Facebook Video Quality Reduced To Cope With Demand

Facebook and Instagram have reduced the quality of videos shared on their platforms in Europe as demand for streaming has increased due to self-isolation.

Lower Bitrate, Looks Similar

The announcement by Facebook that a lowering of the bit-rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe highlights the need to reduce network congestion, free-up more bandwidth, and make sure that users stay connected at a time where demand is reaching very high levels because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The move could have a significant positive impact when you consider that Facebook has around 300 million daily users in Europe alone, and streaming video can account for as much as 60% of traffic on fixed and mobile networks.

Although a reduction in bit-rates for videos will, technically, reduce the quality, the likelihood is that the change will be virtually imperceptible to most users.

Many Other Platforms

Facebook is certainly not the only platform taking this step as Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Netflix have also made similar announcements.  For example, Netflix is reducing its back video bit rates while still claiming to allow customers to get HD and Ultra HD content (with lower image quality),  and Amazon Prime Video has started to reduce its streaming bitrates as has Apple’s streaming service.

Google’s YouTube is also switching all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default.

BT Say UK Networks Have The Capacity

BT’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, Howard Watson, has announced that the UK’s advanced digital economy means that it has overbuilt its networks to compensate for HD streaming content and that the UK’s fixed broadband network core has been built with the extra ‘headroom’ to support evening peaks of network traffic that high-bandwidth applications create. Mr Watson has also pointed out that since people started to work from home more this month, there has been a weekday daytime traffic increase of 35-60 per cent compared with similar days on the fixed network, peaking at 7.5Tb/s, which is still only half the average evening peak, and far short of the 17.5 Tb/s that the network is known to be able to handle.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Amazon, Apple TV, Netflix, Facebook and others platforms, they are clearly facing a challenge to their service delivery in Europe but have been quick to take a step that will at least mean that there’s enough bandwidth for their services to be delivered with the trade-off being a fall in the level of viewing quality for customers.  Many customers, however, are likely not to be too critical about the move, given the many other big changes that have been made to their lives as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the attempts to reduce its impact.  Netflix has even pointed out the extra benefit that its European viewers are likely to use 25 per cent less data when watching films as a result of the bit rate changes. However, with online streaming services being one of the main pleasures that many people feel they have left to enjoy safely, the change in bit rate should be OK as long as the picture quality isn’t drastically reduced to the point of annoyance and distraction.

Tech Tip – How To Clean Your Smartphone

If you’re wondering how you can effectively and safely clean your smartphone as an extra way to help protect yourself from the threat of bacteria and viruses, here’s some advice from a medical expert:

As featured on the BBC and in some national newspapers recently, Dr Lena Ciric, a microbiologist from University College London, advises (in her video, on YouTube – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwPVqXrJitI) that you can make sure your smartphone is really clean in the following way:

– Unplug your smartphone, turn it off and remove the case.

– Dampen a microfibre cloth with water and household hand soap e.g. the soap dispensing bottle type.

– Gently rub the surfaces of the phone with the damp cloth. Try not to get moisture in any of the openings.

– Dry the phone with a clean microfibre cloth.

– Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly can reduce the number of germs that you put on your phone after you’ve washed it.

In the video, Dr Ciric also notes that Apple says that iPhones can also be safely cleaned using 70 per cent isopropyl wipes alcohol.

As well as computer viruses, everyone now needs to consider biological viruses so maintaining hygiene both personally and professionally will now be more important than ever.

Featured Article – Coronavirus and Tech Shares

Coronavirus is firstly a threat to public health but the impact of the virus hitting the Chinese economy (a centre for tech goods), the threat of widescale illness among workers, the effects of measures to contain the virus and other factors have already had a serious effect on economies and tech share prices.

Biggest Hit Since 2008

The disruption and fear caused by the coronavirus (SARS-COV-12/COVID-19) outbreak meant that end of February saw the US stock markets suffering their worst falls since the 2008 global financial crisis with the three big US indexes ending 10% on the week before and with the UK markets following suit and the FTSE 100 index down 3.2% for the day. 

