US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe

Simon Rockman, The Register, 7/17/14

FreedomPop touts ‘free’ calls, texts and data

Freemium mobile network FreedomPop has set its sights on Europe. The LA-based company has signed a deal with BASE, a subsidiary of Dutch telco and MVNO-lover KPN. It will launch in Belgium and then plans to expand to the UK, Germany, France and Spain.

In the US FreedomPop’s model starts with a base price of $0 for 200 minutes of voice, 500 text messages and 500Mb of data and rises to $20 a month for unlimited access – albeit with some throttling of 4G speeds. The free offering in Europe will be the same, but pricing for the premium services – including visual voicemail and more minutes or data – have not been established.

The company offers a range of services including privacy and VoIP, and in the US specialises in supplying refurbished phones. In Europe, however, the plan is to be SIM-only. While the US is heavily carrier-led, the rest of the world tends to be handset-device-manufacturer led. This relieves FreedomPop of having to deal with the problem of device logistics and means it can tap into the trend where consumers keep their phones when their contracts expire.

Despite the fact that it is an American company, a lot of money FreedomPop’s money comes from Europe. The wireless internet startup has been funded to the tune of $16.8m by Skype Founder Niklas Zennstom’s Atomico and Luxembourg-based Mangrove Capital Partners, among others, although it also counts Silicon Valley based DCM as one of its backers.

FreedomPop will be taking on popular French MVNO Iliad which has seen huge growth. We should see some stiff competition there.

It will be interesting to see how the new breed of free MVNOs cope with competing with their suppliers and dealing with the wrinkles such as number portability, mobile termination revenue and getting calls to their numbers in-bundle – all of which have proved a challenge for cut-price MVNOs in the past.

Share
Posted on July 17, 2014 at 8:10 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: ,

BYOD worries drove Apple-IBM deal — and a huge win for Apple

, GigaOM, 7/17/14

If there was any doubt that IT worries over the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) issue were overblown, witness Wednesday’s news that IBM will sell and support Apple iOS devices in its big accounts and work with Apple to build enterprise applications for those devices.

Now before you hyperventilate over this (too late?), let’s remember, proof will be in the pudding. Two former collaborations between IBM and Apple (and I’m going to the way-back machine here) came to nothing. Remember Kaleida or Taligent? Neither does anyone else.

But back to yesterday’s news. CIOs see the need for this to happen. iPhones and iPads remain wildly popular but Apple is not known to work well with others. It does not do on-site service and support. And IT pros are not wild about the idea of waiting in line at the local Genius Bar.

This alliance — if it works as promised — makes that pain go away for IBM accounts.

Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey, an enterprise focused mobile application development platform, said his customers want a “BYO-AD” or Bring your own Apple Device policy. “If IBM’s field reps are seeing iPad / iPhone as the preferred hardware for enterprises, then it has probably bubbled up to the top,” he noted.

Brian Katz, director of mobile innovation for a large New Jersey pharmaceutical company, said the fact that Apple is working with IBM on a hundred or so mobile applications is a good sign that those applications will appeal to enterprise users.

But he said those who think “this will bring back Sametime or Lotus Notes” have another think coming. Current Lotus Notes users will be happy but the alliance will not drive new adoption, he said.That ship has sailed.

If IBM is able to make iPhones and iPads the front ends to its big data and analytics products, it will be a huge plus, but that needs to play out right. Make no mistake, the immediate beneficiary of this collaboration is Apple. IBM has essentially become an Apple reseller and support partner.

Some IBM critics say this is just the sort of “feel good news” the company likes to announce in advance of its earnings calls which of late have not been so rosy. IBM’s second quarter earnings call is Thursday.

One big question is what Google and the Android alliance will do now. IBM’s participation will help Apple preserve its “walled garden” of applications but expand it to more enterprise-worthy apps. Android needs to do something to reassure IT that those devices Android devices are good corporate citizens. Many corporate accounts do not sanction Android use, citing security concerns.

As for Microsoft, which had been pushing Windows Phone to existing Windows shops, folks will wait to see what happens with the device part of the company’s former devices-and-services push which seems in doubt now. For Blackberry, which used to dominate the business mobile opportunity all these players are chasing, the Apple-IBM deal represents yet another blow.

Katz expects new partnerships will emerge to counter Apple-IBM. Perhaps the Android OEMs will sign up big service providers  PriceWaterhouse, Avanade or Accenture as allies in that war.

Share
Posted on July 17, 2014 at 8:06 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Gmail users on Android can now share files from Google Drive

Google+, 7/11/14

It’s now easier for you to share files with friends and family—simply insert Google Drive files directly into your Gmail messages on your Android phone or tablet. If the file isn’t shared with the person you’re sending it to, you’ll get the option to change your sharing settings before you send it. And you’ll notice improved autocomplete suggestions for your contacts when composing messages—just start typing in the To, Cc or Bcc field to see better suggestions, faster.

