iOS Bulks Up with iOS 8

On June 2, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its iOS mobile operating system among many other announcements. iOS 8 will introduce a bevy of features, many of which have huge platform implications.

Many of the new features, both consumer-facing and developer-oriented, seem to be pointed squarely at the “power users”. Such users are the ones who may have switched to or prefer Android because of a lot of capabilities in that operating system which iOS did not have or allow until now. But let’s just consider it the natural evolution of the iOS platform, now at over 800 million users (a stat Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his keynote at the event).

Let’s take a look at some of the key features that Android and to a lesser extent, Windows Phone offer, which lure customers to those platforms, and how iOS 8 has responded to those.

  • Third party keyboards
  • Actionable notifications
  • Widgets
  • App-to-app communication and sharing
  • Google services, including the contextual Google Now
  • Larger choice of devices of various form factors, mostly larger screens

Keyboard improvements

Windows Phone introduced Word Flow, which is to this day, the best predictive keyboard I have used. It is a way by which the system can provide the next few words that you may be about to type, based on what you start typing. For example, if you type “how are”, there is a good chance you want to type “you” next, and the predictive nature of the keyboard will prompt “you”, and maybe a couple of other options like “things” or “the”. iOS gets such a feature finally. It is very similar in nature to Word Flow but obviously it is something the iOS keyboard has missed all this time. No more.

iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard
iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard

Third-party keyboards

In what I thought was a surprising move, Apple also announced that they are going to let third parties provide their keyboards so customers can replace the system keyboard with a third-party keyboard. That is huge because the likes of Swiftkey and Swype have made a name for themselves in the Android world, and users of those keyboards claimed it is a big enough reason for them not to move back to iOS. Already, several key names have announced their keyboards are coming to iOS 8, which is not surprising at all.

iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards
iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards

Interactive notifications

Apple’s Notification Center, while a decent imitation of Android’s notification center, is a bit clunky. Even the upcoming Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1 does a better job managing notifications. So it is no surprise that Apple decided to make some changes and one of the big changes is the interactive notifications. Android has this feature already, where quick actions can be taken on notifications that land in the notification center, without opening the apps. Interactive notifications aim to do the same, and more importantly, Apple has decided to open it up to third parties from day one. That means, developers can enable quick actions like Facebook’s Like and Comment, Twitter’s Retweet and Replies, etc. directly in the Notification Center. Obviously it is a big deal on Android because of the productivity gains, and it was about time iOS implemented the same. (As a part-time Windows Phone user, I do hope this feature is on its way on that platform as well. It is badly needed.)

iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party


The other big improvement in the iOS Notification Center comes in the form of widgets. This has been another ding against iOS until now because Windows Phone first introduced Live Tiles which enable quick information that app developers can provide to customers via the app icon(s) flipping and updating. Android later added widgets which were sub-sections of the apps that could be placed on a home screen and provided snippets to live information to the customers. With Widgets, iOS 8 somewhat addresses this “gap” by enabling developers to provide live updates, although in the Notification Center, not in the app icon or on the home screen like the competition. So the widget will look like a notification but it will have more real estate and will be able to take more forms vs. a text update. For example, score updates during a game could show the two team names and scores by quarter.

iOS 8 Widgets
iOS 8 Widgets

This is hugely welcome news, for customers and developers alike. For customers, it means more than just text updates and for developers, it is somewhat of a parity with other platforms as well as another way to keep their customers engaged with the app.

As for app-to-app communication, Apple has made it possible for apps to communicate and share data with each other. Although the details are more important than the announcement in terms of how useful this feature is, it is remarkable that after so many years of keep each app limited to itself, Apple has decided to enable inter-app communication which has been a stable in Android as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When it comes to Google services, they are already available on iOS in the form of various apps, including Google Now. Although this has prompted many customers to consider Android, where the integration with the phone is even tighter, I suspect it will also make it easier for them to make the return trip going from Android back to iOS.

Finally, although perhaps it may be an even more compelling reason for normal users to try Android, there is this thing about larger screen phones. It is rumored and by now almost a given that Apple will be introducing phones with larger screens this Fall, which is usually when they update their hardware. A larger screen iPhone will almost certainly be a hit, if the popularity of large screen devices running Android are any indication. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the application UI. When they introduced the iPad, they had an elegant (although ugly) option of a “2x” mode. It will be interesting how they handle the larger real estate and yet, make developers’ work to address the larger screen, minimal.