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has also warned that the effects of coronavirus could lead to the UK’s growth prospects being downgraded.

Also, the US Federal Reserve has just slashed interest rates, to between 1% and 1.25%. That’s down from 1.5% to 1.75%, to protect America’s economy from the economic impact of the “evolving risks” of coronavirus. 

Contributing Factors and Reactions

From seeing the first news from China to hearing about the rapid spread through Iran, Korea, Japan and Italy, many tech companies are seeing downward pressure on their share prices caused by the coronavirus outbreak and spread. There are many contributing factors and many reactions by tech companies to these factors that have fuelled the fall. These include:

– China, the country which the virus is thought to have come from, and which has seen whole cities and their industries and markets shut down and seriously disrupted is a major tech component manufacturing country for major tech companies e.g. the US. This has caused shortages in supply chains and other knock-on factors to other big economies and markets and the tech companies that operate within them. For example, Apple has major component supply companies in China, and Korea e.g. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc, and LG Innotek.  Both Samsung and LG Innotek have shut their factories due to a worker testing positive for coronavirus.  Apple is also supplied by STMicroelectronics (chipmakers) in Italy.

– Big tech companies are not attending important tech industry conferences and shows.  For example, Huawei is postponing the hosting of its February developer conference to the end of March, Alphabet (Google) has cancelled its I/O developers conference set for May 12-14, Facebook Inc has cancelled its annual developer conference which was due to be held on May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California (which attracted 5,000 people last year), and Microsoft won’t attend a games developer conference in March.

– Consumers and other tech stakeholders are changing their travelling habits and purchasing habits and are holding onto their money as they anticipate perhaps having to ride-out a work shutdown, store closures, transport cancellations and disruptions and more. Lower revised earnings warnings have been issued by tech companies that are already feeling the pinch and are anticipating a more drawn-out crisis than they had originally thought.  For example, Microsoft has revised its earnings due to fears over how the coronavirus could affect PC supply chains.

– Factory and workplace closures, not just of suppliers, but of the tech companies themselves are causing disruption.  For example, Tesla has postponed Model 3 deliveries due to a closed factory in Shanghai, Google has asked thousands of employees at its European headquarters in Dublin to work from home, Twitter is encouraging its 5,000 global staff to work from home, and cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase is asking some employees to start working from home.

– Store closures are also contributing to downward pressures on share prices.  For example, major tech companies have been temporarily shutting down retail stores across China, and in other affected countries and population centres. 

Baidu in China

Chinese tech companies are also suffering.  For example, Baidu Inc, China’s biggest search engine company, has warned that its first-quarter revenue could drop by as much as 13% from a year earlier due to the effect of the coronavirus epidemic on economic activity and advertising.

Opportunity?

Whereas the downside of fall in share prices is being seen as a very bad event for the markets generally, some people, such as US CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’ presenter Jim Cramer have pointed out that tumbling stock values can mean that investors have an opportunity to buy tech stocks at a low price now that will grow in value soon.  With this in mind, and suggesting that those stocks that have little China exposure and work in a largely stay-at-home environment are the best options, Mr Cramer has recommended 10 stocks to buy now while the market is still affected by coronavirus.  These include the tech-related stocks of Adobe, Shopify, Square, Zoom Video Communications.

Expectations

Despite the initial huge fall in share/stock prices at the end of February, when panic was reaching its highest point, the news that central bankers from the world’s biggest economies have been speaking to Group of 7 Finance to discuss a response to the outbreak e.g. lowering of interest rates, fuelling expectations among investors that governments might go with a co-ordinated lowering interest rates has given a boost back up to many stocks and led to shares in Europe making somewhat of a recovery from the initial huge losses.

