BHIM Cashback Merchant Incentive Scheme Extended Till March 31

The government has extended till March a cashback scheme that offers incentives of up to Rs. 1,000 to merchants for accepting payments through the BHIM application.

“The BHIM cashback scheme for merchants will be operational till March 31, 2018,” a note by Ministry of Electronics and IT said.

The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14 for a period of six months for promoting cashless payments through the BHIM app.

Under the scheme, a merchant can get cashback of Rs. 50 for 20-50 transaction, Rs. 2 for every transaction thereafter till Rs. 950. The monthly limit of BHIM cashback scheme is Rs. 1,000.

BHIM Cashback Merchant Incentive Scheme Extended Till March 31The condition for availing benefit is that at least 20 transactions should have been accepted by the merchant during the month from unique users of the BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) with each amounting to minimum of Rs. 25.

The app user can make transaction by using UPI address, ISFC code and bank account of the recipient and by scanning QR code that can be generated in the app itself.

Unlike mobile wallet, users are not required to store money in the BHIM app.

WhatsApp Says It Is Looking for Ways to Minimise Fake News

Popular messaging app WhatsApp Monday said it is exploring ways to check spread of fake news through its platform.

WhatsApp software engineer Alan Kao termed the situation as “complex” because of the end-to-end encryption of messages on the platform that does not allow anyone – except the sender and the receiver – to read the messages.

“We definitely do not want to see fake news on our platform and it’s a complex problem in determining what is fake and what isn’t. Because of the encryption, we can’t read the contents of the messages,” Kao told reporters in New Delhi.

He added that the Facebook-owned company is looking at different ways in which they can tweak the product to “try and minimise” fake news.

There have been a number of instances, including rumours of the new currency notes featuring a GPS chip and videos related to Muzaffarnagar riots, that were circulated and shared virally on WhatsApp as many took them to be true.

With over 200 million users, India is the largest market for WhatsApp that has about 1.3 billion usersglobally.

Kao said WhatsApp is taking a number of steps, including educating users to explain that they should check authenticity of content before sharing it on the platform.

Last month, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said instances of “objectionable videos” being shared through WhatsApp have been noticed.

Since WhatsApp did not have content of the messages available with them, their ability to take action was limited, he had said.

WhatsApp does provide a feature to report objectionable content. A user can take screenshots and share it with appropriate law enforcement authorities, Prasad had said.

In April last year, WhatsApp had introduced end-to-end encryption to protect conversations of its millions of users from hackers and “regimes”.

Critics, however, contend that it also makes WhatsApp an ideal platform for spreading fake news, propaganda and objectionable content in the absence of oversight. There are also concerns that WhatsApp could be sharing user data with Facebook.

Kao said WhatsApp values the trust of its users and the platform was built with “privacy and security in mind”.

“Any change that would weaken the encryption will be detected very quickly. It’s impossible to make a secret backdoor. You cannot just create backdoor for just one party… Privacy will continue to be a key part of what we do,” he said.

WhatsApp Says It Is Looking for Ways to Minimise Fake NewsKao stressed that existence of such “backdoors” will be a prime target for hackers.

Explaining the mechanism of the end-to-end encryption, Kao said WhatsApp does not store any message on its server and only the sender and receiver can see the message.

“The message is stored on our server in an encrypted format and once the receiver reads the message, it is deleted from our servers. In case the receiver does not read the message (seen as two ticks on the sender’s phone) within 30 days, it is purged,” he said.

In India, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court claiming that after the 2016 privacy policy of WhatsApp, personal data was shared and other data were collected by the company for commercial purposes.

On this issue, the central government had submitted in the Supreme Court in July that data of users was “integral” to the Right of Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed under the Constitution and that it would come out with regulations to protect it.

Ola Partners Google to Bring ‘Outstation’ Cabs to Maps

Ride-hailing app Ola on Tuesday announced an inter-city travel partnership with Google that would help long-distance commuters discover Ola’s “Outstation” category on Google Maps.

The move enables bookings from 23 cities to over 215 one-way routes in the country.

In the coming weeks, the integration would be expanded to 500 routes.ola outstation google maps Ola

“Google and Ola, have been joining forces time and again with a strategic goal in mind – enhancing customer experience and catering to a wide number…,” said Vijay Ghadge, Vice President of Operations at Ola, in a statement.

“Ola Outstation has gained significant prominence in the past year since its launch and this association takes us a step further in making the category as reliable and convenient as intra-city commute,” he added.

Once the destination is keyed in on Google Maps, the commuter can navigate to the transit tab and choose Ola as the commute option and he or she would be taken directly to the booking screen on the Ola app.

