Apple Pay expansion and integrations in Qatar

Apple Pay is already being embraced widely across Qatar by more banks. In addition, the popular food delivery app Talabat also adds it as an additional payment option.

It’s already been a few months since Apple Pay rolled out to consumers in Qatar, making it the third country in the Middle East after UAE and Saudi Arabia.

While the rollout in Qatar began with two banks, more have recently joined and even a popular food ordering app has integrated it as a payment option.

Apple Pay your orders on Talabat

If you’re already enjoying the convenience of ordering your food or grocery items on Talabat, the app has now integrated it as another safer payment option. Who better to announce it than the MD of Talabat Qatar?

Of course, this is for all the iOS users and you need to make sure you’re using the latest version of the app. The option showed up as a default payment option while placing my talabat order.

Promo codes that would be linked to either MasterCard or Visa credit cards will still work, depending on which of your cards are linked to Apple Pay.

Image credit: Talabat

Fintech is really starting to grow in Qatar, and Talabat is looking to be setting the benchmark in embracing more convenient payment options for their users.

More banks, more users

The number of banks embracing Apple Pay has now doubled from the initial set. Account holders in CBQ (Commercial Bank of Qatar) or QIB (Qatar Islamic Bank) can now add their credit or debit cards to Apple Pay.

Credit and Debit cards from Visa/Mastercard from both banks can be added to your Apple ID. For once, I’m actually glad to see that CBQ has chosen not to reinvent the wheel since they also have their own contactless paymetn option known as CB Pay (which I hope will be retired).

If you’re wondering where to start, both CBQ and QIB allow users to add their bank cards either using their mobile app or via the Wallet app. While the official Support page on the Apple website still doesn’t show two of the new banks, expect it to be updated in the coming days.


Header image credit: Apple Newsroom

Review: UGREEN Digital AV Adapter

Want to wirelessly share something to a bigger screen but don’t have an AirPlay nor Chromecast compatible device? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is your device-agnostic solution.

Overall: it’s quite a nifty accessory to have if you don’t have a new TV nor don’t want to be tethered to one wireless standard.

While new and upcoming TVs have been adding native support for either Apple AirPlay or Google Chromecast, what about those who don’t have a new TV? How else can you wirelessly mirror your mobile device or laptop’s display? That’s where UGREEN tackles this problem with their Digital AV Adapter (a.k.a Wireless Display Dongle).

Does that mean I decided to put it through its paces

Easy setup out of the box

The dongle/adapter is quite small that it fits into the palm of your hand. It’s also quite portable and you can easily hide it away from view to declutter your work area.

Packaging comes with the essentials: the actual dongle w/ HDMI output cable (0.5m), micro USB power cable (1m), and the brief manual. Initial setup requires you to connect to the dongle via Wi-Fi to configure it (it even shows you the instructions on TV when connecting it via HDMI). The process is meant to have it connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network (also lets you upgrade its firmware).

As with any product, you would definitely want to know the specs of this accessory.

Wireless frequency2.4 GHz / 5GHz
Wireless protocols802.11a/b/g/n/ac
CPUARM Cortex-A7 dual core 1.2 GHz
Resolution4K @ 30Hz
FullHD (1920x1080) @ 60Hz
HD (1280x720px) @ 60Hz
Video format support.mp4, .avi, .wmv, .mkv, .mov, .rm and .rmvb
Operating current300-400mA
Weight300g

However, the instructions could use better wording to explain the steps (English may not be the strongest point for a Chinese company, but things can be lost in translation). Any average person who’s familiar with doing software/hardware setups should easily be up and running.

Setup instructions shown when connecting the dongle

Both AirPlay and Chromecast

Most TVs in the market integrate either AirPlay or Chromecast exclusively, which means you’d need either an Apple or Android-powered device to use it.

What about someone who visits your home and wants to mirror something but uses a standard that’s not compatible (e.g. you use iOS for AirPlay but the guest has an Android device that works using Chromecast)? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter helps to solve that issue.