Looking Ahead

For those seeking information about coronavirus in the UK, the latest government information can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public and the NHS advice and information can be found here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

The unknown nature of the immediate future as regards the spread (through clustering) and duration of the coronavirus outbreak, coupled with the many reduced growth forecasts, disruption in global supply chains, and many tech and other companies shutting offices and factories and recommending remote working where possible means that tech share prices are likely to be functioning well below expectations for some time yet.

Billions Of Devices At Risk Due To Wi-Fi Chip Vulnerability

A security threat to devices, Wi-Fi access points (APs), and routers that comes from the Kr00k Wi-Fi chip vulnerability could affect billions according to security researchers.

Kr00k

The existence of Kr00k, also known by the catchy name of CVE-2019-15126 was made public at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco and its discovery was attributed to ESET security researchers Miloš Cermák, Robert Lipovský and Štefan Svorencík.

Broadcom and Cypress Chips

According to the researchers, the Kr00k vulnerability is present in Wi-Fi chips manufactured by Broadcom and Cypress.  These chips are present in billions of devices and, prior to patches being developed and released already by many major manufacturers, the kinds of devices that were at risk included home smart speakers (Amazon Echo), Kindles, smartphones (Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy), the Raspberry Pi 3 and many Wi-Fi routers and access points that have Broadcom chips. 

What Could Happen?

The Kr00k vulnerability could allow attackers to decrypt Wi-Fi traffic, thereby gaining access to data. Kr00k can do this by forcing an extended dissociation period in Wi-Fi devices, which is the temporary disconnection that occurs when a device moves between access points or when there is a low signal. In this period, Kr00k resets the encryption key used to secure packets to an all-zero value, giving the attackers access to your data.

This kind of attack, however, may not be as easy as it sounds because attackers would need to be within close range of their target’s Wi-Fi network.

Related to Krack

Some security commentators have noted that Kr00k is related to Krack, discovered in 2017, a vulnerability that was also a threat to devices that connected using Wi-Fi and required attackers to be in close proximity to the Wi-Fi network.  Krack was found to be a vulnerability in the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protocol.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The security researchers who discovered Kr00k shared their findings with the relevant manufacturers early-on which meant that the major manufacturers were able to quickly develop and release patches, thereby significantly reducing the scale of the threat posed by Kr00k.  Also, the need for attackers to be in close proximity to a Wi-Fi network to exploit the vulnerability is unlikely to be particularly attractive to many cybercriminals who prefer methods that allow maximum financial gain with minimum effort and that position them a long distance from their targets in a way that cannot be traced back to them.

Additionally, in this case, even though it is technically possible for attackers to use the dissociation period to decrypt Wi-Fi traffic, the data that they would be intending to steal is subject to being additionally encrypted by TLS thanks to HTTPS.

Featured Article – 5G Explained

5G (fifth generation) is essentially the next step up and the replacement for your current 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) connection.  The main benefits that this new generation of mobile broadband should bring are faster upload and download speeds and faster communication with wireless networks (latency).

Spectrum Difference

Most carriers currently use low-band spectrum or LTE, which offers great coverage area and penetration yet it is getting very crowded and peak data speeds only top out at around 100Mbps.

5G, on the other hand, offers 3 different Spectrum bands, which are:

  • Low-band spectrum or LTE/sub 1GHz spectrum.
  • Mid-band spectrum.  This gives faster coverage and better latency than low-band but isn’t as good at penetrating buildings. Mid-band spectrum will offer peak speeds up to 1Gbps.
  • High-band spectrum /  mmWave .  This spectrum can offer peak speeds up to 10 Gbps and has very low latency, although it has a low coverage area and building penetration is poor.
  • In the UK, it is likely that there will be 2 different, location-based frequencies. Sub-6GHz (gigahertz) is likely to be the first offered to users, and the (expensive) high-band spectrum / mmWave for use in densely populated areas. This could mean limitations on where an owner can use their 5G phone (when they eventually get one).

What Can We Expect From 5G?

