts platform.

    That platform will see two new apps, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Meet looks to be a more business-friendly version of Hangouts On Air, though I'm willing to bet that its biggest user demographic will continue to be podcasters. Chat will add a chatbot to the current Hangouts experience, and bring with it the ability (for example) to schedule calendar events from within the app. Unfortunately, as an enterprise product, Hangouts Chat will also offer additional functionality via paid features; put another way, the free version will be limited.

    Like the Pixel phones and Pixel-exclusive features, this also seems very un-Googley to me, and perhaps its time to wean my friends and I off of Hangouts and on to something else. What do you use for chat?

    Sources: Android Police, XDA Developers

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