App Install Optimisation on Google Play in the Works to Improve App Performance, Reduce Download Time

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Google Play Store image used for representation.

Google also adds that the feature does not collect any personal information, such as name or email address. The ‘app install optimisation’ also does not look at anything outside of the app, such as other apps or content on the device, the company claims.

Google is seemingly working to improve apps’ performance on Android smartphones. As spotted by 9to5Google, the software giant is developing ‘App install optimisation’ on Google Play that needs to be enabled manually to improve the app installation experience. The feature is not currently live, though the support page is accessible. Google explains that when users turn on the app install optimisation, the AI can tell which parts of app users use the first time after installation. “When enough people do this, Google can optimize the app to install, open, and run faster for everyone,” the support page notes. The feature is aimed to improve apps downloaded via the Google Play Store as Android phones are slowly getting heavy applications that read more memory to boot. Hence, select social media giants are reviving the ‘lite’ version of their platform for entry-level smartphones. Google also tried addressing this with App Bundles, a system that lets developers build multiple versions of their apps for different device configurations.

Since Google will be reviewing information for app optimisation the company notes that “all info is used in accordance with Google’s Privacy Policy.” The company’s ‘app install optimisation’ will use the data to speed up installation for apps from Google Play, reduce the amount of time it takes to open and run apps, and reduce strain on the smartphone’s CPU, battery, and storage. As mentioned, the option seems unavailable and Google will likely provide more details once the rollout is complete. Users can check the availability manually by heading to the menu (three vertical dots) > Settings > App install optimisation on or off.

Google also adds that the feature does not collect any personal information, such as name or email address. The ‘app install optimisation’ also does not look at anything outside of the app, such as other apps or content on the device, the company claims. Those not comfortable with the capability can turn it off from Play Store settings, but they will “still benefit from data gathered from other people.” References to the ‘app install optimisation’ feature were spotted on Google Play version 24.5.13.

Users can check the Google Play Store version by heading to Settings > Apps & notifications > Google Play services. Check the version number you have.


Microsoft Teams adds new features to iOS and Android

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Microsoft Teams app for Android and iOS devices received an update this week. The update to the teamwork and video-conferencing app brings a number of features to both platforms. However, the features included in the update are different on both platforms. The iOS update has more major features compared to its Android counterpart.

Launched on Microsoft Teams desktop the previous month, iOS users can now use live reactions during a team meeting or a one-to-one call. These reactions range from animated thumbs up to heart, clapping, laughter and more. Users with iPad will now be able to present in live events. This feature will help to share content with the team easily. Also, iOS users can now remove cached account information from the sign-in page.

For the Android folks, the new update brings minor updates. Now anyone can sign in and join events with Teams for friends and family. They also have the ability to forward meetings to one person or more. For users who have updated to Android 11, there is an improved notifications support on the top of the Notifications drawer.

The update is being rolled out for users worldwide. In order to get these features on your smartphones, ensure that the app is updated by going on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Recently, Microsoft Teams introduced Snap Camera (by Snapchat) integration with the desktop app giving users the ability to add AR filters. In addition, a “Together Mode” was introduced as well which lets the host transport the participants to a coffee shop, auditorium during a meeting.


Scientists develop new method to grow mouse embryos outside uterus

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The researchers came up with a two-step method in which they were able to grow normally developing mouse embryos outside the uterus for six days

Scientists have developed a novel method for growing mouse embryos outside the womb during the initial stages of development, an advance that can provide fresh insights into how genes influence the process, and may lead to new tools for understanding birth defects.

According to the researchers, including Jacob Hanna of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, current methods to study mammalian embryonic development involve either observing the process in non-mammals, like frogs or fish that lay transparent eggs, or obtaining static images from dissected mouse embryos and adding them together.

In the current study, published in the journal Nature, the scientists could finally grow early-stage embryos outside the uterus through trial and error over a span of nearly seven years, fine-tuning and double-checking the process.

Also read: Pre-embryos made in lab could spur research, ethics debates

The researchers came up with a two-step method in which they were able to grow normally developing mouse embryos outside the uterus for six days – around a third of their 20-day gestation period – by which time the embryos have a well-defined body plan and visible organs.

