Saudi Lifts Ban on WhatsApp, Skype Calls but Will Monitor and Censor Them

Saudi Lifts Ban on WhatsApp, Skype Calls but Will Monitor and Censor Them

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Saudi government is lifting a ban on calls made through online apps
  • Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger, and Viber will become accessible
  • Saudi government will keep a check on these VoIP services

The Saudi government is lifting a ban on calls made through online apps such as Skype and WhatsAppon Thursday as part of its economic reforms, but a spokesman said it will monitor and censor such calls.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy the kingdom’s regulatory requirements, were set to become accessible.

Lifting the ban is part of the Saudi government’s broader reforms of the economy to help boost businesses and diversify the economy in response to low oil prices.

Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations aimed to protect users’ personal information and block content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

It was unclear how the authorities can monitor apps such as WhatsApp, which says its messages are supported by end-to-end encryption, meaning the company cannot read customers’ messages even if approached by law enforcement agencies.

Internet communications have become widespread but Saudi Arabia began blocking them from 2013, wary that such services could be used by activists.

The “Arab Spring” mass protests in 2011 were often organised over the Internet, though Gulf Arab states, except the island kingdom of Bahrain, mostly escaped the uprisings.

The decision to lift the blocks could negatively impact Saudi Arabia’s three main telecoms operators – Saudi Telecom Co (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi – which earn the bulk of their revenue from international phone calls made by the millions of expatriates living in the kingdom.

Zain Saudi’s CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos, told Reuters some lost income could be recouped through expansion of its own data services.

“The Saudi market has a strong appetite for faster data throughput and higher data use packages,” he said in an email. “The opportunity to monetize the extra data usage will partially offset voice revenue losses”.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cash is not just the norm but also embedded in culture
  • New systems like mPOS terminals are making digital more convenient
  • Apps like BHIM help bring payments from India to Bharat as a whole

In India, cash is culture. It’s everywhere, inspiring Hindi film songs, being doled out by loving grandparents, occupying a key role in religious rituals, and even fuelling a parallel economy. So resistance to any alternative method of payment is only to be expected.

This is amply evident from the way digital transactions, which had spiked from 672 million in November 2016 to 958 million in December 2016 because of demonetisation, plummeted to 763 million (February 2017) once the new currency came back in circulation, as per RBI data. The latest numbers show some growth, but it’s a far cry from the peak in December even now.

It’s a challenge that Digital India is up for. Driving the shift from cash to digital payments are a host of factors – a huge population of young, aspiring people embracing the digital lifestyle, the “India Stack” of four technology layers (presenceless, paperless, cashless, consent), and a robust real-time payments infrastructure in which the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is the crown jewel. But beyond doubt, policies such as banning the use of cash for transactions amounting to Rs. 200,000 or more are also making an impact. In his budget speech this year, the Minister of Finance announced a mission tasked with achieving 25 billion digital transactions in the year 2017-18 through various means including Aadhaar Pay, UPI, USSD, IMPS, and debit cards.

payment systems

That’s a tall order for an economy where 98 percent of consumer payments are still made in cash. Before this can happen though, several barriers lie in the way. The “cash habit” is at the top of the list, followed by the complexity of using digital payment methods.

Cash is easy
The second factor is telling. A huge reason why cash still rules as a medium of exchange is that it is simple and convenient. Digital payment mechanisms, which might be convenient in some ways – (they save a trip to the bank and are easy to carry around) – are actually less convenient at the point of use. To understand this, visualise the process of using a mobile wallet – log in, authenticate yourself, scan code, enter amount, authorise payment – and now compare it to the ease of handing out cash.

Currently, there is friction on both sides of the digital payment transaction. The abundance of payment options with their different POS hardware and procedures is confusing merchants, who don’t know where to draw the line. This isn’t making life simpler for consumers either.

Clearly, digital payments must become frictionless before they can find mass acceptance.

mpos machine eze

Technology and innovation can do much to facilitate that. For instance, Ezetap has introduced a mobile-based payments acceptance device that merchants can use for all types of digital payments. Another good example is Tonetag, one of our partner firms, which has found an alternative solution to NFC technology with a communication mechanism that uses sound waves. Merchants can even accept cards in much the same way as before; customers need to authorise the payment like they do with NFC, with a swipe, password or OTP.

Ezetap, Tonetag, and others like them reduce the friction in payments, but they don’t eliminate it altogether. Some other forces need to come together to make digital payments as convenient as cash.

Bharat, and not just India
One of these is the digitisation of low-income consumers, which received a shot in the arm when the BHIM app was launched a couple of months after demonetisation with the goal of enabling those with a bank account but no cards, to make digital payments. Another factor is the growth of e-commerce players, who, by accepting card or wallet payments on delivery, have eased even reluctant cash customers into digital payments. The next level of e-commerce, namely smart commerce, will drive digital payments even higher, using AI and analytics to spur consumption.

bhim full

To see what that looks like, you need only look to Amazon, which has mastered the use of consumer analytics to anticipate needs, personalise recommendations, or simply remind customers of something they had shown interest in.

