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Photomath raises $6 million for its math-solving app

Photomath just raised a $6 million funding round from Goodwater Capital, with Learn Capital also participating. Photomath has created a hugely successful mobile app for iOS and Android with 100 million downloads so far.
Photomath first launched at TechCrunch Disrupt London back in 2014. The company was working on text recognition technology. Photomath was just a demo app to promote that technology.
But the startup accidentally created a consumer success. The app instantly attracted millions of downloads from many desperate students willing to learn math with their phones.
Years later it is still one of the most downloaded apps in the App Store and Play Store. And the reason it’s been so successful is that it’s a simple concept.
After downloading the app, you just have to point your phone at a math problem. It can be in a book, or it can recognize your own handwriting. The app then gives you a step-by-step explanation to solve the problem.
Combining these two things is what makes Photomath useful. WolframAlpha can solve equations, and Evernote can recognize your handwriting. But nobody thought about combining these things.
Typing an equation can be hard, so it makes a ton of sense to bridge the gap between the physical world and smartphones. Before everybody started talking about augmented reality, Photomath was already taking advantage of the system-on-a-chip in your phone.
Photomath is also capable of generating graphs and supports advanced problems, such as limits, integrations, complex numbers, etc. The app solves around 1.2 billion math problems per month.

Photomath raises $6 million for its math-solving app

Google tweaks Android licensing terms in Europe to allow Google app unbundling — for a fee

Google has announced changes to the licensing model for its Android mobile operating system in Europe,  including introducing a fee for licensing some of its own brand apps, saying it’s doing so to comply with a major European antitrust ruling this summer.
In July the region’s antitrust regulators hit Google with a recordbreaking $5BN fine for violations pertaining to Android, finding the company had abused the dominance of the platform by requiring manufacturers pre-install other Google apps in order to license its popular Play app store. 
Regulators also found Google had made payments to manufacturers and mobile network operators in exchange for exclusively pre-installing Google Search on their devices, and used Play store licensing to prevent manufacturers from selling devices based on Android forks.
Google disputes the Commission’s findings, and last week filed its appeal — a legal process that could take years. But in the meanwhile it’s making changes to how it licenses Android in Europe to avoid the risk of additional penalties heaped on top of the antitrust fine.
Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of platforms & ecosystems, revealed the new licensing options in a blog post published today.
Under updated “compatibility agreements”, he writes that mobile device makers will be able to build and sell Android devices intended for the European Economic Area (EEA) both with and without Google mobile apps preloaded — something Google’s same ‘compatibility’ contracts restricted them from doing before, when it was strictly either/or (either you made Android forks, or you made Android devices with Google apps — not both).
“Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA),” confirms Lockheimer.
However the company is also changing how it licenses the full Android bundle — which previously required OEMs to load devices with the Google mobile application suite, Google Search and the Chrome browser in order to be able to offer the popular Play Store — by introducing fees for OEMs wanting to pre-load a subset of those same apps under “a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA”.
Though Google stresses there will be no charge for using the Android platform itself. (So a pure fork without any Google services preloaded still wouldn’t require a fee.)
Google also appears to be splitting out Google Search and Chrome from the rest of the Google apps in its mobile suite (which traditionally means stuff like YouTube, the Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, although Lockheimer’s blog post does not make it clear which exact apps he’s talking about) — letting OEMs selectively unbundle some Google apps, albeit potentially for a fee, depending on the apps in question.
“[D]evice manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser,” is what Lockheimer unilluminatingly writes.
Perhaps Google wants future unbundled Android forks to still be able to have Google Search or Chrome, even if they don’t have the Play store, but it’s really not at all clear which configurations of Google apps will be permitted under the new licensing terms, and which won’t.
“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source,” Lockheimer adds, without specifying what the fees will be either. 
“We’ll also offer new commercial agreements to partners for the non-exclusive pre-installation and placement of Google Search and Chrome. As before, competing apps may be pre-installed alongside ours,” he continues to complete his trio of poorly explained licensing changes.
We’ve asked Google to clarify the various permitted and not permitted app configurations, as well as which apps will require a fee (and which won’t), and how much the fees will be, and will update this post with any response.
The devil in all those details should become clear soon though, as Google says the new licensing options will come into effect on October 29 for all new (Android based) smartphones and tablets launched in the EEA.