“To us, that is the most mysterious and the most interesting part of embryonic development, and we can now observe it and experiment with it in amazing detail,” Mr. Hanna said.

In the first step – which lasted around two days – the scientists started with several-days-old mouse embryos right after they would have implanted in the uterus.

At this stage, they said the embryos were balls consisting of 250 identical undifferentiated stem cells, and were placed on a special growth medium in a laboratory dish, and the team got the balls to attach to this medium as they would to the uterine wall.

Also read: Of mice and SARS-CoV-2

With this step, the researchers duplicated the first stage of embryonic development, in which the embryo doubles and triples in size as it differentiates into three layers — inner, middle, and outer.

Following this, as the embryos entered the next developmental stage, which involves the formation of organs from each of the layers, they needed additional conditions.

In this second step, the scientists placed the embryos in a nutrient solution in tiny beakers, which were set on rollers that kept the solutions in motion and continually mixed, the study noted.

According to the researchers, the mixing helped keep the embryos, which were growing without maternal blood flow to the placenta, bathed in the nutrients.

With further experiments, the scientists said they learned to closely control the gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide – not just the amounts, but the gas pressure as well.

Also read: German scientists make paralysed mice walk again

In subsequent steps, they inserted into the embryos genes that labelled the growing organs in fluorescent colours — an attempt whose success suggested that further experiments with this system, involving various genetic and other manipulations, would produce reliable results.

“We think you can inject genes or other elements into the cells, alter the conditions or infect the embryo with a virus, and the system we demonstrated will give you results consistent with development inside a mouse uterus,” Mr. Hanna said.

“If you give an embryo the right conditions, its genetic code will function like a pre-set line of dominos, arranged to fall one after the other,” he added.

Using this method, the scientists hope to answer such questions as why so many pregnancies fail to implant, why the window for implantation is so short, and which conditions in gestation may later lead to developmental disorders.

The researchers believe the new method will also lower the cost and speed up the process of research in the field of developmental biology and reduce the need for lab animals.


OnePlus 9R 5G to launch with gaming triggers to offer better experience to gamers

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OnePlus 9R 5G will officially launch in India on March 23. The company has already revealed that the device will offer a flagship experience at an affordable price. Now, the company is confirmed via its official Twitter that the OnePlus 9R 5G is a gaming phone. The teaser posted by OnePlus suggests that the premium phone will launch with a gaming trigger, which will offer an enhanced experience to gamers.

While the teaser shared by OnePlus doesn’t clearly show the gaming trigger accessory, the image posted by @thebookisclosed does give us a glimpse of it. It shows the OnePlus 9R 5G smartphone with a gaming trigger. Some of the reports are claiming that the OnePlus 9 Pro will also come with a gaming trigger. The Chinese company will likely sell this gaming accessory separately which will work on the OnePlus 9 series smartphones.

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau just recently confirmed in an interview that the OnePlus 9R will offer “smooth scrolling, immersive gaming controls and a superior viewing experience.” This also suggests that the smartphone will offer a high refresh rate display, apart from some additional gaming features. It seems that one of the key selling points of the OnePlus 9R will be gaming and performance as the company is emphasizing this a lot.

“With the OnePlus 9R, we are looking to go even further to bring out a balanced handset with the latest technology and class-leading industrial design that can deliver a superior user experience overall and can also offer fast and smooth experiences for daily usage and heavy gameplay,” Lau said.

The key specifications and design of the phone are currently under wraps. The rumour mill suggests the OnePlus 9R will pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 processor. Some of the reports claim that the device will arrive with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 SoC. It is said to feature a 90Hz punch-hole display. It is likely to feature a Full HD+ screen as well as multiple rear cameras.


Twitter may let you ‘undo’ your tweets if you’re ready to pay for it – Times of India

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Earlier this month, Twitter revealed that some paid subscriptions services are in the works. If Twitter users pay for subscription then they may get some premium features. Now it has been reported that one such feature will allow users to ‘undo’ their tweets.
According to security researcher Jane Manchun Wong, Twitter is working on app subscription for paid features like “Undo Tweet”. Wong put out a tweet regarding this.

