apps

Google’s Tez payments app now lets users handle their utility bills and more

Google’s Tez payment service in India has got a major update that allows users to pay their utilities and other bills via the app. The service was launched last September for iOS and Android and it initially allowed for payments between bank accounts using India’s UPI (Unified Payments Interface) protocol. Now the app has gotten support to pay for bills from more than 80 organizations — including national/state electric, gas and water, and TV/internet services — with more to come soon. In the case of recurring bills, the app will send a notification when a new payment is due and fetch the bill. The app also lists previous bills paid, and it supports multiple accounts. “We’ve designed bill payments to be the most convenient way to manage life’s expenses, so you can pay right from your bank ...

How ad-free subscriptions could solve Facebook

At the core of Facebook’s “well-being” problem is that its business is directly coupled with total time spent on its apps. The more hours you pass on the social network, the more ads you see and click, the more money it earns. That puts its plan to make using Facebook healthier at odds with its finances, restricting how far it’s willing to go to protect us from the harms of over use. The advertising-supported model comes with some big benefits, though. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that “We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.” Ads lets Facebook remain free for those who don’t want to pay, and more importantly, for those around the world who couldn’t afford to. Ads pay for Facebook to keep the lights on, research and develop new technologies, and profit...

Telegram has raised an initial $850M for its billion-dollar ICO

It looks like Telegram’s billion-dollar ICO has reached its first milestone after the chat app company raised an initial $850 million, according to a filing. A document submitted to the SEC earlier this week states that the money was raised “for the development of the TON Blockchain, the development and maintenance of Telegram Messenger and the other purposes.” The security is described as “purchase agreements for cryptocurrency” and the filing is signed by Telegram CEO Pavel Durov. This initial sum is most likely the pre-sale stage of the ICO which, as TechCrunch reported on extensively last month, was targeted at venture capital firms and top figures in the investment community who were given deep discounts to buy Telegram’s Gram token. The pre-sale was originally targeted at raising $60...

People are trolling iPhone users with the ‘killer symbol’ that crashes their apps

Surprise! Assorted jerks on the internet have weaponized the unicode-based bug we reported yesterday to insta-crash apps running on an iPhone or a Mac. The result is somewhere between the old Alt + F4 trick and a script kiddie stunt and it ranges from being annoying to rendering a device unusable, depending on the tenacity of the troll. The bug causes many iOS and Mac apps to crash when rendering two characters in Telugu, a south Indian language. While anyone can avoid viewing the symbols themselves, problems arise when someone ill-intentioned starts spamming out the symbols or sending them directly to devices where they will be received as a notification. Droves of Twitter users have taken to tweeting the symbols out over the last day with messages like “read this to log off instantly” an...

Uber is reportedly preparing to sell its Southeast Asian business to Grab

Uber is preparing to sell its Southeast Asian business to Grab in exchange for a stake in the Singaporean ride-sharing company that has a big presence in that region, according to a new report from CNBC. This wouldn’t be an unfamiliar story for Uber, which was handily beaten by Didi in China before eventually caving and selling the company to the dominant ride-sharing startup in China. Uber sold its Chinese business to Didi in August 2016, which involved an equity deal. In that sense, Uber may be acknowledging where it’s getting beaten, and instead looking to pick up stakes in those companies as a hedge on its ability to expand globally. Should Didi — or Grab, in the case of this report — end up being bombshell successes, Uber would experience its own significant windfall and have some goo...

Under Russian pressure to remove content, Instagram complies but YouTube holds off

Instagram has taken down content posted by Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny under pressure from a government agency, while YouTube has yet to do so. Navalny and others have criticized Instagram for complying to what they call a politically motivated move to silence him. The issue is around a video accusing a Russian official, deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko, of accepting a bribe from prominent businessman Oleg Deripaska — in the form of a trip on a yacht populated with upscale escorts. It uses footage posted to Instagram (and later removed) by one of the alleged escorts. Deripaska sued in a local court, which turned around and ordered that the material be removed web-wide, recruiting the Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor to enforce the order. The deadline was ye...

