Find out the week’s top mobile stories from around the world.
This week.. Microsoft offloads Nokia for $350M, Android Pay debuts in UK, wearables market up 67% worldwide and much more.
Microsoft is selling the feature phone business it acquired from Nokia back in 2013 to a subsidiary of Chinese manufacturer Foxconn for $350 million, it announced today.
At the same time former owner Nokia said it has inked a deal to license its brand to HMD Global, a new Finnish company run by ex-Nokia and Microsoft devices staff, to “create a new generation of Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets”.
So, er, the Nokia phone is dead, long live the Nokia phone…
Google is launching Android Pay, its tap-and-go contactless payment service, in the UK.
Nearly 60% of the country’s smartphone users own an Android handset.
Devices running Android 4.4 or higher and fitted with an NFC (near field communication) chip will be able to use the service.
The firm said it had chosen the UK as the next place to offer mobile payments because of British familiarity with contactless payments.
Until now, the facility had only been available in the US.
Google is announcing a new messaging app today. It’s called Allo and its main feature is a Google assistant that’s built right in. Google says it’ll be available later this summer — for free — on both iOS and Android.
Allo (pronounced like “Aloe” and not like “‘allo, guv’nor!”) is a mobile-only app that you might think is meant to replace Google’s other messaging app, Hangouts. But you’d be wrong. Allo is explicitly meant to be a fresh start for Google’s new communication’s division (which also runs Hangouts and Project Fi).
“It’s really liberating to start from scratch sometimes,” says Erik Kay, director of engineering, communications products. And Allo does feel like a fresh new start. Its interface is clean and easy to understand, with some clever little innovations on what you’ve seen in other chat apps like WhatsApp or Messenger.
A combination of device releases, price reductions, and company rationalizations marked the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16) in the worldwide wearables market. According to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, total shipment volumes reached 19.7 million units in 1Q16, an increase of 67.2% from the 11.8 million units shipped in 1Q15.
The first quarter saw its fair share of significant events to entice customers, with multiple fitness trackers and smartwatches introduced at the major technology shows; post-holiday price reductions on multiple wearables, including Apple’s Sport Watch; and greater participation within emerging wearables categories, particularly clothing and footwear. Conversely, several start-ups announced headcount reduction or shut down entirely, underscoring how competitive the wearables market has become.
“The good news is that the wearables market continues to mature and expand,” noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team.
Fitbit devices are known for being easy-to-use, fitness-first products, but now the company that makes them may be planning to tack on extra features. Fitbit released a statement today announcing that it has acquired “wearable payment assets” from the Silicon Valley company Coin.
According to the statement, Fitbit gains “key personnel and intellectual property” from Coin’s wearable-payments platform in the deal. However, it excludes smart-payment products such as Coin 2.0, a singular smart card meant to replace the many credit and debit cards stuffed in your wallet. Coin’s website shows that Coin 2.0 has sold out, and Coin’s own statement about the acquisition, the company says it will no longer continue to sell its smart payment products. Existing Coin users will be able to use their devices for the duration of their “lifetime”; the card itself can last two years without any recharging.
That’s according to a survey of 150 media and marketing industry professionals carried out by Trinity Mirror’s location-based ad network Pinpoint, which also found that client-side marketers (81 per cent) are more likely to agree with this sentiment than media agency staff (67 per cent).
Overall, 63 per cent of marketers say they are satisfied with their current ROI from mobile advertising.
“The results of our survey clearly show that mobile advertising is a priority for brands and media agencies alike,” said Pinpoint sales director Tim Jones. “It’s interesting to see that brands are prioritising mobile advertising over desktop and that spend on location-based mobile marketing is set to increase.”
Google is making its Android Pay mobile payment service more widely accessible. The company today not only extended its APIs, it also created new data feeds aimed at making it easier for developers to integrate payment processing into their apps.
Spurring the updates is Google’s desire to help people make purchases not only on mobile apps, but also on the mobile Web. The company has launched its PaymentRequest API, which simplifies the checkout process on the mobile Web and which was developed between the Android Pay and Chrome teams. This technology will also likely become a standard across browsers, as it has been submitted to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has bought $1bn worth of Apple shares in a bet that the iPhone-maker will bounce back from a recent slump.
The multi-billionaire’s conglomerate announced on Monday that it had bought 9.8m shares in Apple, a surprise move as Buffett has mostly avoided investments in the tech industry.
Buffett’s investment in Apple comes as Carl Icahn, another famous investor with a long history of taking activist stakes in tech firms, sold more than 45m Apple shares and said the company was no longer a “no-brainer” investment.
A new report from Flurry notes that of all the apps we have access to, those in the Health and Fitness categories on Google Play and in the App Store are the ones we rely on.
Based on two metrics — use per week and 30-day retention — Flurry’s findings suggest health apps are only rivaled by weather or news. The lone failing of health apps is how often we tap into them, but that may be a poor metric to consider if we’re using wearables.
With Apple Watch, the wearables market exploded along with apps for wearables. With a bevy of sensors on your wrist, app makers were able to engage you in a new way, and ask that you not self-report — which limits engagement.
At about the same time executives from some key payments companies gathered on a stage in Las Vegas to chat about mobile payments during a panel discussion at the retailer-focused ShopTalk conference, the much-maligned Merchant Customer Exchange announced yet another delay in the nationwide rollout of its CurrentC mobile wallet and laid off some 30 employees as a result.
MCX did manage to recently test CurrentC in a single market in Columbus, Ohio, after multiple delays throughout the past four years. CEO Brian Mooney said in a statement Monday that while it received generally positive feedback about the mobile wallet from consumers and merchants, MCX decided to indefinitely delay a nationwide rollout.
“Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the immediate term on other aspects of our business,” Mooney said in a statement. “As part of this transition, MCX will postpone a nationwide rollout of its CurrentC application.