Google tweaks Android licensing terms in Europe to allow Google app unbundling — for a fee

Fortnite’s Android installer shipped with an Epic security flaw

Google has clapped back in tremendous fashion at Epic Games, which earlier this month decided to make the phenomenally popular Fortnite available for Android via its own website instead of Google’s Play Store. Unfortunately, the installer had a phenomenally dangerous security flaw in it that would allow a malicious actor to essentially install any software they wanted. Google wasted exactly zero time pointing out this egregious mistake.
By way of a short explanation why this was even happening, Epic explained when it announced its plan that it would be good to have “competition among software sources on Android,” and that the best would “succeed based on merit.” Everyone of course understood that what he meant was that Epic didn’t want to share the revenue from its cash cow with Google, which takes 30 percent of in-app purchases.
Many warned that this was a security risk for several reasons, for example that users would have to enable app installations from unknown sources — something most users have no reason to do. And the Play Store has other protections and features, visible and otherwise, that are useful for users.
Google, understandably, was not amused with Epic’s play, which no doubt played a part in the decision to scrutinize the download and installation process — though I’m sure the safety of its users was also a motivating factor. And wouldn’t you know it, they found a whopper right off the bat.
In a thread posted a week after the Fortnite downloader went live, a Google engineer by the name of Edward explained that the installer basically would allow an attacker to install anything they want using it.
The Fortnite installer basically downloads an APK (the package for Android apps), stores it locally, then launches it. But because it was stored on shared external storage, a bad guy could swap in a new file for it to launch, in what’s called a “man in the disk” attack.
And because the installer only checked that the name of the APK is right, as long as the attacker’s file is called “com.epicgames.fortnite,” it would be installed! Silently, and with lots of extra permissions too, if they want, because of how the unknown sources installation policies work. Not good!
Edward pointed out this could be fixed easily and in a magnificently low-key bit of shade-throwing helpfully linked to a page on the Android developer site outlining the basic feature Epic should have used.
To Epic’s credit, its engineers jumped on the problem immediately and had a fix in the works by that very afternoon and deployed by the next one. Epic InfoSec then requested Google to wait 90 days before publishing the information.
As you can see, Google was not feeling generous. One week later (that’s today) and the flaw has been published on the Google Issue Tracker site in all its… well, not glory exactly. Really, the opposite of glory. This seems to have been Google’s way of warning any would-be Play Store mutineers that they would not be given gentle handling.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was likewise unamused. In a comment provided to Android Central — which, by the way, predicted that this exact thing would happen — he took the company to task for its “irresponsible” decision to “endanger users.”

Epic genuinely appreciated Google’s effort to perform an in-depth security audit of Fortnite immediately following our release on Android, and share the results with Epic so we could speedily issue an update to fix the flaw they discovered.
However, it was irresponsible of Google to publicly disclose the technical details of the flaw so quickly, while many installations had not yet been updated and were still vulnerable.
An Epic security engineer, at my urging, requested Google delay public disclosure for the typical 90 days to allow time for the update to be more widely installed. Google refused. You can read it all at https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/112630336
Google’s security analysis efforts are appreciated and benefit the Android platform, however a company as powerful as Google should practice more responsible disclosure timing than this, and not endanger users in the course of its counter-PR efforts against Epic’s distribution of Fortnite outside of Google Play.

Indeed, companies really should try not to endanger their users for selfish reasons.