More frequencies, faster speeds and less latency should mean big improvements in broadband (particularly commercial) and an end to slowdowns during busy times of day that have been experienced due to the overcrowding of the current limited LTE.

How Fast is Faster?

Theoretically, the maximum speed for 5G should be a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology can provide i.e. 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) rather than 100 megabits per second (Mbps). 

Peak data rates with 5G could reach 20Gbps downlink and 10Gbps uplink per mobile base station (for all users in the cell), but 5G users will not actually experience this speed unless they have a dedicated connection.

Speed Record

Swedish phone company Ericsson’s research and development team have just reported setting a new maximum speed record on 5G connections, by achieving download rates of 4.3Gbps on the millimeter wave spectrum during interoperability testing using commercial products.

Finite Frequency

Also, the frequency spectrum needed for 5G is finite, and even with additional spectrum that has been auctioned to the UK’s mobile networks, more will be needed. This may mean some crowded traffic in the first wave, with things not improving until more auctions have taken place.

It is also likely that other technologies will need to be developed and trialled in order to help 5G live up to its promise. Lessons learned about 5G in other countries (e.g. China) will take time to be noted and incorporated in the UK network to help it deliver maximum benefits.

Real-Life Business Applications

Anticipated ways that 5G could improve things in our lives and for businesses include:

  • Improvements to health care.  Communications and sensor networks in health care are likely to be improved, therefore benefiting patients, doctors and other staff.
  • Improvements in the IoT as devices require fewer resources, and huge numbers of devices can connect to a single base station, making them much more efficient. IoT improvements could help with all kinds of services e.g. public services such as smart bins and smart lighting, remote healthcare services, and CCTV / surveillance services.
  • A boost to virtual and augmented reality.
  • Benefits for the growing autonomous vehicle market as 5G provides the constant, guaranteed connection that they need, enables better communication with other vehicles on the road and better provision of information to other cars about road conditions, as well as improvements in the performance of information given to  drivers and automakers.
  • Advantages for companies operating delivery drone/robot services e.g. Amazon may also get a boost from reliable and powerful 5G connections.
  • Advantages for local authorities and local infrastructure (monitoring and control for streetlights, drain/flood information) and for utility and other companies that use remote sensors.
  • The low latency of 5G offering allowing more remote device control e.g. reducing risk in hazardous environments and allowing technicians with specialised skills to control machinery from anywhere in the world.

Challenges For 5G Phone Manufacturers

For phone manufacturers, manufacturing 5G phones is a slightly different and more complex proposition. For example:

  • 5G phones are more complex e.g. they need a more complex antenna. These mean extra production costs which are likely to be passed on (with first-wave prices) to customers. It is thought that 5G compatible phones will be priced between £450-£540, with higher prices for leading brand models e.g. Samsung, Apple and Huawei.
  • The miniaturisation of more complex 5G phone presents challenges. The first generation of 5G phones may, therefore, be a little larger than a normal smartphone.
  • Launching new handsets before the new network has been rolled out could simply annoy buyers and damage brand reputation, and many customers may simply delay buying a 5G anyway until they are confident that 5G is performing well and will offer them all the benefits.
  • The first 5G smartphones need two modems, one standalone 5G modem, and one that still works on 4G and older networks (for when 4G isn’t available).

Despite the challenges, 5G phones have been available for some time now many people have been holding off from buying them until the 5G connection services become more widely available.  It is estimated that 260 million new 5G phones will be produced worldwide in 2020.

Whereas Sony has recently announced that it is launching its first 5G smartphone this month (Xperia 1 II flagship handset), which many see as a bid to prop up its struggling smartphone business, Huawei and Samsung are currently ahead in the 5G phone market.

Some commentators have noted, however, that although 5G services have now been rolled out in the UK by many of the networks and 5G phones are available, there is still some scepticism in the UK marketplace about the benefits vs costs of getting 5G phones at this early stage, and there appears to be a general feeling among consumers that 5G is not ready for mainstream adoption yet.

