How to minimize device lock-in and make it easier to migrate to a new smartphone (@gigaom)

While the apps are going to be specific to the platform, my main goal is to select apps where the data resides outside the app in a cloud service I can access from any app. Byword, for example, uses Dropbox to store its files. If the app doesn’t allow the data outside of its comfy little silo, my second guideline is the app should be cross-platform. The Kindle app is available for most devices, as is Comixology. I have a lot of magazines in Zinio, and, again it’s cross-platform.

I try and do this as well. Even though I’ve become more or less an Apple loyalist, I do still use a Windows PC on occasion so it’s important for me to be able to access my data anywhere. The only area where I’ve really screwed myself is with the productivity software I’m using. I use Things, which, while a fantastic program, is Apple only. So while it has syncing capability across all Apple devices, it’s difficult to export anything to a Google Calendar or something cloud-based.

A16Z’s Chris Dixon and Ringly’s Christina Mercando on Wearables (@a16z)

This was actually recorded in late July but I happened to stumble on it while reading Benedict Evans’ (great) weekly newsletter. Have a listen if you have an interest in wearables: the state of the present market as well as what’s to come.

Coin delays product launch until spring 2015 as questions remain (@cnet)

On Friday, the startup said it’s delaying its full product release until spring of 2015 while it refines the device and works out kinks in manufacturing. Instead, the company says it will ship what it’s calling Coin beta, the latest iteration of the all-in-one card, to the first 10,000 pre-order customers who opt-in to the program.

This part isn’t surprising if you’ve been paying attention to similarly crowdfunded hardware campaigns. But what card manufacturers are working on may present a serious problem for the functionality of Coin itself:

The US credit card industry is preparing for one of its biggest technological leaps in decades. New cards arriving in customer’s mailboxes are being affixed with security chips, called “EMV.” These chips promise to reduce fraud by making it hard to quickly copy a card’s information, and by requiring that customers sometimes punch in a passcode. By October 2015, the industry has said it will change its business practices, shifting liability for any fraud to merchants and card makers who don’t upgrade to the new technology. Coin may be one of them.

Basically, the magnetic strips that have become the basis for what amounted to over $11 billion in fraud in 2012, are being phased out.

The goal of the EMV standard is to phase out reliance on magnetic stripes, which have been around for decades and are subject to all manners of fraud. The microchip generates a unique code for every transaction, and inside the chip is what MasterCard spokesperson Oliver Manihan calls a black box: a private section in which a cardholder’s PIN and the cryptographic keys used to generate code are located.

As for Coin, even if it does find a way to include security chips on its device, Manihan said it may not be able to store information from the ones his company sends to customers. “You could only get a portion of the data,” he said, adding that some of the information stored on the chips is designed to never be copied.

And because Coin’s entire raison d’etre is to store that data from multiple cards, well…yeah. That would require a complete overhaul of not just the device but maybe the underlying business model itself.

Luckily for them, these magnetic strips are not going to go away overnight. Even without doing the hard math, you can think of the hundreds of millions of credit cards that are floating around out there and reasonably assume that this will take some time.

We’ll see how this impacts Coin moving forward.

Full disclosure: I supported Coin’s initial crowdfunding campaign and am eagerly awaiting one of the beta units.

Majority Of Digital Media Consumption Now Takes Place In Mobile Apps (@techcrunch)

U.S. users are now spending the majority of their time consuming digital media within mobile applications, according to a new study released by comScore this morning. That means mobile apps, including the number 1 most popular app Facebook, eat up more of our time than desktop usage or mobile web surfing, accounting for 52% of the time spent using digital media. Combined with mobile web, mobile usage as a whole accounts for 60% of time spent, while desktop-based digital media consumption makes up the remaining 40%.

Apps today are driving the majority of media consumption activity, the report claims, now accounting for 7 our of every 8 minutes of media consumption on mobile devices. On smartphones, app activity is even higher, at 88% usage versus 82% on tablets.

Roost to expand push notifications to Chrome & Firefox (@venturebeat)

Push notifications from apps on mobile devices are something we’re all used to. But push notifications work well on larger screens too, like the browser on a desktop computer. It’s something publishers and brands are getting excited about, as a way of engaging site visitors. That’s where the Toledo, Ohio-born company Roost comes in. Roost is a push notification engine for websites. It’s used by about 2000 websites right now, Notice Software co-founder Tim Varner tells VentureBeat.

