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WhatsApp has reached another milestone this year  one billion people are using WhatsApp everyday

 

The latest milestone comes more than a year after WhatsApp shared that one billion people used its instant messaging app every month, which has now grown to 1.3 billion monthly active users. It also revealed other interesting figures such as: 

  • 55 billion messages sent per day 
  • 4.5 billion photos shared per day 
  • 1 billion videos shared per day 

 

WhatsApp has seen its usage statistics increased over the past year. A recent study conducted by the Reuters Institute revealed that people in some countries (Malaysians included) use WhatsApp to get their news. Earlier in January this year, a WhatsApp spokesperson informed VentureBeat that 63 billion messages were sent on New Year’s Eve, which included 7.9 billion images and 2.4 million videos! In June 2016, WhatsApp stated that there were more than 100 million voice calls made through its app everyday. 

 

 

In preparation of the upcoming SEA Games 2017, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) has launched its first ever First Aid app for mobile devices.

 

The app was developed and made in partnership with the Prudence Foundation, as well as with the support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

 

The MRCS touts the apps as the first of its kind in the country. It is designed to provide first aid advice through videos, animations, as well as interactive quizzes, all of which will be easy to access. There is something that makes the entire thing.

 

“During an emergency, a lack of first aid knowledge could lead to lasting injuries and disabilities, and even unnecessary deaths,” Dato’ Sayed A. Rahman bin Sayed Mohd, Secretary General of the MRCS said. “As a national society that is advocating the importance of first aid, we believe that having this mobile app allows users to access crucial, life-saving information at the touch of their fingertips.”

 

The app is already available on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The contents of the app be delivered in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, thus making accessible the Malaysian majority. However, Dato’ Syed did state that while the app itself provides first aid information, it is in no way a replacement for proper first training and certification, or the need to seek medical advice when (and where) necessary.

 

 

 

Apple just released its quarterly earnings report and it is safe to say that the company has had a stellar second quarter of 2017.

 

Some key figures: US$45.4 billion in revenue, US$8.7 billion in profit, 41 million iPhones sold, and 4.29 million Macs sold.

 

However, one of the most important figures is that sales of iPads returned to growth year-over-year for the first time since 2013.

 

Apple sold 11.92 million iPads in the last quarter, and this compares favorably to the 8.92 million units sold in the previous quarter. It is also substantially more than the 9.95 million units sold in the same quarter last year.

 

These numbers far exceeded analysts predictions. Most of them believed that sales of iPads would continue to fall.

 

Apple released the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in July, and also introduced a new iPad in March. It seems like these new products are a hit amongst users.

AgileBits has introduced Travel Mode for 1Password, a way to keep your passwords safe while traveling abroad.

 

1Password, a password manager app for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, stores and organizes passwords in ‘vaults.’ When Travel Mode is activated, every vault is removed from your devices, except for the ones marked ‘safe for travel’. The information isn’t hidden, it’s actually removed.

 

After you arrive safely at your destination or back home, you can turn off Travel Mode, and the vaults are downloaded back onto your devices. 

 

However, Travel Mode is not available for users who’ve bought perpetual licenses, which doesn’t include sync. It only works for users who are on the 1Password subscription plan, which syncs accounts using 1Password’s own services.  

 

The unfortunate reason why something like Travel Mode is necessary is that border guards are increasingly demanding that travelers hand over their passwords for security checks. 

 

If your device only contains your personal info, you face a loss of privacy, but if it contains sensitive work or government data, you face losing much more — like this NASA engineer who was forced to unlock his phone at Houston’s airport. And if your device leaves your sight for a few moments, there’s a chance that its contents may have been copied over.

 

On the other hand, if you don’t surrender your passwords, you risk being deported or detained. It’s not a pleasant state of affairs, and there’s already debate whether or not it should even be allowed.

 

With 1Password’s new Travel Mode, you can at least contain the damage done if you do surrender your passwords. Only select accounts in the ‘safe for travel’ vault risk being compromised, and because you’re not actually hiding information, you’re not breaking the law by using it.

 

 

Google’s Chrome browser has always been open source on Android and PC, but never available on iOS. This is because Apple demands that browsers use its own WebKit platform instead of their own rendering engines, so Google can’t just use its typical code base for iOS Chrome. However, that’s all changing today, as Google has just added the iOS Chrome code into Chromium.

