Mobile Digest: With Facebook Live, FB makes us stars of our own reality TV shows

Samsung brings the flip phone back, HTC launches its new flagship HTC 10, as Facebook turns live streams into a social bonanza. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

Static is over. Everything is dynamic.

That’s the six-word lowdown from this year’s Facebook Developer Conference, where Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that the quaint old days of simple photo streams and text posts are a thing of the past. Profile pics that come alive as 8-second video clips, 360-degree videos courtesy of Facebook’s new Surround 360 camera, branded augmented reality glasses. That’s the future of Facebook.

In the biggest development at the two-day event, Facebook opened up “Facebook Live” to the masses. With a click of a record button, anyone can now launch a live video stream for friends, family, customers, you name it, to follow in real time. It’s like reality TV but actually real. We’re all the actors on the stage.

Facebook Live has been around since 2015, but last week’s F8 Conference marked its debut in primetime. Facebook launched new features for the service, including the ability to go live in Facebook Groups (think broadcasting a fitness workout) and Facebook Events (think birthday party livestream). There’s also a new Live Reactions feature that allows real-time commenting and the ability to ping friends so that they can join a live stream. Facebook released an API so anyone can build Facebook Live into their apps.

In the money

Verizon is the leading contender to take over Yahoo’s core Web business of Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance and Tumblr, according to reports in Bloomberg and Fortune. There are reportedly fewer than 10 companies weighing bids in the $10-billion ballpark, and those include Google, Time Inc, and several private equity firms. But Verizon seems to be the most serious, as it wants to continue its push into mobile video, and Yahoo has appealing draw and online video services targeting teenagers and the millennial generation.

In other news

HTC introduced its new flagship phone, the HTC 10, a sleek, aluminum-bodied smartphone that, if you blur your vision just a touch, can easily trick you into thinking it’s an iPhone. This may play to HTC’s benefit — lots of people love iPhones, and plenty more are looking for Android equivalents — but also comes with the risk of shining too bright a light on the phone’s deficiencies. As one reviewer put it, “You can’t out-iPhone the iPhone.” We’ll see how the phone performs. Retail is set for $699.

It may be dark times for BlackBerry, but the struggling handset maker is still holding out hope for a QWERTY revival in the smartphone world. After a quarter of underwhelming sales of the Priv Android phone, the company announced that it’s slashing the price of the phone by $50 and has two more mid-range Android phones in the works. Logic being that the only problem with the Priv was its price point, not the design principles upon which it was created.

GoPro unveiled a new developer program that allows third parties to integrate the action camera into their offerings. Picture a toddler shredding a straight-away on a plastic trike with a GoPro onboard (Fisher Price has already signed up). Or imagine your sports car hugging a tight curve with a GoPro festooned to the grill (BMW and Toyota are working on it). Here’s a video that highlights other integrations in the works.

Salesforce announced a new Salesforce for Messenger Platform that allows companies to reach out to customers by way of Messenger and track the data that those outreaches result in. For example, a retailer can embed a Messenger plugin at checkout on its website so a customer can ask any final questions before making a purchase. The customer’s sales, service and marketing records are connected to the account, so the ensuing conversation can be hyper personalized. Salesforce for Messenger launches as a pilot the latter half of 2016.

Messenger was a hot topic at the F8 Conference, where Facebook unveiled a new API that lets developers integrate so-called “chat bots” and “chat widgets” into pretty much any customer-facing platform across the web. So long 1-800 numbers, hello to waiting forever to contact companies in Messenger threads.

Instagram jumped on the mobile video wave with a new video channels feature built into its Explore page. There’s no infinite looping here like you’re accustomed to in Facebook. When one video is done, the scroll continues seamlessly to the next. The company plans to integrate ads into the feature, either by sprinkling in an ad once every four or five videos (like Pandora does with songs) or by creating sponsored channels for companies.

Finally, Samsung is bringing the flip phone back. The new Convoy 4 targets rugged enterprise workers who pass their days in the grit and grime of construction sites, factories and other tough environments. The phone has a Push to Talk button for instant communication like a walkie-talkie and offers a full color screen. Pricing starts at zero down plus $8 a month. What?!? For full color? Count us in.

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.