When?

5G has taken nearly 10 years to develop and so far in the UK, EE launched its 5G service in May 2019, Vodafone followed in July 2019, O2 launched its 5G service in October, and BT Mobile also launched its 5G service in October 2019.

Sky Mobile entered the market with its 5G service in January 2020 and although the Three network launched for home broadband in parts of London in August last year, it has not yet expanded this to its phones.

Where?

Viavi Solutions (The State of 5G Deployments report) reveals that commercial 5G networks have now been deployed in 378 cities across 34 countries, with the most cities with 5G availability in South Korea (85) and with 5G now available in 31 UK cities.

Looking Ahead

The same increased speed and lower latency of 5G that allows downloading films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering is also likely to provide many new and innovative opportunities and could help provide a boost to new industries.

Many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

Also, the news from an O2 forecast is that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK, and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills.

We will, however, have to wait for 5G networks and services to be operating fully and offering all the predicted benefits, and as well as being somewhat expensive, purchasing a 5G phone may be something that many people will still hold-off doing until they’re confident they’ll get the promised value from it.

Apple Fined £21M For Slowing Old iPhone

The French competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF has fined tech giant Apple €25 million (£21 million) for slowing down some old iPhones and not telling people how to fix the problem.

What Happened?

Back in 2017, some iPhone users were sharing concerns online that their iPhone’s performance had slowed with age but had sped up after a battery replacement. This led to a customer sharing comparative performance tests of different models of the iPhone 6S on Reddit, which appeared to support the customer suspicions.

Technology website Geeknebench also shared the results of its own tests of several iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system where some showed slower performance than others.

After customers concerns mounted and received more press, Apple publicly admitted that it had made changes one year earlier in the iOS 10.2.1 software update that is likely to have been responsible for the slowdown that customers may have experienced in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE.

Apple issued an apology to customers in January 2018.

Why?

According to Apple, the slowing down of the phones was due to the lithium-ion batteries becoming less capable of supplying peak current demands over time, so in order to prevent the phones from shutting down (and to protect their components), Apple released a software update to smooth-out the battery performance.

What The Watchdog Says

The DGCCRF has ruled, however, that Apple needs to pay €25 million fine and to display a statement on its website for a month because the iOS software update negatively affected the performance of ageing devices, customers were not told that the 10.2.1 and 11.2 iOS updates would cause a slowing down of their devices and that customers were also not told that replacing the battery rather than replacing the whole phone would solve the problem.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When this story first made the headlines, it was a serious embarrassment for Apple and a blot on the copybook of a brand that had managed to maintain an image of trust and reliability. This story illustrates how managing customer relationships in an age where information is shared quickly and widely by customers via the Internet involves making smart decisions about transparency and being seen to be up-front with loyal customers.

It is very likely that Apple regrets the entire incident and that even though the French regulator, in this case, has decided to impose a big fine, it is likely to be of more annoyance to Apple that customers have to be reminded of the incident again several years later and that the company will now have to display a notice on its website for a month as a further reminder.

Featured Article – Innovations/Gamechangers to Expect in 2020

This is the time of year for looking ahead to how technology could be affecting and hopefully, enhancing our lives over the coming year and here is a selection of just some of the possible game-changing technological innovations that could be making an impact in 2020.

5G Technologies

Technology and communications commentators are saying that 5G’s increased bandwidth and speed, along with other benefits could start to improve file sharing and other communication capabilities for businesses this year (in the geographical areas where it’s deployed).

Quantum Technologies

Back in October, we heard about the paper, published in the journal Nature, that told how scientists may have reached quantum supremacy, whereby a quantum computer can now to do something significant that a classical computer can’t.  With Google’s Sycamore chip (54-qubit processor), an algorithm output that would take 10,000 years using a classical computer only took 200 seconds, and heralded greater potentially game-changing developments this year and beyond. With results from computing power of this kind, many hitherto extremely challenging problems could be solved quickly across a range of industries, and this is likely to attract much more investment in Quantum technologies in 2020.