These features will be rolling out over the next few days. If you aren’t already using the Gmail Android app, download the latest version from the Play store (https://goo.gl/3vcM7k).

Share
Posted on July 11, 2014 at 8:34 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

A Closer Look at Android RunTime (ART) in Android L

Andrei Frumusanu, AnandTech, 7/7/14

With the latest I/O conference, Google has finally publicly announced its plans for its new runtime on Android. The Android RunTime, ART, is the successor and replacement for Dalvik, the virtual machine on which Android Java code is executed on. We’ve had traces and previews of it available with KitKat devices since last fall, but there wasn’t much information in terms of technical details and the direction Google was heading with it.

Contrary to other mobile platforms such as iOS, Windows or Tizen, which run software compiled natively to their specific hardware architecture, the majority of Android software is based around a generic code language which is transformed from “byte-code” into native instructions for the hardware on the device itself.

Over the years and from the earliest Android versions, Dalvik started as a simple VM with little complexity. With time, however, Google felt the need to address performance concerns and to be able to keep up with hardware advances of the industry. Google eventually added a JIT-compiler to Dalvik with Android’s 2.2 release, added multi-threading capabilities, and generally tried to improve piece by piece.

However, lately over the last few years the ecosystem had been outpacing Dalvik development, so Google sought to build something new to serve as a solid foundation for the future, where it could scale with the performance of today’s and the future’s 8-core devices, large storage capabilities, and large working memories.

Thus ART was born.

Architecture

First, ART is designed to be fully compatible with Dalvik’s existing byte-code format, “dex” (Dalvik executable). As such, from a developer’s perspective, there are no changes at all in terms of having to write applications for one or the other runtime and no need to worry about compatibilities.

The big paradigm-shift that ART brings, is that instead of being a Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler, it now compiles application code Ahead-of-Time (AOT). The runtime goes from having to compile from bytecode to native code each time you run an application, to having it to do it only once, and any subsequent execution from that point forward is done from the existing compiled native code.

Of course, these native translations of the applications take up space, and this new methodology is something that has been made possible today only due to the vast increases in available storage space on today’s devices, a big shift from the early beginnings of Android devices.

This shift opens up a large amount of optimizations which were not possible in the past; because code is optimized and compiled only once, it is worth to optimize it really well that one time. Google claims that it now is able to achieve higher level optimizations over the whole of an applications code-base, as the compiler has an overview of the totality of the code, as opposed to the current JIT compiler which only does optimizations in local/method chunks. Overhead such as exception checks in code are largely removed, and method and interface calls are vastly sped up. The process which does this is the new “dex2oat” component, replacing the “dexopt” Dalvik equivalent. Odex files (optimized dex) also disappear in ART, replaced by ELF files.

Because ART compiles an ELF executable, the kernel is now able to handle page handling of code pages – this results in possibly much better memory management, and less memory usage too. I’m curious what the effect of KSM (Kernel same-page merging) has on ART, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

The implications to battery life are also significant – since there is no more interpretation or JIT-work to be done during the runtime of an app, that results in direct savings of CPU cycles, and thus, power consumption.

The only downside to all of this, is that this one-time compilation takes more time to complete. A device’s first boot, and an application’s first start-up will be much increased compared to an equivalent Dalvik system. Google claims that this is not too dramatic, as they expect the finished shipping runtime to be equivalent or even faster than Dalvik in these aspects.

The performance gains over Dalvik are significant, as pictured above; the gains are roughly a 2x improvement in speed for code running on the VM. Google claimed that applications such as Chessbench that represent an almost 3x increase are a more representative projection of real-world gains that can be expected once the final release of Android L is made available.

Share
Posted on July 7, 2014 at 9:06 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Kinvey Brings Identity To Mobile Backend As A Service

Ben Kepes, Forbes, 7/1/14

As mobile applications, and by extension specialist development, becomes more and more important, we’re seeing the rise of a number of so-called Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) companies arise. These vendors all aim to help organizations quickly build mobile applications by doing much of the heavy lifting involved in development. Things like the creation of data stores, integration with other data sources and the ability to run specific business logic. All the stuff that is peripheral to what a mobile developer actually hopes to achieve.

One of these vendors is Kinvey, a fast moving startup that has garnered significant attention. Part of the reason for this attention is that Kinvey isn’t dogmatic about working only in the public cloud. while its product is (obviously) available in the public cloud of a customer’s choice, it is also available in private or hybrid cloud flavors. For this reason Kinvey has built itself something of an enterprise specialty.