Roost notifications appear to the user at the top of the browser window, and only after the user has opted in. A notification might ask a site visitor to log in or register at the site; Roost believes that users are about thirty times more likely to do so than if the request came from an email. On the back end, Roost provides the site owner with all sorts of messaging and analytics options.

Noke is a Bluetooth padlock you unlock with your phone (@venturebeat)

Oh, the ‘ol padlock. At this time of year it is on the back to school shopping lists of millions of students. It’s also the inspiration behind the Noke by Fuz Designs, the latest runaway success project on Kickstarter.

If this sounds similar to another Bluetooth lock Kickstarter project, that’s because it is. A Canadian company called Total North started a Kickstarter project last year for its Teo lock. Unfortunately, the campaign fell short of its funding goal.

What are the differences between Teo and Noke? Several, according to the article: mostly related to design and price:

Total North’s Teo has a decidedly unorthodox design, looking more like the unholy offspring of a door handle and a large Ikea hex key than a traditional padlock. Not ugly by anyone’s standards, just a little odd. Gibbs thought so too, saying, “Their design missed in a few areas. They show a clip in their video with it on a locker and it just doesn’t look quite right.”

Fuz Designs’ Noke on the other hand, is a kindred spirit to the Nest Thermostat in the sense that it distills the classic combination lock down to its simplest elements: A round body and u-shaped shackle that latches vertically and swivels side-to-side.

On price:

“I think price point is huge difference. Ours is much more in the range that is acceptable for product like this. Also [the Teo] was based out of Canada so anyone in the U.S. who wanted one would have to pay the $15 in shipping,” Gibbs points out. No question about it — $59 with shipping included is easier to swallow than $79+ $15 for shipping. Unless you’re Canadian.

The Kickstarter can be found here, if you’d like to donate. The campaign has already reached it’s funding goal and is at just over $145k as of this writing.

Blur: A Launcher Replacement That Turns Apps Into Google Now-Style Homescreen Pages (@androidpolice)

Developer Klinker Apps, the folks behind the Talon Twitter client and the EvolveSMS messaging app, have just released Blur, a free launcher replacement that takes the approach introduced by the Google Now Launcher and opens it up to other apps. With Blur, any app that adds on support for the launcher can have its own dedicated page that rests right on a person’s homescreen. In practice, this means users can swipe to the left to access their Twitter feed, text messages, a basic calculator, or a dedicated Google Now page that the Klinker brothers MacGyvered to imitate the GNL. More pages are hopefully on the way.

This is something that, as an iOS user, I can genuinely point to as a moment of jealousy with respect to Android. Having the ability to replace the home screen with some kind of swipe-able selection menu, without jailbreaking, sounds fantastic. The whole process of endlessly having to press the home button, find the app etc. gets old after a while and some kind of one-swipe solution to alleviate that would be amazing. The fact that Android gives you the ability to customize these launchers to your satisfaction is at least one advantage it has over iOS, IMO.

ProducTind: A Tinder-Like App for Product Hunt Products

Like a lot of you, I’ve become a big fan of Product Hunt over the last few months as a place to find out about new startups, apps and other web-centric products. While I still frequent HN, beta.list, Springwise as well as the traditional tech news outlets, I’m finding that the listings on Product Hunt manage to maintain an air of high quality while the listing process appears to be a little more democratic and not just confined to those with connections in the Valley. And while I’m not a huge fan of such heavy curation of comments (and more specifically, commenters) I get the rationale behind it; the level of dialogue between those invited to comment and the founders behind the listings creates a lot of positive engagement and has clearly contributed to a healthy amount of buzz around the community itself.

The one part of the PH experience, however, that may be served a little bit better is on mobile. Sometimes, the list format gets to be a little too much to take in on the small screen.

That’s why a Product Hunt super fan has built ProducTind: an app that leverages the Product Hunt API to show cards of PH products with the familiar Tinder-like swipe functionality that’s become a seminal UI feature among the top mobile apps. Simply swipe right to register that product as a “like” and you can use the list view to see all of your likes in one place. You can also click on the card itself to view the same information you’d see on how many people up voted that product and who they were, as well as the threaded comments section. For this, the app simply opens the traditional PH mobile web experience in a pop-up window, which could probably be customized to a more elegant, in-app solution. But it’s a great start and as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time looking at information on new startups (and citing them in posts like this!), it’s incredibly helpful.