Not only should this speed up the development of Chrome for iOS, Google also points out that as all of the company’s usual Chromium tests now apply to the iOS code, it’ll also be easier to implement cross-platform features, which means more frequent updates that will help the iOS browser more closely match its Android counterpart.

iphone-7-potrict

 

To access the feature, simply open the Camera app and swipe to ‘Portrait’ mode (in between Photo and Square modes).

ios-7-potrict

Using both 12MP camera sensors on the iPhone 7 Plus and advanced machine learning, Portrait mode applies a depth-of-field effect that blurs the background while keeping the foreground sharp.

The iOS 10.1 update also brings other fixes, including a number of connectivity and syncing issues, new animations in Messages, and new Apple Watch features.

To download the new software, simply open up: Settings > General > Software Update.

Yes, that’s not an iOS device, but the offline navigation feature works in a similar fashion on iOS devices.

If you happen to be spending this Christmas season travelling overseas without a mobile data plan, you might want to consider updating the Google Maps app on your iOS device to the latest version before you embark on your escapade, as it will allow you to download offline maps for future use.

Once downloaded, you’ll be able to search for local destinations (along with all their contact details and operating hours) and get turn-by-turn navigation without requiring an active Internet connection. And that means you won’t be needing to constantly depend on free Wi-Fi hotspots to get your bearings straight.

The good thing about these offline maps is that you won’t have to worry about them occupying too much of your iOS device’s internal storage over time, as they will automatically be deleted a month after you’ve downloaded them.

Google has already implemented offline navigation into the Android version of Google Maps last month, so there’s really no reason for you to end up losing your way in a foreign country anymore.

Opera recently announced the latest updates available for their data-saving web browsers for mobile. Both Opera Mini for Android and Opera Browser for Android will get new features for a better browsing experience.

Video compression – Opera Browser for Android

According to Opera’s blog, the new video compression feature helps the user shrink the size of online videos streamed your device. This means that videos viewed via the Opera Browser no longer use as much data or take as long to load, saving plenty of bandwidth and time.

To use this feature, simply update your Opera for Android app, and enter the settings menu to access the Data Savings category. Check the box that says Video Compression. The rest will be handled by Opera.

Download notifications and improved tab switching – Opera Mini for Android

Opera’s ‘lite’ browser, the Opera Mini for Android, now notifies you when you’re done downloading files via the browser. We admit it’s not that groundbreaking, but it is a nice add-on even for a browser designed for a trim web-browsing experience. Another user-experience enhancement is the improved tab-switching format. Users can stay on their current tab and open new tabs in the background, with an option to flit between tabs quickly. This new functionality is ideal for comparing different deals on separate e-shopping sites.

Finally, the Opera logo has been updated for these mobile browsers, and it’s now congruent with the desktop browser’s new logo as well. Opera’s last update – Opera 33 – focused on compressing data for faster surfing, and the update before that (Opera 32) was brought in to improve privacy for web browsing users.

Opera and Opera Mini: What’s the difference?

For the uninitiated, Opera has two stable browsers on the Android OS platform – Opera Mini and Opera for Android. The key difference between the two is their compression technology: Opera Browser gives the full web browsing experience where sites and images load as if the user is viewing them on a desktop, with an option to compress web pages up to 50 percent of their original size for saving on mobile data and load times. Opera Mini, on the other hand, is a cloud-based browser where all web browsing will go through Opera’s servers, and those servers will automatically compress the web page’s text and images, down to 10 percent of their original size.

The Opera Browser is what a typical person would use on a flagship Android smartphone; whereas the Opera Mini browser is suited for overseas travel, in situations where mobile data bandwidth may be limited or subjected to poor connectivity.

 

3D Touch, which made its debut on the Apple Watch as Force Touch, is coming on the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, set to launch this Friday, September 25.

