WhatsApp Becomes Free, Drops Annual Subscription Fee


WhatsApp Becomes Free, Drops Annual Subscription Fee

WhatsApp will be getting rid of its $1 (approximately Rs. 68) annual subscription fee this year. The widely used messaging app confirmed plans to ditch annual fee from all of its apps across various platforms over the next several weeks.

Until now, WhatsApp asked some users to pay an annual fee for using the app after the first year of use – though as many of us have experienced, most users were not asked to pay after a year, and instead were given extensions each year. The company however believes that the approach of annual fee hasn’t worked successfully.

“Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service”, says the company in an official blog post.

While confirming plans to axe the annual subscription, the company also hinted that the app is now being used by “nearly a billion people around the world.” Unfortunately, WhatsApp has not officially revealed the exact number of users worldwide like it did before. To recall, the popular instant messaging app reached over 900 million monthly active users milestone back in September last year.

Apart from scrapping the annual fee, WhatsApp also revealed its upcoming plans where it wants people to connect with businesses and organisation directly. The messaging service plans to bring tools for the new target audience. WhatsApp believes people can communicate with the bank or any other utility services directly via the messaging app. “We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp,” adds the company.

WhatsApp for now has not detailed the tools it will be testing for bringing businesses and organisation closer to its users but we can expect to hear more soon. The company alongside also stressed that removing annual fee will not mean WhatsApp will introduce third-party ads.


Microsoft Selfie App for iOS Updated With New Features and Interface

Microsoft Selfie App for iOS Updated With New Features and Interface

The Microsoft Selfie app that was introduced last month for iOS has now been updated with a new logo, new UI, and some new features as well.

The Microsoft Selfie v2.0.0 besides a new UI and logo, introduces a ‘Share’ feature using which you can send the selfie images clicked to others, something that was missing earlier. The version also fixes a bug that led the app to crash when the device is in airplane mode. Users can also rate the app by going in to the Settings page.

The Microsoft Selfie app’s function is to simply make the images appear enhanced and better by automatically adjusting the colour balance, skin tone, and lighting in the given environment. The app takes age, gender, skin tone, lighting, and many other variables into account and captures image accordingly. The iOS users can either click a new image from the device’s front-facing or rear camera, or select an existing image from the local storage. The image can be further edited using any one of the 13 photo filters along with other functions such as noise reduction, colour theme, and others. Microsoft has not yet given any word on when they will launch the app for Android. The updated app isavailable to download from App Store.

This app gives us a glimpse of Microsoft’s machine learning technology. The company demoed its machine-learning tech in May by introducing its How Old website, which uses the machine learning technology to detect the age of a user from a photograph. The company also said that Project Oxford, which can already determine your age by looking at your photo, can now also read your emotional state. It says that Project Oxford, among other things, can identify the following qualities: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, or even the “neutral” state.


Isis Develops ‘Alrawi’ Encrypted Messaging App for Android: Report

Isis Develops 'Alrawi' Encrypted Messaging App for Android: ReportThe Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) militant group has reportedly created an encrypted Android messaging app to enable secure communications between its members. Dubbed Alrawi, the app aims to make it harder for security agencies and governments to intercept the communications of Isis members.

The app, first discovered by counterterrorism network Ghost Security Group, is not available to download from the Google Play store. Instead, it requires an Isis supporter to download the app’s apk code and sideload it on their Android device. Last year, Ghost Security Group uncovered Amaq Agency, another app by Isis that was used to send its members news and recruitment information.

“The application’s primary purpose is for propaganda distribution. Using the app you are able to follow the most recent news and video clips.” Ghost Security representatives told tech blog Defense One. The group has been found of releasing a booklet that provides a list of things that their supporters are supposed to do or not do. The booklet apparently also includes a list of tools that can help them securely converse with other followers.

Isis uses a range of media to spread its propaganda to its followers, which has made it harder for theFBI and other government-run organisations from tracking them. Thousands of Isis-related accounts were found and were taken down on Facebook and Twitter last year. Following the crackdown last year, the group made public groups on Telegram. The popular messaging service later removed Isis-related channels amid terrorist attacks in Paris.

The hacktivist group Anonymous is also after Isis, having declared “war” against them last year. The group also started a campaign last year to troll jihadists online.


India Funding Roundup: KartRocket, Care24, Remidio, Fitso, Zoctr, Zapr, Orahi, Snapshopr

India Funding Roundup: KartRocket, Care24, Remidio, Fitso, Zoctr, Zapr, Orahi, Snapshopr

Our latest funding roundup covers early stage investments made in AI, e-commerce, home healthcare, and fitness apps, with a couple of seed investments in media tech, apart from a manufacturer of low-cost opthalmic hardware and software solution provider. Here’s an overview of funding activity during the week that saw PM Modi reveal his Startup India, Standup India action plan.

Delhi-based KartRocket, a provider of e-commerce platforms for small retailers and SMEs, has raisedreportedly raised $6 million (roughly Rs. 40 crores) in a round of funding led by Bertelsmann India Investments (BII). The startup had raised its Series A funding from Nirvana Venture Advisors, 500 Startups and Beenos in 2014, and reportedly works with 7,500 shops and makes 10,000 listings each day.

Mumbai-based home healthcare provider, Care24 has reportedly raised $4 million (roughly Rs. 27 crores) from SAIF Partners its Series A funding round, with participation fromseed investor India Quotient. Care24 lists verified physiotherapists, nurses and attendants on its platform and claims to have over 3,000 patients on its platform.

Bengaluru-based opthalmic hardware maker Remidio has reportedly raised an undisclosed amount in Series B funding from domestic HNIs and Cipher-Plexus Capital Advisors. Founded Anand Sivaraman and Pramod Kummaya, the company has launched two of its products, which includes a smartphone-based PAN Eye Imaging device.

(Also read: Three Products That Are Transforming Ophthalmology in India)

Smartphone fitness app Fitso, has reportedly secured Rs. 1.35 crores in an angel funding round. Founded in 2015 by Saurabh Aggarwal, the Gurgaon-based startup offers apps for Android and iOS, which lets users discover activies, challenges, and professionals in their locality.

Bengaluru-based SnapShopr, an AI startup focused on visual search and image recognition, hasreportedly secured an undisclosed amount in angel funding round from former CTO of Flipkart – Amod Malviya.

Car pooling app Orahi has reportedly raised Rs.3.5 crores from Indian Angel Network (IAN). Orahi offers apps for Android and iOS, and claims to have over 30,000 registered members who have shared over 80,000 rides on the platform, including car owners and passengers.

Mumbai-based health aggregator platform Zoctr has reportedly raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Times Group’s Brand Capital. Currently operating in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, and Ahmedabad, the startup aggregates home health, telehealth and remote patient monitoring services, and plans to launch apps for Android and iOS soon.

Gurgaon-based media-tech startup Zapr, which claims to be India’s first comprehensive TV to mobile audience platform has reportedly raised an undisclosed amount of funding led by Flipkart, Saavn, Micromax, and Mu Sigma’s Dhiraj Rajaram. The company provides an audience platform which helps brands and media companies identify and re-engage audiences who have watched their TV commercials, across mobile, digital and social networks.