Some other important updates from Apple with regard to iOS, not so much related to Android, but definitely showing signs of bulking up:

iCloud Photo Library

Until now, the Photostream feature backed up photos from all our iDevices automatically, but it was limited in storage. Apple also announced at WWDC that they are moving to an “iCloud Photo Library” which would store all photos *and* videos in full resolution, from all our iDevices. The first 5GB is free but instead of the currently expensive storage purchase options, Apple is also introducing inexpensive storage that can be purchased for what they refer to as iCloud Drive. Effectively, much like SkyDrive camera Roll in the Windows world, and Google+ Photos in the Google/Android world, the iCloud Photo Library is the entire photo library, always available in the cloud and all the Apple (Mac and iOS) devices and Windows 8 PCs. All edits made on one device are instantly available on all other devices. For a company that has not been at the forefront of well-implemented cloud services, the proof of the pudding will lie in the tasting, but as of now, it seems like Apple gets it and is on the right track. Also, in another move that shows Apple is opening up in a way they have not done traditionally, they have enabled other apps to integrate their editing tools and filters within the new Photos app.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library

Messaging updates

In what seems like a carpet bomb attack on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Snapchat all at once, Apple’s iMessage will now support audio messages, video messages, group messaging and automatically disappearing messages. Apple also added the ability to share location which is very handy when coordinating meetups with groups. So instead of relying on several different apps (and therefore, different logins, different address books, etc.), you can do the same with the default messaging app, only as long as everyone you communicate with is on iPhone :-) But that has been the modus operandi for Apple from day one, so there is nothing out of the ordinary in that strategy.

iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Messages Record Video
iOS 8 Messages Record Video

iOS 8 is claimed to be a bigger update than when Apple announced the mobile App Store and it certainly seems like there are many huge changes coming in iOS 8 for iOS developers which may end up increasing the app quality gap between iOS and Android even more than it is today. iOS is still usually the first platform for mobile developers to build their innovative solutions and experiences. With these changes, despite the rocketing market share of Android devices, Apple is poised to make it even more worthwhile for developers to build for their platform(s).


(All images via Apple’s website)

Nokia Unveils Asha 210 With Dedicated WhatsApp Key

We have already seen a number of entry-level and mid-range smartphones with a dedicated Facebook button. Even Nokia tried their luck with the entry-level Asha 205 which came with a dedicated Facebook and QQ button in India and China respectively. Today, Nokia announced the world’s first QWERTY phone with a dedicated WhatsApp key, the Nokia Asha 210. WhatsApp is offering their service for free on all Nokia Asha 210 devices with the WhatsApp button for their lifespan.

Timo Toikkanen, executive vice president, Mobile Phones, Nokia, said,
“The Nokia Asha 210 really stands out giving super-social consumers new ways to express their personalities through design, colour and innovations like the world’s first WhatsApp button. It has been designed to allow people to easily update their social networks, stay in touch with friends and share user created content.”


Nokia Asha 210 features a 2.4 inch QVGA display, sporting a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, Series 40 Asha UI, full QWERTY keyboard, 2 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom, Nokia Xpress Browser, Nokia Life+, 64 MB internal memory, MicroSD card slot, 32 GB expandable memory, GPRS/EDGE, Wi-Fi Connectivity, 2.0 mm charger connector, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, Micro USB, 3.5 mm headset jack, Slam feature, up to 24 days of stand-by time, up to 12 hours of talk-time and a 1200 mAh battery.

This handset measures 111.5 mm x 60 mm x 11.8 mm and weighs just 97.3 grams. The Nokia Asha 210 will be available in Yellow, Black, White, Cyan, Magenta colors. This handset will be available in both single SIM and dual-SIM variants. The Nokia Asha 210 will go on sale in the second quarter of 2013 for just $72 excluding taxes.

WhatsApp is Bigger Than Twitter says CEO, Jan Koum

Ever since it debuted in 2009, WhatsApp has become the only single most-used smartphone app and is one of the most popular apps across all platforms. WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum who was speaking at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media conference claims that the service handles more than 200 million users  and processes 12 billion outbound messages per day. Impressive!