 

Previous iPhones recognized multi-touch gestures like tap, swipe and pinch. 3D Touch recognizes pressure– pressing down on the screen triggers a new command, called Peek, pressing down even harder triggers the second new command, called Pop. Watch how 3D Touch works in action:

According to the Businessweek feature, 3D Touch took Apple “multi, multi, multi years” to develop. While Apple understandably doesn’t delve too deeply into the details, Craig Federighi, the company’s Senior VP of software engineering, gives a clue on how hard it was to make 3D Touch work:

 

“It starts with the idea that, on a device this thin, you want to detect force. I mean, you think you want to detect force, but really what you’re trying to do is sense intent. You’re trying to read minds. And yet you have a user who might be using his thumb, his finger, might be emotional at the moment, might be walking, might be laying on the couch. These things don’t affect intent, but they do affect what a sensor [inside the phone] sees. So there are a huge number of technical hurdles. We have to do sensor fusion with accelerometers to cancel out gravity—but when you turn [the device] a different way, we have to subtract out gravity. … Your thumb can read differently to the touch sensor than your finger would. That difference is important to understanding how to interpret the force. And so we’re fusing both what the force sensor is giving us with what the touch sensor is giving us about the nature of your interaction. So down at even just the lowest level of hardware and algorithms—I mean, this is just one basic thing. And if you don’t get it right, none of it works.”

 

The entire article is a rare look into the process behind building a new tentpole feature for Apple’s flagship product, and one underlying theme is how much Apple is willing to bet on its team of designers. Apple’s design projects have no start and finish dates, and designers can be exploring new directions for months that eventually turn out to be dead ends.

 

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, puts it in the article as, “You know, it’s so very hard to measure [what designers do]. We can be working on something for a long time and still not know quite how it’s going to work out.”

 

But arguably, betting the company on its designers has paid off in billions for Apple. Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and previous CEO, believed in it so much that Jonathan Ive reported directly to him and him alone; and Ive continues to do the same with Tim Cook.

Nine things to do with the new iOS 9

By on September 21, 2015

iOS 9 lands today, and it’s available for most of Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Unlike last year’s iOS 8, which weighed over 4.5GB, iOS 9 is a slimmer update at 1.3GB, which means it’ll be a faster download than last year. Here’s a quick list of which iPhones, iPads and iPod touches can update to iOS 9 (not every device gets every new feature though, for example, Split View only works with the iPad Air 2):

Image source: Apple

Image source: Apple

 

Why update and what can you expect?

iOS 7 introduced a brand new look to iOS, doing away with the fake leather and replacing everything with a flat, digital look. iOS 8 increased iOS functionality with features like Share sheets. iOS 9 promises to refine iOS, with a focus on four things:

  • Foundation: Improving performance, battery life and security
  • Intelligence: Improving Siri, search and “proactive suggestions”
  • Apps: Improving the most-used apps
  • iPad: New multitasking features come to the iPad

Even if the new features listed below don’t entice you, there are still two key reasons to update to iOS 9.

The first is battery life; iOS has been tweaked under the hood to be more efficient, resulting in longer battery life for your iPhone. And if you do hit that dreaded 20 percent low battery, you’ll be asked if you want to enter a new Low Power Mode, which extends battery life even further by dropping screen brightness and disabling some background tasks.

The second is performance; once again, thanks to changes under the hood, iOS 9 will run faster and smoother than iOS 8.

 

Nine new features to try out on iOS 9

So you’ve already upgraded to iOS 9 — what’s next? Here are some new features for you to try out.

1. Try the new Search screen

Before iOS 7, you could swipe to the left of the first Home screen to bring up the Search screen. iOS 7 and 8 don’t have this screen, instead you can swipe down from any Home screen to bring up search.

iOS 9 brings the Search screen back, in a big way. Now, instead of having just a search tool, the screen fills up with ‘Siri Suggestions.’ Siri Suggestions fills up with contacts, apps and more, which Siri thinks you’ll likely want now, based on what you’ve done before. For example, if you always check Facebook first thing when you wake up, the Facebook app will show up on the Search screen first thing in the morning. If you always call your girlfriend in the evening, you’ll see her contact appear there once the time comes.

2. Try doing a new Search

Talking about searches, they’ve been vastly expanded on in iOS 9. You can do simple maths inside Search, find contacts and quickly call or message them.

Because Siri now powers Search, you can type in natural language, in the same way you’d ask Siri your questions, except that she (it?) won’t have to try to interpret our various local accents. Try typing in questions like; “What’s the weather today?” or “What is zero divided by zero?” You can even search within apps, but that feature requires apps to support it to work. For example, you could search for ‘chocolate cake recipe,’ and the link to the chocolate cake recipe within the app appears.

3. Try searching for photos

Siri has gotten smarter in iOS 9, you can even search through your photos and videos using Apple’s virtual assistant. Try asking Siri for photos you took based on dates, places and album titles; for example; “Show me photos from Japan last year,” or “Photos I took last week.”

