Tag Archives: Mobile

Samsung’s Head Of Mobile Design Resigns After Galaxy S5′s Poor Reception

Glam_Galaxy-S5_Gold_02 Samsung Electronic’s head of mobile design, Chang Dong-hoon, has resigned following criticism about the Galaxy S5 smartphone’s lack of pulchritude. Though the Galaxy S5′s design did not actually deviate too far from earlier models, its looks and textured plastic back were roundly lambasted by reviewers. Read More


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Proto.io Lets You Create Mobile App Prototypes And See Them Running In A Real, Native App

protoio-devices Proto.io, a mobile prototyping platform that’s been organically growing its footprint over the last couple of years, is now offering a fairly notable new feature: In addition to being able to easily build mobile app prototypes using its service, it has just launched native iOS and Android apps that let you view your prototypes in the most realistic manner possible. What that means for end users is… Read More


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Pinterest Launches Exploration-Focused Guided Search And Reveals Custom Categories For Mobile

2014042501-1 Today Pinterest announced two new mobile products: Guided Search to lead you on chains of explorations, and a third one that will be unveiled in a few minutes, and Custom Categories for making it easier to browse your way to cool stuff through a dynamic interface. Guided Search is now available on iOS and Android. Custom Categories will slowly roll out across devices in the next few months. Read More


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Larger Phone Screens Drive Mobile Video Consumption

No, it’s not an hilarious analyst April Fools’ Day joke. Although, the elementary logic may suggest otherwise: larger screen phones — such as phablets — are a key driver in increased mobile video consumption. Read More


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Ex-Spotify Engineers Raise $2.2 Million For Lookback, A Mobile App Screen Recorder For User Testing

A team of ex-Spotify engineers have raised $ 2.2 million in seed funding for Lookback, a platform allowing developers to record onscreen activity within mobile apps – and even record the user’s face and voice, so they can explain what they’re doing when they encounter a bug or some other problem. The round was led by European investor Lakestar, and saw participation from Index… Read More


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Let’s End The Search For Mobile TV

Mobile TV has never been a thing. Since the Sony Watchman in 1982, we’ve been excited at the prospect of mobile TV, but no matter how good our devices are, there still seems to be something missing. As recently as this January, Josh Elman noted to John Borthwick that the results of the Homescreen 2014 study show that even now, no one keeps mobile video apps on their smartphone homescreens; we… Read More


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Mobile Movies Is A Novel Way Of Collecting Data In Off-The-Grid Areas

In the late 1960s, the British Ministry of Technology turned Bedford SB buses into mobile cinemas that toured the country and screened films promoting modern production techniques. Half a century later, a Singapore-based startup called Next Billion is reviving the concept to reach rural communities throughout Southeast Asia. Read More


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Acompli Raises $7.3M Series A From Redpoint & Others To Fix Mobile Email

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Acompli, a company building a mobile email application which functions as an all-in-one productivity app for iPhone, has raised $ 7.3 million in Series A funding – a sizable investment that points to the scale of the problem the startup is aiming to solve. The round was led by Redpoint Ventures, and includes participation from Harrison Metal and Felicis Ventures. The app itself is due out on the iTunes App Store in Q2 2014, though the company is accepting early sign-ups now.

Founded in April 2013, Acompli is led by Javier Soltero (CEO), previously CEO and co-founder of Hyperic; CTO, SaaS and Application Services at VMware; and most recently, Entrepreneur in Residence at Redpoint Ventures.

Soltero is joined by co-founders J.J. Zhuang (CTO) and Kevin Henrikson (VP of Engineering), also of VMware as well as Yahoo by way of its Zimbra acquisition.

Though the Acompli app is not yet available for testing, we recently were able to see a demo of the app in action, and came away fairly impressed. Acompli has been designed with the needs of the mobile professional, not the casual email user, in mind, and it’s easy to imagine that many individuals would be willing to pay (and eventually businesses, too) for the conveniences it offers.

But Acompli’s business model will be freemium-based, we understand. That is – free to end users, with a plan to sell value-added services to businesses in the future.

How Acompli Is Different Than Your Usual Mobile Email Client

There are a number of features Acompli offers which make it a richer experience than the default Mail app on iPhone, including a fast, predictive search interface and smarter contacts to make email compositions quicker and easier. This is because Acompli, like another email app I’ve been using, (CloudMagic, a pivot from a universal search app), speeds up interactions by serving data from its own servers, instead from the email providers’ own servers – like the Gmail servers, for example.