The popular cross-platform mobile messaging service is even bigger than Twitter says Jan Koum. There had been some buzz around the Web about Google planning to acquire WhatsApp, however, the company shot down all rumors and said that no such talks had occurred. There were also rumors about Facebook planning to acquire WhatsApp.

Koum also said that the service processes 12 billion outbound messages and 8 billion inbound every day, which is nowhere in the range of comparison with any other independent messaging service. With less than 50 engineers working for the company, it is said that it holds the highest ratio of active users per long-term employee today of any active company.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum

“We’re looking forward to a world with billions of phones. Once that happens it’s going to be extremely easy to monetize. But a lot more people need to join the smartphone revolution and a lot more people need to buy more goods on their phones.”

During this New Year’s eve WhatsApp processed 7 billion inbound and 11 billion outbound messages on a single day. Back in August 2012, WhatsApp said that it has reached 4 billion inbound messages in a day.


WhatsApp Processed 18 Billion Messages on New Year Eve

WhatsApp, one of the most loved and popular cross-platform mobile messaging service, claims to have set a new record of processing 18 BILLION messages on New Year Eve! In a tweet post, WhatsApp states that on December 31st 2012, it processed 7 billion inbound and 11 billion outbound messages on a single day. Competing services can only dream to beat this record (not taking into consideration iOS 5′s iMessage service)

If you’re wondering what inbound and outbound messages are, then WhatsApp has an answer for it. According to WhatsApp’s tweet, the “difference in inbound vs. outbound is due to group chat. Sending one message into group chat of 10 people is 1:10 inbound:outbound.”


In simpler words, when a group message is sent out, that message is delivered independently to every member in that group across multiple devices and platforms. Thus, that makes it 1 outbound message and several inbound messages.

Back in August 2012, WhatsApp said that it has reached 4 billion inbound messages in a day. Currently, the company is estimated to have about 200 million users, and rapidly increasing the count.

Of course there were rumors spreading in December 2012 about Facebook planning to acquire WhatsApp, however that turned out to be false.

WhatsApp is available for free download for Android users. Recently, the company decided to waive off the $0.99 fee for iOS users and has made it available for free download for a limited period of time.

Rumor Has It That Facebook is Looking to Buy WhatsApp

Everybody’s been questioning if Facebook is actually going to acquire the Internet’s most loved and poplar messaging tool WhatsApp. No one from Facebook (or the WhatsApp developers team) has replied to any of the queries about the acquisition. However, with no official confirmation, this still remains a rumor.

The news was first reported by TechCrunch earlier today leaving several users on the Internet wondering if it’s really going to happen, and if it does so, it would be one of the worst things to happen, as WhatsApp users tweet out of frustration on Twitter.

Facebook, in fact, is currently looking forward to boost and improvise mobile experience for Facebook users, and perhaps this deal could make some ‘sense’ to them, however, if the deal goes through, I think it is neither right for Facebook, nor it is right for WhatsApp. However, what Facebook can learn from WhatsApp is making its current Facebook mobile services a lot better, very much similar to WhatsApp offers, rather than making it the other way round, if they have any plans to do so.

Facebook to Buy WhatsApp

The cross-platform instant messaging application was developed in 2009 by Santa Clara, California based company, and is available for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone, delivering text messages as well as images, audio, and video messages. The app, however, is ad-free and reportedly has about 100 million daily users, with a presence in 250 countries on a variety of platforms.

The developers of WhatsApp have their own reasons and explicitly disallow adverting on WhatsApp. However, that said, it could change if the deal is trough. There are possibilities that if Facebook takes control over the app, they could even use it to sell mobile ads as the company is currently looking to effectively optimizes advertisements for its mobile service.

The social networking company’s current most high profile acquisition is the photo-sharing company Instagram, which it finalized the deal for a whopping $1 billion. Well, we still aren’t sure if Facebook is really going to acquire WhatsApp, and we also do not have any details on how much Facebook is looking to spend.

WhatsApp Status Unavailable Error Message Causes Panic

WhatsApp users are sharing a false message with their friends indicating that their account will deleted if they do not share the same message with their entire contact list. A similar message states that WhatsApp will cost money if they don’t send the message to their friends.

