Tuesday, 21 February 2017

End of free run for Jio users from April, but there is good news to all.

From April this year, you will have to pay for services of Reliance Jio, that took the telecom market by storm through its free offerings. Jio on Tuesday announced plans to charge customers, while increasing the number of tariff plans to widen choice of its offerings.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance, said the company has managed to breach the coveted 100-million subscriber mark within six months of its launch on September 5. "Jio's extremely popular... Happy New Year Offer is approaching its end on March 31. Starting April 1, Jio will start offering its tariff plans," Ambani said in a speech.

The company will have a variety of pay options that subscribers can choose from. Users can continue to have free-calling facility with an entry monthly post-paid tariff of Rs 149 (that gives 300 MB data), Rs 499 (4 GB data), and this plan can go up to Rs 4,999 that offers 75 GB of 4G data.

Jio also announced a new offer called 'Prime' that promises higher benefits. A membership of Prime can be availed by Jio customers throughout March and will cost Rs 99 annually. Under this, a customer gets free calling and unlimited data downloads for a full year by paying a fixed tariff of Rs 303 per month. Also, a Prime member will be entitled for higher data benefits if he chooses to go for Jio's regular tariff plans and not Rs 303 offering.

"Prime members can get the full bouquet of Jio's media services ... worth over Rs 10,000 for an annual subscription... completely free... for one full year," Ambani said.

He also said the company will match the highest-selling tariffs of rival operators, with a promise to provide 20% more data. Jio had been one of the key catalyst to boost data consumption across the country. "Jio users consumed more than 100 crore GB of data on the network. That is more than 3.3 crore GB a day," Ambani said.

Analysts said charging for services will be one of the biggest challenges for the new telco as it has managed a fast customer-acquisition run, mainly on the back of its free offerings. A number of quality issues and high call failure rate, which Jio has blamed on rivals due to alleged denial of inter-connect points, need to be sorted out as customers start paying. "They will now have to go through the usual challenges that any telecom company faces — to tackle issues related to quality of service, billing errors etc. That will be a test of the network, and also the organisation," a leading sector analyst said, though requesting anonymity.

"The price points and tariffs announced by Jio are good news for the consumer. The industry is pleased to see the commencement of paid services as the market will now become the place where consumer choice and preference will be revealed," said Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India COAI, a telecom lobby group controlled by Jio's rivals such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. Jio is also a member of COAI, but has raised several questions over its governance and control.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Nokia 8 Android Smartphone Listed Online Ahead of Launch

A new Nokia Android smartphone has been spotted on the Chinese e-commerce 
website up for pre-registrations. The alleged Nokia 8 is now listed on JD.com in
 China and comes with a price tag of CNY 3,188 (roughly Rs. 31,000). 
Unfortunately, it's hard to confirm the authenticity of the online listing of the Nokia 8.
With less than a week left in the event slotted by HMD Global on Sunday, 
the e-commerce listing tips that we can expect the Nokia 8 to be announced. 
The images accompanied in the online listing appear to show concept renders 
of a Nokia smartphone with near bezel-less display.

On the specifications front, the rumoured Nokia 8 is said to be powered by 
Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 835 processor while sport a 5.7-inch QHD Super
 AMOLED display. The handset is further likely to feature a 24-megapixel rear 
camera with OIS alongside a 12-megapixel front camera. Nokia 8 is expected to 
be announced in two storage versions - 64GB and 128GB. Both the models are 
rumoured to come with expandable storage support via microSD card slot (up to 256GB). 
It is said to run Android 7.0 Nougat.
For the upcoming event, HMD Global is widely expected to bring back the 
refresh of the Nokia 3310 feature phone which has hogged all the limelight. 
Other Nokia phones expected to debut later this week include the
 Nokia P1 high-end smartphone alongside two budget Nokia devices - 
Nokia 3 and Nokia 5Nokia 6, the smartphone touted as the comeback device 
for Nokia, is also expected to see global availability details out at the same event.
The official HMD Global event is set to take place in Barcelona on Sunday
and it will kick off at 4:30pm local time (9pm IST).

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Why is Android Studio still such a gruesome embarrassment?