Additionally, the Product Hunt API is being rolled out to other interested parties. So if you’d like to sign up and build something on the back of the PH API, founder Ryan Hoover has set up a Typeform form here.

Podcast: Lyft’s Ryan Fujiu on Growth Strategies for Mobile and Elsewhere (@500Startups)

They talk about key mobile-specific challenges starting from about 16:00 to 19:00, along with pricing strategies and some strategies that worked for Lyft and Ryan’s last company, Good stuff.

Smartphone owners’ appetite for new apps wanes (@FinancialTimes)

Almost a third of smartphone users do not download any apps for their devices in a typical month, according to a report by Deloitte that predicts the volume of app store sales is hitting a ceiling.

The average number of apps downloaded on a monthly basis has decreased considerably in 2014, the firm found in a survey of people in the UK. As smartphones saturate mobile markets in the US and Europe, developers must rely on customers continuing to download new apps for their businesses to grow.

Weekend Roundup 8/18: Android Fragmentation, Mobile Payments & Predictive News Apps

Good morning! Here’s some stuff you might’ve missed over the weekend.

Android Fragmentation? (or nah?)

First up, Entropy’s Eddie Vassallo argues on GigaOM that Android fragmentation is becoming less and less of an issue for developers building apps on the platform. One reason, he says, has to do with Google Play services:

Crucially, version 5.0 of Google Play Services is now being rolled out to all Android devices running OS 2.3 Gingerbread up to 4.4 KitKat. This sinks the argument that developers are handcuffed to older OS features to ensure legacy compliance of core elements of their app.

The often cited screen size fragmentation is another issue that Vassallo argues is not nearly as big an issue as is being made out to be by non-developers. He cites a post from developer Russell Ivanovic which points out that potential layouts are actually quite small:

A designer doesn’t have to “re–lay out” the app design for every possible screen size. Instead, through thoughtful use of higher resolution graphics and accounting for minor variations in width and height, almost every screen size can easily be catered to.

Is now the time (finally) for mobile payments?

Alberto Jimenez, writing for TechCrunch, cites a number of recent, converging trends that may be signaling the impending mainstream adoption of mobile payments. First, data-driven services:

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the way we initiate and accept payments today. However, there are a number of activities that take place before and after the transaction that can deliver tremendous value to the consumer and the merchant, both in terms of relevance and the ability to drive top-line growth, respectively. These activities include innovative, data analytics-driven ways to discover new products and services, save money via price-comparison tools, and deliver immediate gratification using location-based services, just to name a few.

Secondly, the aspect of cards on file, which mobile services (e.g. Uber) have helped facilitate in a way that never existed previously:

With the emergence of app ecosystems that make mobile the lead channel for a multitude of services in categories as diverse as music streaming and share economy services like non-hotel travel accommodations, “cards on file” has emerged as a key enabler of transactions being initiated on the mobile device. This not only makes payments seamless, but also transparent to the consumer.

Lastly, the security question:

Industry surveys continue to rank security concerns high on the list of reasons preventing consumers (and merchants) from adopting mobile payments. Most of us know that some of these concerns are perceptions rather than factual reasons – everything else being equal, mobile transactions are by definition safer than plastic transactions. Industry-wide initiatives, such as tokenization, have the potential to significantly increase the level of security and subsequently the general public perception about payments — specifically the kind initiated on mobile devices.

Mobile News Apps & Predictive Content

Finally, this was a really interesting look at the future of mobile news apps from Monday Note’s Frédéric Filloux:

For a news provider, the smartphone screen is the the most challenging environment ever seen. There, chances are that a legacy media or a pure-player will find itself in direct competition, not only with the usual players in its field, but also with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and scores of gaming applications. Distraction is just one icon away; any weakness in functional or graphic design can be lethal. Hence the questions for publishers: What type of news should they put on their mobile apps, what formats, what about images and video, sharing, curation, connections to other apps?

A potential solution? The ability for the app to surface content to you based on context:

Based on these data sets, it becomes possible to predict your most probable level of attention at certain moments of the day and to take in account network conditions. Therefore, a predictive algorithm can decide what type of news format you’ll be up for at 7:30am when you’re commuting (quickly jumping from one cell tower to another with erratic bandwidth) and switch for faster reads than at 8:00pm, when you’re supposed to be home, or staying in a quiet place equipped with a decent wifi, and receptive to richer formats.