This false message started to circulate when users found out that the status of WhatsApp users has disappeared and were greeted with an ‘Error: Status Unavailable’ message. The problem, which was noticed just a few hours ago, has created a lot of panic among several thousands of users.

In fact, users have also started to post on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter notifying their friends about the WhatsApp Status Unavailable error message issue, and have been asking them to share the message immediately to avoid termination of their WhatsApp account.

WhatsApp Status Error Message

One of the messages spreading is as follows:

”Whatsapp is shutting down on 28th jan Message from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing.

We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the Whatsapp team..:) FINAL WARNING! If your WhatsApp status is error:status unavailable then you are not frequent user and by 5:00pm C.A.T WhatsApp will start charging you. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it.”

Yet another similar false message that is spreading:

“Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, the use of WhatsApp cost money from summer 2012. If you send this string to 18 different on your list, your icon will be blue and will be free for you. If you do not believe me see tomorrow at 6 pm ending WhatsApp and have to pay to open it, this is by law This message is to inform all of our users, our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking your help to solve this problem. We require our active users forwarded this message to each of the people in your contact list to confirm our active users using WhatsApp, if you do not send this message to all your contacts WhatsApp, then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all their contactsMessage from Jim Balsamic (CEO of Whatsapp) we have had an over usage of user names on whatsapp Messenger. We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list.

If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the Whatsapp team” WhatsApp is going to cost us money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 10 people you are chatting with. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo should turn Red to indicate a frequent user. Am sorry had no option! And check now the status of every individual contact is showing : Status : error”

Please stop sharing this message as it is completely false. The reason why you are seeing ‘Error: Status Unavailable’ message is due to some technical and status functionality issues. WhatsApp developers are aware of this issue are trying to provide a fix as early as possible.

According to WhatsApp’s Twitter and Facebook update, “WhatsApp status functionality is currently not available. We are working on resolving it soon.”

WhatsApp Status Error - Twitter Update

WhatsApp Uses a Potentially Insecure Authentication Mechanism

WhatsApp has been criticized earlier for lax security on multiple occasions. In May last year, WhatsApp accounts could be hijacked without the user knowing, and another time in January this year, the status of a WhatsApp user could be changed remotely. Both these vulnerabilities were fixed soon. However, a concern that lived on was that WhatsApp sends communications in plaintext. This vulnerability was found in May 2011 and it was not fixed until May this year. However, the most insecure vulnerability on WhatsApp is simply in its authentication mechanism.


The Wikipedia page for WhatsApp outlines its Technical Specifics as,

WhatsApp uses a customized version of the open standard Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).Upon installation, it creates a user account using one’s phone number as username (Jabber ID: [phone number] and an MD5-hashed, reversed-version of the phone’s IMEI as password.

An interesting analysis by Sam Granger points out how easy it is to leverage this information, and actually get access to a user account. Who would have thought that WhatsApp uses exactly the same mechanism as written on the Wikipedia page, no salting of the hash, no obfuscated MD5 variant; in short, no deviations from what is written down!

WhatsApp has to get its security straight. It is under constant criticism for over a year now, and it is time WhatsApp is the first to make a security related move, rather than someone pointing out flaws and it going ahead and patching them.

For an intriguing discussion on this topic, read this Hacker News thread.

There is No “WhatsApp for Facebook” App; Ignore Any Requests

WhatsApp Messenger is one of the most popular cross-platform mobile messaging apps that enable users to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. The popular app is available on all smartphones including Windows Phone, Nokia, and BlackBerry.

The application has its official Facebook page, however, it does not have any Facebook app as such that enables users to exchange messages from within Facebook. In the absence of this, scammers on Internet and Facebook have taken advantage of it and have created a number of bogus Facebook apps in the name of WhatsApp:

WhatsApp for Facebook App

According to Robin Wauters of TheNextWeb, “Now I’m an old man and I don’t really understand this Facebook thing, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t supposed to be this many WhatsApp Facebook apps on its platform in the first place.”

Well, just like Robin, there could be thousand other Facebook users who are muddled on whether a “WhatsApp for Facebook” app actually exists or not. Or, they could also be wondering on which app out of those hundred is legit. Users, be warned that none of these Facebook apps are legit, and there is no WhatsApp for Facebook app at all.

