Microsoft Outlook.com’s Premium Service Ditches Preview, Now Available to Users in US

Microsoft started testing its Outlook Premium service, the ad-free premium version of Outlook.com, with a limited number of users earlier last year and then made the service available as a preview for public later. Even though Microsoft has not made any announcement, the service has now ditched its ‘preview’ tag and become available to all users in the US.

Microsoft Outlook.com's Premium Service Ditches Preview, Now Available to Users in US

Notably, the company is still offering the same offer price as it did with the preview, i.e. $19.95 (roughly Rs. 1,350) for a year, and a price of $50 (roughly Rs. 3,350) per year after that, as pointed out in a report by Thurrott. For the custom domain, users need to pay $10 (roughly Rs. 670) but custom domain subscriptions are not available on a stand-alone basis; a concurrent Outlook.com Premium subscription is required, the company says on its website.

The offer price will be available till March this year after which users will need to pay regular price of $50 per year. The service has still been kept exclusive to the US customers and company hasn’t provided any details if it plans to roll it out to other countries.

Outlook Premium, apart from ad-free inbox, also provides better calendar sharing, among other premium features. Most notably, it brings support for up to five new custom domain accounts, a feature which was removed by the company in 2014 from Outlook.com. The subscription for the premium version will auto-renew annually at “then current prices” and there will be an additional charge for the custom domain, the company has mentioned on its website’s FAQ (frequently asked questions) page.

The company has already clarified that the premium version will only support up to five custom domains, and users who are interested in more can instead opt for Office 365 Business Essentials. Further, the custom domains will be cancelled as soon as the users cancel their subscription to Outlook Premium.

An Uber for Ride-Sharing on Private Planes? Court Says No

Private pilots can’t offer flight-sharing services to the public using an Internet model similar to those developed by Uber and Lyft, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The ruling upholds a decision earlier this year by the Federal Aviation Administration that said the service offered by Boston-based Flytenow violates flight regulations.

The company’s website connected private pilots with passengers willing to share fuel costs and other flight expenses. Such cost-sharing arrangements have been allowed for decades through word of mouth, bulletin boards and email.

But the FAA said that posting a planned trip on a website was like advertising and subjected private pilots to the same elaborate safety regulations as pilots for commercial airlines. That forced the company to shut down.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the FAA that rules prohibiting private pilots from being paid include partial payments made to cover flight expenses. The three-judge panel also rejected Flytenow’s arguments that it wasn’t acting like a “common carrier.”

Flytenow said it only provided services to people who became members and that its pilots had the discretion to reject passengers on a case-by-case basis. Writing for the court, Judge Cornelia Pillard said membership “requires nothing more than signing up” on the website. She said refusing some customers doesn’t change the company’s commercial purpose.

The FAA’s decision would not end the longstanding practice of allowing pilots to let passengers share flight expenses, as long as the invitation is limited to defined groups, Pillard said. She also rejected Flytenow’s argument that the FAA was restricting the company’s freedom of speech, saying the advertising of illegal activity has never been protected speech.

Alan Guichard, chief financial officer and co-founder of Flytenow, said the decision means “less choice for consumers and less innovation in general aviation.” He said the company is considering an appeal.

An FAA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google Chrome 47 Finally Removes Desktop Notifications Centre

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As promised back in October, Google with Chrome 47 for Windows, Mac, and Linux has removed the desktop notification centre. Several bug fixes also come as part of the update. The search giant has also rolled out Chrome 47 for iOS with some new features. Chrome 47 for Android is expected to hit Google Play soon.

Google in October announced its plans to remove the Chrome desktop notification centre because not many users utilised it, and some had even disabled it. It was introduced in 2013. The feature however, is still present in Chrome OS for now. Google added that in this version, notifications sent to the notification centre would result in an error “and API events tied to the centre will no longer fire.”

Google Chrome 47 besides removing the notification centre also included several bug fixes, most of which were detected using AddressSanitizer and MemorySanitizer codes, says the blog post. It also lists 41 security fixes as a part of its bounty rewards programme. The version has already been rolled out for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

On iOS, Chrome 47 adds support for more hardware keyboard shortcuts. iOS users can now open, close and change tabs or conduct a voice search by using Bluetooth and Smart Connector hardware keyboards. Chrome for iOS also brings support for 3D Touch for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models. 3D Touch on the Chrome icon will open a new tab, a new incognito tab or trigger voice search. The app is available to download from App Store.

