Aloysius Low, CNET news, 8/22/14
The Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha phones will now run Opera Mini fresh from the factory, while existing users will be encouraged to upgrade.
Opera and Microsoft have signed a licensing agreement to put Opera’s mobile browser into Microsoft’s current feature and Asha handsets. These include the Series 30+ and Series 40 handsets that were formerly under the Nokia branding.
According to the terms of the agreement, current phones that are using the Xpress browser will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini, while fresh devices from the factories will have Opera pre-installed.
One advantage Opera has with its Mini browser in emerging countries is the built-in data compression features, which help users with limited data caps get more out of their plans.
Currently, Opera Mini has 250 million users and around 100 million of them are using Android smartphones.
Opera’s agreement with Microsoft does not appear to extend to Windows Phone devices, which currently has a mobile version of Internet Explorer as default.
, TNW, 8/18/14
Mobile browsers are solidifying their importance amidst the mobile revolution, as more and more people access the internet via their smartphones and tablets, abandoning the desktop experience in the process.
Dolphin is one of the oldest and most popular third-party browsers for Android — we called it a “genuinely beautiful Android browser” in a roundup — currently claiming more than 100 million users worldwide. Dolphin Browser was started in the US back in 2010.
Recently, Dolphin made a rather surprising move by announcing that it sold a 51 percent stake to Changyou, a Chinese online game developer, in return for $30 million in funding.
A mobile browser and a mobile gaming company — there is a link, but it seems rather tenuous. We caught up with Edith Yeung, the vice president of international business development at Dolphin, who assured us that Dolphin will remain an independent company. She told TNW that there are interesting synergies between the two firms that could see the browser become much more than just a window to the web — indeed Dolphin has ambitions to become a central place where users launch most of their content (and that includes games).
Dolphin as a portal
Though Dolphin faces a lot of competition in the mobile browser world, Yeung acknowledged the success of its rival UCWeb — which was acquired entirely by Alibaba in June this year — for being a “content aggregator.” She said that Dolphin is striving to become more like UCWeb, in the sense that it is a portal for everything.
UCWeb has been very successful because they’re basically a content aggregator — if you look at the China version it’s basically a gigantic site map and people access everything through the UCWeb homepage. It’s a portal for everything. Users in China don’t even care whether you’re coming from a browser or not. And that’s what we’re striving to become more so. We should be the center-place where you launch most of your content.
To become a portal for more than just websites, however, requires a lot of technical work to make the user experience on the mobile Web equivalent to that on native apps.
Changyou is a NASDAQ-listed company that boasts a portfolio of popular web and mobile games in China. Yeung said that this is why she thinks there will be “really good synergy” between Dolphin and Changyou, given its expertise in designing for both web and mobile.
Other than that, gaming is something that Dolphin has been looking into — in fact, the company was testing an HTML5 game even before Changyou came into the picture, as they strove to create an experience on the Dolphin browser that was the same in terms of gameplay on an app.
“You can still install your games on your desktop, or still install any app, but at the same time a browser is a platform to access many, many things,” she said, once again reiterating the idea of Dolphin as a central launchpad for content.
Yeung noted that there are certain difficulties involved in creating a great gaming experience in a mobile browser — primarily to get the sound of the game running smoothly, offline caching that allows a user to continue playing without being connected, and the billing process for in-app purchases. This is where Changyou is starting to play a role.
Mobile games are the number one category in terms of revenue and growth for the mobile industry worldwide.
We chose Changyou because they share our vision for the world. They have an amazing team who concentrate on user acquisition and monetization in China, India, Brazil and Southeast Asia. We want to learn from them and grow even more in these emerging countries.
We will also work closely to integrate some of their games into Dolphin. The ultimate HTML5 games experience will be coming soon.
Native apps versus the mobile web
As apps become commonplace in the mobile world, along with that comes the problem of having too many apps on your device. In emerging markets, this problem may be even more frustrating, given that lower-end mobile devices may not have that much internal memory, while apps running in the background can mean sapping data.
To this extent, the idea of mobile browsers as a portal would likely appeal to users in emerging markets. Yeung revealed that the $30 million investment from Changyou will primarily be used to focus on growth in emerging markets.
“There are 7.1 billion people in the world and over 60 percent of them still have no internet access. They are in countries like China, India, Indonesia and many other countries across Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. The population in these countries will eventually have access to the internet via their Android phone and I hope to see Dolphin becoming the centerpiece and gateway for their internet use,” she said.