The feature was then confirmed by Twitter to CNet. Wong meanwhile also showed briefly how the feature might work. The undo tweet feature is different from delete tweet. Undo will stop the tweet being sent out at all. It will also have a timer — in form of a progress bar — indicating to users how much time they have before they can undo the tweet. It’s not clear how much users will have to pay for this feature or will it be clubbed with other features for which users subscribe.
Twitter has revealed features called Super Follows and Communities, during a presentation for analysts and investors, claims a report by The Verge.
Starting with the Super Follows first, this feature will allow Twitter users to charge followers for access to exclusive content. “That could be bonus tweets, access to a community group, subscription to a newsletter, or a badge indicating your support” added the report.
As per the screenshot shared, Twitter showed an example where a user was charged $4.99 per month to receive a series of perks.
The second feature, called Communities, is a direct rival to Facebook Groups. These are aimed to connect people sharing similar interests.


WhatsApp privacy policy violates IT Rules, restrain its implementation, Centre tells HC

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The Centre on Friday told the Delhi High Court that the new privacy policy announced by WhatsApp in January violates the 2011 IT Rules on five counts, and urged it to restrain the messaging app from implementing it pending adjudication of the case by the court.

WhatsApp put the policy on hold after widespread criticism, but plans to implement it from May.

In its written response to a petition challenging the privacy policy, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology told the court that the policy fails to specify which types of sensitive personal data was being collected, notify the details of personal information collected to the user, provide an option to review or amend information and withdraw consent retrospectively, and guarantee further non-disclosure by third parties including other Facebook companies.

WhatsApp has used “extremely general terms” to list the kinds of data collected, with no distinction between personal data or sensitive personal data being collected, the government said.

The policy mentions the involvement of third-party service providers who may have access to the data, but does not provide the names and associated details of those service providers, it said.

“This is also the case for other Facebook companies, who are allowed to review and share information about the user from and with WhatsApp,” the Ministry said.

The policy is completely silent on correction or amendment of the information, the government said – for it to be compliant with the rules, it “must allow users to exercise this option for all kinds of data collected” which are mentioned in the policy.

While WhatsApp complies with the requirement of giving a user the choice of not providing their data, there is a “clear failure” in complying with the requirement of deletion of data if the user withdraws the consent for collection of data given earlier.

“WhatsApp has only provided the user with “Deleting Your WhatsApp Account” option in its privacy policy. If a user exercises this option, the policy clearly mentions that “your undelivered messages are deleted from our servers as well as any of other information we no longer need to operate and provide our Services”, the government said, adding that the “substantial corpus” of data may be retained even after the user deletes the account.

The government has pointed out that Rule 6(4) prohibits the disclosure of data received by a third party from a body corporate – WhatsApp in this case – and any policy that provides the scope for such further disclosure is to be seen as non-compliant. When WhatsApp shares data with a third party service, no further disclosure is permitted. However, the privacy policy explicitly “abdicates” the obligation.

“In the impugned policy, WhatsApp has stated that data and information will be freely shared with and received from other Facebook companies. Since the contract of the user is only with WhatsApp, all other Facebook companies are ‘third parties’ within the meaning of Rule 6(4), and any inter-sharing of data obtained from WhatsApp by these companies will amount to a violation of the restriction on further disclosure,” the government said in its reply.

The PIL pending before the court has sought the framing of guidelines to protect the privacy and data of users from being collected by various social media sites and messaging apps. The petition, filed by Noida resident Dr Seema Singh along with Delhi residents Meghan and Vikram Singh, has argued that the fissures in law with regard to the data are “quite conspicuous”, and a framework to regulate the same is the need of the hour.

In its reply, the government also said that the Centre has introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha, which, upon becoming law, will provide a robust regime on data protection “which will limit the ability of the entities such as WhatsApp issuing privacy policies which do not align with appropriate standards of security and data protection”.

“Pending the passage of this Bill, the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Rules made thereunder forms the extant regime on data protection, any privacy policy issued by a ‘body corporate’ such as WhatsApp must comply with the requirements specified in the Act and the accompanying Rules,” it said.

