Google releases new app to beat slow internet speeds in Africa

Google is about to release an app in Africa that will help internet users overcome obstacles such as the lack of high-speed connectivity and the cost of data on the continent.

The release of Google Go is the U.S. technology giant’s latest attempt to extend its reach into emerging markets such as sub-Saharan Africa, where Facebook Inc. is also making inroads. The Alphabet Inc. unit has laid fiber-optic cable on the continent, eased access to cheaper Android phones and trained a workforce in digital skills.

The new app reduces the amount of data needed to display search results by 40 percent and allows previous searches to be accessed offline.

Image Source: – Map of Africa Broadband Cable

The internet giant has also adapted the voice function to work better on slow connections, and has partnered with pan-African wireless carriers MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. to make it work on even basic 2G connections, according to Google Africa Chief Marketing Officer Mzamo Masito.

“Weak data connectivity, high data costs and low storage space often make it hard for people to get the most out of the internet,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Google Go is built to handle these challenges.”

U.S. tech giants see Africa as a relatively untapped market for smartphones and services such as web search and social media. Younger consumers in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly demanding quicker internet speeds and cheaper phones to go about their business, while MTN and Vodacom see the digital space as their fastest-growing market.

The new app will be available in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and will be pre-installed on all Android Oreo devices.

The company also plans to make it available in other emerging markets, including India, Brazil and Indonesia, Masito said in an interview.

News Source: The Bloomberg


Mobile Technologies:  Driving the Next Wave of App Innovation

Image Source:

The mobile app and smartphone ecosystem have grown exponentially in the last seven years, mainly driven by user experience, technology and investment. Technological advancement on mobile platforms is still in full force. We are seeing new innovation with every OS update. These innovations can be the key to making your mobile apps stand out among millions of others just like them.

  1. Voice Recognition

Once limited to Siri and Google, voice recognition capabilities have taken a huge step forward with Apple’s Speech Recognition API launch for iOS 10, giving mobile apps voice recognition and voice assistant functionality. Google has also made its speech recognition function faster and more reliable.

Voice functions can add extraordinary value to mobile apps. Customers can control certain functions while driving, take advantage of voice-based search, schedule meetings with voice commands, dictate commands and take notes. It has become easier than ever to build apps that can convert voice to text and text to voice. Soon, voice commands could control every app.

2. Biometrics

Most smartphones already include fingerprint scanning, iris scanning and even facial recognition. While not all devices support biometrics yet, you can use biometric capabilities on mobile to build nearly foolproof personal identification for secure payments, certain location access, secure file and server authentication, and identity management. This will be a boon for enterprise customers, government agencies and other security-conscious organizations that can replace external biometric hardware with smartphone biometrics to reduce costs and seamlessly integrate it across appsBluetooth 4.0/5.0

We have seen so much advancement with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE 4.0) on mobile platforms. This year, BLE 5.0 will bring longer ranges, higher speed and less power consumption to the mobile ecosystem. According to Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Bluetooth audio on smartphones (which still utilize Bluetooth classic technology) will also be able to transfer to BLE. BLE advancements will allow mobile apps to control your home, cars, computers, robots, drones, sensors and other external devices with longer ranges and more reliability. Improved BLE can create more app and product opportunities in IoT, beacons and hardware devices.

3. Augmented Reality

Pokemon GO came and went in 2016, but the way it capitalized on augmented reality in mobile devices sparked a tremendous interest in AR’s potential. Augmented reality, the ability to superimpose computer images and information over real-world views, has existed for years. Pokemon GO’s immense success is inspiring new AR-based apps. AR functionality can make apps more engaging, informative, entertaining and educational. It can be used not only to increase brand awareness but to educate users about products and store locations, giving you the availability to add a third dimension to the mobile user experience.

4. Home Automation

Apple launched a much-improved HomeKit in 2016. Developers are now using that software development kit (SDK) to build apps that can control multiple smart devices in your home, such as smart lights, speakers, thermostats, detectors, electrical outlets, blinds, locks and sensors.