So far in 2014, Yeung said that Dolphin’s daily new installs in countries like Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil have increased almost 300 percent.
However, Yeung observed that it is going to be a “long, long war” between the argument of native apps versus the mobile web — and instead of jumping into the war by trying to convert app developers into building for the mobile web, what the company will focus on is convincing web developers to develop for HTML5 instead.
We had very interesting conversations with lots of potential investors, but I think going with Changyou had a lot to do with synergy. This is going to be a long-term play…
I think the role that we want to play is: how do we encourage as many developers and in fact, HTML developers — millions of them — to be excited about mobile and want to create more apps on HTML5. That’s actually a bigger ecosystem thing that takes a lot of energy. It’s not what one round of funding can solve. How do we encourage the normal web people (developers), to get them education and make things easy for them to get excited about mobile? I’m not going to try to preach to people who are already doing amazing on native apps.
Dolphin’s journey to become a window not only into the Web, but to a variety of content, is reminiscent of an appstore — without the apps, but with links to games and entertainment among other offerings.
If Dolphin can recreate a native app experience in the browser, it could very well attract even more users in emerging markets who don’t want to have too many apps on their mobile device. At least with the Changyou partnership, it looks like it’s going on the right track, particularly in games.
Brad Reed, BGR, 8/18/14
There’s a reasonable argument to be made on both sides about whether Microsoft should just dump Windows Phone and move to Android or whether it should stick things out and try to gradually improve its market share. However there is no argument that from a sales standpoint, Windows Phone has been a complete failure so far — and its shipments have actually gotten worse over the last year.
IDC’s latest report on global smartphone shipments found that not only did Windows Phone’s market share shrink from Q2 2013 to Q2 2014 but its overall shipment numbers shrank as well. In total, only 7.4 million Windows Phones shipped in Q2 this year, a 9.4% decline from the 8.2 million Windows Phones that shipped during the same period last year.
This means that Windows Phone, despite being made by the same company responsible for producing the world’s No. 1 desktop operating system, is headed down the same dead-end street as BlackBerry, which similarly saw its shipments crash by 78% year-over-year and its market share plummet all the way down to 0.5% in Q2 2014.
How is it possible that a company with so much talent, money and enterprise clout has so completely failed to build up its own mobile OS that is vital to the future of Windows as a whole? It seems pretty baffling and what the company decides to do with Windows Phone figures to be one of the most intriguing stories of new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s still-young tenure.
, GigaOM, 8/8/14
After years of delays, voice-over-LTE finally seems to be making its way into mobile networks and phones. T-Mobile recently announced its entire U.S. LTE network now supports the VoIP technology, while Verizon recently revealed it would begin selling its first 4G-only phones in 2016.
As we purchase new smartphones over the next few years, we’ll find traditional 2G phone calls receding into the past and voice or SMS becoming just another IP service. Today, however, consumers buying new VoLTE phones probably won’t notice much of a difference.
These initial VoLTE rollouts are focused solely on voice, which makes sense given the technology’s name, but apart from making the occasional HD voice call to other VoLTE device owners, the service is going to look – and cost – the same as old-school voice calls.
The real promise of VoLTE isn’t voice, but rather the raft of IP services that can be attached to those voice calls. By moving to an all IP network and service delivery platform, voice just becomes another feature in a wide-ranging communication service, all of which can be linked to a universal ID: your ten-digit phone number.
Verizon has already gotten wise to potential of VoLTE for more than just voice. It recently announced that it would launch its new VoIP service nationwide late this year with a video-chat service similar to Apple’s Facetime. But video chat is just the beginning. SMS will become augmented with presence and IM features now common in over-the-top messaging apps. Collaboration and sharing features could be layered on top of any voice or video chat session. Basically all of the new communications features that help make smartphones “smart” will no longer be walled off from the phone’s core voice and texting services.
What’s more, the strict association of a phone number with a particular phone begins to blur. VoLTE will help virtualize our phone numbers, allowing calls to be routed to your web browser when at your desk and switch back to your smartphone when you leave the room.
A single phone could host multiple identities and multiple phone numbers. So for instance, during business hours your phone’s business persona would be active and all calls and messages sent to your “office line” would get prioritized. But as the clock hits 5 PM, that business persona would recede into the background, routing all calls to voicemail and storing all messages for later viewing. At the same time your personal account resurfaces, bringing communications with your friends and family to the forefront.