AI and Health

The possibilities for AI are still being explored, but thanks to start-ups like Imagen which builds AI software for the medical field e.g. OsteoDetect which uses algorithms to scan X-ray images for common wrist bone fractures, and AI software developed by Good Health researchers (in conjunction with other key partners) which has proven to be more accurate at detecting and diagnosing breast cancer than expert human radiologists, AI could be finding more positive ways to impact upon healthcare in 2020 and beyond.

Although AI has promise in so many areas, including health, one of the predicted downsides of AI developments for workers is that the automation that it brings could really start to replace many more human jobs in 2020.

Neural Interfaces

There are many predictions of how commercial applications of neural interfaces may bridge the gap between humans and computers, perhaps allowing people to think instructions to computers.  One of the key challenges is, of course, that neural communications are both chemical and electrical, but this didn’t stop head of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, announcing in July last year that brain implants (‘Neuralink’) that can link directly to devices could be a reality within a year i.e. by the end of 2020.  It remains to be seen, however, how much progress is made this year, but the idea that a near-instantaneous, wireless communication between brain and computer via an implant is that human brains could be offered a kind of ‘upgrade’ to enable them to keep up with and compete with AI.

Electric Vehicle Explosion

The many technologies (and government subsidies in some countries) that have led to a commitment by big car manufacturers to the production of electric vehicles mean that sales are predicted to rise 35 per cent in the first nine months of 2020.  More electric cars being produced and purchased in developed countries could herald game-changing results e.g. lessening the negative environmental impact of cars.

One other innovation that could help boost the growth of electric cars is a breakthrough in battery technology, such as that announced by Tesla’s head of battery research and university academic Jeff Danh, who has published a paper about a battery that could last a million miles without losing capacity.

Display Screen Technology

Advances in technologies used for display-screen e.g. for phones are likely to prove game-changers in their industries. With new screens becoming ultra-thin LEDs and, therefore, able to be added as computational surfaces to many different surfaces and objects e.g. walls and mirrors, and with advances like foldable screens e.g. Microsoft’s Surface Neo, our environment and communications tools could see some real changes in 2020.

Translation

Technology for mobile devices, AI, and language have converged to create translation apps such as Google’s interpreter mode real-time translator that’s just been rolled out for Assistant-enabled Android and iOS phones worldwide.  Having a reliable tool to hand that enables back and forth conversation with someone speaking a foreign language (and is loaded with 44 languages) could be a game-changer for business and personal travel in 2020.

Augmented Reality

Several tech commentators are predicting (perhaps optimistically) that 2020 could be the year that reliable Augmented Reality glasses find their way onto the market e.g. perhaps from Apple and could see large-scale adoption.

Looking Ahead

2020, therefore, holds a great deal of promise in terms of how different existing and some new technologies and developments combined in new products and services could become game-changers that drive positive benefits for businesses and individual users alike. 

Tracking For People Who Lose Things

Google Assistant is now supporting Tile’s Bluetooth tracker which means that Tile customers can use a simple voice command to enlist the help of Google Assistant in finding their lost keys, wallet, TV remote control and more.

What Is Tile?

Tile uses Bluetooth and a phone app to locate physical ‘Tile’ tracking devices of different sizes which can be attached to keyrings, bags, slipped into wallets, or even attached to a dog’s collar.  The tile app on the user’s smartphone can then be used to ring a Tile (the physical tracker that’s attached to e.g. your keyring) if it’s nearby (the Tile gives off a tone so it can be found), and by tapping the ‘Find’ button in the app, the item that has the Tile tracker attached can then be located.

If an item has been genuinely lost outside of the house, Tile can also be used to locate the item on a map which shows the last time and place that the item was with the used, and users who can’t locate their item this way can also ask the wider Tile community to anonymously help them find it.