As for Chrome 47 for Android, the version has been in beta since October, and several features are expected to make it to. As per the blog post by Google, Chrome 47 Beta for Android will let developers add splash screens to Web apps when a site is launched from the Android home screen. This would show users ‘something meaningful’ as the content is loaded in the background. “Developers can customize the splash screen by setting a name, icon, background color, and notification bar color in the web app manifest,” adds the post. The version will also allow developers to configure automatic dismissal of desktop notifications to improve the experience for notifications coming from social media websites and emails. The blog post lists other upcoming updates as well.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Alok Goel Join Board of Deals App ‘Little’

Hyperlocal discovery app Little has added Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Saif Partners’ Alok Goel to its board.

“Both Vijay and Alok will be joining our board of directors at Little Internet. We have three members, and it will expand with the addition of these two,” said Little CEO and Co-Founder Manish Chopra, speaking to Gadgets 360.

“I’m quite excited that both these seasoned players are joining us. They have great experience in high volume transaction businesses, with Alok having been at Google, redBus, and FreeCharge, and Vijay, having created one of the iconic unicorns in the country,”

Chopra said that the app currently sees over 15,000 transactions a day, with a merchant base of nearly ten thousand merchants, serving close to thirty thousand active, live deals on its platform. Little currently covers eleven cities and will be expanding to fifteen very quickly, he added. “A lot of people talk of large numbers as listings, these are merchants who have contacts and agreements with us,” he said.

Little had acquired Chandigarh based Trideal in October. The teams and operations have been assimilated into Little, Chopra said.

The Little app is available for download on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Deals available on Little’s app can be availed exclusively using Paytm’s mobile wallet. Chopra said that the partnership was a natural fit, due to their last investment round.

Little had raised $50 million in its funding round led by Paytm, SAIF Partners, and Tiger Global in July this year.

China’s Didi Bullish on US Partner Lyft, Criticises Uber

Ride-hailing company Didi Kuaidi, the Chinese front of an anti-Uber Technologies Inc alliance, said it is seeing better than expected results from its September investment in Lyft, Uber’s main rival on its US home turf.

“The strategic partnership we’ve built has been actually more successful than we anticipated from the beginning,” said Didi’s Stephen Zhu, vice president of strategy, in a group interview in Beijing on Tuesday.

“Ever since we invested in Lyft, their market share has grown so much,” Zhu said, without giving exact figures. Earlier this month, Lyft told Reuters it expects to reach $1 billion in gross annual revenue.

Didi, backed by Chinese tech behemoths Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, is locked in a battle in China with US rival Uber.

Along with Lyft, Didi has also taken stakes in ride hailing apps GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia and Ola in India, where each also competes with Uber, now valued at around $51 billion (roughly Rs. 3,39,240 crores).

Behind each of these firms bar Lyft, there is another common backer: Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

Didi’s battle with Uber in China has been especially brutal, with each firm burning through more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,651 crores), much of it on subsidised discounts in an effort to lure in hordes of customers.

“We spent money because there was a competitor there spending money irrationally,” said Zhu, who declined to name the competitor or say how much Didi spent, but did say that its subsidies are much lower than the competitors’ and that its market share has increased in China.

“Our competitor is definitely not in great shape,” he said, as it is “fighting a major global war”.

Zhu pointed at the rival’s heavy spending in emerging markets, like the home bases of Didi, GrabTaxiand Ola, and its lack of market share there.

Uber, which declined to comment, has previously accused its rival of spending wastefully.

Didi is not currently profitable, though it said it is breaking even in more than 100 cities. For Zhu, the issue of monetisation is mainly one that lies two to three years down the road.

Didi said it plans to offer its private car service in 400 cities in China by February, compared with the 259 cities it currently serves.

“There will be a time that people will find by spending money you will not be able to buy market share,” said Zhu. “There will be an inflection point.”