Most of the capabilities probably already sound familiar to you because they’ve long been available from a bevy of different over-the-top communications apps, ranging from Facetime and Tango to WhatsApp and Google Voice.
The big difference – and perhaps the carriers’ only advantage after being so late to the market – is that VoLTE can centralize all these services in a single client and apply them universally across all phones. OTT apps not only require registration, but their networks are inherently limited by their membership. Every mobile phone owner has a phone number, and even if every device doesn’t support more advanced VoLTE features, any communications session can always default to a phone call or SMS exchange.
But because these kind of communications capabilities have been available for so long — and often for free — in the app stores, the carriers will have a difficult time charging for them. After years of getting free video chat with Skype, Facetime and Tango, there’s no way Verizon can suddenly come out with a $5 video-calling plan.
I recently interviewed the CTO of enterprise communications company Broadsoft, Scott Hoffpauir. He believes that carriers aren’t really building these VoLTE networks for consumers. Rather they’re building them for enterprises, which are much more likely to pay for the advanced collaboration, security and identity services VoLTE will bring.
That calculus makes sense, but I also think we’ll see VoLTE’s best features become readily available to consumers as well. Carriers won’t turn those video chat and IM features into new revenue streams. Instead they’ll use them to preserve the voice revenues they already have. Basically VoLTE will help prevent the carriers’ voice and SMS services from becoming irrelevant.
The latest Mobility Index Report from Good Technology reveals trends in how businesses are adopting and deploying mobile devices and apps.
Most businesses have embraced mobile technologies, but many are still on the low end of the mobile maturity curve. Good Technology has published its second-quarter Mobility Index Report, and it reveals some interesting trends regarding the mobile platforms and apps businesses are deploying.
Good Technology aggregated data from customers around the world and monitored app and device activations to determine overall trends, as well as which platforms and apps are most popular among Good customers.
According to the report, iOS accounted for 88 percent of app activations. As impressive as that is, it represents a 4 percent drop from the previous quarter. That drop in iOS apps was swallowed up by Android, which claimed 12 percent of the enterprise app activations this quarter.
Similarly, iOS device activations make up a healthy 67 percent of the total, but that’s a five percent drop from the previous quarter. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Android increased by five percent, taking 32 percent of the mobile device activations for the quarter.
The report also looked at what types of mobile apps are popular in businesses and found the most widely-used category is document editing–apps like Office Mobile for iPhone or Word for iPad. Secure instant messaging, which enables users to communicate effectively with each other in real-time from their mobile devices, came in second.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app activations jumped by a factor of seven over the previous quarter, driven by the launch of Good for Salesforce at the tail-end of Q2. Good Technology suggests that CRM could be one of the leading app types in future reports.
The Mobility Index Report is a little myopic because the data is gleaned solely from Good Technology customers. However, it is fair to assume they are representative of businesses at large and the report provides a reasonable view of overall trends in mobile apps and devices for businesses.
To see more of the details behind the report, check out the Mobility Index Report for Q2 2014 for yourself.
Ewan Spence , Forbes, 8/14/14
The smartphone manufacturer Jolla has announced that their flagship handset (the self-titled Jolla, reviewed on Forbes previously) is now available in Hong Kong. On sale via Three, the handset is available for free on the 4G LTE Super Plan, or for HK$2,888 direct from the network.
While Jolla continues to be cagy about the exact number of handsets that have been sold, the Finnish company continues to expand the distribution of the Jolla handset and the Sailfish OS that is at the core of the business.
The plucky handset is available to buy from Jolla’s website, but the handset is also available through mobile networks in its home country of Finland, Estonia, and Kazakhstan, as well as Italian distributor RCH Importazioni. The specs might not be as high as the flagship Android handsets of Samsung or Sony (with a dual-core 1.4 GHz Processor, 1GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and a 4.5 inch 960×540 qHD IPS screen), but the Sailfish OS does not need the grunt that Android 4.4 sometimes demands.
Having gone on retail sale at the end of 2013, it’s been a busy and productive year for a company with an employee count that is in the low hundreds. Compare that to Microsoft, Apple, or Samsung, and you can put the success of the Jolla hardware and software into perspective.
That doesn’t mean Jolla is lacking in ambition. Speaking at the launch, Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board of Jolla Antti Saarnio was aggressive in setting out where Jolla is.
“A wise man said nine months ago, that the third mobile operating system is coming any day now. This man was Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man. As Jolla launches today the Jolla smartphone with Hutchison Telecommunications, I claim that the day is today. Good things do take time to grow and the world needs a new mobile OS.”
