WhatsApp Now Absolutely Free

WhatsApp has announced that its messaging app will now be available for free, dropping its previous yearly subscription fee, and adds that it will not be introducing third-party ads in order to make up the deficit.

“[W]e’re happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees,” the blog announcement reads. “For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. 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.”

The service denies that it will carry ads to compensate for the loss of subscription fees, saying instead that it will start supporting official communications between users and businesses.

“Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads,” the blog post continues. “The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you wantto hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. 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, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”

While the blog post does not state so, it is likely that WhatsApp will charge businesses for putting them in touch with its users, thereby retaining its revenue stream.

Whatsapp Was Temporarily Banned in Brazil

One day after a court order in Sao Paulo banned the popular social messaging app for the entire nation of Brazil, WhatsApp is back in action across the country. In a decision that is likely bringing relief to the 93 million strong user base of WhatsApp in Brazil, Judge Xavier do Souza ruled that it was “not reasonable that millions of users be affected by the inertia of the company”.

In a nation where phone bills and contracts are often prohibitively expensive, many Brazilians make use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family, both locally and abroad. It came as a shock then, when as of midnight on Thursday, local time, a 48-hour ban came into effect on the service across the country’s network providers. The ban came courtesy of a judge in Sao Paulo, who, as a result of WhatsApp’s refusal to hand over data pertaining to a gang member on trial over criminal actions, opted to issue a nation-wide ban on the service for 48 hours as a sanction.

This did not go down well with the online community, both in and outside of Brazil, with many taking to social media to show their outrage at the court’s actions. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg released a statement decrying the blocking of the service and pointing people towards Facebook’s own messaging service.

Tonight, a Brazilian judge blocked WhatsApp for more than 100 million people who rely on it in her country.

We are working hard to get this block reversed. Until then, Facebook Messenger is still active and you can use it to communicate instead.

This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online.

I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.

We hope the Brazilian courts quickly reverse course. If you’re Brazilian, please make your voice heard and help your government reflect the will of its people.

-Mark Zuckerberg

Meanwhile, WhatsApp’s rival services, most notably Telegram were enjoying a large influx of users courtesy of the ban. Telegram alone reportedly gained as many as 1.5 million users from the blocking of its rival, causing their registration servers to choke under the sudden load.

While the ban was eventually overturned by another judge, it is worrying that a country that is commonly seen as an ally of net neutrality has the ability to ban a service nationwide on the ruling of a single judge, with no known consultation. Hopefully, both the country of Brazil and the rest of the world will take note that attempting to ban their citizens from such services unreasonably will not go down without a fight.

Snowden-Endorsed IM App Signal Arrives on Android

A private instant messaging app that has the approval of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has finally been released for Android devices. Signal, developed by Open Whisper Systems, has been available for iOS since 2014, combining its previous two apps RedPhone and TextSecure, and is considered the most secure messaging and voice call app available, also garnering the support of online privacy advocates the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Signal is open source, available on GitHub, and uses advanced end-to-end encryption protocols to secure data for both sender and receiver, and allows message verification via key fingerprints and call integrity through checking matching words on both ends. The app also supports group chat, with none of the metadata related to group membership stored by Open Whisper Systems.

“As always, Signal uses your existing phone number and address book. There are no separate logins, usernames, passwords, or PINs to manage or lose,” the Signal webpage reads. “We cannot hear your conversations or see your messages, and no one else can either. Everything in Signal is always end-to-end encrypted, and painstakingly engineered in order to keep your communication safe.”

Snowden is a famous advocate of Signal, reaffirming his support following the release of the app for Android:

Signal is available for download from the Google Play store now.

Say Goodbye to Metro Skype App

Microsoft says that the Metro version of Skype is not that popular and it won’t continue with it. All users will be moved over to the Desktop version next month, having the Metro service close on the 7th of July. That’s in less than a month now, so wouldn’t an earlier heads up be nice?

Even so, Microsoft says that it wouldn’t make sense to have two apps delivering the same service on its latest operating system, namely Windows 10, since both Desktop and Metro apps will now open and interact in the same way. They say that while Skype for desktop is made for keyboard and mouse use, it does very well with touch input too.

While Metro Skype will redirect everyone to download the Desktop version of Skype after the 7th of July, Windows RT users will still be able to use the Metro version until upgrading to Windows 10.

We heard that Microsoft is planning on integrating the Skype feature in the latest Windows build, but we don’t know what it will include exactly. ZDNet states that Microsoft is also planning on releasing a dedicated Skype bundle. This means a new and improved Skype Messaging, Phone and Video service will be rolling out in the near future.

The exact release date of the new Skype bundle is not yet clear, but rumour has it that Microsoft plans to make it available to existing Windows 10 users sometime this fall. So what do you want to see in the new version of Skype? Let us know!

Thank you ZDNet for providing us with this information

WhatsApp Free Voice Calls Come to IOS

Under a month ago WhatsApp released free voice calls to their Android users. Now the Facebook-owned company have begun rolling out the feature to its iOS customers.

Similar to the launch on Android the change was first spotted by eager users, the update will not roll out to all Apple device users at once. The company have stated that the feature will become available over the next couple of weeks. That is a lot quicker than the Android deployment but you’ll still need some patience.

There are currently over 800 million monthly active users that use the WhatsApp service the feature has potential to upset a lot of carriers who have already seen their text message revenues ruined by the plethora of messaging apps available on the market.

The iOS update also features some more changes. Including support for the iOS 8 share extension which allows you to send photos, videos and other social related options to the WhatsApp application. You will be able to send multiple videos at once and can edit them on the fly too.

