Payments giant First Data acquires Mobile Gift Card Provider Gyft (@pandodaily)

Gyft, a Redwood City-based virtual gift card provider has been acquired by payment giant First Data, Pando has learned. The terms of the transaction were undisclosed, although early Gyft investor, Karlin Ventures managing director TX Zhuo calls it “a great outcome for everybody involved.” The transaction is expected to close next month.

The two year old startup has raised a total of $6 million through its Series A round of funding with backers including Karlin, Google Ventures,A-Grade Investments, Canyon Creek Capital, The Social+Capital Partnership, and angels David Sacks and Haas Portman.

Snapchat Valued At $10 Billion? (@techcrunch)

Snapchat’s decision to reportedly rebuff Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer doesn’t look as silly today: according to a new report from Bloomberg out this morning, the ephemeral messaging application may now be valued at $10 billion dollars, as it continues talking with investors, including Alibaba, about a new round of financing for its growing business.

7 things the iWatch needs to do if Apple wants to win (@verge)

Most of the time, the iWatch should do nothing. It should sit forgotten on your wrist, alerting you only when there’s something worth paying attention to. And that won’t be every notification, every alert, every message. The iWatch needs tools to be finely tuned, and needs to be smart enough to tune itself to show me only what I need to see right now. Mostly it needs to just look good, and tell me the time. Everything else should be, and feel, secondary.

OK. But if that’s the case, are you going to fork over $300 for the privilege of owning one? Certainly, I agree with a curated approach to notifications and alerts. But if I wanted something that mostly just told me the time, I’d buy any of the thousands of watches for sale. There has to be an essential use case inherent to the watch itself; some reason I’m going to fork over a couple of hundred dollars.

Apple to Buy Radio App Swell for $30 Million (@recode)

Apple is close to buying the Pandora-for-talk-radio app Swell, according to multiple sources. The deal is worth about $30 million, these sources say.

It seems like a pretty clear-cut story: Despite Swell’s simple UI that lended itself to in-car listening, as well as high engagement among fans, the app had trouble finding a lot of users. As part of the deal, the Swell app is to be shut down this week.

I find a lot of music/radio apps have this same problem. Scale seems to be elusive for anything that isn’t IHeartRadio.

You Are Not Late (@medium)

So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

Just a public service reminder to those who feel the mobile revolution has already passed them by.

Meet the First Viral Snapchat Stars (@time)

“It’s the most viral platform ever because people need to screenshot, share, and talk to their friends,” Jarre says. “Because it is disappearing in 24-hours, they have to tell their friends or else no one will see it… There’s an insane word of mouth power. That’s how Shaun gained his followers from scratch.”

Jarre actually gained his notoriety first on Vine and then moved over to Snapchat.

So how much are the most popular stars making?

Compensation ranges widely. Consulting can pay up to $150 an hour and although Snapchatters and companies wouldn’t publicly disclose specific payments, two top Snapchat users said that the most coveted stars now earn anywhere from $1,500 a day to more than $100,000 for a week’s work for a company. That’s in the ballpark of what influencers on other social platforms are getting paid. Marcus Johns told Business Insider that a Vine ad campaign paid off his college tuition, and advertisers have sent influential Instagram users on fully paid trips around the world to Instagram events from their accounts.

Anil Dash: What Is Public? (@medium)

Many smartphone users don’t realize that the photos they take often include the user’s geographic location hidden in the image. A regular user of a smartphone photo-sharing app who thinks she’s merely revealing her fondness for latte art may not realize that she’s providing a clear map of her exact location, stamped with the date and time accurate down to the second. By the standards of contemporary tech and media companies, displaying this information to the world in the form of “Here is a map showing where this person is every Tuesday at 9am ” is a perfectly acceptable thing to publish about hundreds of millions of people, without their consent, because these companies consider this information public.

When people, especially those in marginalized communities, have conversations with one another online, the fact that it’s possible to view those conversations might make them “public” by some definition. But certainly we can’t concede that every utterance we make in the presence of others is automatically fodder for aggregation and monetization by media and tech companies, without our consent or even the opportunity for remuneration. 

Congress passes cellphone unlocking bill, Obama likely to sign it into law (@gigaom)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday allowing consumers to unlock mobile devices to work on a different carrier’s network. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was passed earlier this month by the Senate, leaving President Barack Obama’s signature as the last hurdle to be cleared before the bill becomes law.

Obama is almost certain to sign the bill. “The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice,” he said in a statement released on Friday. “I…look forward to signing this bill into law.”