As the company has been working with enterprises however, they noticed that alongside the data sources and business logic that organizations need, there is also a requirement to tie enterprise identity down to individual mobile application libraries. Whereas traditional enterprise Single Sign On (SSO) – solutions that allow user to sign into multiple applications from one signin – were created primarily for web and desktop applications, there is little support for mobile application management or the tracking of mobile application usage. The SSO vendors deal mainly with regular apps and the Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors are mainly focused on device and data security. Traditional enterprise identity protocols were designed with persistent connections in mind,and hence are appropriate for web and desktop apps, but less so for mobile apps.

Because of this apparent lacking in the marketplace, Kinvey has decided to move into the space and is launching Mobile Identity Connect, a convertor that reconciles any regular identity system with OAuth-2, perhaps the preeminent approach towards mobile application identity. Essentially no matter what identity system an enterprise is using, be it LDAP, Active Directory, Oracle Identity Manager or home-grown systems, this offering will integrate and federate identity between that and mobile apps.

In terms of execution, Mobile Identity Connect secures enterprise data access by way of Kinvey’s DataLink Connectors. It manages the entire authentication process, managing the connections between the mobile app, the identity system and, ultimately, the enterprise data itself. The Kinvey libraries also manage authorization keys and tokens on iOS, Android, PhoneGap, Titanium and other mobile development platforms, even when the application is offline. It also allows admins to set rules around key expiration, user cache deletion and granular data access rules.

Watching Kinvey’s progress is interesting as it tells the tale of enterprise mobile application adoption, it’s hard not to be bullish about Kinvey’s opportunity in this space.

Share
Posted on July 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology

Android follows Apple’s footsteps to 64-bit processors

Mobile Burn, 7/1/14

Apple, the company that apparently does not innovate anymore actually did something significant in the mobile space last year. Sure, the company did not issue a new shiny device that changed pop culture, but Cupertino did do something new with its 64-bit processor (A7) that set the iPhone 5s apart. Now iOS isn’t the only mobile operating system with 64-bit computing.

When Apple announced the A7 alongside the iPhone 5s, the company took the smartphone world by surprise as rival companies were not expecting it. Early reports that Samsung would instantly respond with its own 64-bit handset were unfounded simply because Android and the manufacturers were not prepared for the tech.

That of course is changing now, and Android manufacturers and the OS are catching up. Google is expected to announce the next major Android version at its I/O conference next week, and one big new feature will be the ability for Android to support 64-bit architecture. We reported last week that the company is also changing the Android code from the Dalvik runtime to ART, meaning apps will respond more rapidly and interact with the OS in a more complete way.

There are strong reports suggesting that the upcoming Nexus tablet from HTC will sport a 64-bit chip.

Share
Posted on July 1, 2014 at 11:48 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: ,

Google’s next version of Android ‘L’ release has a new look, deeper ties to the web

KitKat may have only found its way onto roughly 15 percent of phones at this point, but that won’t stop Google from looking to the future. The new version, teased by Sundar Pichai is simply being referred to as the “L” release right now. As previous leaks have indicated, this will be the most dramatic UI overhaul the OS has enjoyed since Ice Cream Sandwich debuted back in 2011. The heart of this overhaul is called Material Design — a flatter look, with rounder elements and softer edges that will extend beyond tablets and phones to Chrome OS and Google’s various web services. You can see some of the new design philosophy at work already in the latest version of the Google+ app on Android. But it goes beyond that. Shapes are simplified and there are smooth transition animations across the UI. And those animations aren’t just inside apps; they can also be between apps. For instance, you could view an image in the photo gallery, and then choose to open it in a third-party editor. Rather than laboriously closing the gallery and then opening the editor, the image itself could appear to float above the apps and simply shift into the second app, which is already open to the editing pane. Developers can also add the illusion of depth by adding “elevation” which automatically stacks visual elements appropriately and adds drop shadows.

Of course, if the only new thing was a face-lift, it wouldn’t be all that exciting. But there are also plenty of new features. Not that there was anything wrong with notifications in KitKat, but there’s always room for improvement. In L, you’ll be able to interact with notifications, right from your lock screen. That can include quickly swiping them away or double-tapping on the notification to head straight into the relevant app. The notifications aren’t ordered simply chronologically anymore either; they’re sorted by relevance and importance, which is determined by a number of details, like the source app, etc… For truly important events, Google has introduced heads-up notifications, which pop interactive notifications over your current task. In a demo, an incoming call showed up at the top of the screen while Dave Burke, director of engineering for Android, was playing a game. He could simply ignore the pop up completely, or he could tap the options to accept or dismiss the call.