In October 2016, Ola integrated its intra-city cab travel options with Google Maps, enabling customers to discover cab options with estimated fares and the estimated time of arrival.

UC Browser Reportedly Under Government Scanner for Sending Data to China

UC Browser, the most popular mobile browser in India, is reportedly being probed by the government for sending data from Indian users out of the country. According to Business Standard, “a government lab in Hyderabad is probing how Alibaba-owned UC Browser can send user details and location data to a remote server”.

Another report by ICTFlash identifies this lab as Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), an R&D organisation for the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, and adds that if the Alibaba-owned browser is found guilty, it could be banned, though it isn’t clear at this stage if a ban is indeed on the table.

Gadgets 360 has reached out to both UC Browser and C-DAC for comment on this matter, and we will update this report when either organisation responds.

According to the research firm StatCounter, UC Browser is the most popular mobile browser in India, accounting for nearly a 50 percent share of the market, ahead of Chrome, which is a little over 33 percent, and Opera, which is nearly at 10 percent. At its peak, UC Browser accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Indian market, but has lost some of the ground to Google’s Chrome since then.

According to reports, UC Browser sends data including device’s IMEI number and location data to a server in China on connecting to a Wi-Fi network.

UC Browser Reportedly Under Government Scanner for Sending Data to ChinaIn May 2015, a a Canadian technology research group reported that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd paid more than $1 billion for leaking sensitive user data and said that is a privacy risk. Citizen Lab said Chinese and English-language versions of UC Browser made easily available to third parties personally identifiable information like location, search details and mobile subscriber and device numbers.

Last week, the government also asked all smartphone companies, majority of them Chinese manufacturers, to outline the procedures and processes adopted by them to ensure security and privacy of users’ data.

Mobile manufacturers and software providers have a long history of tracking users, without always disclosing the fact. Even when it’s disclosed, the amount of data being collected is often a lot more than users realise, so UC Browser would not be unique in this. However, with tensions between India and China at a high right now, it perhaps explains why there is scrutiny relating to any app sending data to the latter country.

Skype for iOS Gets Mood Messages, Improved Sign-In Process, and More

Microsoft rolled out a new update for Skype for iOS which brings some new features along with general performance and stability improvements. Most notably, the update brings mood messages and improvements to the sign-in process to make it easier for users to sign in to their accounts.

The latest update to Skype for iOS (v.8.4.3) looks to improve the overall usability of the app by making it easier for users to sign back in to their accounts easily. A tiny but welcome addition also includes adding dates to when messages are sent in chat for the benefit of users.

Skype for iOS Gets Mood Messages, Improved Sign-In Process, and MoreMood message is essentially your status update in Skype. It lets your friends know what’s on you are up to or what mood you’re in, a feature similar to WhatsApp’s About or Facebook Status update.

Microsoft has been revamping Skype across various platforms. Last week, Skype’s desktop interface got an overhaul with the roll out of Skype Preview which brings features like enhanced group calls, new chat media gallery, @mentions, message reactions, and a new notification panel.

Earlier this month, Skype for Android also received an update that brought new features including new chat themes, chat reordering, activity indicators, and stability improvements.

Facebook’s Social ID App Hello Is Pretty Much Dead

Facebook appears to have given up on Hello, a Truecaller-like social ID app that it began to publicly test in select markets two years ago, as Android and iOS introduce similar built-in features for their customers.

Available exclusively on Android, Facebook’s Hello – Caller ID & Blocking app tapped the network’s social graph to display information about the person a Hello user was attempting to call, or receiving a call from. Additionally, the app, which also served as the default calling app on Android, could also be used to block users.

At the time of the initial release Hello was only available in three markets: the United States, Nigeria, and Brazil. The company had noted that it intends to bring the social ID app to more places. But two years later, not only is the company yet to expand the reach of Hello app to more geographies, it hasn’t even released any software updates to fix issues with the app.

The Google Play listing of Hello app is filled with bad user reviews, but the company, which updates its Messenger and marquee Facebook app once or twice every week on Android and iOS, hasn’t pushed any updates to Hello in two years. A spokeswoman of Facebook did not comment on this story. According to app analytics firm App Annie, Hello app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times on Google Play worldwide.