4. Try getting reminders from Siri

You can also get reminders of things you’re looking at inside apps like Safari, Mail and Notes. If you’re looking at an interesting article on Safari, for example, and want to get back to reading it later in the day, you can tell Siri to “remind me about this tonight.”

5. Try getting proactive

With iOS 9, Siri gets more “proactive.” Ironically, this is not a feature you can proactively go try out. Instead, based on the apps you commonly use and when you use them, Siri will give you suggestions for what you might want to do next when you use your iPhone. If you always listen to music on the way home, for example, Siri might suggest your Music app when you plug in your earphones in the evening.

6. Try the new Notes

Apple says that Notes is used by more than half of iOS users, so it’s getting a lot of love in iOS 9. Instead of a simple note-taking app, you can now format your text, add photos, maps or URLs, sketch with your finger, create to-do-lists and sync your notes using iCloud.

Notes has certainly come a long way from its Comic Sans days.

7. iPad: Try sliding over another app

Slide Over for the iPad is a new feature that lets you briefly access a second app, while the first fades into the background. To try it, just swipe in from the right side of the screen, and the Slide Over sidebar will appear. If you want to switch the Slide Over app, swipe down from the sidebar. Slide Over works on the iPad Air and Air 2, the iPad mini 2, 3 and 4.

8. iPad: Try playing videos picture-in-picture (PiP)

Picture-in-picture (PiP) lets you play videos on top of apps in a floating window. When you’re watching a video, tap the new PiP button on the video controller. The video will float in a new ‘window,’ and you can drag it around as well as resize it. PiP works on the iPad Air and Air 2, iPad mini 2, 3 and 4.

9. iPad: Try splitting the view

While Slide Over moves the main app into the background, Split View is real multitasking. Perhaps because of the additional horsepower needed, Split View is only available on the iPad Air 2. To get into Split View, you start the same way with Slide Over: swipe your finger in from the right side of the screen. Tap the divider, and that turns Slide Over into Split View. You can then drag to adjust the width of the app, or swipe downward to change the second app.

 

One more thing

Apple introduced Extensibility in iOS 8, which opened up all sorts of possibilities. Instead of operating in silos, apps could now do things in each other’s screen; you can send a photo from the Photos app over to someone via WhatsApp, or save a webpage in Safari to Evernote.

iOS 9 introduces a new kind of extension for content blocking; which is a fancy way of saying that you’re going to get ad blockers for mobile Safari.

If you already use add-ons for the desktop like AdBlock or Ghostery, then you know how these content blocking extensions work; they block annoying ads from showing up and stop resource-consuming scripts from being downloaded. The premise is that with content blocking extensions, you’ll be able to surf faster on iOS 9, with less ads, using less data. Sounds like a big win — all except for the sites which rely on advertising to pay the bills.

If you want to try using the content blocking extensions, you’ll have to download content blocking apps which will help you to that. Content blocking is not a function built into Safari, it’s an additional feature Apple built for developers to work with. Stay tuned for the content blocking apps that are bound to be coming.

 

New stuff that we won’t get to try

Together with the nifty new features in iOS 9 come stuff that we won’t be able to try yet.

Wallet

Passbook started life as a way to bring your boarding passes, coupons, etc. into a single digital app. With iOS 9, Passbook has been renamed to Wallet, and gets the ability to add store and loyalty cards. Stores supporting Wallet at launch are Dunkin’ Donuts DD Perks, Walgreens Balance Rewards, MyPanera, Kohl’s Yes2You Reward … plus many other stores that aren’t locally in Malaysia.

I don’t know about your Passbook/Wallet, but it doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction here. Let us know if your experience is different, otherwise we can just about skip Wallet.

Transit (Maps)

Apple has updated its Maps app with directions for public transportation — none for us unfortunately. Transit will be available in cities like London, New York, Berlin, Mexico and Washington, DC, as well as over 300 cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. If you’re in those areas, or going to them, then you can give the new Maps’ public transportation directions a try. In the meantime, there’s always Google Maps for the rest of us.

News

If you actually used the Newsstand app, I have bad news for you — it’s been retired in iOS 9, and replaced with a new News app. The premise is exciting, it collects articles from the internet, and keeps you up to date with news that you’re interested. The bad news about News is that it’s only available in the US, the UK and Australia at launch. Oh well, there’s always Flipboard.