Obviously, if you have a secure lock screen, it might be a little tough to actually get excited about those notifications. But L will also introduce Trusted Environments, which allow you to access the phone without the hassle of pattern or PIN codes, but still leave you feeling secure that your data won’t be accessible to others. The authentication can come in many forms. For instance, it could be connected to your fancy new Android Wear watch. When the phone is within a foot of your G Watch or 360, it would function normally. But if it moved beyond that distance, it could automatically batten down the hatches to keep ne’er-do-wells out.

One of the more intriguing changes is the deeper tie to the web and Chrome. The new recents interface will pull in not just apps you’ve launched, but also tabs you’ve opened on your desktop. And, developers can make links go to apps instead a web page. So, if you search for a restaurant on your laptop, the recent menu won’t simply open up a web page, but could launch directly into the Yelp reviews.

Then there’s the ART runtime, the software library that actually makes all your pretty little apps work. ART brings a whole bunch of advantages: Apps should run significantly quicker, and in particular, they should launch much faster. It should also increase battery life because Android will be wasting less processing power decompressing apps. ART is also built to support 64-bit mobile chips that are just starting to hit the market. Those processors, combined with the proper software support, should bring additional performance enhancements and power savings. And, if you still find yourself wishing for a longer battery life, there’s a new battery saver mode than can extend standby time by up to 90 minutes by turning off unessential services.

L is also where Google is making a serious push into enterprise by embracing the bring-your-own-device culture. There will be new APIs specifically designed to allow personal and work data to live side by side with minimum inconvenience. But Google will also package these features as standalone apps; this way even users still on KitKat in a few months will be able to take advantage. The security and enterprise tools are actually built on Samsung’s Knox tech, which is officially part of the Android OS now.

Most importantly though, Android L is where Google’s OS finally fulfills its promise of being everywhere. That means wearables, cars and TVs — pretty much everywhere you could want access to Android’s deep well of applications and voice controls. Developers will get access to L soon, but sadly there’s no word yet about when it might come to consumers.

Share
Posted on June 26, 2014 at 8:00 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Google is bringing Android to your Chromebook

Jacob Siegal, Yahoo! News, 6/26/14

Google is giving the Chromebook line a major boost with enhanced Android integration. Stealing the spotlight on Amazon, all 10 of the top 10 highest rated laptops are Chromebooks. The popularity of the device has been growing rapidly, and now Google has some significant updates in store for Chrome OS.

Bringing Android and the Chromebook closer together than ever before, you will be able to use your phone to automatically unlock and sign in to your Chromebook. Notifications will also be mirrored between your devices, a feature that Mac owners should be very familiar with.

The next major step for Google will be to bring Android apps to the Chromebook. Sundar Pichai says the company is still in the early days, but in the preview, popular apps such as Evernote, Vine and Flipboard were all demoed on the Chromebook screen at Google I/O. During the Vine demo, the Android device display appeared vertically on the laptop screen, taking advantage of the Chromebook’s camera while connected.

It sounds like the amount of apps available on Chromebook might be relatively limited, but considering the platform’s history of purposefully limited functionality, this wouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Share
Posted on June 26, 2014 at 7:57 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Android for Work lets your personal and business data coexist on one device

If you’ve bemoaned the inability to use your personal Android phone for company business, Google has some heartening news. It just unveiled Android for Work, a code platform that lets your business and personal info coexist on a single device. The technology (derived from Samsung’s Knox) keeps the data types separate without requiring any changes to existing apps. Every major Android manufacturer should have Android for Work certification in the fall, with promises of both guaranteed updates and full security. The office-friendly feature is baked into the Android L release from the start, but don’t despair if you’re toting an older device — Google is promising an app that works on Android gadgets running Ice Cream Sandwich or later.

Share
Posted on June 26, 2014 at 7:54 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Android and Windows Adding ‘Kill Switches’ to Their Phones

Polly Mosendz, Yahoo News, 6/20/14

Google and Microsoft are joining Apple and Samsung in adding a “kill switch” feature to their phone operating systems. Both Android and Windows phones will now offer a true kill switch as a way to fight back against thieves.

A kill switch basically turns a phone into a fancy paperweight, to varying degrees. There are two kinds of kill switches: hard and soft. A hard kill switch makes the phone permanently unusable, whereas a soft kill switch makes the phone unusable to unauthorized users.

Thus far, legislators have advocated for hard kill switches, as a soft kill switch leaves the phone open to a hack and may not activate if the phone is turned off, or if the connection is temporarily disabled.

If the kill switch activates successfully, it renders the value of the phone next to nothing. In the States, one-third of phone theft victims say they would pay up to $1,000 to get their device back. The street value for a stolen, unlocked phone can certainly get that expensive as well. However, if the phone is killed, there is no information to ransom to the rightful owner and it cannot be resold to anyone. Still, the thief could price out the parts of the phone, but that would not be much of a profit comparatively.

Share
Posted on June 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology, WinPhone