Mobile

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. Read more

Arm shares are being treated like royalty today, despite being disdained as commoners at the open. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Two experiments by Snapchat this week point the way towards the photo-sharing app’s first sources of income, almost nine months after it turned down Facebook’s $3bn acquisition offerRead more

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 marketsRead more

Smart watches, TVs and cars featured prominently on Wednesday as Google laid out its plans for pushing its Android smartphone software into new fields. At its annual I/O developer event in San Francisco, “wearables” had pride of place, with news that the first smartwatches based on Android Wear are now on sale – before Apple unveils its much-anticipated iWatch. With Android TV and Android Auto, on the other hand, Google was playing catch up with Apple. The event pointed to how the battle for the next big tech markets beyond the smartphone will be fought. Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw were at the Moscone Center for this round. 

Sarah Mishkin

What can a company that proposes using drones to deliver goods instantaneously do to impress?

Amazon tried hard with its Fire phone, the first smartphone ever from the e-commerce giant. It sort of succeeds, but the best thing about the phone is the vision of what it could become after a few rounds of refinements and tweaks. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

One of the dominant mantras in technology design these days is simplicity. From Apple’s Sir Jonathan Ive and his minimalist overhaul of iOS to the unbundling of Facebook’s “big blue app” into its smaller, faster components, smartphones are sweeping software to be ever simpler and sleeker.

For many people, most technology is still too complicated but those apps that do simplify tend to succeed. WhatsApp Messenger offers little more than basic text messaging, with none of the stickers or gimmicks of rival chat apps, and has amassed 500m users. Snapchat took out text altogether to allow people to communicate with just a photograph and three taps of the screen. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Apple’s annual developer conference saw chief executive Tim Cook and head of software engineering Craig Federighi dominate the stage. Apple showed off new operating systems, including iOS8 and the newly-minted OS X Yosemite, as well as HealthKit, its first foray into fitness tracking, and HomeKit, a connected home platform. Not to mention tools for developers and a new programming language called Swift. Tim Bradshaw, Richard Waters and Sarah Mishkin give the rundown and reaction from the Moscone Center in San Francisco. 

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. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Snapchat’s best feature is not disappearing messages: it’s simplicity. Sending a picture message to a friend takes just five taps of a smartphone screen, including one to open the app. This immediacy is a big part of what makes the pictures feel more personal and fun than more traditional messaging apps.

Now, in the biggest changes the young start-up has yet made to its app, Snapchat is adding text messaging and video chat to the ephemeral photos that made it famous. Read more

Fridges that talk, watches that listen and thermostats that learn your secret domestic habits: these are some of the most visible examples of the so-called “internet of things” (or “IoT” for aficionados).

Cisco, the global computing hardware group, is a big supporter of IoT. It announced yesterday that it was increasing its investment in early-stage companies in the sector to $250m over two to three years, up from the $100m it announced in January. It also unveiled three minority investments: in the enterprise start-up accelerator Alchemist Accelerator, as well two IoT software start-ups, Ayla Networks and EvrythngRead more

Alibaba is taking a minority stake in China’s largest online video site, Youko Tudou, as it prepares for its own blockbuster initial public offering in the US.

Youko Tudou said on Monday that the Chinese e-commerce group, together with its founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital, would jointly invest $1.2bn in the video site.

Alibaba will hold 16.5 per cent stake in Youku after the deal, with Yunfeng holding 2 per cent. Read more

Sometimes it pays to be behind the times. Read more

While older industries still struggle with the digital transition, those one step ahead are toiling with the mobile one. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Uber, the ambitious start-up best known for delivering people, now wants to deliver anything that can fit in a rucksack. The private driver and taxi-hailing app will on Tuesday add cycle couriers to its New York fleet with what it calls Uber Rush. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Want to hear a Silicon Valley joke? Two geek billionaires walk into a coffee shop and nobody notices.

There’s no punchline. This actually happened a couple of weeks ago when I was in Mountain View and the co-founders of WhatsApp popped into their local for a brew. Despite being full of start-ups, nobody in the Red Rock Café seemed to recognise the pair who had just sold their app to Facebook for upwards of $16bn.

WhatsApp has almost 500m active users around the world but many in Silicon Valley’s elite only discovered the chat app when Mark Zuckerberg opened his chequebook. It’s entirely possible that, in the past year, more people here have tried Google Glass, the sci-fi headset that most outside Silicon Valley love to hate, than sent a message on WhatsApp. Read more

Samsung Galaxy S5 (Getty)

South Koreans consumers will be able to jump the global queue for Samsung Electronics’ new flagship smartphone, after mobile operators put it on sale two weeks ahead of the official launch date. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Ray-Bans via Instagram

Google has been working hard lately to dampen the constant, rumbling criticism of Glass. First, it issued guidelines on etiquette for its pioneering wearable gadget, warning early adopters: “Don’t be a glasshole.”

Then last week, it decided that the people buying its $1,500 headset weren’t glassholes after all, trying to dispel ten “myths” about the prototype product: Glass really isn’t a “distraction from the real world” or “the perfect surveillance device”, it insisted in a blogpost.

The ground suitably prepared, Google has now made a much more meaningful step towards mainstream acceptance: it is partnering with the maker of Ray-Ban and Oakley frames to make Glass fashionable. Read more

Here are some figures to back up the mad race to monetise mobile by tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

It would be easy to glance at Samsung’s new Milk Music service and dismiss it as another copycat. The personalised internet radio service for Galaxy smartphone owners that launches in the US on Friday is, in essence, pretty similar to Pandora or Apple’s iTunes Radio, which launched last year.

But while maintaining feature parity is an important if unglamorous part of the hypercompetitive smartphone market, Milk does bring something new to Samsung Galaxy: great software design. Read more