About twice a year, I get involved in a project that requires me to do some Android development; so, about twice a year, I re-launch Google’s so-called integrated development environment, Android Studio, with fingers crossed; …and twice a year I find myself wincing with bitter disappointment, as I rediscover that it still has all the elegant, intuitive simplicity of a Rube Goldberg machine.
Let me hasten to stress that I’m not an OS partisan, or, to the extent that I am, I’m inclined towards Google. All my own smartphones have been Androids. I’ve been writing Android apps, both professionally and for fun, since 2009, when I first bought an HTC Magic. All my phones since have also been Android: Galaxy S2, Nexus 4, Moto X, and my shiny new Pixel.
But I also write iOS and tvOS apps; and despite my abstract disapproval of Apple’s hegemonic attitude towards software, whenever I launch its IDE XCode, I breathe a little easier. It’s fast. It’s slick. And even when it fails to be helpful, it rarely actually gets in my way— something which, as far as I can tell, is Android Studio’s fundamental core competency.
For instance: I have never actually succeeded at using its visual tools to lay out elements on a screen. I’m sure it’s theoretically possible; but every time I’ve tried, I have gotten so frustrated that I have just given up and written raw XML layout files instead. I have it on good authority that I am not alone in this. In XCode, conversely, I drag and drop with abandon and glee.
Out of the box, Studio doesn’t auto-import Java classes for me; the setting for doing so is buried deep within its impenetrable labyrinth of menus. Out of the box, Studio doesn’t tell me how to load any of the zillion support libraries I probably need, nor how to get Android’s (still painfully slow) emulator running. The secrets to both of these things are buried, believe it or not, in the “Android” submenu under the “Tools” menu. Think about that for a moment. Why does Google’s flagship Android development tool have a “Tools / Android” menu? Isn’t the whole thing an Android tool? Shouldn’t these key elements be first-class citizens?
…One problem, of course, is that Android Studio was not built from scratch; it’s based on the long-in-the-tooth IntelliJ IDEA platform, a Java IDE … and, well, you can tell. It feels like fifteen-year-old software, and it’s all too apparent that it was adapted to, rather than built for, Android development. (Again: “Tools / Android.”) And, of course, it’s written in Java, which makes it multiplatform … but slow.
It’s true that the Android ecosystem itself is clumsy and complex, fragmented into a dizzying plethora of versions of various libraries and SDKs. It’s true that, for instance, the Gradle build tool is famously developer-hostile. (Although building is just hard; Apple’s build tools don’t exactly hold your hand either.) But a better-designed IDE could at least mitigate this. It’s true that XCode only has to run on one operating system, Apple’s, whereas Android Studio must be multiplatform. But surely Google, of all companies, has the resources to support native code on multiple platforms.
It is truly remarkable that a hypermonied behemoth the size of Google decided to go this slow, kludged, ugly route for a flagship development environment for its mobile platform with well over a billion active installs. The negative effects are numerous. Better tooling is one reason iOS development is faster and more efficient. Developers comfortable in both ecosystems prefer iOS to Android because it’s easier to work with, and so we help influence much smartphone software to be iOS-first, with Android as a second-class after thought. Android apps famously tend to be buggier than iOS, and it’s hard to believe that the IDE has nothing to do with that.
Most of all, though, albeit most selfishly, if Google’s IDE were better, it would push Apple’s to improve. XCode is far from perfect. It crashes. It hangs. But even with those flaws, iOS development is so much less painful than Android development that there is really no comparison. (Well, until you try to deploy. Then, Android is painless; Apple’s improved-but-still-all-too-often-Kafkaesque process for building, signing, uploading, submitting, and waiting for approval for even beta test builds is one that frequently inspires deep rancor and resentment in every iOS developer I know.)
Of late, though, I say with a kind of skeptical anticipation, for the first time in years, there issome real competition. This has long been true for .NET programmers, courtesy of Xamarin, recently acquired by Microsoft, which lets you write .NET code and build native apps for both Android and iOS. But nowadays Facebook’s React Native is becoming a realistic solution for building cross-platform native apps without having to write (much) native code … and therefore without having to use either Android Studio or XCode.
I’m not saying either will go away. But it’s nice to see somebody at least trying to elbow their way past Apple and Google’s de facto developer gatekeepers. They, especially the latter, have grown complacent for lack of competition. Let’s see how they react to React.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Chromebook Diaries: Chrome apps vs. Android apps

Should I be using Chrome apps or Android apps? And why is so much choice such a burden?
Every good operating system that's worthy of its users has an app story. After all, if you think about those mobile OSes that have nearly failed — webOS and Windows Phone are the first that come to my mind — you'll recall that their app stores were hardly worth delving into. They were, effectively, a boring story. That's certainly not the case with the Google Play Store, so then why does Chrome OS operate under a different narrative?
Since I'm new to this platform, I don't know what life was like with a Chromebook before Android apps were available on Chrome OS (this feature, by the way, is still in beta). And I'm sure I'm luckier for it because I didn't run into the same limitations as some of Chrome OS's forbearers. If there isn't a Chrome app or an extension that can function as I want, I can simply go to the Play Store and find an Android app that can. I have a choice.