Note that it does require using one of your HDMI ports, so that’s a minor trade-off if you don’t have plenty of HDMI ports on your TV. Also, it needs power via the micro USB port; accompanying long cable should help you connect it either using a USB power adapter, or even to your console (which would require you to keep it powered).

Putting the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter in action

Since I had linked the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter to my home Wi-Fi network, it immediately showed up across my devices. I decided to put it to use on the following: iPad Pro (2020), iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, and 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Connecting either my iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE devices proved to be easy. The UGREEN dongle showed up within seconds and then a tap to select it. Within few seconds, my smartphone display was mirrored onto the TV.

Watching videos from streaming apps and even playing music worked without issues. When it comes to gaming, it can be a mixed bag cause it depends on the amount of visual fidelity of the game itself.

  • Playing Need For Speed: No Limits worked like a charm but there was random lag/frame skips on the TV (not on the smartphone itself).
  • Playing Angry Birds had no issues.
  • Music playback via Spotify was clear with no interruptions.
  • YouTube playback was smooth

Best part is that your mobile device’s orientation easily mirrors itself on the TV, so it’s best you use your smartphone/tablet in landscape mode to fill up the entire TV display area.

If you have any MacBook, it connects in the same way just like the iPhone/iPad. You can choose to mirror or have your TV serve as an extended display.

Verdict

After putting it through its paces (playing videos, games, and even mirroring the display), a dongle like this definitely helps to eliminate cable clutter regardless of your setup. Whether it’s at a business meeting or even at home, you can rest assured that

Pros

Small and portable

Easy to plugin and setup

Works with multitude of devices using either AirPlay or Chromecast

Easily switch between wireless bands with a simple button press based on your device

Cons

Instructions could use better wording in English, especially for first-time users

Display unit needs to have extra HDMI port

Verdict: Recommended

The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is officially available at Store974 (Qatar) and Sharaf DG (UAE).

Apple Music Releases Playlists Showing Popular Songs by Country And City

With the release of the latest update to iOS/iPadOS/macOS, Apple has rolled out Apple Music playlists showcasing Top 25 songs by city and Top 100 songs by country.

It’s been a few days since Apple released the latest iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and macOS Big Sur 11.3. While most of the attention has been on the privacy-tacking features, there’s been some additions for Apple Music as they look to ramp up their feature set to compete against Spotify.

Known as “City Charts”, the new playlists lets Apple Music listeners see the top 25 most played songs in over 100 cities around the world. This also includes a few cities from the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent region, and the playlists are updated daily:

The feature is now live on the Apple Music app on the iPhone, iPad, as well as the Mac (as long as you are running the latest version of the respective OS). Non-subscribers to Apple Music can visit the website and browse the selection of popular songs across available cities. Expect more cities to be added in the future.

What’s Trending on Country-level on Apple Music?

If you can’t see your city in the City Charts, you can get a more macro view of the most popular songs with the Daily Top 100 by country.

Within the MENA and Indian Subcontinent region, these are the countries which you can see the playlists (clicking on each link will take you to the respective one):

The country-level Daily Top 100 playlists refreshes daily, so you can easily see which music is grabbing listeners’ attention.

Apple celebrates Ramadan across the Middle East

Apple is celebrating this year’s Ramadan with unique content and special offerings, extending it beyond the App Store to their other services including Music and Podcasts.

Last year, Apple embraced Ramadan with a curated selection of activities for the Middle East region. This year’s Ramadan activities looks to be goign even further – Apple is extending it to more of their services including Music and Podcasts.

App Store Ramadan highlights

Like last year, the App Store is featuring original stories and collections on the Today tab during the month of Ramadan highlighting unique content including apps and games with special offers. 

Apps featured on the Today tab have shown a spike in new downloads or in-app activity, which also benefits in terms of app discoverability.

Apps spanning different categories will be offering exclusive in-app Ramadan offers and themed elements.

