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Xiaomi Mi Pay Beta Testing Starts in India, Countering Google Pay in the Country

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Xiaomi has finally kicked off the beta testing of its Mi Pay digital payments platform in India. The Beijing-headquartered company has partnered with ICICI Bank and PayU to launch the Mi Pay platform in the country. Originally, Mi Pay debuted as an NFC-based payments service in China by partnering with China UnionPay. The India version of Mi Pay is similar to how Google Pay enables mobile transactions. However, unlike the Google Pay app in India, Xiaomi claims that its native digital payments platform supports not just UPI but also all “leading” credit cards and debit cards.

While announcing the new development, Xiaomi in an official forum post on Wednesday revealed that National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has cleared Mi Pay for large group usage. This has brought the digital payments platform to beta testing. The platform takes on the likes of Google Pay by enabling users to make payments for utilities such as phone bills and recharge, DTH recharge, water bill, and electricity bill. It is also touted to accept credit cards, debit cards, Internet banking, and UPI.

You need to be on an MIUI Global Beta ROM to participate in the ongoing beta testing of Mi Pay in India. If you are already running a MIUI Global Beta ROM on your phone, you can sign up for the Mi Pay beta testing until December 31.

 

“Mi Pay’s biggest advantage is its deep integration within MIUI which makes transferring payments to contacts and vendors extremely easy,” the company said in its forum post.

Xiaomi is aiming to have a seamless integration of Mi Pay within its proprietary Contacts, SMS, Scanner apps and App Vault to enable an on-the-go payments experience. “All user-generated data will be kept in a highly encrypted format within the India-based cloud infrastructure,” the company claimed.

Unlike the original Mi Pay model that was launched in China back in September 2016 to make payments using built-in NFC support, Mi Pay in India enables transactions using the UPI PIN and the virtual payments address (VPA). You can also transfer money to other users using UPI or request and collect money from other UPI users for goods and services that accept UI payments – all using your bank account.

Xiaomi also highlights that Mi Pay in India lets users make payments by scanning QR codes, including Bharat QR codes. The platform also generates personal static and dynamic QR code to receive payments from other users via UPI. Further, you can at anytime link or unlink your bank accounts or manage your bank account and check the current balance in your account directly from the platform. There is also an option to modify or reset the UPI PIN for your bank account.

In the recent past, Xiaomi invested in private lenders in India. The Chinese company led a funding round in Bengaluru-based student credit platform KrazyBee in October last year and invested in fintech startup ZestMoney earlier this year. All this has apparently helped understand the market and ultimately bring Mi Pay to the country with a set of localised features.


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BBM Aka BlackBerry Messenger to Shut Down in May, but BBM Enterprise Becomes Available to Individual Users

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BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is shutting down. Emtek, an Indonesia-based company which had taken over the development of BBM consumer version in 2016, on Thursday announced that it will be winding down the messaging service on May 31, 2019. In light of Emtek’s announcement, BlackBerry has stated it is releasing BBM Enterprise (BBMe) for the individual users. The Android version of the BBMe is already available for download, whereas the iOS version will be coming soon. BlackBerry Messenger once used to be one of the most popular messaging apps in world and a key feature of the BlackBerry devices. It was later introduced on Android and iOS platforms, but its popularity dwindled as competing chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger gained momentum.

Emtek blamed the difficulty of bringing new users to BBM as one of the reasons why it is closing down the service. BlackBerry Messenger will continue to remain functional up to May 31, after which the app will cease to operate.

“Three years ago, we set out to reinvigorate BBM consumer service, one of the most loved instant messaging applications, as a cross-platform service where users can not only chat and share life experiences, but also consume content and use payment services,” Emtek wrote in a blog post. “The technology industry however, is very fluid, and in spite of our substantial efforts, users have moved on to other platforms, while new users proved difficult to sign on.”

 

It is important to note here that BBOS or BlackBerry 10 users will remain unaffected as BlackBerry continues to manage BBM for the platform, but they won’t be able to send and receive messages from BBM for Android/ iOS users after Emtek shuts the app down.

Meanwhile, following Emtek’s decision, BlackBerry has decided to step in, and the company revealed in a press release that it is bringing BBM Enterprise to the individual users. The service was earlier limited to the company’s enterprise customers. BBMe is now available as a free download from Google Play Store and it will be coming to Apple App Store soon.

According to BlackBerry, BBMe will be free to use for the first year, following which the users will have to buy a six-month subscription at $2.49 (roughly Rs. 170).] Given that BBMe includes built-in enterprise-grade end-to-end encryption, which is not available in BBM consumer version, the subscription may be worth price for avid BBM users.

“This decision [to release BBMe for individual users] was made out of BlackBerry’s respect for loyal BBM users and was not a contractual obligation,” BlackBerry said in a statement.

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Instagram testing co-watching feature on app

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Facebook-owned photo-messaging app Instagram is testing a new feature that would let users co-watch on-platform video content with friends, while being able to see their reactions on the video via the phone cameras.

The option would start with a split-screen view, where users would be able to apply face filters and other visual tools to their personal camera feeds, Social Media Today reported on Thursday. “Instagram’s co-watching media picker is essentially tabs of Explore, Saved and Liked.

It’s somehow also showing me photos though.

 

Unless Instagram designed co-watching so we can stare at an image together, it will be fixed when released,” reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong tweeted.

The feature would let users watch Instagram videos together with added interactive elements of being able to see and hear their co-viewer in a minimised window.

At present, the option appears to only support two concurrent viewers, alongside the Instagram Live functionality.

“That could be somewhat restrictive, but then again, previous research has shown that 85 per cent of the messages shared on Instagram are distributed to the same three friends, highlighting a desire for more intimate communication on the platform,” report added.

The photo-messaging app’s test feature is similar to Facebook’s previously launched “Watch Party” feature — that lets users watch public videos in real time with a group of friends on the app.

Since launching Watch Parties in groups last July, Facebook says that it has facilitated more than 12 million “Watch Parties” within Groups alone, while “Watch Parties” also garner 8 times more comments than regular videos in Groups, the report noted. Instagram has not commented on testing or availability of the feature as yet.

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F&D R3 Wireless Speaker Launched in India, Priced at Rs. 4,990

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Audio brand F&D, also known as Fenda Audio, has made a name for itself in the audio accessories space, and sells a wide range of affordable speaker systems, headphones, portable speakers, soundbars, and more. The brand is available both online and offline, and is considered a good entry-level option for aftermarket speaker systems. The latest product from the company is the F&D R3 wireless speaker, which is priced at Rs. 4,990. The product is available online through major portals, as well as offline in retails stores across the country.

The F&D R3 is a portable wireless speaker which uses Bluetooth to connect to various source devices, such as smartphones and computers. The speaker uses two 3-inch full-range drivers along with passive radiators, for a total of 12W of output. The speaker has a frequency response range of 70-20,000Hz, and weighs about 950 grams. For connectivity, the R3 uses Bluetooth 4.2, and also allows for FM radio, TF cards, auxillliary, and USB drives for music playback.

The speaker has a 4,500mAh battery which promises battery life of up to five hours on a single charge. The speaker features an interesting pattern on the exterior, along with controls for power and playback at the top. The speaker has an MRP of Rs. 4,990 and will be available to buy at various online retailers, among other offline retail stores.

 

F&D is better known for its 2.1-channel and 5.1-channel speaker systems, but also has a large range of wireless speakers, headphones, earphones and soundbars. The company has been present in the Indian market for some years now, and offers buyers affordable options for home and portable audio equipment.

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