The Major Industry Battle Brewing Between Samsung vs Google (@techpinions)

Tim Bajarin:

First, they just make Google wealthier and continue to deliver customers to Google instead of to themselves. Yes, Android has served them well so far, but as long as Google owns the OS, Samsung is beholden to Google and is just a slave to them. Second, they drive revenue to Google, revenue that could be all theirs if they owned the customers. Third, they will continue to face margin pressure as hardware based profits shrink. As I mentioned above, our analysis suggests Samsung’s margins, even on their upper end products, could be reduced to around 10%-15% as even high end smartphones become more commoditized.

All of this is true. But if they go all in on Tizen, they’re going to see massive churn unless there’s some way they can still leverage Android’s app store or make it super simple for developers to repurpose those apps for Tizen.

They’re stuck. And they’re stuck in a major way. Nor is it particularly surprising since Samsung, as a company, have never been vertically focused, whether it be with phones, laptops or really any other technology they’ve had a hand in building.

Lyft Reached An Agreement With New York And Will Launch Today (@businessinsider)

After a two-week delay, ride-sharing startup Lyft will launch in New York City Friday night. But Lyft had to make some concessions. It can only use licensed vehicles from the TLC. Still, those concessions mean Lyft will be able to operate in all of New York’s boroughs, not just Brooklyn and Queens, which was the original plan.

Plan will go into effect at 7 PM tonight.

Tinder Is Full of Robot Prostitutes (@valleywag)

But why the spambots? What is the motivation in luring horny dudes to a profile of a non-existent person with no monetary exchange, and not even the decency of a robot reply?

The answer lay in the incentives of not necessarily driving traffic to iHookUp.com, but in getting people to sign up as members, even without buying a “premium package.” Research into iHookUp’s Affiliate Program revealed partner/parent website LoadedCash.com, which runs various other hookup sites, such as BlackTryst.com and ones to help you cheat on your spouse. Through a traffic and lead generation agreement with LoadedCash.com, one can earn $6 perfree member sign up if you can manage to get one out of every ten people that you direct to iHookUp from your fake escort website to create a profile. If you can get them to sign up for a premium membership you can tack an extra 21 cents onto that. Not too bad. Given the millions using Tinder, it seems as though one could make some decent money by gaming Tinder users.

There’s a huge underbelly of affiliate marketing as an industry that’s been doing this kind of thing for years: spammy products/services that offer huge payouts to affiliates that end up doing whatever it takes to bring them leads. Naturally, it’s made its way to mobile. Between this and the spammy mobile app install ads, there is a lot that the industry needs to weed out.

Why Doesn’t Facebook Want to Brag About Its Billion-Dollar App Ad Business? (@recode)

Facebook isn’t sure that app ads, which showed up out of nowhere, are going to stick around. Developers are buying app ads because they work. But now that lots of people are using the ads, it’s not nearly as cheap and easy to acquire app users this way. And there’s also something about app ads that triggers flashbacks to AOL in the boom years, and Facebook doesn’t want any part of that

App ads don’t fit Facebook’s larger narrative.. Facebook’s goal is ultimately to take big chunks of money that brand advertisers are spending on TV. There are some brands spending money on app ads. But they’re not the ones driving that business, because people don’t use brands’ apps (besides Starbucks, do you have any big brands’ apps on your phone?). So Candy Crush money is great, but it’s not GM and P&G and Coke money, and that’s what Sandberg really wants.

Imoji For iPhone Lets You Turn Any Image Into A Custom Emoji (@techcrunch)

With the rise of smartphones and messaging apps, emoji and stickers have also grown in popularity, and are now a part of our everyday conversations. But the standard set of emoji that come pre-installed on the iPhone can be limiting. Today, a new application called imoji launches in hopes of changing that, by allowing you to turn any image into a custom sticker or emoji for use with iMessage.

Imoji is one of many new applications that has opted to create what’s more of an add-on to Apple’s default messaging app, iMessage, instead of trying to build its own mobile messaging client, like WhatsApp, for example. Others, including the recently launchedUltratext or the GIF-sharing Nutmeg are doing something similar – that is, operating as extensions to iMessage.

Disrupting Payments, Africa Style (@recode)

Really interesting piece that you should read all the way through. A lot of stories about M-Pesa: some use cases you may have heard of before, some not. This point really stuck in my head though as it relates to the way phones are used as a proxy for banking infrastructure that was never built in Africa:

I think the most interesting point of note in this solution is how it essentially skips over banking. If we think about our own lives, and especially those of the generation entering the workforce now, banking is most decidedly archaic. The whole idea of opening an account and dealing with a level of indirection which offers very little by way of useful services — it just feels like there’s a need for disruption. Our installed base of infrastructure makes this very difficult, but in the developing world that challenge doesn’t exist. It isn’t likely that most people will graduate to full-fledged banking just as we don’t expect people to graduate from a mobile phone to a full-fledged PC.

Think about how wild that is. An entire banking industry, which in the United States alone, is responsible for holding almost $15 trillion worth of assets, is being left behind for mobile phones on a whole continent.