Tile also has partnerships with manufacturers so that its technology is already built-in to items e.g. Sennheiser earphones.

Tile is reported to have already sold more than 22 million devices worldwide in 195 countries with its system being used to find 6 million items every day.

Google Assistant

The support from Google Assistant (via Nest devices – the Nest Mini or Nest Hub) means that, rather than opening a Tile app on their phone to locate their missing items, users can simply ask the Google Assistant where their item is, and/or ask the Google Assistant to ring their missing item. This adds an extra layer of convenience for Tile and Google Assistant users.

Competition From Apple

The move to partner with Google gives Tile a better opportunity to fend off likely competition from Apple, which is reported to be on the verge of releasing its own item location tracking system.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Tile, teaming up with Google is a very important strategic move helping it to add extra convenience and a powerful brand endorsement to its services, strengthen its current competitive edge, and give it more of a chance to fight off competition from Apple when it enters the market (soon) with a similar service.

For Google, this is a chance to add another value-adding feature to its digital assistant’s services, thereby helping it compete in another small way with competitors like Amazon.

For users of Tile, and future users of Tile who have a Google Nest device, this offers an even more convenient and fast way of using Tile’s services.

WhatsApp Ceases Support For More Old Phone Operating Systems

WhatsApp has announced that its messaging app will no longer work on outdated operating systems, which is a change that could affect millions of smartphone users.

Android versions 2.3.7 and Older, iOS 8 and Older

The change, which took place on February 1, means that WhatsApp has ended support for Android operating system versions 2.3.7 and older and iOS 8 meaning that users of WhatsApp who have those operating systems on their smartphones will no longer be able to create new accounts or to re-verify existing accounts.  Although these users will still be able to use WhatsApp on their phones, WhatsApp has warned that because it has no plans to continue developing for the old operating systems, some features may stop functioning at any time.

Why?

The change is consistent with Facebook-owned app’s strategy of withdrawing support for older systems and older devices as it did back in 2016 (smartphones running older versions of Android, iOS, Windows Phone + devices running Android 2.2 Froyo, Windows Phone 7 and older versions, and iOS 6 and older versions), and when WhatsApp withdrew support for Windows phones on 31 December 2019.

For several years now, WhatsApp has made no secret of wanting to maintain the integrity of its end-to-end encrypted messaging service, making changes that will ensure that new features can be added that will keep the service competitive, maintain feature parity across different systems and devices, and focus on the operating systems that it believes that the majority of its customers in its main markets now use.

Security & Privacy?

This also means that, since there will no longer be updates for older operating systems, this could lead to privacy and security risks for those who continue using older operating systems.

What Now?

Users who have a smartphone with an older operating system can update the operating system, or upgrade to a newer smartphone with model in order to ensure that they can continue using WhatsApp.

The WhatsApp messaging service can also now be accessed through the desktop by syncing with a user’s phone.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

WhatsApp is used by many businesses for general communication and chat, groups and sending pictures, and for those business users who still have an older smartphone operating system, this change may be another reminder that the perhaps overdue time to upgrade is at hand.  Some critics, however, have pointed to the fact that the move may have more of a negative effect on those WhatsApp users in growth markets e.g. Asia and Africa where many older devices and operating systems are still in use.

For WhatsApp, this move is a way to stay current and competitive in its core markets and to ensure that it can give itself the scope to offer new features that will keep users loyal and engaged with and committed to the app.

Tech Tip – Using WhatsApp On Your PC

If you’re working at your PC and you need to access WhatsApp without having to keep looking at your phone, there’s an easy way to use WhatsApp on your PC – here’s how:

– Open web.whatsapp.com in a browser.

– Open WhatsApp on your phone.

– Open the Chats screen, select ‘Menu’, and select ‘WhatsApp Web’.

– Scan the QR code with your phone.

– You will now be able to see your WhatsApp chats on your PC every time you open web.whatsapp.com in a browser.