Smartphone race to emerging markets has begun

Smartphones are at the center of everyones life. They have transformed from a communication device to a lifestyle accessory that manages everything from social life to finances. As smartphone reach a high adoption rate in developed nations like US, Canada and Europe, there is a huge opportunity to bring them to emerging markets. India and China have a combined population of over 2 Billion. While popular smartphones have high price points which work in the developed world, emerging markets need a smartphone at a lower price point. Local smartphone makers like Micromax and Xiaomi have sprung up in these countries and are gaining huge market share in emerging markets.

While Mobile World Congress this year has been about LTE updates in Europe and Samsung unveiling more wearables, Nokia announced its line of Nokia X Android phones (after being acquired by Microsoft) at a price below $100. While this is a good step for Nokia, Mozilla’s Firefox OS phones are being made for developing nations which would be sold for $25. Of course, the $25 Firefox OS phone is not yet released. If Mozilla is able to meet the $25 price point, it can gain significant market share in Latin America and African regions. This can make it harder for other makers to penetrate into these markets. While Nokia expects its Nokia X phone to do well in emerging markets, the local makers have already gained some market share and popularity in the regions and it would be interesting to see adoption rates for the new line of devices. As Mozilla and Nokia enter the emerging markets, other makers are expected to announce a range of smartphones targeted at emerging markets this year.

Trend Micro shows you what 2020 is like

Japanese computer security company Trend Micro has started a web series about the future. The year is 2020 and everyone uses glasses with augmented reality. Everything can be accessed through your glass. It is the only gadget you use and the most important one. The series is based on an ICSPA report entitled Project 2020.

The technology is futuristic yet seems achievable in the near future, considering the speed at which it is evolving. The glass technology featured in the series seems impressive, yet shows how much humans depend on technology. Scenes where humans wave and gesture their hands to control their glass also seems bizarre, as everyone is highly connected yet very isolated.

The series consists of 9 episodes, out of which 3 have been made available so far. You can watch all the episodes on the link provided below.

Link: 2020 by Trend Micro

Xbox music opens up to iOS and Android

Microsoft has been providing Xbox services for its popular gaming console for some time now. At some point, they also added Xbox music to satisfy the music streaming needs of its users. Today, Microsoft launched its Xbox music service on iOS and Android, making it available to the masses that do not own an Xbox and entering the music streaming market led my Pandora, Spotify, Rdio and even iTunes Radio.

The music pass costs $10 a month, which is not cheap as streaming services have been competing and the base price is around $5/month. While Pandora and Spotify offer Fremium services with restrictions on hours of streaming and streaming on mobile devices, Xbox music only offers a 30-day free trial, after which you would have to shell out on its monthly pass to keep streaming, a similar approach to Rdio.

You can download the iOS and Android apps from the stores, or listen online on Xbox music.

How smart are smartwatches?

Smartphones have made their way from enterprise users to the masses. With everyone being connected through texting, tweets, check-ins and status updates, smartwatches have been formed, giving you access to your phone at those rare times when you don’t actually have your smartphone in your hand.

As smartwatches gain some traction and attention from the media and the public, the question arises: How smart are these smartwatches (or what can they do besides tell you the time)? Some obvious answers are: show you the weather, alert you when you get a call or text, and maybe let you make calls and act as a bluetooth speaker. Does it need a special app? what devices does it support? what are the different smartwatches available today? Here is a look at some options…

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Points is the future of street signs

Breakfast, a New York based company, is building Points - a new street sign for the digital age. Points can dynamically change text on the street signs and rotate the sign to point towards different venues. It can also be programmed to show different places at different time of the day. For example, it can point to the “Zoo” during the day and when the zoo closes in the evening, the sign can rotate and change the text to “Saturday night bar”. Another example can be displaying events like “Giants game” instead of “Stadium”, which gives people an idea of what game is on while enabling easy interpretation for people going to that game (in case of multiple stadiums in cities). The distance can also be flashed to show miles and hours/minutes based on online traffic data, which can be helpful. Besides a street sign, Points also acts as a kiosk for people walking on the street. The buttons on the pillar can be pressed to change directions visible on the street sign. A pedestrian can choose “Restaurant” and the signs will show different restaurants. One problem this can create is that a car passing by that wants to go to the stadium will also see the restaurants chosen in the kiosk. I think they should add a small screen near the buttons to act as a kiosk rather than changing the signs.