“Hasn’t been updated in almost 2 years so I assume it’s basically been abandoned,” a user wrote earlier this year. “I set it as the default dialler on my [Samsung Galaxy] S7 but it isn’t recognised and incoming calls use my stock dialler,” the user added. “Nice idea. Faulty execution Supposed to block spam calls. The rare case it does you get multiple notifications. No time saved dismissing those,” another user adds. “This is a joke. I tried my neighbourhood public library phone number and it did not find it. I put the number in the Google search box and it showed me the info for that number in the first link,” a different user added.

The company began publicly testing Hello in April 2015. At the time, Hello Product Manager Andrea Vaccari said the app could solve a major problem. “More than 1 billion phone calls are made in the US ever day. The experience of the phone call hasn’t evolved in a long time.” According to Vaccari’s LinkedIn profile, he is now working on Messenger.

As Facebook abandons the app, its popularity is also dropping. “In the US, Hello has been downloaded from Google Play for close to 327,000 times since it first launched in 2015. And in Brazil, that number is about 147,000. In Nigeria, Hello has approximately 20,000 downloads from Google Play since 2016,” Ruika Lin, mobile insights strategist at analytics firm Sensor Tower told Gadgets 360.

Facebook's Social ID App Hello Is Pretty Much DeadIn the recent quarters, with little push from Facebook, the app is seeing a decline in number of downloads. “So in the US, the app experienced an initial surge in downloads within the first week or so after it rolled out on April 22, 2015. Then downloads went pretty flat for about a month and a half, and it had a second surge in late June 2015, which lasted for a little over a week till early July. Since early July 2015, the install has been pretty much flat and minimal,” Sensor Tower’s Lin added.

“In Brazil, the initial surge of downloads lasted for also about a week, and daily downloads have been flat and minimal since early May 2015. Daily downloads in Nigeria since the beginning of 2016 have also been flat and minimal. Overall, in the past six months and a year, downloads of the Hello app have been pretty flat for all three countries, showing no significant fluctuation.”

It’s unclear why Facebook gave up on Hello, as several people found the app useful, going by their reviews. Perhaps it’s because users don’t need such an app any more. Google introduced a similar feature in Android in 2016, and with iOS 10, Apple also opened CallKit, allowing apps such as Truecaller, which has over 200 million active users and sees over three billion searches, dialler access.

HTC Vive VR Headset Gets a $200 Price Cut, India Getting New Price Soon

HTC has given its virtual reality headset – the Vive – a $200 (about Rs. 12,800) price cut in the US, which brings the total cost down to $599 (about Rs. 38,400). With that, HTC is trying to keep up with its biggest competitor, Oculus Rift, which currently retails for $399 (about Rs. 25,600) as part of a summer sale, though its base price is $599 as well.

The price drop is also coming in affect in other regions: in the UK, the Vive now costs GBP 599 (about Rs. 49,500), and it’s down to EUR 699 (about Rs. 52,700) in rest of Europe. It’s yet to come into effect in other parts of the world, including India, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East.

In a statement to Gadgets 360, HTC India said that the Vive will get a price cut in India “soon”, though it didn’t say how much it’d be. As of now, the HTC Vive in India costs more than double the US price, at Rs. 92,900. For what it’s worth, it did receive a Rs. 5,000 price cut as part of Amazon’s sale earlier this month.

HTC Vive VR Headset Gets a $200 Price Cut, India Getting New Price SoonIf you make a new HTV Vive purchase, you’ll also get a one-month free trial to HTC’s Viveport subscription service, which offers access to a over 200 VR games. You can pick a maximum of five titles in a month.

“We work tirelessly to continue to iterate and improve on Vive to deliver on the promise of VR,” Matthew Gepp, HTC Vive’s senior social media manager, said in the announcement. “Google, Apple, Intel, UPS, Volkswagen, SalesForce and dozens of other global brands have all lined up with Vive for their VR efforts, and there’s more to come in the back half of the year.”

The Vive is also getting triple-A video games later this year, Gepp pointed out, in the likes of Fallout 4 VR, and Doom VFR. Both titles will also be available on PlayStation VR.

Panasonic Unveils New Range of 4K UHD TVs in India, Starting Rs. 78,900

Aiming to capture 10 percent market share in the 4K TV segment, Panasonic India on Monday launched a new line-up of 2017 4K Ultra HD TVs along with the UA7 sound system.

The 4K television series – EX750 and EX600 – is designed to deliver better picture quality and sound.

“2018 marks Panasonic’s 100th year and you will see a powerful mix of hardware and software innovations that’s born from decades of experience and 20-year collaboration with Hollywood from Panasonic,” Manish Sharma, President and CEO, Panasonic India and South Asia, told reporters in New Delhi.