“Regarding how we do it faster, Acompli delivers messages down to the device using a secure protocol that optimizes the delivery of data based on the connectivity and state of the device,” explains Soltero. “Traditional email apps use protocols that are either not built for mobile clients (IMAP) or require expensive synchronization of state directly on the client (MS ActiveSync),” he says.

Though Acompli is handling delivering the email to the client, it encrypts all the data in transit, and doesn’t store passwords or credentials on the device, Soltero notes.

Plus, Acompli isn’t only focused on increasing the speed of writing and responding to emails, but also on all the other activities users tend to do when working with their emails.

These days, as Soltero explained to me during the demo, users tend to leave a lot of their email un-handled on mobile, preferring to deal with it when they’re back at their desktop or laptop computer. This is because managing many types of business emails on mobile is still too difficult.

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This is especially true for things like trying to figure out a time for a meeting, which requires you to switch back and forth between your calendar app on mobile and your email client. Also, it can be difficult to surface other email conversations or files stored in various cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox, for example.

Acompli builds in access to these sorts of common task within its own “email” application. At a high level, that means you can basically tap a button to send someone your calendar availability, or tap another button to access files that have been shared via email or stored in the cloud, then quickly attach those to a new message or a reply.

The thing that impressed me about Acompli – at least when it was shown to me, which of course isn’t quite the same thing as getting to test drive an app for yourself – was not just what the app is capable of doing, but the way those interfaces were designed. I didn’t feel like I would have needed a walkthrough or tutorial to get started with it – the functions seemed intuitively placed and kind of obvious. And that’s harder than it looks.

That being said, email is a complicated beast, which is why a number of companies try to just tackle one angle – like Mailbox did with triage. Everyone uses email differently and has their own unique list of requirements for an email app. So Acompli could build something that’s both fast and intelligent, and still not win over the masses at scale  - that’s the risk building of trying to build a new email platform for mobile. That’s also why it’s exciting to watch these things get built, too.


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Kik Founder On Facebook Buying WhatsApp: Mobile Messaging Now “Table Stakes”

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Mobile messaging consolidation is coming fast and heavy recently, with the Viber/Rakuten deal and today’s WhatsApp acquisition by Facebook. Another contender in the space, Waterloo-based Kik, has also seen good traction and growth (though admittedly not on the level of WhatsApp). Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston tells TechCrunch that this is a clear message that, well, messaging is the new black, in case it wasn’t clear before

“It’s $ 16 billion clearer that we’re now in the age of the mobile messenger,” he explained to me in a conversation on his company’s platform. “Now for the fun part: What comes after chat? What does identity mean for mobile? How do you build the best platform? These are questions Kik has been thinking about for four years.”

I asked Livingston what he thinks this means for WhatsApp, which has been a constant rival for Kik since 2009, when both companies were originally founded. Under Facebook’s stewardship, it can probably one of two ways, he said.

“Is this YouTube or MySpace?” he asked, referring to two acquisition stories which went in very different directions. YouTube, acquired by Google in 2006, continued its growth and exists as a very successful, mostly standalone property that has monetized fairly successfully. MySpace was acquired by News Corp in 2005 for $ 580 million, only to be sold in 2011 for just $ 35 million after users fled the platform in droves.

It’s a good question, but one that Livingston doesn’t see any answer to yet. WhatsApp and Facebook both claim that the messaging app will continue on as usual, acting as a distinct company with its existing revenue model and ad-free design intact. That could help it follow YouTube’s example to continued growth, rather than Myspace’s downward trajectory. As for what it means for the industry in general, Livingston says it’s simple.

“Having a popular mobile messenger is simply going to become table stakes for competing in the mobile era [among big tech companies],” he said. While some, like Apple, have already achieved this with products including iMessage (and to some extent, Google with Hangouts, too), there are plenty of companies out there who still need to figure out their mobile messaging play if they want to remain relevant as purveyors of social products, including Yahoo.

Livingston says this doesn’t change how Kik will approach its own product, however. If anything, it only serves to reinforce that they had the right idea to begin with.