The HomeKit makes it easier for apps to discover devices, connect to them and control them without writing any big code. This year, we will see a variety of home automation apps that allow activity-based control. For example, if a user walks out of a room, the lights will automatically turn off. Or if all occupants leave a house, alarms, locks and other security measures will be automatically implemented. Google’s Brillo, a home-automation platform announced earlier this year, will likewise increase the ease of developing home automation and IoT device control apps.

5. Virtual Reality

Google recently launched a virtual reality platform for developers that introduced an affordable VR device called “Google Cardboard.” Apple is also rumoured to be working on a VR project. Android allows developers to build VR apps with an immersive experience that can be used in a variety of industries, including gaming, entertainment, education and tourism.

While the education industry can use it to build apps that educate students on complex subjects like Einstein’s theories, the gaming industry can use VR to build interactive sets that require physical movement. The tourism industry can provide a 3D experience of a location thousands of miles away, and the entertainment industry can use it to deliver entertainment to your doorstep. Although still under wraps, VR has the potential to make the future even brighter for mobile app development.

These mobile technologies will play a big role for startups or enterprises that want to build apps to solve a problem. As the masses have become accustomed to existing mobile apps and features, these technologies will provide the needed impetus to innovate the mobile user experience. If you are planning to build a mobile app this year, consider implementing one or more of these features.

Mobile Phone Photo via Shutterstock

Read Why some iMessage Texts are Blue and some are Green

If you own an iPhone, you may have noticed something odd in the Messages app: Some messages are blue and some are green. What’s the deal with that?

Short answer: Blue ones have been sent or received using Apple’s iMessage technology, while green ones are “traditional” text messages exchanged via Short Messaging Service, or SMS.

Does this matter? In the grand texting scheme of things, should you care whether your messages are blue or green?

The Colour Question:

Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s start by making sure you have all the necessary information. A standard SMS text message is delivered over the same voice networks used for phone calls. Back in the bad old days, carriers charged by the message. Then they bundled a fixed number of messages into your calling plan, and now most of them offer unlimited messaging.

In the interim, Apple unveiled iMessage, which looks and acts like standard SMS but actually relies on data networks (cellular or Wi-Fi, whatever you’re connected to). That affords two benefits: freedom from carrier rates for SMS (if you’re paying extra for it or have a capped plan) and a wider set of messaging features.

Indeed, iMessage allows you to do things standard SMS can’t, like share your location, send walkie-talkie-style voice messages, check message delivery and even see if someone’s in the process of writing you back (indicated by those three little dots that appear below your last message).

With the arrival of iOS 10, Apple added even more iMessage goodies, like apps, stickers and bubble effects.

Blue FTW

Ah, but here’s the rub: You can only use iMessage with other iDevice owners. If you have an iPhone and you use the Messages app to contact an Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone user, iOS recognizes there’s no iMessage at the other end and switches (downshifts?) into SMS mode. Your indication that has happened? Green word bubbles instead of blue.

However, you may end up seeing green even if you’re corresponding with another iPhone. There are three possible causes:

 • iMessage isn’t activated on your device. (Tap Settings, Messages, then check to see if the feature is switched on. If it is, you should also activate “Send as SMS.” Note that you may need to perform a one-time sign-in using your Apple ID.)

 • iMessage isn’t activated on the recipient’s device.

 • There’s no data network available. If your phone can still connect to a voice tower, it will default back to SMS.

So, is there any reason you should disable iMessage and rely exclusively on SMS? Only if data is at a premium: Although text messages are very small, picture and video messages can consume a fair bit of data — and if your service plan offers unlimited texting but limited data, you may prefer to switch off iMessage in favor of SMS.

On the flip side, if you’re corresponding with fellow iPhone users but still seeing only green messages, ask them to enable iMessage at their end so you can enjoy the various benefits of the service. Many users have no idea iMessage is even a thing, and don’t realize it’s not enabled.

Editors’ note: This article was originally published on Feb. 24, 2015, and has since been updated. 

:  C|NET