The spectrum of screen sizes ranges from 43-inch to 65-inch across the 4K models. Panasonic also showcased their ‘future of display screens’ – Invisible TV at the launch event in New Delhi.

EX750 flagship model will be available in 65-inch at Rs. 3,10,  tv EX750 Panasonic EX750

The TV features a new “Cinema Display”, 550nits super-bright panel, HDR1000 and is powered by the “Studio Colour HCX2” processor which has been tuned by experts at the Panasonic Hollywood Lab.

The EX600 series range will be available in 55-inch, 49-inch and 43-inch screen sizes at Rs. 178,900, Rs. 141,000 and Rs. 78,900 respectively.

With 1,300Hz processing, the EX600 series is adept at handling fast-moving action scenes.

Featuring a hexagonal box design, UA7 sound system has 10 speakers, delivering 1700W of sound.

“With ‘Hexa Chroma Drive Pro’, high-brightness panels and sophisticated smart features, the new range ensures that our customers will get the maximum impact from the 4K resolution,” added Neeraj Bahl, Associate Director, Business Group Head, Consumer Electronic, Panasonic India.

Essential Home With Ambient OS Is Andy Rubin’s Answer to Amazon Echo, Google Home

The big day for Android co-founder Andy Rubin is here and his company Essential Products seems to be all geared up. Rubin created hype around its bezel-less smartphone, but Essential has more up its sleeve. Apart from the phone, the new brand has introduced the Essential Home intelligent speaker which seems to be a competitor of Google Home and Amazon Echo. The device with rounded display runs Essential’s Ambient OS. The company is yet to announce pricing and availability details for the Essential Home.

Much like other automated assistants, the new Essential Home smart speaker will allow users to ask questions, set alarm, control lights, music, and other similar functions that we can expect from Amazon Echo and Google Home. The company is stressing that the Essential Home is focused on privacy.

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“Essential Home will help with daily tasks, but it will also let you create new experiences in the home with the devices you have,” said Mara Segal, Head of Product, Home Devices in an old blog post.

The company stresses that the Ambient OS isn’t developed to manage a point-to-point interaction with individual devices but to help user with relevant context for information or managing multiple devices. “With Ambient OS, your home is the computer,” said Manuel Roman, Head of Engineering, Home Devices.

Essential Home With Ambient OS Is Andy Rubin's Answer to Amazon Echo, Google HomeThe company is also stressing that the Ambient OS is the API to user’s home that enable other applications that could extend the reach of a single device. For example, users can setup a timer and have the lights in the living room flash when it goes off. “The goal of Ambient OS is to ‘activate’ your home,” adds Roman.

For privacy, Ambient OS runs in home and tries leverage home network as much as possible. The company says that Ambient OS can help Essential Home interact with home automation devices directly without having to go to the cloud. Additionally, the OS tries to keep user data locally whenever possible giving users more control over their privacy.

We can expect to hear more details around the Essential Home and Ambient OS at Rubin’s Tuesday announcement.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in India

Sony on Monday launched its Walkman NW-WS623 wireless Bluetooth headset at Rs. 8,990 in India. Designed specifically to meet the needs of sports enthusiasts, Walkman NW-WS623 comes with connectivity options including NFC and Bluetooth that allow users to connect the headset to their smartphones or other devices. Sony Walkman NW-WS623 will be made available in the country from Friday and comes in Black colour only. The wireless Bluetooth headset will be available for purchase at Sony Centre and electronic stores across India.

Weighing in at just 32 grams, Sony Walkman NW-WS623 provides a battery life of around 12 hours, and can be fully charged in 1.5 hours, as per the company’s claims. Interestingly, Sony has claimed that even with a quick charge of just 3 minutes, the Walkman NW-WS623 will provide a playback of around one hour to the user.

Sony Walkman NW-WS623 Wireless Bluetooth Headset Launched in IndiaThe wireless Bluetooth headset comes with a built-in storage of 4GB to carry music on-the-go and has been described to be designed specifically for people who are into sports. This is why the new Sony headset comes with IP65/IP68 water and dust resistance rating. Sony claims that the Walkman NW-WS623 allows users to swim to a depth of 2 meters with up to 30 minutes of submerged time, thanks to its water resistance.

“The Walkman can endure extreme temperatures from -5-degree Celsius to 45-degree Celsius, making it ideal for a hike or climb. With improved wearing comfort, the Walkman NW-WS623 features an ergonomic, slim and light design that stays in place no matter the movement,” the company said in its release.

Enabling the Ambient Sound Mode, users will also be able to hear external sounds while wearing the headset to allow them to communicate to others without having to take the wearable off.