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For the visually impaired, there are lots of accessibility options if you want to browse the web — screen readers, podcast versions of articles and so on. But it can still be a pain to keep up with your favorite publications the way sighted app users do. BrailleVoice is a project that puts the news in a touch-tone phone interface, reading you the latest news from your favorite publications (like this one) easily from anywhere you get a signal.
It’s from SpaceNext, AKA Shan, who has a variety of useful little apps he’s developed over the years on his page — John wrote up one back in 2011. Several of them have an accessibility aspect to them, something that always piques my interest.
“Visually challenged users will find it difficult to navigate using apps,” he wrote in an email. “I thought with text to speech readily available… they would be able to make a call to a toll free number to listen to latest news from any site.”
All you do is dial 1-888-666-4013, then listen to the options on the menu. TechCrunch is the first outlet listed, so hit 1# and it’ll read out the headlines. Select one (of mine) and it’ll jump right in. That’s it! There are a couple of dozen sites listed right now, from LifeHacker (hit 15#) to the Times of India (hit 26#). You can also suggest new sites to add, presumably as long as they have some kind of RSS feed. (This should be a reminder why you should keep your website or news service accessible in some like manner.)
“More importantly,” he continued, “this works even without internet even in the remotest of places. You can listen to your favorite news site without having to spend a dime or worry about internet.”
Assuming you can get a voice signal and you’ve got minutes, anyway. I quite like the idea of someone walking into the nearest town, pulling out their old Nokia, dialing this up and keeping up to date with the most news-addicted of us.
The text to speech engine is pretty rudimentary, but it’s better than what we all had a few years back, and it’ll only get better as improved engines like Google’s and Apple’s trickle down for general purpose use. I’m going to ask them about that, actually.
It’s quite a basic service, but what more does it need to have, really? Shan is planning to integrate voice controls into the likes of Google Home and Alexa, so there’s that. But as is it may be enough to provide plenty of utility to the vision-impaired. Check out TextOnly too. I could use that for desktop.

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Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India

 After several weeks of speculation and leaked details, today Google officially unveiled its first big foray into mobile payments in Asia. The Android and search giant has launched Tez, a new mobile wallet in India that will let users link up their phones to their bank accounts to pay for goods securely in physical stores and online, and for person-to-person money transfers. “Send money… Read More

Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India

Research: $1.5 Trillion In Mobile Revenues In 2012, U.S. Accounting For 40% Of All Smartphone Sales

mobile pile

The mobile industry will reel in more than $1.5 trillion in revenues in 2012, with 28 percent of that, $400 billion, attributable to mobile data, according to new research out from analyst Chetan Sharma.

He notes that within the revenues expected for mobile data, non-messaging revenues led by apps, mobile web browsing and streaming media have finally overtaken those of traditional messaging like SMS as smartphone usage continues to grow. Non-messaging, he says, will account for 53 percent of the total: in other words, some $212 billion will come from apps, music and video streaming, games and mobile web browsing.

Still voice is still accounting for a huge part of the value in mobile, and “OTT” services provided by third parties — be they Apple or others — are still only a small piece of the pie:

Sharma’s report also notes in the U.S. smartphones now account for 69 percent of all mobiles sold — the highest rate with the global average at about half that, 32 percent. He notes that some operators are even more bullish than that and expect 90-95 percent of all sales to be smartphones this year (O2 in the UK led that charge last year as you can see in the slides below). In the meantime, the adoption rate will lead the U.S. finally to be able to claim that more than half of all consumers will own smartphones. The U.S. is also, overall, accounting for about 40 percent of all smartphone sales worldwide.

The total worldwide base of mobile subscribers now stands at 6 billion, and while it took 20 years to reach the first billion, the speed at which this has accelerated is pretty remarkable: Sharma notes that it took only 15 months for that number to go from 5 billion to 6 billion.

As you would expect, a lot of the growth now is coming from developing countries but still the numbers are astounding. He notes that together China and India are adding 75 million new subscribers every quarter to the global base, and points out that China alone already has 1 billion mobile subscribers, the first country to reach that milestone, and that India currently has the highest subscriber growth rate.

But India may, at best, be an opportunity for the future rather than today. Sharma points out that India monthly ARPU is an “anemic” $2.50. “Even with a signficant subscriber base, there is going to be a general lack of opportunity in the market for the next couple of years relative to other markets,” he writes.

In contrast, the early adopters of Japan have helped that country remain in the lead for mobile data usage, with some 60 percent of ARPUs attributable to data. And because the U.S. has nearly the same proportion, but is significantly bigger, it is currently leading the world in terms of data revenues as well as overall ARPU revenues.

Still, the tide is turning: A number of emerging nations are now in top 10 mobile nations by subscribers, he says. They include Brazil, India, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, while Korea, UK, Italy and Germany “have dropped off or slipped in rankings.”