There are plenty of caveats to using Android apps on Chrome OS — it's still a very nascent feature. Most Chrome OS apps are optimized for a laptop, while Android apps are made with the touchscreen in mind and are often optimized for smaller, narrow phone screens. And in the instances that the Android app had a tablet mode, tracking was sometimes off on the Chromebook touchscreen display.
Then there's the issue of which version of an app to use. I had this issue with Spotify, for example; the web app through the browser is better than the Chrome app, while the Android version has all the bells and whistles, including offline capabilities and options to organize playlists. You could see why I chose to use the latter. Conversely, Google Docs is better online than the Chrome OS app and the Android app because of its more easily navigable menu hierarchy.

And lastly, there's the issue of actual app availability. I am still not entirely sure where to start looking when I'm hankering to download an app. Do I go to the Chrome web store, or should I try the Google Play Store first? My primary inclination is to check for Chrome OS app first, then search for an extension, and then relegate myself to whatever made-for-the-smartphone version might be available. At this point in the Chrome OS ecosystem, it seems like anything is better than nothing.
I really hope that the future of Chrome OS involves cross-platform interoperability and that developers of both platforms see Chrome OS as the natural extension for their Android app. I want perfect synchronization between Android devices and Chromebooks so I can be even more sucked into the Google world. Our ecosystem is almost there, folks. I can see it on the horizon.

Other thoughts:

  • The "games story" on Chrome OS is laughable. I know the platform wasn't initially primed for that — save for educational games — but I didn't think it'd be this...limited? I'm not too interested in playing Android apps, either, save for the ones that are best played on a tablet yesterday. I've got my Pokemon TCGO and Rollercoaster Tycoon installed, so at least there's that.
  • Related: you know what would be cool? I'd like to see some sort of port available for older PC games. Wouldn't it be neat to be able to relive through some of the classics, like Heretic II or maybe even just an old PopCap game? If something like this exists, please direct me. Otherwise, I'll keep wishing to live the glory days of PC gaming on this weird little laptop that's not quite sure of its identity.
  • I received a couple of comments wondering why I'd bother using Chrome OS to do what my Mac and PC are already capable of. But I'm struggling to find the controversy. Mobile apps are almost as adequate as some desktop apps — I'm talking about relatively simple apps like photo editing and sketching, not ones that facilitate 3D rendering and intense video processing — so I should attempt to see if they can indeed replace the programs that I use daily. And with life becoming more mobile anyway, I might as well get into the groove of learning to use apps in that manner.
  • Besides this agonizing-to-use trackpad (Anyone aware of an app that can tweak mouse settings on Chrome OS?), the Chromebook Flip is the perfect computer for riding the San Francisco Bay Area's BART. I have it in laptop mode on the way to the city to finishing filing my work, and then flip it tablet mode on the way home to catch up on my Play Movies & TV library.
  • I filed this entire article using just my Chromebook Flip. :)

Thursday, 16 February 2017

WhatsApp’s big status change spotted on Android

Few days back, an online report claimed that Facebook-owned WhatsApp is working on introducing 'disappearing' status updates which automatically disappear after 24 hours.

Now, an image claiming to show the first in a series of such vanishing status updates has surfaced online. The image was shared by WaBetaInfo (@wabetainfo), an unofficial Twitter account that tracks changes in WhatsApp's beta builds.

As reported by WABetaInfo, users can edit and post photos, videos and GIFs as their new status updates. Along with this, they will be able to control who can see their status updates from the app's privacy settings.

It's been further suggested that the company is working on an improved UI and layout for the conversation screens, in addition to a new camera tab and FAB (Floating Action Button) for Android.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp started rolling out two-step verification feature for all users. It adds an extra layer of security to a WhatsApp account by requiring a secondary method of authentication. The feature aims to prevent others from activating a phone number on WhatsApp without a six-digit passcode.

"Two-step verification is an optional feature that adds more security to your account. When you have two-step verification enabled, any attempt to verify your phone number on WhatsApp must be accompanied by the six-digit passcode that you created using this feature," remarked the company in an official blog post.

IIT-Roorkee Students Dancing To Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You Is All Kinds Of Awesome

So you think you can dance? Check out IIT-Roorkee's smooth routine. Ahead of Valentine's Day, students from the prestigious engineering institute released a video of their dance performance to Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You - and it's brilliant. The video, which has garnered over 4.6 lakh views on YouTube in just two days, follows four students as they show off their dance moves in romantic pursuit of the women of their dreams. All of this, says the description, is done with just one aim in mind - a 'less lonely' Valentine's Day. Created by members of the Dance and Choreography Section of IIT-Roorkee in association with Cinesec, it stars Meet Saparia, Satyabrat Panda, Sambhav Jain and Devarsh Tiwari as the dancers and Priya Ajania and Apurva Jatan as the women they're hoping to charm.
Choreographed by Meet Saparia and directed by Ankush Raut, this dance video is everything - the editing is as nifty as the dance routine. And while it may not do much to dispel accusations of the IITs being male dominated, it does offer a different and delightful glimpse of the 'studious' engineering student stereotype.

