Mickey and Minnie AR Emoji arrive in time for Galaxy S9 launch


If you think the Galaxy S9’s personalized AR emoji creations are creepy, well, you’re right. But as teased by Samsung at its launch event in MWC a few weeks ago, some familiar Disney faces are joining the robo-avatar party. Both Mickey and Minnie will be available starting today — coincidentally, the day that the S9 and S9 plus go on sale. It’s just the start of Disney’s AR emoji series. Samsung says more will come throughout the year and will include The Incredibles cast and (yes!) Frozen. Ugh, just as long as it’s not Olaf.

Samsung could do with the help. Its AR Emoji are divisive, and aren’t quite as slick as the iPhone X’s Animoji. That said, they’re two very different takes on face-tracking augmented reality. AR Emoji crafts new avatars for every user it scans, while there’s only a limited selection of Animoji to toy with on the iPhone. We’re yet to test it out the Disney additions on our review Galaxy S9, but by the sheer simplicity of Mickey’s design, we’re hopeful for a less creepy outcome.


Spotify to launch music streaming service in India to stay ahead of Apple

Spotify to launch music streaming service in India to stay ahead of Apple

The world’s largest music streaming service, Spotify, is looking to bring its service to India, one of the fastest-growing internet markets in the world, as it looks to boost growth and stay ahead of rival Apple.Announcing Spotify’s plans to list on public markets on April 3, CEO Daniel Ek said the Stockholm-based company was planning an entry into some of the largest markets in the world. Spotify is taking a rather unusual path to go public and will directly sell shares to the public.”We are working on launching in some of the biggest markets in the world, including India, Russia, and Africa, which have a very rich musical culture,” Ek said during his presentation. He said that post IPO, the company would continue to focus on growth rather than turning on the profit machine.While no further details were divulged on when Spotify could launch its service here or its pricing in the country, the company did disclose in its IPO filing last week that it has leased office space in Mumbai. The company has also made ex-Googler Akshat Harbola as its Head of Market Operations in India.Plans to enter India and other fast-growing markets comes as industry analysts say Apple’s rate of signing up new paid subscribers is far outstripping that of Spotify’s. In the US, the largest music streaming market in the world, Apple Music could beat Spotify in the next few quarters to become the leading player there.Despite its service not being available in India, there already are several thousand users in the country who use Spotify via VPNs. Spotify said that the awareness of its brand among users in India is already high, alluding to the fact that the company would be able to achieve organic growth in India.However, India’s market for music streaming is witnessing a marked shift now.

While Times Group-owned Gaana, which recently received $115 million in funding led by Tencent, currently leads the India market in terms of a sheer number of users, competition in the space is becoming cutthroat.In India, Apple charges the lowest subscription fee for its Apple Music service anywhere in the world. While a person in the US pays $9.99 every month to access Apple Music, in India the monthly charge is just Rs 120 or under $2. However, the company has failed to make a big dent in India largely due to its lack of regional content.Amazon, the latest entrant into India’s music streaming space is offering customers access to its Prime Music as part of its Rs 999 yearly Prime loyalty programme. The company has already scored millions of users via its video streaming service and free expedited delivery service, but has also tied up with several large regional music producers to bring their content on its platform.Spotify will need to drop its prices from $9.99 per month to something more affordable in India if it wants to grow its base of paid users in the country. It will be seen if the company can maintain the same pricing here but still convert a free user to a paid one in under 12 months as it claimed was its average during its financial presentation yesterday.


Uber Re-Enters Barcelona With Professional Driver Service

Uber Re-Enters Barcelona With Professional Driver Service

Uber is seeking a second chance in Barcelona three years after it was forced to shut down in the face of taxi driver protests – by introducing a fully licenced ride-hailing service that meets local transportation laws.

Its new UberX service will operate with hundreds of professional, licenced drivers in contrast to the UberPopservice it ran until late 2014 using non-professional drivers to pick up and drop off passengers, Uber said on Tuesday.

Uber is looking to make a clean break with business practices that resulted in a litany of regulatory battles, driver and consumer scandals and court cases.

“We made mistakes along the way,” Uber General Manager for Southwest Europe Carles Lloret said in a company blog post.

“We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of the cities in which we operate. Barcelona is no exception.”

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in January he was focused on “responsible growth” as he seeks to put an end to the take-no-prisoners culture he inherited upon joining the pioneer of ride-hailing services last year.

Two years ago, Uber re-introduced UberX using professional drivers in Madrid. In December 2014, a judge had ordered all Uber services to be shut down in Spain’s capital city.

Decrying Uber’s return as unfair competition to their livelihoods, taxi drivers have mounted a series of 24-hour strikes in Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish cities over the past year.

“We are fully committed to working with the entire sector – including taxis – to improve mobility in Barcelona together,” said Lloret.

San Francisco-based Uber pre-emptively closed its services in Barcelona in December 2014 as local officials geared up to pass legislation against the UberPop service, which city authorities legally barred the following year.

Protests by taxi associations over the past year against Uber have also targeted Madrid-based Cabify, a rival founded in 2012 that operates in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

Uber operates a range of ride-hailing services in more than 600 cities around the world.


Apple Music Hits 38 Million Paid Subscribers

Apple Music Hits 38 Million Paid Subscribers

Apple’s streaming music service now has 38 million paid subscribers, up from 36 million in February, the company said on Monday.

Apple is locked in race for subscribers with Amazon.com, Alphabet’s Google and others as streaming music becomes the dominant form of paid music consumption. Apple’s number compares to 71 million premium subscribers at the end of 2017 at industry leader Spotify, which plans to list shares in the coming weeks on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SPOT.

Apple said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet software and services, disclosed the most recent subscriber number for Apple Music at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Amazon Music Unlimited has 16 million paying subscribers, and Pandora Media has 5.48 million total subscribers. Google does not release paid subscriber numbers for its service, Google Play Music.

Apple, Spotify, Google and other services charge $9.99 (roughly Rs. 650) a month for music. Amazon offers its service to members who already pay for its Prime membership, which includes shipping, video content and other benefits, for $7.99 per month.

In addition to its paid service, Spotify also offers an free ad-supported version to help draw users into the service. Apple Music does not offer an ad-based version and instead uses a three-month free trial to lure customers. Cue said Apple has 8 million subscribers currently in the free trial period, the first time Apple has disclosed the number of trial users.