Each week the MEF team curates mobile stories from around the world. Essential news, the latest market insight & data nuggets, the Global News Round-up offers an instant international mobile content and commerce snapshot.
Global News Stories
Want to play games like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja or Candy Crush for cash stakes? A San Francisco startup wants to make it possible to do exactly that. Skillz has raised $3 million in equity funding and $3 million in venture debt to bring play-for-cash functionality to mobile games, Chief Executive Andrew Paradise said. The new tranche brings the startup’s total equity funding raised to $10.3 million.
Skillz’s lead investor is Boston-based Atlas Venture, with other backers including NextView Ventures and individuals angels Mark Jung, the former CEO of digital entertainment website IGN, and Chris Gaffney, the co-founder of Great Hill Partners.
Mobile payments firm Boku has partnered with UK networks EE, O2 and Vodafone to enable carrier billing to be used to purchase physical items. The initiative is set to reinvent how direct carrier billing businesses operate across Europe. Previously, the EU’s Payment Services Directive limited carrier billing to digital purchases only, and all other services required special exemptions. By combining eMoney with the convenience of charging purchases to phone bills, Boku aims to create a fully regulated payment product that enables all goods and services to be charged through carrier billing, and provide a clear regulatory framework that offers protection for both consumers and merchants.
Pebble is dropping the price of its e-paper display smartwatches and rolling out an update that improves their health and fitness tracking capabilities. The original Pebble, including the three neon color variants announced in August, are now available for $99/€129/£99. That’s a $50 reduction and positions the smartwatch as a cheaper alternative to Android Wear. The premium Pebble Steel, meanwhile, is receiving a similar $50 price cut. You’ll now be able to pick one up for $199/€229/£179, which is less than Motorola’s Moto 360 ($249), only a fraction higher than the LG G Watch ($179) and on par with the Samsung Gear Live ($199) in the Google Play store.
Online auction site eBay plans to spin off its PayPal business into a separate publicly traded company next year, the company announced on Tuesday. The surprise move comes after the company had rebuffed calls from billionaire hedge fund investor Carl Icahn to sell off its online payments business. The decision comes shortly after Apple unveiled a new mobile payment system, Apple Pay, that looks set to be a fierce rival to PayPal and Alibaba, China’s massive online marketplace, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange.
“The industry landscape is changing, and each business faces different competitive opportunities and challenges,” eBay chief executive John Donahoe said in a news release.
Just ahead of Apple Pay’s public release, a top credit card provider, Capital One, has rolled out a new mobile wallet app for cardholders that will work with Apple’s forthcoming mobile payments platform to provide users with detailed information on their Apple Pay transactions, in addition to balance rewards access, and other features. The app was soft launched on iOS earlier in September, but the company is only officially announcing its debut this morning.
When it comes to mobile healthcare technology, there’s a startling void by a key critical player in the chain: pharmaceutical companies. And it’s a void that must be addressed sooner rather than later given how prescription medicine is woven into the healthcare scenario. As we reported this week, it’s clear the pharma industry is more than a bit behind the curve when it comes to embracing mHealth tech and even adopting the simplest of Internet technologies. A new report reveals just about 33 percent of pharmas have mobile optimized their product websites.
PayPal is ditching eBay. The online-auction company is spinning off its payment subsidiary, and game-related transactions are one of the big areas where the payment processor may look to grow.
More than 153 million people have active digital wallets with PayPal, and the company processed $200 billion in payments in the last 12 months. But despite those huge numbers, PayPal faces intense competition from companies like Apple and Google. To ensure its future as it goes independent, PayPal could make immediate gains and ensure its future by focusing on gamers, according to intelligence-firm SuperData Research. The total gaming market reached around $93 billion last year, which is a lot of payments that PayPal could take part in.
Samsung Electronics Co, the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, said Thursday that it has started near field communication payment service for its device users in China. The company said it formed a partnership with UnionPay, China’s sole bank credit card organization, for the service that is the first by a smartphone company in the world’s second-largest economy. The tieup with UnionPay, which controls 80 percent of China’s offline payment market, is expected to give Samsung a head start in the mobile payment sector. People using Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note 4 phablet as well as the older Note 3 and Galaxy S4 smartphones can use the system.
While many mobile payment apps like Google Wallet have struggled to gain traction with consumers, the Starbucks mobile payments app stands out as a success. At 6 million average weekly transactions in the U.S., it now accounts for a full 15% of transactions made at the U.S. Starbucks-operated stores. In a new research note from BI Intelligence we take a deep dive into how the Starbucks app works, why it’s so popular and whether other retailers could have success with a similar mobile payment model.
Global News Round-up – These articles are not written by MEF and do not represent any views of individuals, members or the organisation.