These forces are still brewing at present. When they take firm hold, India will make more meaningful progress towards digital payments. While the timeline for that is uncertain, once the conditions fall into place, the shift from cash to digital will be swift and irreversible.

Venkatramana Gosavi is Senior Vice President and Regional Head, Infosys Finacle, and has been working with Finacle for over 15 years now.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cash is not just the norm but also embedded in culture
  • New systems like mPOS terminals are making digital more convenient
  • Apps like BHIM help bring payments from India to Bharat as a whole

In India, cash is culture. It’s everywhere, inspiring Hindi film songs, being doled out by loving grandparents, occupying a key role in religious rituals, and even fuelling a parallel economy. So resistance to any alternative method of payment is only to be expected.

This is amply evident from the way digital transactions, which had spiked from 672 million in November 2016 to 958 million in December 2016 because of demonetisation, plummeted to 763 million (February 2017) once the new currency came back in circulation, as per RBI data. The latest numbers show some growth, but it’s a far cry from the peak in December even now.

It’s a challenge that Digital India is up for. Driving the shift from cash to digital payments are a host of factors – a huge population of young, aspiring people embracing the digital lifestyle, the “India Stack” of four technology layers (presenceless, paperless, cashless, consent), and a robust real-time payments infrastructure in which the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is the crown jewel. But beyond doubt, policies such as banning the use of cash for transactions amounting to Rs. 200,000 or more are also making an impact. In his budget speech this year, the Minister of Finance announced a mission tasked with achieving 25 billion digital transactions in the year 2017-18 through various means including Aadhaar Pay, UPI, USSD, IMPS, and debit cards.

payment systems

That’s a tall order for an economy where 98 percent of consumer payments are still made in cash. Before this can happen though, several barriers lie in the way. The “cash habit” is at the top of the list, followed by the complexity of using digital payment methods.

Cash is easy
The second factor is telling. A huge reason why cash still rules as a medium of exchange is that it is simple and convenient. Digital payment mechanisms, which might be convenient in some ways – (they save a trip to the bank and are easy to carry around) – are actually less convenient at the point of use. To understand this, visualise the process of using a mobile wallet – log in, authenticate yourself, scan code, enter amount, authorise payment – and now compare it to the ease of handing out cash.

Currently, there is friction on both sides of the digital payment transaction. The abundance of payment options with their different POS hardware and procedures is confusing merchants, who don’t know where to draw the line. This isn’t making life simpler for consumers either.

Clearly, digital payments must become frictionless before they can find mass acceptance.

mpos machine eze

Technology and innovation can do much to facilitate that. For instance, Ezetap has introduced a mobile-based payments acceptance device that merchants can use for all types of digital payments. Another good example is Tonetag, one of our partner firms, which has found an alternative solution to NFC technology with a communication mechanism that uses sound waves. Merchants can even accept cards in much the same way as before; customers need to authorise the payment like they do with NFC, with a swipe, password or OTP.

Ezetap, Tonetag, and others like them reduce the friction in payments, but they don’t eliminate it altogether. Some other forces need to come together to make digital payments as convenient as cash.

Bharat, and not just India
One of these is the digitisation of low-income consumers, which received a shot in the arm when the BHIM app was launched a couple of months after demonetisation with the goal of enabling those with a bank account but no cards, to make digital payments. Another factor is the growth of e-commerce players, who, by accepting card or wallet payments on delivery, have eased even reluctant cash customers into digital payments. The next level of e-commerce, namely smart commerce, will drive digital payments even higher, using AI and analytics to spur consumption.

bhim full

To see what that looks like, you need only look to Amazon, which has mastered the use of consumer analytics to anticipate needs, personalise recommendations, or simply remind customers of something they had shown interest in.

These forces are still brewing at present. When they take firm hold, India will make more meaningful progress towards digital payments. While the timeline for that is uncertain, once the conditions fall into place, the shift from cash to digital will be swift and irreversible.

Venkatramana Gosavi is Senior Vice President and Regional Head, Infosys Finacle, and has been working with Finacle for over 15 years now.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review: Better but not the best

galaxy tab s3Had the device been Rs 10k cheaper, it would have been a genuine challenger to the iPad Pro, in fact it would have been hard to argue in the iPad’s support but being offered at the same cost makes it hard to recommend over the iPad Pro.
Rating:     

There never has been a real tablet market — there’s an iPad market and then there are the rest of them. Windows sure has produced some impressive devices in the 2-in-1 and high-end segment, and most of the Android tablets fall under the lower-end category. And thanks to the big screened phablets, tablets are becoming less attractive each passing day.

galaxy tab s3

An Android tablet with top of the line features is a rare occurrence these days, and the Galaxy Tab S3 is another example why. Samsung’s latest tablet is premium looking, zippy and comes with a great display, but the Android experience on a tablet still isn’t up to the mark. The Tab S3 is without a doubt a great device, but do we really need this tablet at all? Let’s find out.