It is this persistent and quiet Finnish determination that has driven Jolla since 2011 when a number of former Nokia employees decided that if Nokia was going to push them aside in favour of Windows Phone, they would build their linux lifeboat anyway. You can read more about the formation and years of Jolla in my interview with co-founder Marc Dillon.
Speaking to Dillon ahead of today’s launch, he spoke about the role of the Asian market to Jolla’s future prospects, and the importance of launching in Hong Kong. “We’re happy to be launching any partnership, but we’re very happy to be launching in partnership with Three Hong Kong.
“They are important because they are a progressive operator, interested in new technology, and are looking for a commercial differentiator. Which Jolla is.
“Hong Kong is a natural place to start with Three. It is their home market, but they are also a global company so this launch can be a great stepping stone for Jolla to ramp up in additional markets.”
Antti Saarni shares that view. “Jolla phone is a spearhead device for Sailfish OS… China especially is currently needing a new alternative OS. Building a smart society based on borrowed technology, corresponds to building your house on sand.”
The Jolla handset does not follow the normal paradigms for a smartphone user interface. As the smartphone moves away from the hackers and early supporters, improving the consumer experience has been one goal. The Sailfish UI is fast and flexible, and well-suited to one-handed usage. But it does take some getting used to. Jolla has improved the UI tutorial, and also added in dynamic hints and tips if the OS feels the user is ‘stuck’ looking for something in the UI.
Sailfish OS has also seen regular updates on a monthly basis (which led to a delightfully Finnish email letting everyone politely know in advance that there would not be an update during July). The first update after the Hong Kong launch will feature a new ‘low-power’ display mode that will show the time and current notifications when the handset is picked up or turned over without the user having to switch the handset on. This will allow a quick check of the phone without powering up all the circuits.
Practically, Jolla is not the third ecosystem, and is quantitatively nowhere close to either BlackBerry or Microsoft’s Windows Phone in terms of sales, third party applications, carrier support, or public image. That said, the Finnish company is not playing a pure numbers or volume game. The company is going down a boutique route where the volume of sales is not as important as the quality that each sale creates for an individual customer. Hong Kong is the next step as Jolla looks to win hearts and minds around the world for a different style of smartphone.
Jim Lynch, ITworld, 8/14/14
In today’s Android roundup: LibreOffice might eventually be released for Android. Plus: Android-x86 4.4 KitKat for PCs, and a screenshot tour of Android-x86 4.4 KitKat
LibreOffice is one of the best known and most popular open source office suites available. Millions of people use it each day around the world on their desktop computers. TechRepublic reports that LibreOffice may eventually appear on Android devices.
According to TechRepublic:
There is no set release date at this point. Until the developers get the file size below the Google limit, they are unable to predict a release. Until then, however, we’ll just have to sit back and wait — and hope this happens across the Google landscape. Even though LibreOffice would be in direct competition with Google Docs, it’s clear that there are some users who not only need native ODF support, but rely on a more traditional office suite to fulfill those needs.
Although I’ll continue my dependence upon Google Docs, having the addition of LibreOffice on Android (and Chromebooks… fingers crossed) would make my life incredibly more efficient.
More at TechRepublic
Image credit: TechRepublic
The sooner LibreOffice is released for Android, the better. As the article notes, there is a real need for Open Document Format (ODF) support in Android, and a LibreOffice release would go a long way toward fixing that. Unfortunately, there is no release date set for LibreOffice for Android so a final release could be a long way off.
You can see the latest information about LibreOffice for Android on the Document Foundation’s Android development page. There’s also a Reddit thread about LibreOffice for Android that contained this interesting message that took exception to some comments in the TechRepublic story:
“As someone contributing to LO I really feel that this sensationalist article is doing more harm than good. The author clearly lacks understanding of the LO codebase with nonsense statements such as “The plan didn’t include a total rewrite of the code, but repurposing at least 90% of the current code base. That meant the majority of the work was already done. That last remaining 10%? The user interface. The 90% already compiles on Android — so there is a working model. “
I get it. It’s supposed to give the uninitiated a sense of how complete it is and how far they’ve come. Never mind the fact that amongst other things had they to replace a homegrown build system with standard GNU make in order to at all get a chance at compiling it for Android.
Those 10 % are not just UI, they are the port (and improvement) of their platform abstraction layer, document rendering methods etc.
I’d love if some “tech journalists” would do more than just read blog posts, reinterpret it and drawing their own conclusions.
