TIME Web

Google Is Making a Big Change to Its Search Results

Mobile-friendly websites will now get a big boost

Google has let the world in on a recent change to its carefully protected search algorithm. Starting Tuesday, the company is boosting the ranking for mobile-friendly websites and demoting those pages that don’t load well on smartphones.

The search giant first announced the change back in February, and the move has earned the moniker “Mobilegeddon” as anxiety over the algorithm tweak has grown in recent weeks. The end result should benefit users, who will less often be sent to hard-to-navigate websites designed for desktop computers.

The shift will also help Google, which is fiercely competing with apps dedicated to specific services (think Amazon for shopping, Yelp for restaurant reviews) that are siphoning away inquiries users could be typing into a Google search bar.

TIME India

Flipkart, India’s Amazon, Plans to Shut Down Its Website Within a Year

General Images of Flipkart As India's Largest Online Retailer Said To Buy Competitor Myntra
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images The websites for Flipkart, bottom, and Myntra.com are displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad and iPhone 5c respectively in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

The firm's mobile traffic has apparently increased tenfold in less than 18 months

Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, said on Monday that it plans to shut down its website within a year and transition completely to a mobile app.

“Last year, we had more on the app but still did our web and desktop. In the next year or so, we’re going to be only mobile,” Michael Adnani, Flipkart’s vice president, retail and head of brand alliances, told the Times of India.

The decision is a reaction to the rapid growth of smartphone users in India, which is the third largest Internet market after China and the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group projects that the South Asian nation will have more than 550 million Internet users in 2018, of which almost 80% will be on mobile devices.

“A year ago, 6% of our traffic was coming from mobile. In less than 18 months, that traffic is 10-fold,” Adnani said. “That shows the significance of what a mobile phone is doing for the consumers and consequently doing for us.”

Two-thirds of Flipkart’s 8 million monthly shipments come from cities and small towns, where most people don’t have access to desktop computers and broadband Internet.

Fashion e-retailer Myntra, which Flipkart acquired last year, is also set to abandon its website in favor of an app on May 1.

TIME apps

Google Has a New Handwriting Keyboard and It Actually Works

Google Handwriting
Google Google Handwriting

New app works in languages as varied as English, Chinese and Hindi

If you’re tired of pecking at minuscule letters on virtual keyboards, Google has the app for you.

The company has unveiled a new handwriting keyboard for Android devices that will convert your chicken-scratch into typed-out words. The app, called Google Handwriting Input, can replace your device’s stock keyboard and be used for texting, web browsing and other basic phone features.

A brief hands-on showed that the app was surprisingly good at recognizing a variety of different handwriting styles in English, even if the script was sloppy and the last few letters in a word were bunched at the edge of the screen. Adding punctuation marks is also easy, and you can even recreate many emojis by scribbling them out as old-fashioned emoticons.

The only area where the app seemed to struggle was cursive—print seems to be the way to go for the greatest level of accuracy. The app has earned 4.7 out of 5 stars on the Google Play store, indicating that most users are finding the app highly functional.

Google says the new keyboard supports 82 languages and believes it will be most useful for ideographic languages like Chinese, which are often constrained to a single dialect on traditional keyboards.

TIME Smartphones

You Can Now Find Your Lost Phone by Googling It

Inside A Samsung Electronics Co. Digital Store Ahead Of Fourth-Quarter Results
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A visitor tries out a Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at the company's d'light flagship store in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.

It only works for Android users

Next time you lose your phone, a simple Google search may be able to find it.

Google announced Wednesday a new phone-finding feature for Android users tied to its search engine. Simply type “find my phone” into the Google search bar, and the results will show a map with the last known location of your phone. You can also choose to ring the phone from this page to make it easier to find — say, if it’s lost under the couch.

The feature works on the desktop and with the Google search app. Just make sure you’re signed into the same Google account on your phone and on your desktop to enable the option.

Read next: Google Has a New Handwriting Keyboard and It Actually Works

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TIME Crime

UberX Driver Arrested for Trying to Rob Woman’s Home After Taking Her to Airport

Mobilitäts Apps
Britta Pedersen—Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images An iPhone user is seen using the Uber app as Taxis queue

The incident is the latest to raise safety concerns regarding the hugely popular ride-sharing app

Police in Denver arrested an UberX driver Tuesday on suspicion of attempting to burgle a woman’s house after he dropped her off at the airport.

According to the Denver Post, 51-year-old Gerald Montgomery was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted second-degree burglary, a felony. Montgomery allegedly tried to break in through the backdoor of the woman’s home but fled when her roommate noticed.

“Upon learning about this incident from our valued rider, we immediately deactivated the driver’s access to the platform, pending a full investigation. We remain committed to supporting Denver law enforcement in any way we can,” Uber spokesman Taylor Patterson says in a statement to TIME.

Uber performs a three-step screening process that includes a county, federal and multistate background check. However, according to the Post, Montgomery had no criminal history in Colorado. Uber says they work closely with the police department to facilitate the arrest of individuals accused of crimes.

UberX is a low-cost version of the wildly successful ride-sharing program. Based in San Francisco, the firm has been the subject of numerous legal challenges — including from a Philadelphia woman who accused an UberX driver of rape a little over a week ago.

Montgomery is due to appear in court on Friday.

[Denver Post]

TIME Smartphones

Your Next Phone Could Stay Unlocked As You Carry It

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Google might bring the feature to more Android phones

Google wants to make unlocking your phone less of a hassle.

