Mobile Digest: Self-driving Google Car poised to be next big mobile device

AT&T bets big on DIRECTV, Samsung sacks Samsung Wallet, as Google takes its Google Car prototype to the streets. Andrew Tolve reports.

In this week’s Digest: Google, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, AT&T, DIRECTV, Federal Communications Commission, Apple, President Obama, Samsung, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, LoopPay, Apperian, Microsoft, Zebra Technologies, Scratch Wireless, Yota,

In the news

Self-driving cars are coming to a street near you — if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is. Google confirmed that its self-driving Google Car has obtained what’s known as NHTSA Level 3 rating, which means that it can drive on select public roads so long as there is a safety driver on board with access to a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal. Google unveiled its Google Car prototype, its first foray into car manufacturing, in January 2015 and has been testing the vehicle at a private facility in central California since. The car, along with other autonomous vehicles like it from automakers like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, is poised to redefine the ‘mobile’ market. If you think people are already hooked on mobile devices in cars today — talking, facebooking, twittering, texting, etc — just wait until the driving aspect of being in a car is removed from the equation. No wonder it’s rumored that Google might offer its car for free, with ‘drivers’ just paying for a data plan. Check out this video from Google for more.

In the money

AT&T acquired satellite TV provider DIRECTV for $48.5 billion, pending approval by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. AT&T is eager to expand beyond its traditional telephony wheelhouse and believes that a DIRECTV acquisition will make it a content distribution leader across mobile, video and broadband platforms. DIRECTV gives AT&T a valuable foothold in international markets as well, particularly Latin America, where it has a broad footprint, and will make AT&T the top TV provider in the U.S. overnight. AT&T says that cost synergies will exceed $1.5 billion each year by 2018.

In other news

Nearly 150 tech companies headlined by Apple and Google sent a letter to President Obama urging his administration to back off on data security measures that would grant law enforcement agencies backdoor access to mobile devices. The letter argues that such measures effectively force companies to weaken the security of their products so that the government can theoretically increase security — a logic that breaks down when considering cyber attackers who also could take advantage of the weakened encryption technology. You can read the open letter here.

Samsung sacked its Samsung Wallet program, which allowed users to store and manage event tickets, boarding passes, membership cards and coupons all in one app. The move allows Samsung to devote its sole attention to Samsung Pay, its Apple Pay and Google Wallet competitor. Samsung bought LoopPay for $250 million back in February 2015, whose technology allows users to simply rest their mobile devices against the credit card swipe slot where you usually swipe your credit card and press a button on the screen (as opposed to Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which use near-field communication and require compatible readers from merchants). Samsung Pay is expected out this summer.

Sixty percent of companies create their own mobile apps to support core business processes. That, the major finding from Apperian’s 2015 Enterprise Mobility Survey. When it comes to custom apps, companies prefer to build those apps in-house as opposed to paying a third-party vendor to build it for them (35%). Plenty of companies continue to use generic apps, however. The survey found that 52% of organisations download enterprise apps from a public app store.

Microsoft continued its push into the mobile enterprise space, as it plans to integrate the mobile Outlook app into the Enterprise Mobility Suite this quarter. That means increased data leakage protection and conditional access capabilities to make mobile emailing through Outlook more secure. So far in 2015 Microsoft has released Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive for Business, and OneNote for both iOS and Android, all of which are part of the Enterprise Mobility Suite.

Zebra Technologies unveiled Mobility DNA, a suite of enterprise mobility software solutions that helps businesses maximize the ROI of their mobile deployments. The solutions range from an app store full of pre-approved enterprise apps to specific apps for quick data and document capture. Zebra also released a pair of ruggedized mobile devices targeted at field workers in a range of industries. Whether enterprise specific phones such as these from Zebra or bring-your-own-device policies that accommodate iPhones and everyday Androids win out remains to be seen.

On the consumer front, Yota raised just shy of $200,000 in seven days on Indiegogo for its YotaPhone 2, a smartphone that doubles as an e-reader. The YotaPhone 2 has two screens, one a regular LCD screen, the second an electronic paper display akin to Kindle White. The phone is going for around $500 on Indiegogo, depending on which deal you get. The campaign is to help the Russian startup pay for regulatory fees to enter foreign markets faster.

Finally, want a free calling and data plan? Check out Scratch Wireless, which just released a $99 smartphone with zero charge for perusing the web, placing phone calls, or sending texts while users have WiFi connectivity. That’s the catch. Once customers go out of WiFi range on their Coolpad Arise smartphones, then they’re either out of luck or have to buy a daily pass for as little as $1.99. Scratch Wireless says two out of three of its customers never have to buy a pass, as they have Wi-Fi more than 80% of the time.

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.