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

This week.. Snapchat rollback petition attracts one million signatures, Telegram fix flaw attacked to install malware, mobile payments expected to grow 13% globally, Google plans Snapchat-esque stories for mobile search results and much more…

Snapchat petition attracts one million signatures


One million people have signed a petition calling on Snapchat to roll back its latest redesign.

The changes were intended to separate interactions with friends from branded content – including that of celebrities and influencers.

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel wrote in a blog post that he believed blurring the two had contributed to the rise of fake news.

However, thousands of Snapchat users say that the new layout is hard to use.

Nic Rumsey, who set up the petition, wrote that some are using Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps – which use servers abroad to mask the location of a device – in order to access the older version of the platform: “That’s how annoying this update has become,” he said.

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Critical Telegram flaw under attack disguised malware as benign images

Ars Technica

Makers of the Telegram instant messenger have fixed a critical vulnerability that hackers were actively exploiting to install malware on users’ computers, researchers said Tuesday.

The flaw, which resided in the Windows version of the messaging app, allowed attackers to disguise the names of attached files, researchers from security firm Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post. By using the text-formatting standard known as Unicode, attackers were able to cause characters in file names to appear from right to left, instead of the left-to-right order that’s normal for most Western languages.

The technique worked by using the special Unicode formatting *U+202E*, which causes text strings following it to be displayed from right to left. As a result, Telegram for Windows converted files with names such as “photo_high_regnp.js” to “photo_high_resj.png,” giving the appearance they were benign image files rather than files that executed code.

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Mobile payment expects to grow 13% globally

Marketing Interactive

In 2018, more than a third of smartphone users worldwide will use their mobile phone to pay for a purchase a physical point of sale (POS) at least once every six, eMarketer estimates.

The company analysed quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies, to learn the on-going trend of proximity payment – POS transactions made by using a mobile device as a payment method, including scanning, tapping, swiping or checking in with a mobile device at the POS to complete the transaction.

In tandem with the expansion of the “big three” international providers, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and China’s WeChat Pay and AliPay, estimation sees proximity payment one of the fastest-growing segment of mobile payments.

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Google plans Snapchat-esque stories for mobile search results


Assuming you have a basic understanding of social media and haven’t been living under a rock for the last year, you’re going to be familiar with “Stories” — full screen displays of content that you can swipe or tap through, which are available for a limited time. Snapchat got the ball rolling, Instagram got on board, Facebook followed suit, and now Google is getting in on the action, following the initial report it would back in August. According to a Google blog post, “AMP Stories” are in the works, and soon they could completely shake up the look of your search results.

“AMP” stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages — optimized web pages displayed on your smartphone via Google search results, and as the name would suggest, they load fast (in around a second) and use ten times less data than non-AMP pages (although they have created some controversy — their URL prefix can make link sharing a pain, and some publishers have annoyed Google by offering stripped-back content on these pages instead of the full experience).

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Using conversational UI for mobile apps and why it matters

IT Pro Portal

Today, people no longer want to communicate with computers on inhuman terms by entering syntax-specific commands. Instead, with personalisation being the go word, user interfaces have been humanised to give rise to chatbots and chat assistants that mimic conversations with a real human.

In the past few years, there has been a clear shift from websites to touch-based apps that are on the way to be replaced by chat assistants – which present the next interaction paradigm. Remember the time you walked into a store to be greeted by a shop assistant who answered your queries and led you to the products you required, repeating a well-rehearsed script. Chat assistants are poised to achieve the same for brands by creating conversational websites that interact with customers just like the friendly sales assistants at physical stores.

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Facebook smartmobe app’s pre-ticked privacy settings violate German data protection law

The Register

A German court has ruled that Facebook has not done enough to alert people to the pre-ticked privacy settings on its mobile app.

That included an option to share location data when in conversation with another user, and agreement that Google and other search engines could show links to user profiles in search results.

Facebook said it will appeal against the decision. A spokeswoman said: “We are reviewing this recent decision carefully and are pleased that the court agreed with us on a number of issues. Our products and policies have changed a lot since this case was brought, and further changes to our terms and Data Policy are anticipated later this year in light of upcoming changes to the law.

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Smartphones lost market share to feature phones in Africa last year


Feature phones are making a comeback in Africa. But in truth, they never really went away.

The market share of feature phones rose to 61% in 2017 from 55.4% in 2016, while market share for smartphones fell to 39% from 44.6%, according to data provided by IDC. The recovery of feature phone growth in Africa was largely dominated by Transsion, the Shenzhen, China-based handset maker of the Itel and Tecno brands which started off its operations in some of Africa’s largest markets.

The growth in feature phones could be partly explained by an expansion of mobile phone markets in large countries like Ethiopia and DR Congo where mobile phone penetration is still low compared with countries like South Africa and Nigeria where more users are upgrading to smartphones. Itel, the leading Transsion brand, saw a rise in market share of its feature phones to 36% in 2017 from 30% in 2016; Tecno experienced a growth to 21% from 17% in 2016.

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Newzoo: Mobile esports ascends in Asia

Venture Beat

Multiplayer online battle arena games like League of Legends and shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive dominate the esports scene in the West, but China has a burgeoning mobile esports scene that has already seen some successes, according to a report by market researcher Newzoo. And these include games like Tencent’s MOBA Honor of Kings as well as casual offerings such as Giant Interactive’s Battle of the Balls, which has drawn over 300 million players globally.

In the report, Newzoo finds that PC and consoles will likely continue as esports strongholds in the West. However, viewers have demonstrated an appetite for mobile esports, such as Supercell’s Clash Royale. It was the most viewed mobile-only game on livestreaming platforms Twitch and YouTube Gaming in the fourth quarter of 2017, racking up 6.3 million and 15.8 million viewership hours respectively. Collectively, folks watched 1.3 million hours of Clash Royale tournaments in 2017.

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Brazil’s digital driving license launch postponed


The launch of the digital driving license in Brazil has been postponed.

The mobile-based ID was supposed to be introduced from February 1, however a number of factors prompted the government to move the go-live date to July 1.

Out of Brazil’s 27 states, only 13 were ready for the launch, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo – the locations with the largest concentration of drivers – being among the states that need more time to prepare for the new system.

Additionally, systems to validate the new ID have yet to be defined. For instance, Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency still has to introduce a mechanism to verify the mobile-based documents in domestic flights.

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Mobile data plans outnumber residents in developed nations: OECD


Mobile broadband subscriptions outnumbered people in developed nations for the first time last year as access costs fell amid increased regulation and competition, an OECD report published on Friday said.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found there were 1.31 billion mobile broadband subscriptions by June 2017 in a population of 1.28 billion people among its 35 member states in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The subscriber data, collected from governments and telecom operators in OECD countries, does not show how lines were used. Since some users hold multiple subscriptions, the percentage of a country’s population with mobile data plans cannot be deduced.

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