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With iOS 13, Apple delivers new features to court users in India

Posted by | alibaba, Apple, apple news, Apple Pay, Apps, Asia, india, iPhone, language, Languages of India, Mobile, Netflix, smartphone, writing | No Comments

Apple has finally listened to its small, but slowly growing user base in India. The iPhone-maker today announced a range of features in iOS 13 that are designed to appease users in the world’s second largest smartphone market.

First up, the company says its Siri voice assistant now offers all new and “more natural” Indian English male and female voices. It has also introduced a bilingual keyboard, featuring support for Hindi and English languages. The keyboard offers typing predictions in Devanagari Hindi that can suggest the next word as a user types and it learns from their typing over time.

Additionally, the keyboard in iOS 13 supports all of 22 Indian languages, with the inclusion of 15 new Indian language keyboards: Assamese, Bodo, Dogri, Kashmiri (Devanagari, Arabic), Konkani (Devanagari), Manipuri (Bangla, Meetei Mayek), Maithili, Nepali, Sanskrit, Santali (Devanagari, Ol Chiki), and Sindhi (Devanagari, Arabic).

The addition of these features comes as Apple cautiously grows more serious about India, where it holds about just 1% of the smartphone market share, according to research firm Counterpoint. Even as smartphone shipment is declining in much of the world, India has emerged as the fastest growing market for handsets in recent years. According to Counterpoint, more than 145 million smartphones shipped in India last year, up 10% year-over-year.

But users in India have long complained about Apple services not being fully optimized for local conditions. Siri, for instance, has so far offered limited functionalities in India, and many Apple services such as Apple Pay and Apple News are yet to launch in the nation.

The upcoming version of iOS, which will ship to a range of iPhone handsets later this year, also includes four new system fonts in Indian languages: Gurmukhi, Kannada, Odia, and Gujarati. These will “help deliver greater clarity and ease when reading in apps like Safari, typing in Messages and Mail, or swiping through Contacts,” the company said in a statement.

Additionally, there are 30 new document fonts for Indian languages Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Sanskrit, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada, Gurmukhi, Malayalam, Odia, and Urdu.

Apple says iOS 13 will also enable improved video downloading option for patchy networks. It says users in India can now set an optimized time of the day in video streaming apps such as Hotstar and Netflix for downloading videos. Consumption of video apps is increasingly skyrocketing in India. Just last week, Alibaba said it was investing $100 million in its short video app called Vmate in the nation.

In recent months, Apple has also improved Apple Maps in India. Earlier this year, Apple Maps added support for turn-by-turn navigation, and enabled users to book a cab — from Ola or Uber — directly from within the maps app. The company has also been aggressively hiring people to expand its maps and other software teams in  the country, according to job postings on the its site.

Improvements to software aside, Apple has also been working to reduce the cost of iPhones in India, the single major factor for their poor sales in the country. Two years ago, Apple started to assemble the iPhone 7 handset in India. It plans to ramp up its local production in the coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

As part of local government’s ‘Make in India’ program, phone vendors that assemble phones in the country are offered tax and other benefits. Ravi Shankar Prasad, an Indian minister who oversees law and justice, telecom, and electronics and IT departments, said at a press conference earlier today (local time) that Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party which was reelected last month, will work on expanding Make in India program as one of its top priorities.

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Blue Canoe takes on language learning with a focus on pronunciation

Posted by | allen institute for artificial intelligence, Apps, artificial intelligence, blue canoe learning, Education, language, machine learning, Mobile, Startups, TC | No Comments

 If you want to pick up a new language, there’s no shortage of options. But one aspect of the process that has been neglected is pronunciation, which is especially important for professionals. Online, learning pronunciation is generally “hear a recording, then repeat it.” Blue Canoe uses an established curriculum and machine learning to make things easier and more effective. Read More

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English teaching service VIPKID raises $200M and reportedly hits a $1.5B valuation

Posted by | Disrupt, language, Mobile, sequoia capital, Startups, TC, TechCrunch Disrupt SF, vipkid | No Comments

 VIPKID, an online English teaching tool, announced today that it has raised $200 million in financing. That financing round values the company at $1.5 billion, according to a report by Bloomberg. That wouldn’t just give VIPKID unicorn status — it also exposes a huge amount of demand there is in China and other countries as a tool to learn English from English speakers. VIPKID… Read More

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