Facebook testing MoneyPenny virtual assistant?

Naomie Harris became the sixth actress to portray Miss Moneypenny in the Bond Films when she starred in Skyfall (2012)

Naomie Harris became the sixth actress to play Miss Moneypenny when she starred in Skyfall (2012)

Facebook Messenger is set to get its own virtual digital assistant according to a new report from The Information (subscription needed), who suggest that Facebook’s assistant is codenamed “Moneypenny”. The name – made famous by M’s assistant Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond series of books and films – may change ahead of launch but the service could be one of the only things that Facebook charges its users for.

Unlike other virtual assistants – such as Siri, Cortana or Google Now – which focus on productivity features, Moneypenny will be a tool to help you with your shopping needs. Using its Messenger tool, Facebook’s Moneypenny will let you ask real people for help researching and ordering products and services but as BusinessInsider point out, it’s unknown how Facebook plans to handle the logistics of deliveries.

Based on this somewhat scarce information, Moneypenny has more in common with services like Magic or Operator – rather than the voice assistants listed above – as these services let you message a person telling them what you need and they will take care of your request.

These services add a service charge on top of the cost of your order but with Facebook, it’s unknown how the company will generate revenue from the Moneypenny feature. The company could potentially choose one of a few revenue models; they could add a service charge on top of the order cost, charge users a fee for Moneypenny, charge companies to be listed in Moneypenny and/or earn commission from orders placed.

Facebook Messenger, which is led by former PayPal CEO David Marcus, has been transitioning towards becoming more of a shopping tool and the Moneypenny assistant could be its crowning glory. It’s unknown when Facebook will make Moneypenny a reality and exactly what services the assistant will launch with but we’ll keep an eye on this and let you know when we have more information.

From the basic information we have, it seems that Moneypenny could be a success for Facebook and hopefully it won’t suffer the same fate as the Facebook Home and Poke apps. What do you think about Facebook’s proposed new feature? Would you use Facebook Messenger and/or Moneypenny for your shopping needs? Let us know your views in the comments below guys!

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Xiaomi Mi 4i goes up for open sale in India as manufacturer ends flash sales

Unveiled in India in the month of April, Xiaomi’s Mi 4i offers incredible hardware for its ₹12,999 ($205) asking price. The device was thus far available through a series of flash sales on Flipkart, but Xiaomi has announced that starting today, the Mi 4i will be up for general sale. This isn’t the first time the vendor announced general availability of the handset, with Flipkart making the device available for purchase without registrations for two days last month.

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Xiaomi Mi 4i goes on general sale across multiple retailers in India

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Xiaomi unveiled its latest Mi 4i smartphone back in April and has been gradually pushing products out to the Indian market with its flash sales tactic. Now, Xiaomi is opening up the handset to general sale across multiple retailers in India.

Previously, Mi 4i flash sales had taken place through the popular e-commerce retailer FlipKart. Flash sales help Xiaomi keep on top of stock levels and production, as well as generating some hype and a feeling of exclusivity around the handset. The smartphone is now available for purchase any time through Amazon India, Snapdeal, The Mobile Store, Airtel, Xiaomi’s own Mi.com, and Flipkart, of course.

As a little recap, the Xiaomi Mi 4i is a mid-range version of the company’s latest flagship smartphone, with a slightly lower price tag to compete in the Indian market. The handset comes with a 5-inch 1080p display, octa-core Snapdragon 615 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 13 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front camera. The Mi4i also sports dual-SIM support, LTE data connectivity, a 3,120mAh battery and Xiaomi’s MIUI 6, which is based on Android 5.0 Lollipop.

The Xiaomi Mi 4i is priced at Rs. 12,999 (approximately $200) across the various retailers and is available in your choice of either dark grey or white colors.

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Facebook working on ‘Moneypenny’ virtual assistant for Messenger

Facebook is reportedly working on a new virtual assistant feature, much like Cortana, Google Now and Siri, but with a slight twist. According to The Information, the social giant will introduce the assistant (codenamed ‘Moneypenny’) on Facebook Messenger, and this new feature will help you purchase goods as opposed to revealing the weather and setting appointments.

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Google Photos backs up your photos even if you delete the app

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If you decided to try out Google Photos when it was launched last month but decided it wasn’t for you, the app will keep uploading your photos to the service unless you disable the backup from the Google Settings menu.

As spotted by Nashville Business Journal writer David Arnott, Google Photos uses Android’s Google Settings menu to determine whether to backup your photos which means if you’ve deleted the app but not disabled the option, you’ll find your pictures are still being uploaded to Google Photos.

Disabling the upload – which many found concerning as Google stores its images using supposedly “unguessable” public URLs – requires you to head over to the centralised Google Settings Menu in Android and turn off the “Google Photo Backup” option, otherwise you’ll find the pictures from your phone are still being uploaded to the web. You’ll need to do this even if you’ve deleted the app and this confusion is just one example of a user experience fail thanks to Google’s own applications.

Arnott says he chose to continue using Flickr – instead of Google Photos – as he was already sharing several Flickr accounts with his family and didn’t want them to have to learn a new method of accessing photos. In response to Arnott’s concerns, Google said that the photo backup was “working as intended” which is technically true but disabling the auto backup is definitely intuitive and its unlikely that users will be aware of the way backups are managed.