The hearing in the case was adjourned to April 20 on Friday. The government had earlier sought a clarification from WhatsApp regarding the privacy policy.


WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram went down: Here’s what the company has to say

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WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook suffered an outage in India and worldwide on Friday night. A lot of users were unable to send or receive messages. Some users also reported that they failed to even log in to WhatsApp Web. As per Downdetector, the issue started at around 10:40PM in India and prevented WhatsApp users from sending or receiving messages on the service for more than an hour. Though, WhatsApp is claiming that the service was only down for 49 minutes.

While the company didn’t reveal the exact reason, it did assert that there was a technical issue. “Earlier today, a technical issue caused people to have trouble accessing some Facebook services. We resolved this issue for everyone, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” a Facebook spokesperson told Indian Express.

Apart from WhatsApp, both Facebook and Instagram were also not working for many users. According to popular downtime reporting service, more than 28,500 people reported issues with Instagram and over 34,127 users were witnessing problems with WhatsApp.

The cited source suggests that over 49 percent of WhatsApp users were facing connection issue, 48 percent people were unable to send or receive messages on the platform and 2 percent were not able to log in.

Downdetector showed that around 57 percent Facebook users reported about total blackout and 29 percent were not even able to access the social media app. Around 66 percent of Instagram users were not able to access News Feed as well as its official website. In case you are not aware, Downdetector is a site that monitors outages by collating status reports from users and some other sources.

Besides, this is not the first time that the services have been impacted. In December 2020, WhatsApp went down alongside Instagram and Facebook for a few hours, before the services were restored.


Among Us to launch new ‘Airship’ map, new account system on March 31

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Popular strategy-based game Among Us will be launching its awaited new ‘Airship’ map in a new update on March 31. Game developer InnerSloth has said that the new map will be the biggest map in the game yet. It will also feature new tasks, along with the ability to pick the room in the ship where players want to start their game.

Among Us originally launched in 2018, but became a very popular title in 2020 during the pandemic, when a lot of people played the game from their homes. The easy-to-play, skill-based title that could be played on lower-end systems, and did not require complex tactics or communication strategies quickly became popular among the gaming community.

Here’s the tweet that Among Us shared regarding the new update.

Among Us has flaunted the new map in a trailer that released during The Game Awards back in December 2020. Check out the trailer below.

New account system

The new update will also bring a new account system to Among Us. InnerSLoth has been working on the ability to add in-game accounts to the popular deduction game for a while and a blog post by the developer stated that it didn’t want to rush to implement the feature in a half-baked state.

“A proper moderation system is one that is extremely difficult and time-consuming,” the studio said. “It is not as easy as just having a ‘report’ button and having an algorithm ban someone after a certain number of reports,” it added.

Among Us is currently available for PC, iOS, Android, and Switch. The game is also expected to be ported to the Xbox consoles later this year.


Google Rolls Out Threadit That Lets Users Record and Send TikTok-Like Short Videos for Work

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Google has launched a new tool Threadit, to lets users record short videos like in TikTok or Snapchat, that is shareable with colleagues to discuss work. The software giant says that the recorded-short video allows users to communicate without scheduling meetings or quickly summarise lengthy information. Threadit is available to download from the browser or as a Chrome extension, and the video can be shared in an email or chat. Google states that this helps in “reducing unnecessary meetings while still becoming a tighter-knit team.” To use the tool, users would need to speak straight to the camera or share the screen. Users  can also record multiple short clips that would get stitched together into one cohesive video message.

As expected anyone can reply with their own video message when they are ready. Speaking more over the development, Keller Smith, General Manager at Threadit says, “I would send a Threadit to my colleagues in Japan during my normal working hours in Seattle; they’d respond during the hours that worked for them in Tokyo. Threadit helped us feel like we were working together in person, even though we were responding at different times from across the world.” Similarly, it seems that users can already record short clips and send them to others via channels such as WhatsApp or even via email. The makers of the tool note that since Threadit comes as a browser extension, it is all a matter of convenience.

In case users use the Chrome extension, they can record clips or anything on the screen at any time, even from within Gmail. It is shareable via a link. The latest tool has been built by a team at Area 120, Google’s incubator division, with the aim to make remote working more competent.


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