Adobe Premiere Clip Video Editor App Launched for Android

Adobe is finally bringing its video editor to Google’s Android mobile platform. Called Adobe Premiere Clip, the app is a lightweight and ostensibly stripped down version of Premiere’s desktop counterpart. Available for free, the app also aims to make it easier for users to stitch together photos and clips and convert them into a “finished video story.”

Premiere Clip, much like its iOS counterpart that was released last year, is a free video editor and comes with a range of Premiere features such as the ability to trim parts of a video, adjust lighting, and add effects to videos. Adobe realises that it can get clunkier to edit a video on a small screen, which is why the app lets you drag and drop clips and photos.

As mentioned in its description, the app also lets you add soundtracks and adjust their pace. There’s a feature called ‘Smart Volume’ that lets you smooth the audio levels between clips, and Auto Mix to balance soundtracks with your audio. The company is also putting emphasis on the sharing aspect, making videos “immediately shareable.” Finished videos can be directly shared to Twitter, Facebook, orYouTube.

The release of Premiere Clip is a big move from Adobe, which has until now remained more inclined to the desktop and Apple’s iOS platform. Over the past few months, the company has, however, become focused on mobile platform. In October, it launched Adobe Photoshop Fix, Capture CC, and Illustrator Draw apps for mobile devices.

Chrome for Android Can Now Save Up to 70 Percent Data, Says Google

Google has updated its Chrome browser for Android to improve its Data Saver feature. The company said users can now experience mobile Internet savings of up to 70 percent with the improvements.

If users have the Data Saver feature turned on (Settings>Advanced>Data Saver>On), Chrome for Android will remove images from websites if it detects a slow connection. Once the webpage has been loaded, users can tap on ‘load images’ in the black notification bar shown at the bottom of the display to show all the images or only the individual ones which they want. The Data Saver option can be found under the ‘Settings’ option in the browser app.

Tal Oppenheimer, Product Manager, Google said the expanded Data Saver Mode will be reaching India and Indonesia first followed by other regions in ‘coming months’. It is worth noting that Google’s Data Saver feature has been available for mobile devices through Chrome for Android and Chrome for iOS in general release form since 2014.

In March this year, Google launched a Chrome browser extension called Data Saver to save bandwidth and time when loading Web pages. Apart from saving bandwidth and loading Web pages faster, the extension also boosts security, since all sites are routed through Google’s servers, where they are checked for malware and malicious pages.

To save Internet data across the apps, Opera Software in June brought its Opera Max data-saving application to India. The app helps users compress all non-encrypted mobile data being downloaded onto their smartphones, and is helpful for those who have limited data plans, or low bandwidth.

WhatsApp Blocking Links to Rival Telegram?

Popular instant messaging app WhatsApp appears to be blocking any links to rival chat service Telegram. While WhatsApp still allows users to share Telegram links, another popular chat client, it doesn’t treat them as hyperlinks. The problem only appears to be occurring on the WhatsApp forAndroid client, and iOS remains unaffected.

Several Telegram users reported on Monday that WhatsApp was blocking links to Telegram.me on its service. Such messages, furthermore, can’t be copied or forwarded to friends. Gadgets 360 independently verified the claim and also found that many other links with Telegram as the server name were also blocked by WhatsApp. Telegram.notme and Telegram.com, that are not related with Telegram service, for instance, are also being blocked.

Notably, Telegram links messaged by the iOS app show up as un-clickable links on Android, while links shared by the Android app to iOS can be opened on Apple’s platform.

Telegram has earned a name providing end-to-end encryption technologies on its chat platform. The service, which uses multiple layers of encryption, is so secure that even terrorist groups such as Isis turn to it. Though Telegram gained substantial popularity only following a major WhatsApp outage last year and on other occasions.

Telegram has confirmed this suspicious activity by WhatsApp to The Verge. The company told the publication that a silent update to WhatsApp seems to have added this capability to the chat app. Some users who don’t have the latest version of the app installed might not see the block on Telegram links just yet. A Telegram spokesperson added, “Typically after a media backlash, FB steps back and blames their intelligent filtering for the problem. We expect the same to happen this time as well.”

This isn’t the first time Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has been accused of censoring content and blocking links. Over the years, the company has also blocked links to torrent websites and to spam websites. Most recently, the company blocked links to Tsu.co, a social network that pays users part of the ad revenue. WhatsApp or Facebook is yet to comment on the blockage. At this point, it is not known whether Telegram.me links are getting blocked in the aftermath of a software hiccup, or WhatsApp is intentionally blocking links to its rival app.

