Smart speakers aren’t ready to take over your home, yet

Artificial assistants in smart speakers can do some tasks for you to make your life easier but they are a long way off from turning you into a couch potato. Vinay Ram, a 30-year-old product manager, bought his Echo Dot (Rs4,499, Amazon.in) as soon as it was launched in India in November. “I’d seen an Echo a year ago when Alexa could only understand the American English accent, but mine is very responsive to Indian accents, switching seamlessly from Odia, Malayalam and north Indian English accents,” he says.

How smart speakers work in India

Ram who works for a Bengaluru-based smart-home automation company, Silvan, has set up the TV set-top box with Alexa and now asks the device to change the channels for him. Alexa also controls the air conditioner and room temperature and is automated to switch off all lights if the device hears “Good Night”.

Ram’s wife, Sapna who works from home, plays interactive games like Hangman with the smart speaker, and streams music from Saavn. Together, they give Alexa up to 50 commands in a day. Though he loves it, Ram reluctantly admits, “It’s a luxury rather than a necessity.”

According to data released in January by Amazon, Alexa smart speakers now offer integration with more than 12,000 skills tailor-made for Indians using its digital voice assistants, including the ability to play devotional songs, interactive games, services like Housejoy, Zomato, music apps like Saavn and informational apps like ESPNcricinfo—all of them free, without any subscriptions.

Vinay and Sapna can’t do without their Echo Dot. 
Continue reading “Smart speakers aren’t ready to take over your home, yet”

Run your business with these apps

With clients across the world and in different time zones, Delhi-based chartered accountant Shitij Bahl, who runs his own taxing and accounting firm, needs to keep a lot of information handy on his phone when he’s travelling.

“You never know when I will get an urgent request from a client to see all their documents. The whole 30 MB of it,” says the 33-year-old. He relies on mobile apps to respond quickly and efficiently—Google Suite to organize team schedules and track projects; Zoho Invoice to send GST-integrated invoices quickly; and Dropbox, where he keeps all client data so it can be shared efficiently with just a link. If, like Bahl, you tend to travel on work, here are a few essential apps to keep handy.

Photo: iStockphoto
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Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone

If you wish to be involved with the process of your government, as any citizen should, you do not necessarily need to wait for the UMANG app. There are already many apps that allow you to ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved in government initiatives. Till the government comes out with UMANG, we suggest a few other apps you can try.

Participate in policymaking

Are you very vocal about government policies? If yes, head to MyGov (free on Google Play, Mygov.in), an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice. Over the last year, the site saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence and invited suggestions on a draft policy note on value capture finance. It also allows you to take part in logo-making and design competitions. If you want the Prime Minister to talk about an issue on his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show, you can give your ideas on this site. So just log in and air your ideas. Since its launch, the app has seen more than 500,000 downloads, though it is a bit slow to load and hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website offers the best experience.

File an RTI

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Must-have sports apps for sports lovers

Whether it’s finding a sports partner or places to play, your phone has it covered with smart sports apps. During college, Gururaj Upadhya was a badminton champion. But once he started working, he left sports behind. “After 10 years of work, I wanted to pursue badminton again,” says the 37-year-old chartered accountant from Bengaluru. Expensive club memberships would have been a waste, given that he was travelling a lot. This is when he came across Playo, an app that connects people who play sports. He not only found sports mates but also badminton courts he could book at an hourly rate. Upadhya now plays four times a week, hosts badminton matches and runs a 70-people badminton group within the app.

If, like Upadhya, you want to follow your passion for sports, here are some apps that can help you find a place and/or a partner.

Spyn

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Apps for the last minute parties

New Year’s Eve brings with it stress. And last-minute parties to arrange. So we’ve put together a list of apps and sites you can use to get everything you need to prep for a party at the last minute, from venue to balloons. Sorry, last we checked, ordering an elephant and booze is still illegal in this country.

Invite the gang

What’s a party without an invitation? Forget the humdrum Google Hangouts, Facebook events or WhatsApp groups and create a proper invitation. Continue reading “Apps for the last minute parties”

Your smartphone is a memory machine

Here are some apps to help you remember everything—from billion-dollar ideas to baby-diaper changes

Revisit your digital past with these photo memory apps

Do you remember what you did last summer? Now you can relive your past, one photograph at a time, with these apps

Free ways to automate your posts

Tired of updating your social media accounts individually? These apps will do the work for you

Virtual assistants, on your phone

Your smartphone can now act as your butler. Here are some virtual assistants you can download to make life easier

Time to wake up with these apps

Can’t wake up on time to exercise or get to work? Here are some apps that don’t stop ringing till you are up and about