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Find out the week’s top mobile stories from around the world.

This week..  India’s new mobile king, Google maps privacy concerns, Facebook’s new messenger features, Samsung’s new mobile AI assistant and much more.

India’s new mobile king: Merger to create network with 400M users


It’s official: Vodafone is combining forces with one of its top rivals in India to create the country’s largest cell phone carrier.

The U.K. telecom company said Monday it’s merging its Indian operations with those of local competitor Idea Cellular. The result will be a wireless operator with nearly 400 million customers — roughly 75 million more than the entire population of the U.S.

Vodafone (VOD) will own a stake of about 45% in the new business, which the companies are valuing at more than $23 billion, including debt. The U.K. firm will share control with Idea’s owner, the Aditya Birla Group.

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Google Maps sparks privacy concerns after enabling location sharing

The Drum

Google Maps has added location sharing to its roster of features for the first time, making it easier to share your whereabouts with your contacts – sparking an inevitable flurry of privacy concerns.

Mindful of these concerns Google has adopted an iterative approach for its flagship mapping service, particularly in so far as money is concerned, with the changes being a revenue neutral offering with no additional revenue streams for the search giant.

Instead people can simply give their contacts a heads-up on their present whereabouts by sending a text message containing a link which can be opened by any recipient – even if they don’t happen to have Google Maps installed.

This has the advantage of simplicity but does also mean the link can be copied and distributed to all and sundry – although the link will expire within a maximum of three days.

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Facebook Messenger gets two new features right out of Slack’s playbook


Facebook Messenger just got two new features that might look a little familiar. And no, it’s not because Snapchat had them first.

Instead, the company is taking two features straight out of Slack’s playbook with the addition emoji-laden reactions and mentions.

Reactions, which were first spotted in a “small test” earlier in the month, allow you to respond to individual messages within a thread with seven different emoji. Messenger’s reactions differ slightly from those seen elsewhere on Facebook.

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Samsung officially unveils Bixby, its new AI assistant for mobile and IoT

Venture Beat

Apple gave us Siri, Microsoft gave us Cortana, Amazon gave us Alexa, Google gave us, um, Google, and now Samsung has officially introduced its new AI-powered assistant to the world.

After months of speculation that its new mobile assistant would be called Bixby, Samsung has now confirmed that Bixby is indeed the name of the assistant, which the company says is “fundamentally different” from the myriad voice-powered assistants already out there, according to a press release. Samsung says Bixby differs from the competition in that it will be able to support “almost” every task the app is capable of through through the touchscreen.

This move does make sense, given that it can be confusing to figure out which commands are voice-enabled, though the fact that Samsung says Bixby will support “almost” every command suggests there may still be some confusion.

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Can you bring a phablet on a US flight from Dubai?

The Verge

Today, the Department of Homeland Security published a new set of restrictions forcing laptops and other electronics to be checked as cargo rather than carried into the cabin on flights from eight Muslim-majority countries. The restrictions have already drawn criticism on political grounds, but ambiguities in the order could also cause more practical problems.

Smartphones are explicitly exempted from the restrictions, while any device “larger than a smartphone” is included. That explicitly includes tablets, as well as e-readers, cameras, and handheld gaming units. But it’s often difficult to draw a clear line between phones and tablets, and given both political and practical ambiguities in how the new restrictions are to be enforced, it’s proven remarkably difficult to tell where a given device will land in that spectrum.

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Kenya starts selling bonds via mobile phones


Kenya has become the first country to exclusively sell government bonds to citizens via their mobile phones, as it seeks new ways of raising money.

The country is already a pioneer in the use of mobile money.

The government is looking to tap into that network by allowing mobile phone users to trade the government securities across their phones.

Kenyans can buy one of the bonds for as little as 3,000 Kenyan shillings ($30; £23), the country’s central bank said.

Kenya’s banking system is fuelled by mobile payments.

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Verizon wants To Turn Your Car Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot


Verizon is making a bigger push into connected cars in an effort to expand beyond its roots in providing mobile phone service.

The company said it would expand its existing Hum line of connected car products including adding a Wi-Fi hotspot that would let passengers go online with a laptop or tablet that might not have its own mobile data connection.

The Wi-Fi hotspot is part of a new premium HumX package, that will start at $15 per month. It includes a device that plugs into a common data port in cars, and allows drivers to monitor their car’s performance and maintenance needs while also getting a Wi-Fi connection.

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The next necessary step in healthcare: inside Norway’s vision for a technology-centered remote solution

Information Age

Overcrowded, decreasing funds and a lack of skills. The crisis currently facing the NHS is extensive.

As countries across the world face increasingly aging populations, this problem is only set to grow in severity.

Using the UK as the prime example, the NHS is on the brink. There are not enough doctors or nurses – which will be compounded when the UK leaves the EU – there is not enough room for patients and the funds being appropriated by the government – Chancellor Philip Hammond promised the NHS will receive £425 million in government investment over the next three years – are not enough to address these crippling issues.

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H&M wants suppliers to pay workers through mobile money

Enterprise Innovation

Swedish fashion company H&M Group is encouraging its suppliers to pay their workers through mobile money or other digital forms to improve the livelihood of its workforce, enhance transparency and cut factory costs.

“Digital payments are an efficient and scalable way to improve the lives of the employees of our suppliers,” said Gustav Loven, Social Sustainability Manager at H&M group. “They offer a faster, safer and more transparent way to receive their salary, increase financial inclusion and support women’s economic independence. For suppliers, paying wages digitally can generate savings, increase security and provide more accurate data on wages. “

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E-tattoos turn knuckles and freckles into smartphone controls

New Scientist

Make the most of that beauty spot. Ultrathin temporary electronic tattoos can now turn body blemishes into touch-sensitive buttons, letting you control your smartphone with your own wrinkles, freckles and other skin features.

People intuitively know the location of their own bumps and birthmarks, which makes them ideal locations for touch-sensitive buttons, says Martin Weigel at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, who has led the research. You could squeeze a freckle to answer a phone call, or slide a finger over your knuckles to change the volume of your music.

Weigel and his colleagues at Saarland University and Google used conductive ink to print wires and electrodes on temporary tattoo paper. The tattoos, which they call SkinMarks, are thinner than the width of a human hair. They are transferred onto the skin using water and last a couple of days before rubbing off.

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Global News Round-up articles are not written by MEF and do not represent any views of individuals, members or the organisation.