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Find out the week’s top mobile stories from around the world.

This week..  Instagram quietly launches payments for commerce, Telegram Cancels Public ICO, mobile ad spend in India to rise by 75% in 2018, mobile data usage overtakes Wi-Fi and much more…

Instagram quietly launches payments for commerce


Get ready to shop the ‘Gram. Instagram  just stealthily added a native payments feature to its app for some users. It lets you register a debit or credit card as part of a profile, set up a security pin, then start buying things without ever leaving Instagram. Not having to leave for a separate website and enter payment information any time you want to purchase something could make Instagram a much bigger player in commerce.

TechCrunch reader Genady Okrain first tipped us off to the payment feature. When we asked Instagram, a spokesperson confirmed that native payments for booking appointments like at restaurants or salons is now live for a limited set of partners.

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Telegram Cancels Public ICO


In January, the popular messaging app, Telegram, announced that it would launch an ICO to fund its Telegram Open Network. This new platform would transcend the apps prowess beyond messages and into mobile payments and other value transactions. In their white paper, the company likens their initiative to “a decentralized counterpart to everyday money – a truly mass market cryptocurrency.”

This currency, the TON token, represents the company’s first real foray into cryptocurrencies. To date, they have more than 200 million users, and their platform has found quite a following in the crypto community. Known for its end-to-end encryption and incredible blending of personal privacy and broad reach, Telegram has become uniquely aligned with the cryptocurrency movement. It’s widely used as a communication tool for blockchain startups, and their privatized ethos makes it a natural fit for the crypto community.

In initial documents about their ICO, Telegram indicated that they hoped to raise $1.2 billion through their private and public token sale. Clearly, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

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Mobile ad spend in India to rise by 75% in 2018, accounting for more than half of all digital spend

The Drum

Mobile ad spend in India is set to rise by 75% in 2018, accounting for more than half of all digital spend, even though spend on television still holds top spot.

This is according to a report by eMarketer, which also adds that India will see more than a quarter (337 million) of India’s population use a smartphone as a result of rise in the sales of low cost smartphones.

India has already overtaken the US to rank as the world’s second largest smartphone market after China as a result of the strong growth of brands like Samsung and Xiaomi.

“India still faces technological challenges that are holding back mass smartphone adoption,” said Chris Bendtsen, senior forecasting analyst at eMarketer.

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Mobile data usage overtakes Wi-Fi, and CBRS threatens

Network World

Wi-Fi use has dropped in the United States. The reason: Consumers are shifting to cellular mobile networks that are providing new, unlimited data bundles. That’s according to mobile network performance analyst OpenSignal.

The testing-firm, which publishes an annual Wi-Fi-versus-mobile crowdsourced study, says consumers are taking advantage of unlimited data plans being offered by the major mobile network operators (MNOs) in the U.S. No longer are folks worrying about generating large bills using mobile data for media or having to work around limited, included-data buckets.

“Users are likely becoming more confident about consuming data over cellular networks,” writes Peter Boyland in a blog post on OpenSignal’s website.

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How mobile money is spreading

The Economist

IT IS A measure of how fast and unpredictably technology and finance have developed that the two most influential new payment systems of the 21st century so far both came about more or less by accident. M-PESA, Kenya’s mobile-payment system, evolved out of a pilot scheme in 2005 by Safaricom, the country’s biggest mobile operator, financed by DFID, the British government’s aid agency. Its researchers had noticed that Kenyans were transferring mobile-phone airtime between each other as if it were money. They thought this might offer a way to handle microcredit repayments, reducing costs.

Alipay, a smartphone-based payment system now ubiquitous in China and spreading fast abroad, has its origins in a service devised for Taobao, an online platform run by Alibaba where small businesses sell direct to Chinese consumers. Customers were reluctant to pay for goods before they had received them. So buyers would send their orders by fax to Alipay to hold their money in escrow and release it when delivery was confirmed. In 2008 this system was transformed into mobile “wallets” in which the money is held.

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Havoc on mobile: Indian internet companies grappling with fake app installations 

Economic Times

Getting someone to install a mobile application once can be a challenge, but throw in a little something and they might be willing to download the app multiple times.

Something as insignificant as a mobile recharge package worth Rs 10. For companies spending big money on making their apps stand out amid the clutter, this is a huge problem.

“The problem is real and we see that on an everyday basis,” said Deepak Abbot, senior vice president at India’s biggest mobile payments company Paytm. “It is more rampant on third-party platforms or ad networks outside Facebook and Google.”

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Nintendo’s new chief sees $1B future in mobile gaming


Nintendo’s incoming chief sees big money from games played on the small screen.

Shuntaro Furukawa told the Nikkei newspaper he wants to build the company’s smartphone game operations into a 100 billion yen ($910 million) business, applying lessons the company learned from its wildly popular Pokemon Go game.

“From what I can see, smartphone games are the ones I want to expand the most,” said Furukawa, who will take the helm in June.

The Kyoto, Japan-based company reported consolidated sales of 1 trillion yen for the year ended March 31, but much of that is attributed to its hot-selling Switch console-handheld hybrid game system.

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The First Blockchain Smartphone for the US is Here


A hip-hop legend is asking people to trade in their iPhones and Galaxies for a new type of smartphone. One that runs on the blockchain.

On Wednesday, artist/humanitarian Pras Michel launched Blacture — a platform designed to give “both voice and access” to the black community — during a keynote speech at the University of Pittsburgh. Blacture’s most unique initiative seems to be the Motif, the first blockchain-based smartphone intended for the U.S. market.

The Motif doesn’t look all that different from your typical smartphone. But just like you learned in elementary school, it’s what on the inside that counts. And the Motif contains the Zippie operating system(OS).

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Kenya’s Safaricom pilots messaging app linked to mobile money


Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest telecoms company, is piloting a social messaging app that will link to its mobile money platform in an attempt to move the company into the application business, the company said on Tuesday.

Bonga, meaning ‘chat’ in Kiswahili, will be integrated with the company’s popular financial services platform M-Pesa to enable the almost 28 million of its users to communicate beyond sending money to one another, transforming the platform into a type of social network.

The idea stems from the “hypothesis that there’s an intricate connection between conversations and transactions, payments especially,” Kamal Bhattacharya, chief innovation officer at Safaricom, said in a telephone interview.

“It’s one thing to share information with somebody it’s another thing to make a payment, to send money to somebody,” he said.

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Oculus Go review: Mobile VR, minus the phone

The Verge

For the past few years, consumer virtual reality headsets have mostly come in two flavors: tethered headsets that connect to a computer or console, and mobile ones that are powered by a smartphone. That’s starting to change, and one of the major catalysts is the Oculus Go headset, which launches today in nearly two dozen countries. The Oculus Go is one of a few big “standalone” virtual reality headsets, a category that includes the upcoming Lenovo Mirage Solo and Oculus’ own Santa Cruz prototype. It’s not the flashiest or most high-tech headset on the market. But it’s the best that simple mobile VR has ever been, and it gives fledgling VR apps and games space to stand on their own, without having to compete for space on people’s phones.

Unlike the Oculus Santa Cruz, the Oculus Go doesn’t include full motion controllers or futuristic inside-out tracking technology, which lets users walk around rooms with no external cameras. It allows you to rotate your head, but not lean or walk around. You can move its small controller like a laser pointer, but not fully mimic a virtual hand. It’s got basically the same features as Samsung and Oculus’ Gear VR, but as a dedicated piece of hardware, not a combination of smartphone and plastic shell.

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