Mobile

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

The initial public offering of Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, has provoked a combination of downbeat hand wringing and gleeful hand rubbing about the effect of the global tech sell-off on new companies coming to market.

So are investors fair in how they’re pricing Weibo? The company’s shares were priced at $17 each, the bottom of the range, putting the group’s valuation at $3.8bn after raising more than double the amount it had hoped for earlier in the year. Read more

Is $19bn a lot of money? It certainly sounds like it – that’s what Facebook thought WhatsApp was worth when it scooped up the messaging app on Wednesday.

The fate of social networks depends on being able to turn huge pools of users into a source of cash. So one way to assess whether Mark Zuckerberg got value for money is to look at how much he paid per WhatsApp user compared with the price of each person in other networks: Read more

African-American teenagers are more likely to use Twitter than their white counterparts, according to a study out today from the Pew Research Center.

Researchers noted a significant jump in Twitter use among teens in general, but found that 39 per cent of African-American teens used the microblogging site compared to 23 per cent of white teens. Read more

Wall Street is anticipating another positive earnings report from Facebook after markets close on Wednesday and the social network states first quarter results.

Analysts expect to see a bump in revenues from advertising products launched last year, and hope to hear plans for future ad products, in particular, video advertising and ad plans for Facebook Home, the new super app Facebook launched for Android phones in April.

Though business in the first quarter tends to slow compared to the preceding quarter, which included the holidays and the US presidential election, analysts are expecting 36 per cent revenue growth year on year. Consensus estimates are for 13 cents in earnings per share on $1.44bn in revenue. Morgan Stanley predicts mobile advertising revenues will be $314m for the quarter, representing 25 per cent of overall advertising revenues, up from 23 per cent in the last quarter. Read more

If I didn’t already obsessively look at my phone in search of distraction, while waiting for the train or a friend who’s running late, Facebook has just made it ten times easier to get a quick fix.

With the new Facebook “Home” for Android, photos and status updates from my Facebook newsfeed will be the first thing I see when I pick up my phone. (I’ll have to explain the demotion to my cat, Lucas, whose yellow eyes will no longer stare up at me from the screen on first swipe).

Instead, a rolling stream of photos passes over the screen as they are being uploaded and posted by friends. If I want a closer look, I just tap once. One more tap and I can see who Liked or commented on the photo, or type a comment myself. Read more

Richard Waters

IBM has a tried and trusted method for turbo-charging its growth in promising new IT markets: rebrand its existing efforts in the field in question, boast about all the investments it’s already made – and then promise to double them.

Analytics, security and ecommerce have all come in for this kind of treatment, making them bright spots in an otherwise low-growth company. Now it’s the turn of mobile computing. Read more

Facebook’s push for more frictionless sharing is now reaching into the depths of photo albums past and future.

The social network is promoting Photo Sync, a new feature for its mobile app that allows people to automatically upload every picture taken with their mobile phones to a private Facebook album. They then choose which photos to share on Facebook, but the automatic upload makes that process much faster and easier.

Turning Facebook into a catch-all photo repository also gives the company a new glut of information about its users from the geo-location data attached to the photos. The company can now tell where you are, when, and with whom, even if you don’t make the images public. Read more

The increasing number of people using Facebook on mobile phones is driving revenues for the operators of the mobile networks, as people accumulate charges on their phone bills by scrolling through their newsfeed, and then calling their friends.

Vaughan Smith, Facebook’s vice president for mobile partnerships and corporate development, said that the company’s analyses show that Facebook users make 40 per cent more phone calls than non-Facebook users, and that the primary reason people are signing up for data connections on their mobile devices is to use Facebook. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Twitter has been touting its success as a “mobile first” social network, capitalising on the biggest perceived weakness of its main rival Facebook.

One recent estimate from eMarketer has even suggested that Twitter will generate more revenues from mobile ads than Facebook this year.