IMHO you’re much better off, reading Michael Meek’s blog or following the Document Foundation Planet than reading third-party mangled half-true, uninsightful news articles.”
Ouch. Well, at the very least the TechRepublic article has drawn some media attention to LibreOffice for Android. And that’s certainly not a bad thing if it helps bring greater awareness to the project.
Android-x86 4.4 KitKat for PCs
Softpedia reports on Android-x86 4.4 KitKat for desktop computers.
According to Softpedia:
Android-x86, a port of the famous Android operating system for the x86 platform, has reached version 4.4 R1 and is now ready for testing.
Android is actually using a modified Linux kernel underneath that interface. Some users even go as far as calling it a Linux distribution, although the consensus seems to be that it’s not. In any case, with some tweaking, a few developers managed to port the operating system to the PC, for the X86 platforms.
More at Softpedia
Image credit: Softpedia
I haven’t had a chance to use Android-x86 but it sounds like it could be fun to take it for a whirl and see how well it performs. I can’t see using it regularly, but it’s still a nice option for those who might choose to use it.
Android-x86 4.4 screenshot tour
Linux Screenshots has an in-depth screenshot tour of Android-x86 4.4 for desktop PCs.
According to Linux Screenshots:
Android-x86.org is glad to announce the 4.4-r1 release to public. This is the first stable release Android-x86 4.4 (KitKat-x86). The 4.4-r1 release is based on the Android 4.4.2 (KitKat-MR1) release. We have fixed and added x86-specific code to let the system run smoothly on x86 platforms, especially on tablets and netbooks.
The key features include: integrate FFmpeg as the stagefright plugin to support more multimedia files; use the latest long-term stable kernel, version 3.10.52, with more drivers enabled, most netbooks can run Android-x86 in the native resolution; OpenGL ES hardware acceleration for AMD Radeon and Intel chipsets; enhance the installer to support upgrade from previous versions.
More at Linux Screenshots
Image credit: Linux Screenshots
You can get the latest updates and more information on the Android-x86 site. Also check out the Android-x86 discussion group to connect with other users.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, ZNET, 7/31/14
By 2011, Android had just become the most popular smartphone operating system. At the time it still seemed possible for another mobile operating system to play a major role in the market.
That was then. This is now. With the news that Samsung will not be releasing its Tizen-powered Samsung Z in the third quarter, we must ask if Tizen will ever launch.
Back in 2011, Intel and the Linux Foundation started work in Tizen , a Linux-based mobile operating system that would use HTML5 for its applications. Tizen has a very complicated history.
In the beginning, Nokia and Intel were working on separate mobile OSs: Maemo and Moblin. In 2010, the two decided to combine them into MeeGo under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. A little earlier, in 2009, Samsung started work on its mobile Linux operating system: Bada.
By 2011, Intel and the Linux Foundation gave up on MeeGo and started work on Tizen. Samsung, having gone nowhere fast with Bada, decided to merge it with Tizen.
So far, so good, despite the messy development history. As time went on, it became harder and harder to see exactly where Tizen was going, if anywhere. The plan, it seemed, was to develop a third-party alternative to Android, but everything else about Tizen was foggy.
Worse still, Tizen-based smartphones started missing deadlines. The first Tizen-powered device was due out last year. It never showed.
Then, seeing the handwriting on the wall, major Tizen carrier partners, such as NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile communications firm, dropped its plans to launch a Tizen phone.
So, here we are in mid-2014 and Samsung itself is now pulling back from releasing a Tizen phone.
Stick a fork in it, Tizen’s done.
And, realistically, why should Samsung support a third-party operating system even if it’s their own? According to IDC’s smartphone market numbers, Samsung is the top smartphone vendor, selling 30.2 percent of all smartphones. All of them run Android. Samsung smartphones outsell Apple’s iPhone by more than two to one whether you measure it by market percentage or units sold.
So tell me, why exactly would Samsung want to disrupt the market? I can’t think of any reasons. Can you?
Besides, why would Samsung want to spend more money developing what, at best, would be a third-place mobile operating system? Microsoft, since they’ve given up on Android, has to keep trying to make Windows Phone relevant. Mozilla is betting its life on Firefox OS. And, Canonical is still pursuing its one interface plan for PCs, smartphones, and tablets with Ubuntu.
But Samsung? No, I can’t see it. I expect sometime in the next few months there will be a very quiet announcement that Tizen is no longer being developed and that will be that.
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.