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Gmail takes another step towards email 2.0

Gmail just announced an updated inbox today. The new Gmail will filter emails into four main categories: Primary, Social, Promotions and Updates. Primary will have all important emails - from friends, family and co-workers. Social will show all the emails sent by Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Promotions will display emails from services like LivingSocial and Groupon. Updates will show you emails from newsletters such as blogs or websites. Currently, all of this functionality can be achieved by using Labels in Gmail, but Google wants to build this in to give a more clean inbox to all the users and have a spam-free experience by cutting the clutter. Its a similar approach to what Microsoft has done to Hotmail with the new Outlook website.

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Paytouch lets you pay with your fingerprints

Mobile payments is a very active space with solutions like Google Wallet, PayPal wallet, Visa’s V.me, Isis mobile wallet and Square wallet transforming the way we make payments. The goal of all these services is to remove the wallet out of the picture and make your smartphone your wallet by storing credit card information on phones or in the cloud. Paytouch, a payments solution company in Spain, has introduced yet another new way to pay. Using your fingerprints.

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Get ready for the new gTLDs

ICANN is preparing for the massive rollout of new gTLDs. There are a ton of new gTLDs to replace the old .com, .net and .org. Some of the popular ones include .app, .home, .inc, .art, .blog, .book, .llc, .shop, .movie, .music, .cloud, .hotel, .news and .eco. These new gTLDs will allow bloggers, entrepreneurs, artists and other web creators to get catchy domain names without trying out hacks like using different spellings, using prefixes and suffixes or using a TLD from a different country. Large corporations will also be getting their own gTLDs like .ibm, .pwc, .cisco and .samsung. This will also help in identification of authentic sites and prevent phishing scams.

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Google Keep takes on Evernote

Google just announced a new product, Google Keep. Keep lets you capture all your ideas, tasks and notes in one place and organize them. Yes, like Evernote. Evernote has been everyone’s favorite online note-taking tool for some time now. Over the last few years, it has evolved by revamping their web app and building new iOS and Android apps from the ground up. It’s the ideal service with a decent pricing model. It has also expanded into the enterprise world with Evernote Business. With the success of Evernote, Google wants to get into the space with Google Keep. Google had a similar service in the past called Google Notebook which was very basic and did not have much development, and was eventually discontinued. Google Tasks acts as a basic ToDo app as a part of Gmail. Google Keep is the combination of Google Notebook and Google Tasks with a few more bells and whistles. Right now, it cannot be compared to Evernote but has the potential to take on Evernote in the near future.

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Is Two Factor Authentication the new standard?

Banks have been using Two Factor Authentication for a long time now. Some banks require entering a token during login, others only need it for money transfers. In the recent months, with growing cases of user account hacking, many online services are implementing Two Factor Authentication. The popular ones are GMail, Dropbox and Amazon AWS. But recently Facebook announced Two Factor Authentication support. The Facebook iOS/Android app acts as a soft-token and users that don’t have a smartphone, can use SMS to receive their tokens upon login. I think this is a good move, since a Facebook account acts as a persons identity due to all the personal information fed into accounts. But does Two Factor Authentication solve the problem? Can hackers not hijack account with Two Factor Authentication enabled? The answer is obviously No. It does make hijacking accounts much more difficult by adding a barrier and might make it not worth the while to hijack an account. But having a strong password along with Two Factor Authentication does make an account slightly more secure.

Evernote had also been hacked recently and is currently forcing password resets on all accounts. They are also going to introduce Two Factor Authentication very soon.