Patents. Although we’ve had a lot of noise about patent acquisitions, purchases and lawsuits around internet and (specifically) social media patents, Sharma points out the mobile continues to lead the field with patent applications, and that mobile companies are filing more in the U.S. than in Europe — on average 1.7 times more. He notes that in the U.S., the biggest patent holders are IBM, Microsoft and Nokia. In Europe they are Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia and Samsung. Nokia also appears in the list for top-three device patent holders, along with Samsung and Sony. And among carriers, AT&T, NTT Docomo and Sprint lead the charge.

That gives pause for thought about what Nokia has and what kind of value the company holds, beyond the cash that has been mentioned several times in the last week as ratings companies continue to downgrade the company.

Full slide deck here:

Research: $1.5 Trillion In Mobile Revenues In 2012, U.S. Accounting For 40% Of All Smartphone Sales

Meet The XOLO X900, Intel’s First Atom-Powered Android Smartphone And It’s Bound To Just India

lava xolo x900

With Lava’s XOLO X900 Intel is entering uncharted territory. It’s the chip maker’s first major push into mobile phones. Intel revealed its new mobile strategy and upcoming hardware a few months back at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress. Since then Lava’s XOLO X900 has not changed. It’s still destined for just India. It’s still a mid-tier Android 2.3 phone (ICS is coming) with a 4.03-inch, HSPA+ 3G phone. But Intel’s inside and that’s a big deal.

Inside the average looking X900 is Intel’s Atom Z2460 processor. This is the first of several upcoming phones that forgo the tradition ARM-based CPU for Intel’s Atom X2460. Intel designed this Atom SoC with Android specifically in mind. The chip runs at a competitive 1.6GHz and features Intel’s hyper-threading, 400MHz graphics core with support for OpenGL, ES2.0 and OpenVG. The silcon also had a dedicated imaging core that supports throughput of up to 240 megapixels per second and a 10-picture burst mode — a key selling point of the XOLO X900.

This is just a test for Intel, though. The company is launching this device in only India. A similar but slightly more powerful handset will hit China later this year. Intel is using these fast-moving markets as a test bed of sorts. If found to be successful, Intel will no doubt look to other OEMs for the slower moving, but more lucrative markets of Europe and the US. Until then, Indian buyers will have Intel smartphones all to themselves.

Lava’s XOLO X900 will hit Indian retailers on April 23 for approximately 22,000 rupees, or about $420. Seeing how the iPhone 4S goes for twice as much in India, the XOLO X900′s price should be enticing enough to convince at least some buyers to test Intel’s first generation device.

Meet The XOLO X900, Intel’s First Atom-Powered Android Smartphone And It’s Bound To Just India

Indian Government To Launch BlackBerry Messenger Snooping System ‘Soon’


BlackBerry fans in India had best stay on the up-and-up lest they want to draw unwanted attention from the country’s security agencies. India Today reported over the weekend that the country’s government is on the verge of being able to capture messages sent though RIM’s formerly iron-clad BBM service.

Unnamed Indian officials were quick to point out to India Today that their forthcoming ability to capture and crack BBM messages will be used strictly on snoop on devices whose users are suspected of engaging in criminal or terrorist activity.

Thankfully, there seems to a be a fairly rigorous approval process that needs to take place before the snooping can commence — the Union Home Ministry must essentially issue a warrant to the agency in question (eight of them authorized to tap communications), who then must request access to the data from the trackee’s service provider.

Given their focus on facilitating communication between employees, the government is less concerned with snooping on messages that pass through BlackBerry enterprise servers. That isn’t to say that they can’t do it — they would have to intercept the messages before the were encrypted by the BES, which they view as more an unnecessary hassle than a technical impossibility.

If some of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because RIM and India have had a long, and at times contentious relationship. The whole convoluted story first began to unfold in March 2008, when the Indian government began seeking a way to “lawfully intercept” emails and messages sent by BlackBerry users. India was (and remains) so wedded to the idea that they eventually threatened to shut down RIM’s network within the country entirely if they didn’t fork over that access. RIM fought the good fight for nearly two months, but eventually backed down rather than let themselves be shut out of the Indian market entirely.

The Indian government was unhappy with RIM’s initial offer but finally got their wish back in October, when RIM (perhaps reluctantly) installed a facility in Mumbai that would effectively allow the government to poke around in user data as needed. And, well, here we are. BlackBerrys (and perhaps BBM in particular) have proven to be a useful method for people to communicate in the midst of chaos and confusion, but whether or not the Indian government’s newfound powers will help as much as they think remains to be seen.

Indian Government To Launch BlackBerry Messenger Snooping System ‘Soon’