Design

In terms of design, the Galaxy Tab S3 resembles the iPad Pro (review) featuring nearly same dimensions but in a lighter form. Both devices have the same display size and the pixel resolution.

The tablet is extremely slim, at just 6mm, however, it slightly thicker than its predecessor Tab S2 (also heavier at 429g). It also feels more premium than the Tab S2, but it looks a bit odd with unusual USB port placement. Both headphone jack and the charging USB port are placed off-centre.

galaxy tab s3

galaxy tab s3

galaxy tab s3

galaxy tab s3

The noticeable changes happened on the rear end, where the Tab S3 boasts a new glass panel. Although, glass makes the tablet look stunning, it acts as a smudge and grime magnet too. Sweat marks, fingerprints and smudges are clearly visible, making it look unappealing. However, the silver colour variant hides the fingerprints slightly better than the black variant.

galaxy tab s3

The Galaxy Tab S3 has an advantage when it comes to the stylus S-Pen that comes bundled with the device. Unlike the iPad’s Apple Pencil costs users a separate $99, users here don’t have to shell out extra money for the S-Pen. Samsung has worked well on the S-Pen this time around and made it more intuitive and impressive. It can work with third party app as well and hovering the pen over the edges will provide quick access to shortcuts for screen shots, notes and others. The shortcuts can also be customised according to the user’s needs.

galaxy tab s3

The S-Pen offers four times pressure sensitivity similar to Apple’s Pencil. It is capable of recognising whether a user is shading or putting more pressure on the nib, making it a useful and effective tool for jotting down notes or doodling and digital painting.

Display

The Galaxy Tab S3 comes with a 9.7-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution. The screen now supports HDR content and has some serious brightness, making it an excellent tool for media consumption. Colours on the display look crisp and images are filled with good amount of detail. But the downside is that there is not a lot of HDR content as of now. It’s surely an upgrade in quality, but since the content isn’t available yet, it’s like paying in advance for something that will deliver the improved quality later.

galaxy tab s3

While the display is impressive, it fails to look good in all conditions — it’s too reflective. It is nothing compared to the display on the iPad — Apple’s True Tone display is capable of changing colour temperature for a more comfortable viewing experience, and has an anti-reflective surface too. The Tab S3 only allows user to optionally switch on the blue light filter.

Performance

The Galaxy Tab S3 uses the dated Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, which is a let down since most of the users expect more storage on a media-focused tablet. But at least it offers a microSD card slot for storage expansion. Although the chip used here is older, the quad-core chip does a good job and handles almost every task with ease. Performance wise, the device is smooth and is capable of running intensive apps easily.

galaxy tab s3

The tablet runs on the company’s TouchWiz UI wrapped under Android 7.0 Nougat. At its core, the software largely borrows from the Galaxy S8, with similar interface and the pre-loaded apps of course.

The tablet comes equipped with a 13MP rear camera which performs below par, but then again you shouldn’t expect much from a tablet camera. The pictures lack detail and depth and the colour reproduction isn’t impressive. It sports a 5MP front facing snapper with an f/2.2 aperture and it is good enough for video calling.

galaxy tab s3

On the connectivity front, the Tab S3 offers Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO and optional LTE Cat 6, but misses out on the NFC or an infrared sensor. For added security, the company has added a fingerprint sensor incorporated under the home button. The sensor is fast and responsive as one would expect and also comes in handy for unlocking the Samsung account.

Battery

The Galaxy Tab S3 draws power from a massive 6000mAh battery, which is bigger than the one seen on the Tab S2. The tab is capable of providing 12 hours of video playback, but that can change in case of the HDR content. The standby time on the device is brilliant; you might go without using the device for days and it will still have enough fuel to power the device for moderate usage.

The tablet charges using the USB Type-C port, but there is no option for wireless charging. The bundled fast charger will fully charge the device in about two and a half hours, which is pretty good for a 6000mAh battery.

Verdict

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is one of the best Android tablets amidst those launched recently. If you are looking for a device that can go against the likes of the iPad Pro but runs on Android, then this is it. Performance on the tablet is great, even though it looks more like an early 2016 flagship phone on the paper. If you have Rs 47,990 and want a tablet only to get the best video-watching experience, then it highly recommended. Also it comes bundled with the S-Pen which is good for creativity and productivity and is fun to play around with. However, if you are ready to shell out more money, then the iPad Pro is the go-to tablet for you. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro (WiFi + Cellular) is priced at Rs 61,400 for the 64GB. The keyboard will cost you another Rs 14,000, and the Pencil for around Rs 9,000.

But it seems the Korean giant is pushing the limits of the tablet too far. The software is not well-optimised, multitasking options are limited and the UI is buggy at times. The tablet almost checks every box a tablet can, but sadly all those high-end features come at a hefty price.

Had the device been Rs 10k cheaper, it would have been a genuine challenger to the iPad Pro, in fact it would have been hard to argue in the iPad’s support but being offered at the same cost makes it hard to recommend over the iPad Pro.

[“Source-deccanchronicle”]