But new data show the scale of the threat that Twitter faces from explosive growth at Instagram, the photo-sharing app acquired by Facebook. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Facebook has overhauled its much-criticised application for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, in the social network’s latest attempt to tackle the challenging transition from desktop to mobileRead more

Maija Palmer

The love affair with the mobile phone appears to have faltered a little, with worldwide mobile phone sales down for the second quarter in a row, according to new figures from Gartner. But is this just a small hiatus as consumers wait for the next round of handsets from Apple and Samsung to hit the shelves later this year, or a sign of something deeper?

Gartner is clearly a little worried, as it is paring back its earlier estimates for 2012 handset sales by between 25m and 40m units. Its not a huge drop, only about 2 per cent of the estimated 1.9bn unit sales this year, but Anshul Gupta, analyst at Gartner says he has been a little surprised by the fall.  Read more

Maija Palmer

Coffee and techies go together like donuts and policemen, one the voracious consumer of the other. They have named programming languages after the stuff.  And so the alliance between Starbucks and Jack Dorsey’s Square mobile payments start-up seems quite natural.

Starbucks has never been shy of experimenting with technology, having been one of the first US coffee shop chains to offer customers free wi-fi access. Starbucks also has its  own mobile app, which allows customers to pay for their coffees using a phone. Although these mobile payments are still just a tiny fraction of overall revenues, it is considered one of the most successful mobile payments systems in use so far.  Read more

Facebook launched a new mobile advertising product for app developers that pushes more marketing content into users’ home pages amid investor pressure on the company to expand revenue channels.

The new ads will appear in people’s mobile newsfeeds, and, if clicked, will direct users to the Apple or Google Play app store to download the promoted mobile app. Facebook gets paid every time a user clicks on an ad. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

As usage and advertising spending on Twitter’s smartphone apps begins to overtake activity on PCs, the company is refocusing on mobile, according to its chief executive.

Speaking to the FT earlier this week, Dick Costolo said that 55 to 57 per cent of Twitter’s users were on mobile, particularly as it expands outside the US, which now makes up around 25 per cent of its users, reaching as high as 80 per cent in the UK.

“That is great for us because our mobile users are more engaged,” he said. “When you are active on Twitter on mobile you use it more than if you were a desktop user.” Read more

The Securities and Exchange Commission published letters it exchanged with Facebook leading up to its IPO, revealing details of the US regulator’s concerns over the social network’s mobile business strategy, its dependence on Zynga, and how it presented its advertising model.

The correspondence was made public on Friday, a routine disclosure, and showed similarly routine questioning. Facebook responded to all questions in amended filings before the public offering on May 18.

“I know that everyone wants to paint Facebook as evil because their shares have gone down,” said Michael Pachter, a technology analyst at Wedbush. “These questions are completely reasonable questions, each of these.” Read more

Mark Zuckerberg in New YorkShopping on Facebook for apps will soon be easier with the App Center, a new application storefront for users to buy and discover content. The social networking company announced the App Center this week following an amendment to its S-1 filing that claimed it does not “currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven”. The timing of the App Center news did not go unnoticed by commentators who noted Facebook’s push to conquer mobile. Read more

Facebook said the migration of its users to mobile platforms is compromising its ability to make money from them, according to additions the company made to its IPO regulatory filing on Wednesday.

As the company fields questions from potential investors this week and next on its road show, Facebook is once again reiterating its philosophy of prioritising the user experience over generating revenue, particularly when it comes to its mobile offerings. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Listen carefully in the City of London and, very faintly, you may be able to hear the bell ringing for round two of Facebook’s simmering battle with Apple over mobile apps.

Bango, a small mobile payments firm, quietly announced to the stock market on Wednesday that it has “signed an agreement to provide payment services to Facebook”. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

One of the more eye-catching elements of Facebook’s obligatory rundown of “risk factors” in Wednesday’s IPO filing was the section on mobile.

Facebook has huge scale on mobile. Half of Facebook’s monthly active users – 425m people – use its mobile products, as of December. Read more