By anticipating your moves, your phone can quickly download heavy media such as video while networks conditions are fine and saving meager bandwidth for essential updates. In addition, the accelerometer and internal gyroscope can tell a lot about reading conditions: standing-up in a crowded subway or waiting for your meeting to start.

That would be fantastic.

This is what it looks like when a country gets mobile phones (@qz)

Just five years ago, mobile phone penetration in Myanmar stood at 1%. By 2013, it had already shot up to 13%. The government wants to drive that number north of 75%. Meanwhile, the price of a SIM card dropped from $3,000 to about $260. This month, Qatar’s Ooredoo, a mobile operator, started selling SIM cards for 1,500 kyat ($1.50).

Grading on a curve: Smartwatches in 2014 (@techpinions)

Jan Dawson:

The real point here is that smartwatches today, like smartphones then, had a niche appeal. Smartphone penetration in the US was in single digits in 2007, and that reflected the fact most people hadn’t seen the need to buy one. Smartphones in the US were work-centric, focused on delivering email and a basic web browsing experience. Apps for anything beyond PIM (personal information management) were poor or non-existent and, as such, the vast majority of the general population saw no need for one. Those that needed one would likely be issued one by their employers, and a few hobbyists would buy one for personal use or because their employer didn’t see the need.

If smartwatches are to succeed then, we need an existing player or a new entrant to do something similar to what the iPhone did to smartphones in 2007: that is, fundamentally reinvent the category

This is pretty much what we already know. The main thrust of the article was one that consumers (and the tech press) ought to therefore be heightening their expectations for what the devices can do, which I agree with:

The bar has been set so low for smartwatches that a device as flawed as the Pebble gets a score as high as the iPhone 5C or the LG G3, even though the latter devices do a far better job of meeting needs in their category than the Pebble (or any other smartwatch) does in its category.

He follows with some general criteria re: form factor (size and display) with a passing reference to functionality but I think the latter is the most important. It’s also the hardest to successfully predict. Would one have judged the iPhone in 2007 based on what the app ecosystem looks like today? Even Steve Jobs didn’t originally envision how things ended up turning out.

Microsoft Says It’s Not Killing Off The Super Basic Nokia Handset After All (@techcrunch)

In a memo to staff on the changes last month, Microsoft’s Jo Harlow wrote that “all Mobile Phones-related services and enablers are planned to move into maintenance mode, effective immediately”, adding: “This means there will be no new features or updates to services on any Mobile Phones platform as a result of these plans.”

Which sounded a pretty clear klaxon that the Nokia basic mobile phone was a done deal. But apparently not. Today Microsoft has announced a new basic Nokia mobile, costing €19/$25 and called the Nokia 130.

Alright then.


Tune gets into acquisition business, buys MobileDevHQ (@venturebeat)

Mobile analytics player Tune is getting into the acquisition business. Tune bought SaaS mobile-marketing player MobileDevHQ Monday for a price that hasn’t been publicly disclosed. MobileDevHQ’s software gives mobile marketing teams insight into so-called app store visibility, mobile intelligence, and search rankings. This is the first acquisition for Tune, which changed its name from HasOffers in July.

Sensors And Sensitivity (@techcrunch)

While this tech sounds very smart indeed, what’s even more interesting — from a tech trends perspective — is the growing potential of this anti-wearables approach of invisibly embedding sensors into objects with which humans interact.

So instead of having our bodies cluttered with electronic bangles that continuously quantify our existence, there’s an opportunity for more targeted applications of sensor technology, based on locating it in proximity to us — within objects we use, handle and interact with for specific purposes.

The key though, as with wearables, is the ability to have these sensors talk to one another in order to gather relevant data sets. Whether these devices end up on our bodies or the objects we interact with, isn’t really the point; although for those building this kind of hardware, working with companies to build these sensors directly into products their selling rather than selling directly to the consumer might be the way forward for mass adoption.

Square Acquires Food Delivery Service Caviar (@techcrunch)

Square has acquired curated food delivery service Caviar today, confirming earlier reports that the companies had been in serious talks. We reported last month that the companies were in talks on a deal worth about $100 million. Both Re/Code and The New York Times reported the deal would take place this week, but the reported price now is for $90 million in stock.

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.