I also wonder if Bitcoin can grow as a legitimate source of this kind of transactional activity. As Steven infers in the piece, the lack of legacy infrastructure inherently makes it easier for these kinds of solutions to grow. You’re not disrupting the existing financial system because there is no existing financial system, at least what we in the developed world see as a financial system.

Facebook and Uber Discuss Integration of Car Service Into Messenger (@recode)

That’s why Zuckerberg has held preliminary talks with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about potentially embedding the service into the Facebook Messenger app, according to sources who have been briefed on the discussions.

“It’s very conceptual, and nowhere near execution,” said one person with knowledge of the situation. “But it’s a direction that Messenger has to go in.”

Smart. Google Maps already added their own integration with Uber. Not to mention WeChat and their integration with e-hail services in China.

Instagram’s “Bolt” Leak Could Be A New Facebook App Or An App Install Ad Test (@techcrunch)

Some Instagram users are reporting having briefly seen a banner advertisement within the Instagram application which pointed to a new app called “Bolt,” described as a “one tap photo messaging” app. Next to the app’s name and description, a download button linked out to a non-functional URL on the Google Play store.

The current speculation being shared around the web is that Bolt is a new application soon to be released by Instagram. However, it also seems likely that the Bolt leak was a test involving an expansion of Facebook’s app install ads to the company-owned Instagram platform.

Would be funny if it were the latter. I’m not sure why Facebook (through Instagram) would produce another Snapchat competitor. Is Slingshot already old news?

Confirmed: Facebook Messenger will eventually do payments (@venturebeat)

Now we have confirmation on why Facebook hired PayPal’s David Marcus: Payments and Messenger will eventually “overlap,” Zuckerberg said during today’s earnings call. When the company first announced it had hired Marcus, the former president of PayPal, the industry took it as a strong hint that Facebook was looking to monetize its messaging app. After all, Marcus joined PayPal after parent-company eBay acquired his mobile-payments startup Zong in 2011, first leading PayPal’s mobile efforts before taking the lead as president.

Everybody kind of knew this was going to happen. The question is whether payments will stay confined to messenger or whether it will eventually branch out to include other Facebook-owned properties (Instagram, WhatsApp etc.)

Apple, Swatch working together on an ‘iWatch’ (@venturebeat)

Apple has been working with at least one partner, Swatch, to release a line of smartwatches in variety of branded styles and price points, a source with knowledge of the situation tells VentureBeat.

While most Apple-watchers and media have been laser-focused on one or two “iWatches” from Apple itself, the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics and media giant may actually be working a number of partners in the watch business.

Apple and its partners will offer a family of smartwatches to suit all tastes “from geek to chic,” our source says.

So is Apple going after traditional watch buyers here? I feel like the market for smart watches is going to be made up mostly of people who aren’t watch connoisseurs and indeed many who may have never worn a watch. Not that those folks aren’t fashion concious too but I think it’s more about the utility of the device and less about the look or how it may be perceived as a status symbol.

Americans Spend Average Of 40 Minutes Per Day On Facebook, 1 in 5 of Which Are On Mobile (@techcrunch)

Josh Constine from TechCrunch:

Zuckerberg said that the 40 minutes a day on Facebook account for one in five minutes spent on mobile in the US. Yet Facebook’s CEO sees plenty of room to grow, as he said that Americans spend about 9 hours per day engaging with digital media. Facebook has 204 million monthly users in the US and Canada.

Facebook also downplayed mobile app install ads as a % of overall FB mobile revenue:

COO Sheryl Sandberg downplayed the impact of mobile app install ads to the 62% of Facebook’s ad revenue that comes from mobile and its total $1.66 billion it made this quarter from mobile ads. Her goal was likely to show Facebook’s mobile advertising offering is diverse, and its mobile ad revenue is not subject to instant disruption if, say, Apple and Google started offering app install ads on the app stores themselves.

More FB Earnings call stuff later.

Foursquare may be challenged, but Crowley’s job is not in jeopardy (@pandodaily)

Sarah Lacy:

Let’s assume things at Foursquare are horrific. Firing Crowley does nothing for investors. He and his team and his vision would be one of the plum assets a potential acquirer would want, and it would be so distracting and chaotic that it would only make the situation worse. Likewise, what genius is going to suddenly come in and see a solution to the problem that’s obsessed Crowley for his entire adult life that he didn’t see? Look at the devastationion of “check in” companies that went nowhere and haven’t remotely built the assets Foursquare has. If anyone is going to make this into a sustainable business it’s Crowley.

I agree. If you know the backstory, they would’ve run into the same problems with or without Dennis. Although unfortunately, if you do see the Swarm/4SQ combo succeed and either the company turns around or they get sold for a nice chunk of change, you may see some armchair analysts come out saying “see? they should’ve made this pivot months ago!”