Are you also facing blocked Telegram links on WhatsApp for other platforms? Let us know ‚Äčin the comments section below.

Google Adds Star Wars’ Aurabesh Language Support to Translate

Earlier this week, Google started to allow users to customise their Google apps and services (such asSearch, YouTube, and Gmail) to reflect their Star Wars preference – the Light or Dark side of the Force. The Mountain View-based company has now added some more references from one of the biggest movie franchises in its other services.

Google Translate now supports Aurebesh, a writing system that you may best remember from Star Wars. Luke Skywalker, the main protagonist of the Original Star Wars trilogy, learned to read Aurebesh in his childhood in the science fiction movie franchise. Users can now go to Translate on Web and have any word or sentence they want to translated into Aurebesh, after selecting the language from output settings.google_watch_face_star_wars.jpgSeparately, the official Star Wars Android app has received an update that offers an Android Wearwatch face. The watch face contains three themes: Dark side, Light side, and droids. The Dark side has a red theme with the Death Star in the background. The Light side is green-themed and contains a starscape in the background. The droid theme, as you could guess, is blue-themed and has R2-D2 in the background. The watch face is interactive feature, and users can tap on the date to see what happened today in Star Wars history.

Google had announced the “Choose your side” promotional campaign offer earlier this week. The company has since rolled out Star Wars references to Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Search, and YouTube. The company also plans to offer VR experiences around Star Wars for Google Cardboard next week. Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases on December 18.

Apps That Can Help You Screen Your Screen Time

Between daughters who prefer texting to any other form of communication, my workplace’s mandate to be follow-worthy on a variety of social-media platforms and a journalist’s general FOMO on the news, I’m on my iPhone quite often. Too often. Sometimes I catch myself picking it up and scrolling through Twitter or Facebook out of boredom, when my time would be better spent talking to a human (or even my dogs), or reading something more than a few sentences long. But, because of the aforementioned daughters, I’m not really comfortable turning my phone off and sticking it in a drawer.

Could the phone itself help me reduce my time on it, I wondered? Or was that like asking the fox to guard the hen house?

To find out, I downloaded an app called BreakFree. It uses a “highly advanced” algorithm to determine how addicted you are to your phone, crunching data such as how many times you unlock your screen and how long your phone is in continuous use. The idea is to keep your score under 40. A score of 40 to 70 puts you in the yellow zone. Above 70 is red.

Some days, I reasoned, life would make me red. Say my family was traveling somewhere, and we were using a navigation app and receiving messages from people we were meeting, plus looking up hotels and restaurants – a perfect storm of usage. But most days, I thought, surely I would stay in the yellow zone.

Turned out I was in the red. Every. Single. Day.

Checking the app’s dashboard triggered warnings such as, “Step away from the phone.” Though I tried to set up notifications to alert me to overuse, I never saw them for some reason.

BreakFree gives Android users tools to disable the Internet or send auto-text messages, which I’d find very helpful. Apple blocks those features, but developers say they are working on others.

iOS and Android. Free with $1.99 (roughly Rs. 135) in-app purchase in iPhone, $2.49 (roughly Rs. 165) per tool on Android.

With BreakFree leaving this Apple devotee still chained to her screen, I downloaded Moment, an app that tells iPhone users exactly when they start using their phone and how long they remain on it each time. You might be surprised to learn that you picked up your phone at 7am and spent 35 minutes reading email and scrolling through news feeds instead of hopping out of bed.

Most helpful is the ability to program screen-free time, set a maximum amount of usage per day, set reminders that pop up every few minutes or hours to tell you how much time you’ve spent on the phone, and even ask your phone to force you off if you go beyond your usage limit. How does it do that? An alarm will sound continuously and notifications will pop up until you turn off the screen or disable the feature.

moment_app_screenshot.jpgParents brave enough to endure the blowback can download Moment Family, which will keep track of your loved ones’ digital time, and allow them to set limits and schedule screen-free dinners. No more furtive looks at phones hidden under the dinner table? That’s definitely something I would have appreciated when my kids were younger.