Food & Drink:

Entertainment: 

Gaming:  

Ramadan on Apple Music

To help you reconnect with nostalgia and legacy content, Apple Music is featuring “Fawazir Ramadan”, the Pan Arab daily hit show with famous celebrities Sharihan and Nelly, exclusively on the platform. The live recordings of the show are now digitized and released as albums for the first time to celebrate the golden age in Egypt. 

The Islamic Music Category is hosting a selection of new dynamic playlists with the overarching theme “Inspired by Faith”, including Qawwali, Anasheed, Dastgah, Na’at.

Ramadan on Apple Podcasts

On Apple Podcasts this Ramadan, there is a super-room dedicated to helping you find the perfect podcast.  


Everything from apps to podcasts and music are being highlighted by Apple, wherever you are based in the Middle East. You’ll be able to experience them on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Make sure to keep an eye out for special offers and promotions throughout the month.

Apple expanding Independent Repair Provider program worldwide

Apple is expanding their Independent Repair Provider to more countries worldwide (including across the Middle East and North Africa region). That means your nearest electronics repair store can sign up to be an authorized repair center at no cost.

Getting your Apple product repaired is going to get even easier. As many countries worldwide are passing “right-to-repair” regulations, Apple seems to be responding to this global movement before it’s dragged into the legal challenges.

Before, you may have taken your iPhone to a local mobile store to repair it. The replaced parts may have brought up alerts on your device, showing that they’re not genuine due to the OS flagging the warning.

As it first launched in 2019 for customers in the US, it expanded to Europe and Canada in 2020. Accrding to Apple, there are 1,500 Independent Repair Provider locations in these regions.

With this announcement, the program would cover nearly every country where Apple products are sold.

How to become one?

From a local neighborhood store to larger franchise, repair providers of all sizes can apply. Those who join the program are granted access to genuine Apple parts, tools, repair manuals, and diagnostics to offer safe and reliable repairs for Apple products.

The best part of this program that there is no added cost to join the program.

It’s not clear whether they’ll start this first with their mobile products (iPhone and iPad), since they’re the biggest chunk of their sales. Down the line, they’ll likely expand it to the Mac family.

Starting this week, interested repair providers in the following countries/regions can apply to become an Independent Repair Provider: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, and Pakistan.

Later in 2021, the program will launch in the following countries/regions: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, and Tunisia.

Bigger impact of this program is a reduction of e-waste, as people still cling onto their devices even longer.

If it’s a battery or screen replacement, Independent Repair Providers will be competing on the basis of price to earn their business for repairing your devices. This also makes it more convenient to find a repair store closer to you.

You can also verify if a repair provider is part of the program from Apple’s website as the numbers grow.

Apple One: one umbrella for many services in the Middle East

If you’ve hated paying for separate Apple services and seen your bills go up, Apple has announced the new Apple One subscription service to simplify it all.

Don’t you find it annoying that you’d have to pay separate subscription fees for different services provided by one brand? The monthly total adds up, and you realize that a bundle offer would save you even more. Those who use some of Apple’s services like iCloud, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and many more each month face that dilemma.

During these times, people are now also looking for more value with bundles that suit their tastes. Apple One is the unified response to give users different options based on their preferences.

A single subscription allows customers in over 100 countries and regions (including the Middle East, wherever each of the services are officially available) to enjoy their favorite Apple services. The new Apple One service is not restricted to just one device; you can use it on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Mac.

To give users some flexibility in deciding which option is best, there are three different packages being offered

IndividualFamilyPremier (where available)
Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for AED/QAR/SAR 39.95 per month.Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of iCloud storage for AED/QAR/SAR 52.95 per month.Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, and 2TB of iCloud storage for $29.95 per month.

If you haven’t yet dove into any of hte individual services, Apple One includes a 30-day free trial. Once you subscribe, you’ll only get only one invoice each month and you can easily change or cancel the Apple One plan at any time. The Family and Premier plans permits up to six family members to access all the included services with their own personal accounts and preferences.

With the new Apple One service, you can say goodbye to separate subscription billing and enjoy better savings based on the plan you select.

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