We’ve been able to replicate the issue with images appearing on Google Photos even after deleting the app and disabling Google Drive and Google Plus on our device. Have you found that Google Photos continues to upload your images? What do you think of Google’s policy of continuing to backup your photos even if you clearly don’t want to use the service? Let us know your views in the comments below.

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HamShield Puts Your Arduino On The Radio

Anybody can grab a USB TV tuner card and start monitoring the airwaves, but to get into the real meat of radio you’ll need your amateur radio license. Once you have that, the bandwidth really opens up… if you can afford the equipment. However, [spaceneedle] and friends have dramatically lowered the costs while increasing the possibilities of owning a radio by creating this ham radio shield for the Arduino.

The HamShield, is a versatile shield for any standard Arduino that allows it to function like an off-the-shelf radio would, but with a virtually unlimited number of functions. Anything that could be imagined can be programmed into the Arduino for use over the air, including voice and packet applications. The project’s sandbox already includes things like setting up mesh networks, communicating over APRS, setting up repeaters or beacons, monitoring weather stations, and a whole host of other ham radio applications.

HamShield operates on a wide range of frequencies and only uses a 250 mW amplifier. The power draw is small enough that the HamShield team operated it from a small solar panel, making it ideal for people in remote areas. The project is currently gathering funding and has surpassed their goal on Kickstarter, branding itself appropriately as the swiss army of amateur radio. The transceiver seems to be very robust, meaning that the only thing standing in the way of using this tool is simply writing the Arduino code for whatever project you want to do, whether that’s as a police scanner or even just a frequency counter. And if you want to follow along on hackaday.io, the project can be found here.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, radio hacks

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Become the world champion in Stick Tennis Tour, now on Android

If you’re suffering from post-Wimbledon and post-grand slam withdrawals, the bad news is that the next grand slam tournament, the US Open is still a few months away. The good news is that, aside from there being other tournaments in between, is that you can bring out your tennis frustrations in a new mobile game that is now available on Android called Stick Tennis Tour, the follow-up to the popular Stick Tennis game, which is apparently the number one sports game in more than a hundred countries.

As the title suggests, this time around, you not just play tennis, but you actually go on tour to rack up points and be the number one tennis player in the world. And you’re not just any player. You can actually customize the person you want playing for you and there are over 180 different kinds you can choose from. Once you’ve finished creating your player, you can now start practicing by going against either your training partners or a state-of-the-art ball machine.

Once you’ve trained enough, you can now start going around the world and competing on a 28-stage Stick Tennis, which will bring you to various cities and countries like Tokyo and Dubai. For more points, you can also go up against some of the all-time greats in live challenges. You will also be able to see your progression as you compete more in a table that will track your stats, progress, and items that you’ve bought or earned.

You can download Stick Tennis tour from the Google Play Store for free. There are in-app purchases available as well.

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Nokia looking to partner with a manufacturer, license its brand for future smartphones

Nokia X -6

Nokia gave up its rights to make, sell and market smartphones when the company sold its mobile division to Microsoft. This was sad news to the industry, which saw Nokia ruling the world for 14 years. That moniker continues to have an impact in people’s minds, which makes it a valuable asset. On the bright side, it seems the Nokia brand won’t exactly go to waste.

The Finnish company has clearly expressed it’s not dismissing the possibility of licensing its brand name to other mobile device manufacturers. Today they make their stance much more solid by officially stating “the right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model”, in which a phone maker could take care of the responsibilities the company is now limited to.

“If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation.”

Nokia is clearly stating they will continue to look for the right partner, “who can take on the heavy lifting” for them. The only caveat is this can’t happen earlier than Q4 2016, so it will be a while before any of this comes to fruition. This also means Nokia has enough time to plan its strategy and possibly even work on new designs for upcoming smartphones.

htc one vs nokia lumia 928 aa 928 back in hand

Any possible partners?

There’s a plethora of “world-class” manufacturers Nokia could pick from, and chances are many are interested. If I had to place my bets on a specific company, though, it would certainly be Foxconn.

Foxconn has already worked with Nokia to release the N1 tablet, which just so happens to run Google’s Android operating system (and not in that overly-modified way we saw other Nokia devices do so in the past). Furthermore, there’s some speculation rolling around that suggests Foxconn’s large investment into Cyanogen could be largely related to their plans to work with Nokia to make smartphones.

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Android could finally help Nokia race back to the top

Nokia was unsuccessful at becoming relevant in the modern smartphone wars. iOS and Android gained too much traction for Symbian to compete. Sadly, Nokia also went all in with Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, which proved to be a flop for them. Now that the company is free to mend their ways, they could try adopting the biggest mobile platform in existence – Android. By the way, we can’t exactly count the Nokia X and company as true Android phones. The interface was completely revamped and those things didn’t even have Google Play Store access.

Surely, going with Android wouldn’t guarantee Nokia the #1 spot it once held, but we can assume they will do much better. I have heard many of you say: “I would so buy a Nokia phone… if it only ran Android”. Of course, it’s also unknown whether future Nokia phones will run Android or not (that is, if Nokia phones even make a come-back), but there are high chances of such being the case. And honestly, it would be the best decision; the Nokia N1 tablet did pretty well in our full review.


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Would you buy a Nokia phone running Android now?

The real question is whether the general public feels the same way now. Would you guys buy a Nokia phone if it resembled previous Nokia design, build quality and specs, but ran Android (in its full glory) instead of Windows Phone? I believe I would.

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