Asia

By Jonathan Soble and Lindsay Whipp

OK, so you know selfies are a thing – who doesn’t? But what about encasing that selfie-taking mobile phone in a case shaped like a Chanel perfume bottle?

Meet the Smelfie (Perfume + Selfie) – a thing, apparently, among women in China. And it hasn’t escaped the notice of product designers at Sony. 

Xiaomi’s latest flagship smartphone looks much like Apple’s rival handsets except for one crucial difference: the price – which is less than half that of the similarly metallic iPhone 5s from the US group.

The steel handset was unveiled in Beijing by chief executive Lei JunLei on Tuesday, with reports that the crowd murmured “iPhone” as it was unveiled. Hugo Barra, the Google executive who joined Xiaomi as global vice-president last year, was also at the event. 

To accompany its preliminary quarterly earnings guidance on Tuesday, Samsung Electronics for the first time issued an explanatory note, to address “investors’ concerns about uncertainties”. Here are some of the key issues facing shareholders after Samsung’s 24 per cent year-on-year earnings decline. 

Robert Cookson

Facebook has created a new “missed call” product for advertisers in India, marking the first time that the social network has designed a special ad format for a single country.

When a mobile phone user clicks on one of the ads, it calls the advertiser and immediately hangs up. The advertiser returns the call with pre-recorded entertainment content and a marketing message – enabling the consumer to avoid paying data charges.

Facebook’s creation of a special ad product in India, where the company has more than 100m users, is part of a broader push to develop customised solutions across emerging markets

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, admitted on Sunday that he had never once used Taobao, the ebay-like flagship website for the ecommerce company he will be taking public later this year, writes Charles Clover and Ma Fangjing.

The odd sounding admission came in the middle of a rambling commencement speech to graduates of Tsinghua University on Sunday, in which he highlighted his humble origins and lack of professional experience. He needs to keep his emotional distance from his products, he said, so that he can make decisions about them objectively. And that apparently means not knowing how they work. 

Sarah Mishkin

with Nicole Bullock

China’s premier job-hunting site got an impressive raise in its first day as a public company in the US, as its stock closed up 8.5 per cent on their debut day of trading.

Zhaopin, whose name means “recruit,” is a LinkedIn-like site for professional networking and job seeking. Its shares closed at $14.65. It had priced its offering of 5.6m American depositary shares at $13.50 each – the middle of an indicated range of $12.50 to $14.50. That means it raised a total of about $76m, excluding an over allotment option. 

Samsung Electronics has replaced its head of mobile design just weeks after the launch of its latest flagship Galaxy S5 phone, which was praised in online reviews for its features but criticised for its design.

The South Korean company, however, called the move a routine reshuffle, and denied any link to the criticism. Chang Dong-hoon will retain a broader role overseeing design across the company, while Lee Min-hyouk – at 42, one of the youngest figures in Samsung’s senior ranks – has been promoted to head of the company’s mobile communications design team. 

Sarah Mishkin

Alibaba on Tuesday submitted the first filing for its upcoming initial public offering in New York. Unusually for a private company, prospective investors already knew some of its key financial details, since Yahoo, its major shareholder, reports them as part of its quarterly results.

So what did we learn from the new filings? 

A man looks at the screen of his mobile phone at Pudong financial district in ShanghaiA new war is brewing between China’s three internet giants, known collectively as BAT – short for Baidu, the dominant search engine, Alibaba, which controls 80 per cent of China’s ecommerce, and Tencent, the gaming and social media juggernaut with a market capitalisation of $132bn. For Wang Ran, a blogger and founder of China eCapital, an investment bank, the competition between Didi Dache [“Honk Honk Taxi”], a Tencent taxi-hailing app, and Alibaba’s Kuadi Dache [“Fast taxi”] is “the first battle in the first world war of the internet”.

 

Sirgoo Lee, chief executive of the South Korean mobile messaging company Kakao, chuckles when asked about Facebook’s acquisition of rival WhatsApp for $19bn. “All I can say is that’s a lot of money,” he says.

While it has a strong presence in India and Hong Kong, WhatsApp is a marginal player in many parts of Asia writes Simon Mundy. Kakao, Japan-based LINE and China-headquartered WeChat dominate mobile messaging in their respective home territories, and are fighting for control of the market in southeast Asia. The Japanese internet company Rakuten, meanwhile, last month spent $900m on Viber, an Israeli company that provides similar free calling and messaging services.