Fortnite’s Android installer shipped with an Epic security flaw

Google Play now makes it easier to manage your subscriptions

Mobile app subscriptions are a big business, but consumers sometimes hesitate to sign up because pausing and cancelling existing subscriptions hasn’t been as easy as opting in. Google is now addressing those concerns with the official launch of its subscription center for Android users. The new feature centralizes all your Google Play subscriptions, and offers a way for you to find others you might like to try.
The feature was first introduced at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, and recently rolled out to Android users, the company says. However, Google hadn’t formally announced its arrival until today.
Access to the subscriptions center only takes one tap – the link is directly available from the “hamburger” menu in the Play Store app.

Apple’s page for subscription management, by comparison, is far more tucked away.
On iOS, you have to tap on your profile icon in the App Store app, then tap on your name. This already seem unintuitive – especially considering that a link to “Purchases” is on this Account screen. Why wouldn’t Subscriptions be here, too? But instead, you have to go to the next screen, then scroll down to near the bottom to find “Subscriptions” and tap that. To turn any individual subscription off, you have to go to its own page, scroll to the bottom and tap “Cancel.”
This process should be more streamlined for iOS users.
In Google Play’s Subscriptions center, you can view all your existing subscriptions, cancel them, renew them, or even restore those you had previously cancelled – perfect for turning HBO NOW back on when “Game of Thrones” returns, for example.
You can also manage and update your payment methods, and set up a backup method.
Making it just as easy for consumers to get out of their subscriptions as it is to sign up is a good business practice, and could boost subscription sign-ups overall, which benefits developers. When consumers aren’t afraid they’ll forget or not be able to find the cancellation options later on, they’re more likely to give subscriptions a try.

In addition, developers can now create deep links to their subscriptions which they can distribute across the web, email, and social media. This makes it easier to direct people to their app’s subscription management page directly. When users cancel, developers can also trigger a survey to find out why – and possibly tweak their product offerings a result of this user feedback.
There’s also a new subscription discovery section that will help Android users find subscription-based apps through both curated and localized collections, Google notes.
These additional features, along with a good handful of subscription management tools for developers, were all previously announced at I/O but weren’t in their final state at the time. Google had cautioned that it may tweak the look-and-feel of the product between the developer event and the public launch, but it looks the same as what was shown before – right down to the demo subscription apps.
Subscriptions are rapidly becoming a top way for developers to generate revenue for their applications. Google says subscribers are growing at more than 80 percent year-over-year. Sensor Tower also reported that app revenue grew 35 percent to $60 billion in 2017, in part thanks to the growth in subscriptions.

Google Play now makes it easier to manage your subscriptions

Google Officially Reveals Play Store Gift Cards, Headed To GameStop, RadioShack, And Target First

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It’s been a week since the first images of Google’s Play Store gift cards first started making the rounds, and the search giant has finally gotten around to confirming their existence.

First thing’s first — the $10 and $25 denominations spotted last Tuesday are indeed the real deal, and they’re joined by a $50 card that’s better geared toward facilitating bigger purchases like e-books and movies. The one big bummer? They can’t be used toward purchasing hardware from the Google Play Store.

Target, GameStop, and RadioShack are among the retailers who will stock the cards over the coming weeks, with Walmart.com (no mention of their physical locations, weird) expected to join the fray before the end of August.

Frankly, the confirmation doesn’t come a moment too soon. Google has said it aims to sell something like 3 million Nexus 7s by the end of the year, and some outlets are claiming that Google could ultimately move between 6 and 8 million of the wallet-friendly tabs before the year is out. The calculations behind those figures are based on a touch panel shipment figure from Digitimes (whose track record sucks in certain respects) — suffice it to say, I’m not overwhelmed with confidence in these estimates.

Whether or not that particular sales scenario plays out though is beside the point. It’s been mentioned before that Google is selling these things more or less at cost, which means the company is shooting to make up for the deficit in Google Play Store purchases. What better way to drive Google Play revenue than with a rack full of gift cards right next to a tablet display in (insert electronics store here), especially as the holiday season closes in on us?

Now that Google has finally made these things a reality, there’s only one big question remaining: when will they roll out to the rest of the world?


Google Officially Reveals Play Store Gift Cards, Headed To GameStop, RadioShack, And Target First