“We’ve been working on how to turn a messenger into a platform for the last four years,” he said. “If anything, this just validates our roadmap.” As to what that roadmap entails, Kik recently opened up an in-app browser to web developer partners in an effort to bring content inside the network.

Kik is an obvious target for acquisition at this point in the mobile messaging space, despite its smaller user pool. I asked Livingston whether they’re looking around for suitors, and whether they actually received any offers today. He had “no comment” on that second question, but was more willing to share on the first.

“We saw this before, when Facebook bought Beluga and Skype bought Groupme,” he answered, before getting a bit philosophical, and thus managing to avoid delivering a straight answer. “This is going to be one of the most valuable races of the mobile era. What a privilege [for us] to have the opportunity to take part in it.”


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OpenTable Buys Ness For $17.3M To Beef Up Mobile And Restaurant Recommendations

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Restaurant reservation platform OpenTable today reported quarterly earnings of $ 52.3 million and used the day to put out some other news: the company has acquired Ness Computing, makers of the personalized restaurant recommendations app Ness. It’s an all-cash transaction that OpenTable says is worth $ 17.3 million, although it comes with cash in Ness’s coffers that brings the net value to $ 11.3 million.

OpenTable says that the Ness team will work in its San Francisco headquarters. The Ness app and site, meanwhile, will be discontinued with the technology getting integrated into OpenTable’s product “and other development efforts.”

Ness had already been integrating with OpenTable but this will give it potentially a much bigger audience using its recommendation platform. OpenTable says it seats more than 14 million diners each month and covers some 31,000 restaurants and clocking up some 575 million diners seated since being founded in 1998. It might also mean Ness finally coming to the UK (yay).

But it’s not a great return for Ness’s investors: in its lifetime the startup had raised $ 20 million with investors including Khosla Ventures, Alsop Louie Partners, Bullpen Capital, TomorrowVentures, SingTel Innov8 and American Express. Before today, we’d been hearing other names as possible buyers of the company.

Ness started out its life in 2011 as personalised search engine technology for mobile that quickly adapted to a specific vertical — restaurant recommendations — but always had its sights set on eventually developing to cover other areas. That ambition fuelled its 2012, $ 15 million Series B investment.

It’s not clear if that wider idea ever found traction, or whether Ness simply decided that it was a stronger company by focusing its algorithms and platform on one subject in particular. Or whether Ness found it too much of a challenge to compete in the wider world against the likes of Google. It looks like Ness’s technology, and talent, will be tasked most immediately with enhancing OpenTable’s mainstay of restaurant recommendations.

“The Ness team and I are incredibly excited to take the technology and insights we’ve developed over the last four years and incorporate them into the OpenTable product offering. As the world’s leading provider of real-time restaurant reservations, OpenTable will provide us the opportunity to introduce people to new and memorable dining experiences on a much broader scale,” said Corey Reese, CEO and co-founder of Ness Computing.

OpenTable, which started out as a platform for the web, has been making a lot of moves to add more mobile cogs to its machine — a logical strategy, given that going to restaurants, by definition, implies being out and on the move. Just earlier today, the company announced a pilot of a mobile payments service in San Francisco. Diners in that city can now not only book a table, but pay for their meal through the app, too.

Adding Ness to that is a way for OpenTable to extend a user’s time with OpenTable even more. “In the future, we believe that mobile will represent the vast majority of our reservations,” said Matt Roberts, OpenTable CEO. “Mobile is the cornerstone of powering great dining experiences.”

And, given that Ness does have the technology to search and personalise recommendations for much more besides where to eat, you might see OpenTable tap into that, too.

In all, the Ness technology should help OpenTable add more features to attract more restaurants to its platform and potentially take home more returns on the commission it charges them. In guidance for the next quarter, OpenTable says it expects sales of between $ 53.3 million and $ 54.9 million with non-GAAP EPS in the range of $ 0.39 to $ 0.43. OpenTable says that the Ness acquisition will be recorded in those Q1 2014 earnings.

Ness is the latest in a string of acquisitions that have included Quickcue in December 2013 for $ 11.5 million; JustChalo in June 2013 for $ 11 million; Foodspotting in January 2013 for $ 10 million; Treatful in August 2012 for an undisclosed amount; toptable in 2010 for $ 55 million and GuestBridge in 2009 for $ 3 million.


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