Mobile

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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 Evrythng

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. 

Sometimes it pays to be behind the times. 

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

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.