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Android Wear 2.0 Arrives, LG First to Deploy

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Google launched the new version of its Android Wear platform, which will first be available on a pair of smart watches from LG Electronics – “designed in collaboration with Google”. Android Wear 2.0 was delayed from late last year and, in the meantime, the Android-powered smart watch segment struggled. With the new platform not available for the lucrative Christmas holiday sales period, vendors shied away from launching new products.

Google said the new platform offers users “more innovative watch faces, better workouts, new ways to use apps, more ways to stay in touch and on-the-go help from the Google Assistant”. Also new is the ability to choose and download apps directly from an on-watch Google Play store, rather than this needing to be done via a paired smartphone.

Google also talked-up the ability of mobile-connected devices to function away from smartphones, such as staying in-touch with calls and messages, music streaming from Play Music, and connected app use. With Google also placing a significant effort on its Google Assistant, Android Wear brings the technology “to your wrist, so you can find answers and get things done – hands free”. It is initially available in English and German, and will be available in other languages “in the coming months”.

LG is offering two Android Wear 2.0 watches – LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport. Watch Style is said to be “thin, light, beautiful to look at and comfortable to wear”. It has a rotating power button – similar to Apple’s “digital crown” – to scroll through streams, bring up the app launcher, or access Google Assistant.

LG’s Watch Sport is “Android Wear’s most powerful watch yet”, including NFC for payments, GPS for tracking and navigation, heart rate sensor and cellular connectivity. It has dedicated buttons for Google Fit and Android Pay, as well as the rotating power button.

Android Wear 2.0 will also be available as an upgrade to some existing smart watches, from vendors including Asus, Casio, Fossil, Huawei, LG, Motorola and Tag Heuer.

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Spotify Pulls the Plug on its Car View Feature

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Spotify is taking away the Car View feature, a report says, just as users began to notice it unexpectedly missing. Car View, available through the Spotify app for iOS and Android, had a more streamlined interface and playback controls to make for a better way to play music while driving.

“We can confirm that we’re retiring the car view feature,” a moderator on Spotify’s forums wrote. “This, however, doesn’t mean we don’t want to improve on how our users listen to Spotify while driving. On the contrary, we’re actively exploring a variety of new ways to deliver the best in-car listening experience. Think of retiring car view as something that needs to happen in an effort to make way for new innovations coming down the track.”

The move was viewed with skepticism by some users, who have posited that the company is instead just trying to push its upcoming “Car Thing” program on users. Car Thing is an $80 smart device player, designed for use in cars, which isn’t available except for preorder in the U.S. as of right now.

The aforementioned moderator said on the forum that the company was looking for the best way to have an in-car listening experience. Spotify has not offered any alternatives as of press time, though a moderator has said users could make use of Google Assistant for hands-free music control, along with a Google Maps feature to allow for listeners to control music playback.

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WhatsApp May Be Building a new Communities Feature

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WhatsApp may be working on a new “communities” feature that allows group admins greater control. With the feature, admins will be able to create separate clusters of people within a group, who are tied to specific activities. For example – some people might be interested in movies, others in music, and group admins can filter them to specific communities.

Group admins can also invite other people into the community by using a link, which can be shared publicly or privately. Another thing to note is that you may not be able to interact with all groups within a community when you join.

The feature was first spotted by XDA Developers and now WABetaInfo has also seen evidence on a recent test build. This means that the feature has not hit Beta channels yet, and is currently being worked on. While unknown at this time, WhatsApp may also ship some advanced tools for group admins when it is released.

WhatsApp will also differentiate Groups from Communities using subtle design cues, like using a square profile image with rounded borders for Communities while maintaining the circular profile image for Groups.

Recently, WhatsApp announced a slew of new features that will roll out on the platform very soon. This includes new Undo buttons while editing images or video, an option to convert stickers into images, a new control bar for videos that use Picture-in-Picture (PIP), an option to enable notifications for reactions, and new privacy settings that gives you more control over your profile and info.

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MakeMyTrip and Amazon Pay Partner up to Offer Travel Services

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Amazon Pay and MakeMyTrip India, a fully owned subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed MakeMyTrip Ltd, have announced a strategic partnership offering travel services on Amazon.in on a long-term basis. The booking options will be available across Amazon’s mobile app and website.

The partnership is likely to help Amazon Pay provide value to its customers with access to MakeMyTrip’s travel offerings. Rajesh Magow, co-founder and Group CEO of MakeMyTrip, said, “There is an accelerated digital shift happening as a result of the pandemic and through this partnership, we look forward to making travel bookings extremely convenient for new adopters, thereby increasing the online penetration of travel bookings.”

Mahendra Nerurkar, CEO & VP, Amazon Pay India, added, “Our partnership will benefit our customers, allowing them to choose from the offerings and services across the country, followed with the ease of using Amazon Pay, facilitating a seamless journey.”

MakeMyTrip will be able to expand its distribution via Amazon Pay’s large customer base, especially in smaller cities and towns and accelerate online booking of travel services across the country. Amazon Pay aims at smoothening the booking and travelling experience for customers, extending the convenience of making online transactions from anywhere to anyone instantly.

Amazon Pay which has a co-branded credit card with ICICI Bank will also let customers earn cashback rewards on bookings and with Amazon Pay Later customers can book tickets and pay next month with no interest.

Customers can also use different payment modes on Amazon Pay, including Amazon Pay Balance & Amazon Pay UPI to make their payments frictionless. Booking of bus services via Redbus is already live on Amazon.in and other travel services powered by MakeMyTrip will be going live over the next few months.

India’s online travel services market in is likely to touch $56 billion by 2024 with MakeMyTrip, Airbnb Inc., Cleartrip Pvt. Ltd., and Yatra Online Inc, being the key players in the segment, said Technavio, a technology research firm.

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