As tech automates, Blinkist keeps its book summary service very human

[embedded content] When I first heard of Blinkist, a service that breaks down recent nonfiction books to easily digestible snippets and audio, I was afraid it would turn out to be some machine-learning-driven auto-summary thing. But in talking to co-founder Niklas Jansen at Blinkist’s headquarters in Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the company is still very much people-powered — and in fact, that may be the root of its continuing success. The basic idea of Blinkist is to take the best of new nonfiction and condense it into pieces just a minute or two long, with entire books summed up in a series of these “blinks” totaling 15 minutes or so. Titles are added regularly, harvested from best sellers, top-10 lists and user wishlists and suggestions. So far, so normal. But where ...

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel basically says the Snapchat redesign is here to stay

Despite a lot of backlash over a big redesign for the Snapchat app — which to be sure is a very big deal for a product-centric company like Snap — Snap CEO Evan Spiegel vigorously defended the redesign and basically said people need to get used to it. Spiegel said at the Goldman Sachs Internet & Technology Conference that even people complaining about the app was a sort of validation that the changes the company wants to happen are, indeed, happening. Snap aimed to try to separate the idea of communication and broadcasting with Snap into similar buckets, rather than the features being kind of mixed up (like Stories being on a right swipe). “The tech is an important piece but I think the harder part you can’t get around is the time it takes to learn,” Spiegel said. “You do need folks to...

France’s telecom regulator thinks net neutrality should also apply to devices

The ARCEP, France’s equivalent of the FCC in the U.S., wants to go beyond telecommunications companies. While many regulatory authorities have focused on carriers and internet service providers, the French authority thinks Google, Apple, Amazon and all the big tech companies also need their own version of net neutrality. The ARCEP just published a thorough 65-page report (embedded below) about the devices we use every day. The report says that devices give you a portion of the internet and prevent an open internet. “With net neutrality, we spend all our time cleaning pipes, but nobody is looking at faucets,” ARCEP president Sébastien Soriano told me. “Everybody assumes that the devices that we use to go online don’t have a bias. But if you want to go online, you need a device just like you...

Google launches a lightweight ‘Gmail Go’ app for Android

Google has added a notable addition to its line of “Go” edition apps – the lightweight apps designed primarily for emerging markets – with the launch of Gmail Go. The app, like others in the Go line, takes up less storage space on users’ smartphones and makes better use of mobile data compared with the regular version of Gmail. The app also offers standard Gmail features like multiple account support, conversation view, attachments, and push notifications for new messages. It also prioritizes messages from friends and family first, while categorizing promotional and social emails in separate tabs, as Gmail does. But like other Go apps, Gmail Go doesn’t consume as much storage space on the device. In fact, according to numerous reports, Gmail Go clocked in at a 9.51 MB download, and takes u...

This new text bomb crashes most Mac and iOS apps with a single Unicode symbol

TechCrunch has learned of a potentially serious new bug affecting a wide range of Apple devices. During their development work on an international news feed, software engineers at Aloha Browser discovered two Unicode symbols in a non-English language that can crash any Apple device that uses Apple’s default San Francisco font. The bug instigates crashes on iPhones, iPads, Macs and even Watch OS devices that display text containing the symbol on their screens. When one of the two symbols is displayed in an app, the software crashes immediately. In many cases, the app cannot be reopened and must be reinstalled. TechCrunch was able to recreate this behavior on two iPhones running an older version of iOS, one iPhone running iOS 11.2.5 and a MacBook Pro running High Sierra. The bug crashes apps...

London sets out safety-first plan for regulating ride-sharing

After London sent ripple’s of shock through Silicon Valley last year, by denying Uber a renewal of its private hire vehicle license, the city’s transport regulator is doubling down on its scrutiny of the impact of app-based ride operators. Today it’s published a policy statement setting out its intentions for adapting transport regulations to fit the fast-changing private hire vehicle sector. And chief among its stated priorities is the safety and welfare of passengers and drivers. “Safety will be a particular focus in new or novel areas where there is little existing evidence of what happens in practice,” TfL writes in its policy document. “Maintaining high standards of safety is the top priority and operators should clearly demonstrate this. “That means setting out clear policies and act...