The YouTube comments on the video, in a welcome departure from tradition, have been supportive and encouraging for the most part. One commentator called it better than the original video while another praised the choreography and editing. Many of the comments are from IIT alumni praising the cinematography and conceptualization of the video. Of course, as expected, some made jokes on the skewed sex-ratios at IITs and wondered how 'IIT nerds' managed to dance so well.

Moto G5, Moto G5 Plus full specs revealed ahead of MWC launch

Lenovo Moto G5 series is one of the most expected phones, which will be launched at the upcoming Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017. Motorola has already sent out invites for an event at MWC on February 26 in Barcelona, where the new Moto G5 series will be unveiled. We’ve seen quite a few leaks around the Moto G5, and now noted tipster Evan Blass has confirmed the full specifications of the upcoming phones.
Blass shared photos and promotional images of the Moto G5 on his Twitter page (@evleaks). It seems the full specifications of the phone were listed online by e-tailer Ktronix, though the listing was later pulled down.
According to Blass’ report on Venture Beat, the Moto G5 won’t sport a 5.5-inch full HD display like the previous phones: instead it will come in a 5-inch full HD version and a 5.2-inch full HD version, which is called the Moto G5 Plus.
The report on Venture Beat confirms the processor for the phones as well: Snapdragon 625 on Moto G5 Plus, and Snapdragon 430 on the smaller Moto G5, and while RAM remains at 2GB RAM, the G5 Plus will have a 64GB storage option. On the camera front, the Moto G5 Plus gets 12-megapixel rear camera with dual autofocus pixels, while G5 will sport a 13MP rear camera, adds the report.
The new report by Blass contradicts earlier claims of a 5.5-inch Moto G5 smartphone. However, the latest press renders resemble the recently leaked rear panel of the Moto G5 smartphone. Last week a post on Weibo claimed the Moto G5 Plus will have a Sony IMX362 sensor 12MP camera, with F1.7 aperture, PDAF support.
The rear panel of the phone was leaked on Weibo, and it had a metal finish. The latest pictures also confirm this, and it looks like Motorola is going for a big design change with the Moto G5 series.
Tipster Roland Quandt of Winfuture.DE had earlier tweeted claiming the Moto G5 will be in stores shortly after the MWC launch. He had also put out the leaked pricing for the upcoming phones.
According to his tweets, Moto G5 will launch at 189 Euro (Rs 13,500 approx) for the 2GB RAM+16GB version, while the 3GB RAM version will be price 209 Euro (Rs 14,800 approx). But the latest report hints, Motorola is sticking with only 2GB RAM on both phones.
Moto G smartphones have typically done well in India in the past. The Moto G4 Plus in particular stood out for its 16MP camera in the under Rs 15,000 price segment. We’ll have to wait and see how soon the Moto G5 is launched in India and at what price.

BSNL partners Ministry of Tourism to offer free SIM cards

In a bid to make travelling to India more comfortable and convenient for tourists, the Indian government has launched a new initiative of pre-loaded SIM cards on arrival. Launched by Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, the pre-loaded SIM cards will be available for foreign tourists arriving in India on e-Visa. This initiative is in partnership with telecom operator BSNL and will initially be available at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (T3 Terminal) at New Delhi. The pre-loaded SIM cards will eventually be available at the remaining 15 international airports in the country where e-Visa facility is available.
Foreign tourists who are visiting India will receive the SIM cards on arrival itself. For this procedure, one must submit their e-Visa copy and the first page of their passports as well. PTI reports that the procedure and activation of the SIM cards would take about two hours to complete. These BSNL SIM cards will be pre-loaded with talktime of Rs 50 and also 50MB of data and will have a validity of 30 days. Moreover, the expenses on the SIM cards are said to be carried out by the Ministry itself from the tourism promotion budget. The SIM cards will be available at the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) counters at the airports.
In addition to making communication easier for tourists, these SIM cards are also aimed at contacting the 24×7 multi-lingual toll free helpline recently launched by the Ministry of Tourism. The toll free helpline is currently available in 12 languages which include Japanese, Russian and German. The reason why the pre-loaded SIM card facility would be available for e-Visa tourists only was because of the convenience of information available, PTI reports. Information on e-Visas is readily available and thus, syncing it immediately with the data required for the SIM cards is easier and faster. The e-Visa service began in 2014, and is currently available for 161 countries. Tourists who are on casual visits for leisure, recreation, business, and short medical treatments are applicable to avail an e-Visa.
Dr Mahesh Sharma on launching this initiative said that “this unique initiative will facilitate the foreign tourists in communicating with their acquaintances immediately after their arrival in India.” Making the launch official, the Minister unveiled the first SIM kit to an audience which included Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, JS Deepak, Secretary, Minister of Communications and senior officers.