LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

LINE, known for its popular WhatsApp-style mobile messaging platform, has released a $125 smart speaker in Japan named Clova Wave, beating Amazon and Google to market. LINE has more than 220 million messaging users in the region. The company first announced the speaker device at a conference in June, after unveiling its new digital assistant, Clova. LINE also earlier announced a smart speaker called Champ, based on the LINE Friends characters, but no release date was revealed. LINE is a subsidiary of Naver Corp., South Korea’s largest web operator and search portal. Continue reading LINE’s New Clova Wave Smart Speaker Is Available in Japan

Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

Facebook, which bought WhatsApp for $22 billion in 2014, is now testing two free business tools on the messaging service. WhatsApp Business lets small businesses answer customer questions and send updates; larger businesses can avail themselves of another free tool that plugs in to the WhatsApp platform. Facebook is also debuting verified profiles for businesses on WhatsApp, to distinguish them from individuals. Businesses in Brazil, Europe, India and Indonesia, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, are testing the new tools. Continue reading Facebook Testing Business Messaging Tools via WhatsApp

Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

The Internet is undergoing an evolution, with an onrush of people forming the ranks of what the tech industry dubs “the next billion” users. These newcomers have a decidedly different profile than those who came before: often barely literate, these people avoid text in favor of voice activation and images as a way to communicate. These first-time Internet users are finally gaining entry with the advent of low-cost smartphones with user-friendly interfaces and inexpensive data. Now, tech companies must adapt. Continue reading Internet Firms Adjust to the Needs of the Next Wave of Users

Facebook Looks to WhatsApp, Video Ads for Future Growth

Facebook reported a 71 percent jump in profits in Q2 this year, even as the company is running out of room for more advertisements on News Feed, its primary source of revenue. Both Facebook and Google, which established the digital platform for ads as dominant, are faced with thinking about what comes next. As reported earlier, Google ads have surged 52 percent on mobile devices and YouTube, but its per-click revenue is down. Facebook is eyeing Messenger and WhatsApp, its two chat apps, for growth. Continue reading Facebook Looks to WhatsApp, Video Ads for Future Growth

Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

Amazon may be developing a standalone messaging app called Anytime that would allow people to connect without the need to include phone numbers, which is how other messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp typically connect. The company has reportedly been running a survey to gather feedback about a service “for smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart watches designed to let people chat with text and video, send each other fun photos with filters, play games and engage with other Amazon services,” reports TechCrunch. Earlier this year, AWS launched a communication service called Chime for enterprise customers. Continue reading Anytime: Amazon May Be Developing a New Messaging App

Facebook Reaches New Milestone of 2 Billion Monthly Users

Social media giant Facebook announced it now has 2 billion monthly active users. The new milestone comes five years after reaching 1 billion users, and 13 years after Mark Zuckerberg first launched the platform. According to TechCrunch, Facebook leads social apps based on number of logged-in users, “above YouTube’s 1.5 billion, WeChat’s 889 million, Twitter’s 328 million and Snapchat’s estimated 255 million.” Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger each have 1.2 billion users, while its Instagram photo-sharing app recently exceeded 700 million. Continue reading Facebook Reaches New Milestone of 2 Billion Monthly Users

Facebook Co-Opts Stories, Puts More Pressure on Snapchat

Facebook has again integrated one of Snapchat’s most notable features, introducing Stories, which allows users to create photo/video montages that vanish within 24 hours. Two other camera-oriented features allow users to make the camera accessible with one rightward swipe and add filters and masks; and introduce a direct-messaging tool. All three features will be unveiled this week. Facebook has experienced a slump in posting, and is studying Snapchat as a way to zero-in on its millennial appeal. Continue reading Facebook Co-Opts Stories, Puts More Pressure on Snapchat

Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook announced the beta release of a new voice search feature for the company’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. “This feature lets you perform voice searches from Oculus Home to intuitively navigate games, apps, and experiences,” explains the Oculus team, noting future plans to “add even more functionality like seeing if a friend is online or contextual commands to invite people to a play a game with you.” While VentureBeat points out the feature “won’t let you look at your friends, your notifications, your profile, your avatar, app updates that you haven’t installed, or individual settings,” the review is largely positive and envisions future applications: “The speech technology might well end up becoming a part of Facebook’s more popular services, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and even good old Facebook itself.” Continue reading Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Messenger has joined Instagram and WhatsApp in emulating Snapchat’s popular Stories concept. Messenger Day is a new feature within the Facebook Messenger app that encourages users to share a daily photo story. Users can post photos and 15-second videos taken with the Messenger camera or images and GIFs saved on their smartphone. The Messenger Day story is visible to all Facebook friends, but it disappears after 24 hours. Facebook’s unique special filters for the images are designed to spark conversations and encourage meet-ups. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new image-based Status feature that allows users to post a disappearing Status update, which erases after 24 hours just like Snapchat Stories. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has a pattern of integrating Snapchat-like features into its apps, such as Instagram and Facebook Messenger. With the new Status feature, a major departure for the text-based application, WhatsApp hopes to capitalize on the success of the format that Snapchat originated, which emphasizes videos and ephemeral content. Continue reading WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

The Signal app from non-profit Open Whisper Systems provides end-to-end encrypted messaging, voice calling, and now video chatting. The new feature, along with improved voice calling functionality, comes as part of a beta update for the app’s Android and iOS versions. Signal is a popular choice for activists and journalists who need a private communications platform, but it is still struggling to find a foothold in the mainstream because it sacrifices some popular features for security.  Continue reading Signal App Update Adds Ability to Make Encrypted Video Calls

Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

In its IPO filing, Snap Inc. revealed that an average of 158 million people use the Snapchat app — sending more than 2.5 billion messages and images — every day. The company’s annual revenue grew from $58.7 million in 2015 to $404.5 million last year. Nearly all its revenue comes from advertising, especially on mobile. Expected to seek a market valuation of $20 billion, Snap may receive $4 billion, which, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence would make the company one of the biggest tech offerings ever in the U.S. Continue reading Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

Streaming Services Top Chart of Apps Earning Most Revenue

When examining top apps based on revenue (outside of games), streaming services dominated 2016. Sensor Tower lists Spotify as the top earner, generating the most revenue across platforms, including Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Android chat app LINE took the second spot, followed by Netflix, Tinder, Pandora and HBO Now. Hulu ranked No. 7 on the App Store and No. 9 in overall revenue. “The list indicates that the trend toward cord cutting … is still going strong, as is the growth of subscription-based streaming of music,” reports TechCrunch. However, translating app success into profits remains a challenge for some (Pandora is laying off 7 percent of its workforce, despite touting more than 4.3 million subscribers). Continue reading Streaming Services Top Chart of Apps Earning Most Revenue

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