A few Facebook users have notified me about a WhatsApp request sent to them from a Facebook friend, which had links pointing to a bogus site. Upon clicking the link, users were taken to a fake Facebook WhatsApp app page, and were asked to grant permission to an app to access information and post updates on their behalf.

If users grant permission to the app, depending on the user’s location, they are redirected to different pages. For instance, users located in the United States, Australia, and Great Britain are redirected to a fake Starbucks gift card page.
WhatsApp Android

If you receive any such invites or request, simply ignore them. Also, make sure you inform the person who sent you the request to remove the app from his/her profile immediately. In case you have mistakenly installed the Facebook app, it is highly recommended
that you go to your Facebook Account settings and delete the app immediately.

How to Identify Fake Facebook Apps?

The first thing that you need to do is to check if the company or service provider has a Facebook app or not. Visiting the developer’s official website will give you a fair knowledge on whether the developer has created a Facebook app or not.

Secondly, most of the fake apps on Facebook have a suspicious name. For instance, notice the capital ‘A’ in ‘WhatsApp,’ yet many of those fake apps has been named with the lowercase ‘a’, which clearly indicates that they’re a fake.

WhatsApp is a mobile messaging company and doesn’t actually have a Facebook app. The company has also issued a statement on its website, saying, “This has nothing to do with WhatsApp, so please ignore the message… We don’t know if the app can cause any damage, but just to be on the safe side: don’t grant the request.”

We have reported many such similar scams running on Facebook. Facebook currently has over 950 million users visiting per month, and the social networking giant has always been the main target for spreading scam messages. Although it is quite difficult to identify scams on Facebook, we have provided some tips on How to Identify and Avoid Facebook Scams. Bookmark Techie Buzz Facebook Scams or Subscribe to Scam Alert Feed. We always keep you updated with the latest scams spreading on Facebook.

Google Maps, YouTube And WhatsApp For Android Updated

Few hours after the Day 1 keynote at I/O 2012 event in San Francisco, Google has rolled out a couple of updates for its popular Google Maps and YouTube apps on Android. On the other hand, our favorite messaging service, WhatsApp for Android has received a major update. Earlier today, Google has moved the Chrome browser out of the beta status. Chrome For Android is currently the standard browser on the recently announced Nexus 7 tablet. To learn more about the new Chrome for Android, head over to this post.

Google Maps for Android:

Earlier this month, Google has showed off the offline maps support for the Google Maps on Android. This feature was already available in “Labs”, but it allowed us to download the maps for a 10-mile radius. The latest offline maps support allows us to download the maps for a larger area. This feature is useful while you are travelling in a new city and does not have access to data or Wi-Fi connection.

YouTube for Android:

Google has rolled out a new version of its popular YouTube for Android app. The latest update comes with a loads of new features. However, this update is available only for devices running on Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS. This updates bring a brand new UI along with a guide on the left side of the screen, which offers instant access to your subscribed channels.

It also allows you to preload your “Subscriptions” and “Watch Later” queue while you are on Wi-Fi and charging for smooth playback on the go. Other features include HD video playback for select devices running on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) OS. Check out the complete changelog below.

Android 3.2+ devices: v.4.0:

  • New UI: Guide on the left side of the screen with instant access to channels
  • Preload videos while on WiFi and charging for smooth playback on the go
  • Turn your phone into a remote, to play YouTube videos on other devices
  • Access your watch History across devices

Earlier Android devices: v.2.4:

  • Sign-in with Google account
  • HD playback (on capable phones)
  • Multiple bug fixes

WhatsApp for Android:

One of my favorite messaging app, WhatsApp for Android has also received a major update. The latest version is numbered 2.7.9736 and it brings large font size and long vibrate setting to help with accessibility, search within conversation feature, bug fixes and much more. It also allows you to add a background in a conversation from the given set of images or from the images saved on your smartphone. The complete changelog is posted after the break.


  • Added search within conversation feature
  • Increased the “large” font size to help with accessibility
  • Add a czech translation (Thanks Rene!)
  • Add a default wallpaper
  • Add a “long” vibrate setting to help with accessibility
  • Settings screen overhaul and improvement
  • Add a “recent” tab to the share contact picker
  • Lots of bug fixes and user interface improvements

[ Download Google Maps For Android ]

[ Download YouTube for Android ]

[ Download WhatsApp for Android ]