Mobile Digest: The new iPhone is in (also, Uber just got kicked out of London)
Apple delivers three new smartphones to market as Uber wonders if the bleeding will ever stop. Andrew Tolve reports.
In the news
After months of anticipation, the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus finally went on sale last week. Around-the-block queues are commonplace for new iPhone releases, and customers who manage to get into the store and buy one on day one often must brave long nights and inclement weather to do so. Not this year, as the response to the 8 and 8 Plus has been much more muted. Analysts say that is paradoxically a good thing given that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are the warm-up acts to the more expensive iPhone X that arrives in stores on November 3. Apple has hyped the X as “the future of the smartphone” given its all-glass bezel-less design, 5.8-inch retina display, A11 bionic chip, wireless charging, facial recognition and improved rear camera with dual optical image stabilization. Fewer sales for the 8 and 8 Plus could mean that people are holding off for the X, which retails from $999 to $1149 and will deliver Apple higher profit margins. Or it could mean they’ve switched over to Samsung or another competitor. Apple’s 2017 hangs in the balance.
In the money
Google wants to become a major player in the premium smartphone market, and it's paying HTC $1.1 billion to make it happen. Under the agreement certain HTC employees – many of whom are already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones – will join Google. Google will also receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.
In other news
London’s transport authority, Transport for London, voted to kick Uber out of Britain’s capital city. The decision was less a condemnation of ridesharing in general (and the threat it poses to London’s historic black cabs) and more an indictment of Uber’s corporate practices and malfeasance. Among the alleged offenses are Uber’s failure to report serious criminal offences among drivers, its disregard for obtaining medical certificates and its use of Greyball software that can block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties. Uber is expected to appeal and can continue operating in London until a final decision is made.
Facebook announced that it would turn over all Russian-linked ads to U.S. Congress, reversing an earlier decision to keep the ads under wraps in the name of user privacy. The ads number more than 3,000 in total and reveal what a weapon social media became in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook also announced a set of proactive measures to mitigate fake ads in future elections, including requiring disclosures on all political ads that appear on Facebook and hiring 250 additional election integrity employees.
Fox premiered its new comedy series “Ghosted” on Twitter, along with a live online Q&A with the actors, a full two weeks before the series debuts on broadcast television. That’s a first for a mainstream TV show and shows how eager major TV companies have become to embrace the livestreaming phenomenon. Fox will also host a live pre-show with the cast of “Empire” on Twitter each week before the episode airs on TV.
Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 3, the third generation of its signature smartwatch. The watch looks similar to its forebears but comes with a game-changer under the face: built-in cellular. The LTE-enabled device no longer has to be tethered to a smartphone to be fully functional, which means that users can choose the watch as a standalone device rather than as a mere complement to their smartphones. The smartwatch is water resistant down to 50 meters and has a new barometric altimeter that measures relative elevation.
If you don’t feel like shelling out a grand for a new iPhone, try the new Moto X4. The phone is sleek and black and comes with one of the first integrations of Alexa Voice Assistant on the market. The display is LCD, not OLED, and the cameras don’t feature optical image stabilization like you’ll find in the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone X. Then again, the retail price is $399 so you can decide how much the $600 difference in price tag is worth to you.
Want to secure your house from your smartphone? Now you can with Nest’s new “Secure” home security system. The system includes a toolkit of mobile-optimized devices like a central alarm, motion detectors and panic buttons, all of which can be easily monitored and disarmed from your phone. It retails for $499.
Finally, Microsoft and Facebook completed a high-speed fiber optic cable called Maria that wades into the Atlantic in Virginia Beach, VA, and resurfaces in Bilbao, Spain. The undersea cable will allow both companies to deliver connectivity services at more affordable prices and thus expand coverage across Southern Europe and into Africa and the Middle East. It also will enable more people to use more data-intensive services without overloading the world’s networking infrastructure.
The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.
Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.