The company is introducing a new Android feature called “on-body protection” that will allow a phone to remain unlocked as long as a person is carrying it in their hands, purse or pocket. The feature makes use of smartphones’ accelerometers to detect when the phone is in motion. When the phone comes to a standstill for a while, like when it’s placed on a desk, the lock screen will reappear.

There’s a tradeoff for the added convenience, of course. On-body protection could make it easier for a pickpocket or phone-snatcher to gain access to your device after they swipe it.

The new option was first spotted on Nexus phones but is expected to roll out to other Android devices soon, according to The Verge.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Announces Plans to Expand Into Mobile Gaming

Japanese video game giant Nintendo's gam
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images Japanese video game giant Nintendo's game character Super Mario stands at a showroom in Tokyo 25 January 2007.

The company has long held an aversion to any non-console platform

You may soon be able to play iconic video games like Super Mario Bros. on your smartphone, according to an announcement by the game’s parent company, Nintendo, on Tuesday.

Nintendo said it would partner with mobile gaming company DeNA Co. to develop “gaming applications” for smartphones and other non-console devices, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Japanese gaming giant has produced some of the most iconic characters and consoles, but has shown an aversion to the burgeoning mobile platform, despite increasing competition from Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox.

However, the company’s president Satoru Iwata indicated a shift of tactics Tuesday by saying the expansion would enable it to reach hundreds of millions of new users.

“This is about the most drastic, bold shift in strategy Nintendo could have undertaken,” Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based game consultant, told the Journal.

[WSJ]

TIME Mobile

This Country Has the Fastest Mobile Broadband

Go to Europe if you want fast mobile Internet

When it comes to mobile data speeds, Europe is world’s quickest region.

A new study by wireless network tracking service OpenSignal found that Spain has the fastest 4G LTE networks in the world, with download speeds of 18 Mbps on average. Denmark, Finland and South Korea tied for second place with speeds of 17 Mbps. The U.S., with speeds of just 7 Mbps, ranked 26th out of the 29 countries measured.

The U.S. fared better on the ‘Time on LTE’ metric, a measurement of how often users are able to access high-speed data service in a given country. South Korea topped the list with 95% accessibility, while U.S. came in 6th with 77% accessibility.

OpenSignal determined its rankings by measuring data speeds and LTE access between November 2014 and January 2015 for the 11 million users who have downloaded their app and subscribed to an LTE mobile data plan.

TIME Companies

Do This 1 Thing For a Better Google Ranking

Google Mobile Search
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a Nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

Mobile-friendly sites will do better in search results next month

Google is once again tweaking its search algorithm with a new change that should have some benefits for users.

The company announced in a Thursday blog post that it will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results starting April 21. Sites that work well on a smartphone will get a “significant” boost over other sites, the company says.

The change should ensure that people conducting Google searches on their phone typically arrive on easily-readable sites rather than messy desktop-based layouts that are hard to navigate on a small screen. Google offers a form where developers can input a URL to see whether it is mobile-friendly or not.

In addition to the algorithm change, Google said starting Thursday it will begin surfacing content hidden within apps more prominently in search results. If a developer has enabled App Indexing, Google’s search bots can crawl the contents of an app just like a Web page. Information from the app can show up along with regular search results on Google.

It makes sense that Google would want to incentivize App Indexing. The search giant doesn’t have the stranglehold on information queries on phones as it does on the desktop because people often boot up more narrowly-focused apps (Amazon for shopping, Yelp for food) instead of using Google to trawl the entire World Wide Web. More indexing means more valuable information that Google can present to users and serve ads against.

TIME Mobile

Beware Apps That Promise a Cancer Diagnosis

Apple Productivity Apps
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A shopper tries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone on Sept. 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

The government is cracking down on so-called "educational" apps

Given the questionable sales pitches that seem to drive Internet marketing for some apps, this statement uttered by an FTC official on Monday might seemed understated: “Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace.”

But some messages are beyond the pale. The official, Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was referring to a couple of mobile-phone apps whose providers have claimed, without offering any proof, are able to detect the presence and severity of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The regulator on Monday announced actions against the makers of two such apps: Mole Detective and MelApp. The apps have been marketed with claims that, by analyzing user-taken photos, they can determine whether the risk of melanoma his high, medium, or low.

Although the apps, which were sold for $4.99 in 2011 and 2012, advised users to see a doctor if they had any serious concerns about their health, the FTC says they were sold as “diagnostic” tools. (The caveat about seeing a doctor apparently didn’t contain a caveat of its own, stating that if you should see a doctor if you’re worried about cancer, there is obviously no reason to buy and download an app.)

According to the FCC, thousands of people downloaded the pieces of software.

The company that marketed MelApp, Health Discovery Corp., will pay $17,063 as part of its settlements. New Consumer Solutions, which developed and marketed Mole Detective, will pay $3,930. That app was later purchased by the British firm L. Health Ltd., which has elected not to settle the FTC’s case against it because, it says, the original developer had guaranteed the app didn’t violate U.S. law.

Mole Detective shot up in popularity after it was featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” according to a report in the Washington Post. L. Health Ltd.’s Avi Lasarow said that the app “always stated that it should be used for educational purposes…”

None of this activity means that smartphone apps aren’t already becoming powerful aids for diagnosis and health management. In the case of something like skin cancer, a doctor could surely review photos to determine whether or not a patient should come in for an examination. The key word there is “doctor.”

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