I have not personally used the application on my Sony Xperia Z3 but I have heard some great reviews. Let us know what you think of the App and the features it has in the comments below.

Thank you Tech Crunch for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of GeeksFlame

WhatsApp Involved in Almost Half of All Italian Divorces

A new article by GlobalPost says that nearly half of all divorce proceedings in Italy refer to WhatsApp.

The Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers told the publication that WhatsApp is cited more so than any other source of information that acts as the cause of a divorce. They say that partners more than often find evidence of infidelity via snooping on their other half’s sent and received messages in the app.

“No one is saying WhatsApp is the cause of the divorces,” says Gian Ettore Gassani, president of the Matrimonial Lawyers group. “The leading cause is infidelity, but WhatsApp is now the most common way for one partner to discover infidelity in the other.”

Interestingly, they also say that men more so than women are the ones that get caught out due to WhatsApp, as females are more quick to delete sensitive messages than males.

“Men are most likely to save messages or photos from lovers they can go back to,” Gassani says. “Women are more likely to take one look and then delete.”

The article is an interesting look into the blend of traditional Italian attitudes towards infidelity with modern communication technology.

Source: GlobalPost

Huawei Reported To Be Selling High-End Smartphones Via Messaging App

The increased competition of smartphone manufacturers in China has apparently resulted in companies approaching unique marketing techniques. For example, Xiaomi is said to have success with its ‘Hunger Marketing’ technique, having customers pre-register their interest in a handset in order to grab the e-mail addresses of potential buyers. As soon as the particular handset hits the spotlight, a limited number is manufactured and sold. This is how the company recently sold an estimated 10,000 Xiaomi Redmi Note phablets in less than a second.

Networking and telecom manufacturer Huawei apparently has its own tactics. Sources indicate that the company is apparently using popular messaging application WeChat as a channel to sell its Huawei Honor 6 handset. The device is said to boast an Octa-Core processor, a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920, as well as a 13 MP back camera and 5MP front camera.

The company previously used only local carriers to sell its handsets, but due to the increased competition, it is hoping to widen the distribution of its products using the WeChat app. The application, which is said to be in partnership with Chinese e-commerce company JD, has apparently hosted a competition in which the lucky winner was awarded with a Huawei Honor 6. The rules appeared to have been simple as well, having competitors guess the price of the handset in question. The winner would have had to answer ¥1999 / $322, the actual price of the Huawei Honor 6 handset.

Huawei is said to have 8% of the Chinese market, placing it on the 6th position in the country. This is due to change in the future, providing that the partnership between the company and WeChat app is successful. WeChat is said to have over 400 million users, having it be used as a text and voice messaging app, a gaming app and even a cab hailing app. Reports show that an update last year has even added a payment system, something which Huawei is attempting to exploit. Also, Huawei might have been the first to use this type of marketing camping, but it most certainly will not be the last.

Thank you Phonearena for providing us with this information

Facebook Will Buy WhatsApp For $16 Billion In Cash and Shares

Recent news point to Facebook engaging into an agreement to purchase the popular mobile messaging app, WhatsApp, for $16 billion in cash and stocks. The Verge states that a SEC document filed recently confirms the purchase agreement.

The same plan of action was filed with the pruchase of Instagram as well, that being the ability of WhatsApp operating as an independent messaging application and not integrated into Facebook’s Messenger, stating that the purchase will accelerate Facebook’s aim to bring socializing and connectivity all around the world.

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable.” said Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. “WhatsApp will complement our existing chat and messaging services to provide new tools for our community.” he added.

Statistics report showing around 450 million people accessing the WhatsApp application each month, having 70 percent of the total amount of users active each day. The changes will also bring WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum to Facebook’s board of directors. Koum also assured users that the deal will not affect the app’s usability by adding advertising principles, as “there would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product”.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information

NSA Reportedly Snoops Millions Of Text Messages With The Dishfire Program

NSA has been reportedly using SMS messaging to extract data on location, contact networks and credit card details of mobile users. British spies were given access by the NSA to search the collected “metadata”, information about the text messages but not the actual contents, of British citizens.

The Guardian and Channel 4 have reported that the program, codenamed Dishfire, collects every data it can from the handsets and sends it back to the NSA for processing. It works by collecting and analysing automated text messages such as missed call alerts or texts sent to inform users about international roaming charges. It is also said that the project can work out phone users’ credit card numbers using texts from banks.

“All of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with the strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate and that there is rigorous oversight,” the statement cited.

The statement is taken from an internal NSA presentation from 2011 on the Dishfire program and papers from the GCHQ facility. The report comes a day before US President Barack Obama is due to give a long-awaited speech proposing curbs on NSA phone and internet data dragnets exposed by fugitive intelligence contractor Snowden.

Thank you ZDNet for providing us with this information

Facebook Messenger For Android Gets A Huge Overhaul

When it comes to communicating with our friends and colleagues, a number of us chose to do so through social media messaging as opposed to sending an SMS from our phone. One such service is Facebook messenger and for those of us that use it on our Android smart phones, messenger now looks a whole lot different.

The new layout of messenger wipes the slate clean over previous versions of the app and after a period of beta testing where the app was only available to a limited number of users, Facebook has rolled out the new design to everyone.

Along with a new icon design, the app now offers a simple white and blue design which is less cluttered in its appearance, even though there are a number of additional features crammed into the latest update. The most significant of these is the added ability to now message anyone using just their mobile number. Whilst this may feel as though Facebook are diverting us from using our phones own SMS service, people with a limited number of messages per month will be pleased to see the new options.

Roll-out of the new app is already in full swing and unless your app has already updated automatically, you can download the latest version from Google Play.

Source: Tweaktown