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Iranians are livid after Apple took away their apps

(TECH NEWS) Apple is under intense scrutiny after removing several of the most popular Iranian apps from the App Store.

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Bye bye apps

Apple is currently under fire after removing more than 10 of the most popular Iranian apps from the App Store in the name of complying with U.S. sanctions.

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Iran currently blocks access to social media networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so the removal of these apps is a little bit unsettling for some Iranians. One of the applications that was removed was the ride-sharing app, Snapp. Food delivery and online shopping apps were also removed.

Why remove such popular apps?

The New York Times reported that Apple didn’t remove these apps suddenly or arbitrarily. In fact, Iranian developers were warned last February to remove payment options from their apps in order to comply with the current U.S. sanctions. Apple stated, “under the U.S. Sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain U.S. embargoed countries.”

The U.S. issued several sanctions against Iran because of their nuclear weapons programs.

Even though President Trump added additional sanctions in July, Apple is feeling the tension, especially from Iranian telecommunications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi.

Jahromi stated, “respecting consumer rights is a principle today that Apple hasn’t abided by…we will legally pursue the omission of apps.” He goes on to state, “IT should be used for making human life better and comfortable not a tool for discrimination between countries.” The movement against Apple’s action has gained so much popularity, the hashtag #StopRemovingIranianApps was coined and has been trending on Instagram and other Iranian social media sites.

According to Yahoo!, some of the applications that have been removed, include the Amazon-esque shopping ones Digikala and Bamilo, along with discount app Takhfifan and delivery service app Delion.

What about those other sanctions?

The U.S. did indeed lift some of the sanctions on Iran, under a 2015 nuclear deal that saw Tehran limit their atomic program in exchange for the U.S lifting sanctions. However, Americans (both individuals and companies) are still banned from doing business with Iran due to the other sanctions still in place.

Thus, why Apple has now removed all of their apps originating from Iran, from the App Store.

Policy Director of the National Iranian American Council based in Washington, stated, “we trust that Apple shares our interest in encouraging young Iranian tech entrepreneurs and promoting internet freedom around the world. We hope they [Apple] will respond and look forward to discussing these matters with them.”

Apple’s Response

According to TechCrunch, Techrasa stated Apple sent the following message to Iranian startups attempting to upload apps: “unfortunately, there is no App Store available for the territory of Iran. Additionally, applications facilitating transactions for business entities based in Iran may not comply with the Iranian Transactions Sanctions Regulations (31CRF Part 560) then hosted on the App Store. For these reasons, we are unable to accept your application at this time. We encourage you to resubmit your application once international trade laws are revised to allow this functionality.”

Oddly enough, and I’m not quite sure how this works since Google is an American-based business, Iranian Android users are still able to download apps from the Google Play store, just not the ones that utilize payment options.

#Sanctions

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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Bose launches headphone-less headphones for your face

(TECHNOLOGY) Bose is using augmented reality in a fascinating new way (even if we’re poking fun at it).

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Just in time for the holidays, Bose releases Frames, their new breakthrough sunglasses that combine the protection and style of premium sunglasses, the functionality and performance of wireless headphones, and the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.

At $199 per pair, they’re the perfect gift for the person who has everything and who will eventually lose them in a lake, leave them in a fitting room, or crush them in a car seat.

Frames have the ability to stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants. Bose promises that your playlists, entertainment, and conversations will stay private, although how your conversations will remain private is unclear. Expect confusion from every stranger within earshot.

Bose is calling Frames a revolutionary wearable, but aren’t these just headphones for your face? Very cool headphones for your face?

Bose is pushing the AR functionality hard.

Although they can’t change what you see, they know what you’re seeing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android. Once they know what you see, the AR automatically tunes you into audio commentary for that place, opening users to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, and gaming.

They claim Frames are hands-free and clear-eyed, but even if that’s the case, do we really need more people walking around under the influence of distraction? As if it weren’t enough to have people’s eyes glued to their phones, now we can have people in matching sunglasses wandering around talking to themselves. Now who looks bonkers?

Frames are available for preorder now and are expected to ship in January 2019. Look for Bose to release updates to their AR at SXSW in March.

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What’s TikTok, why’s it so huge, and why is Facebook scared of it?

(TECH) TikTok has taken the internet by storm – you’ve probably seen the videos floating around, so here’s the context your business needs to know.

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Jimmy Fallon recently challenged his viewers to his version of a #sharpiechallenge. That’s where you toss a sharpie into the air, catch it, take the cap off and draw a mustache on yourself with it. He requested that viewers use TikTok to record it and upload it.

As of this writing, the hashtag boasts 8.2 million views in TikTok alone – if it wasn’t big before it gained Fallon as a fan, it is now.

What Is TikTok?

The TikTok app is the brainchild of Bytedance, a Chinese company that once owned Muscal.ly, and it launched in September 2016 as Douyin (it’s Chinese moniker). When it launched internationally, a year later, they branded the social media app TikTok. When Musical.ly shut down, users had to switch.

The app lets users view, create and share 15-second videos (kind of like Vine, RIP). It’s estimated that there are over 500 million users worldwide. The app has been highly ranked in the charts for number of downloads over the past few months, with a spike when Fallon had his first challenge, #tumbleweedchallenge. (For the record, Fallon and The Tonight Show do not have a business relationship with Bytedance.)

Users can lip-sync, do duets, record a reactions video and has some excellent tech in the app for video editing. Users can comment on videos and create video memes. It’s pretty fascinating. And wildly appealing to the masses.

One of the best things about TikTok is that the app doesn’t have advertising or monetization capabilities, even though it has a broad audience. With an estimated 500 million users, it’s just a matter of time.

Facebook launches a TikTok-clone.

Facebook doesn’t want to be late to the game. In classic follower fashion, they have launched their own short-video app, Lasso.

I played with both apps, and Lasso just doesn’t have comparable content.

What Facebook does have is its user base. By integrating with Facebook itself, Lasso may outdo TikTok eventually, but it will need to increase its capabilities.

Why should your business take notice?

Small businesses should be aware of these apps. Online videos are driving social media engagement. Content is king, and you’ve been reading here for years that video is a powerful component of any social media strategy.

TikTok and Lasso give you video-making and video-sharing tools that could increase your online presence.

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