Mobile Digest: Lenovo reimagines smartphone with flexible tech

Google’s Project Tango is up and running, Yahoo's internet business is still for sale, and Lenovo shares big ideas on the future of the smartphone. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

 

Mobile devices have hit an innovation lull the past few years. Most have the same form factor with little to differentiate one iPhone look-alike from the next save for the brand names stamped on their backs.

 

But Lenovo’s Tech World event in San Francisco last week suggests that things are about to change. The company unveiled CPlus, a smartphone that can bend around your wrist as pliantly as a snap bracelet. It’s like a smartwatch on steroids, and Lenovo isn’t the only one pushing into the flexible frontier. Reports swirled last week that Samsung is set to debut two bendable smartphones next year.

 

Lenovo subsidiary Motorola was busy at Tech World as well, where it debuted the new Moto Z and Moto Z Force, traditional-looking smartphones that morph into different shapes and sizes thanks to addable widgets. There’s one for a projector, another for special speakers, another for external battery packs from swank designers like Kate Spade, with more add-ons to come from third-party developers thanks to the Moto Mod Development Kit.

 

Moto Z is scheduled to hit stores this summer.

 

In the money

 

Yahoo completed its second round of bidding for its internet business, where leading bidder Verizon got company from several other bidders, including AT&T. Verizon had bid $3.5 billion in the first round, but Yahoo reportedly received bids above $5 billion in round 2. We’ll see how it all pans out, but buyer beware. Recent history hasn’t treated monster acquisitions of failing giants kindly. Just look Microsoft and its disastrous $7.2 billion acquisition of smartphone maker Nokia.

 

The mobile enterprise can help companies save big money on air conditioning, according to Comfy, an enterprise thermostat solution that just raised $12 million in Series B funding. Here’s how it works: All employees get the Comfy app on their phones and use it to request warmer or colder air in their offices. The app collects data through time and uses it to fine-tune settings in zones throughout the office complex.

 

Ridesharing giant Uber raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund, Public Investment Fund. Uber sees Saudi Arabia as fertile ground for future growth in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia wants to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels while providing citizens an easier way to get around.

 

In other news

 

It was a good couple weeks for Google (most are), as its augmented reality endeavor, Project Tango, finally materialized in a physical phone, the Phab 2 Pro from Lenovo. Thanks to a special built-in camera, the phone offers real-time motion tracking and indoor mapping. Lenovo says the phone will cost $500 and feature a special app store for augmented reality games and utility-oriented tools.

 

Google also won another partner in U.S. Cellular for its Project Fi network. Project Fi offers WiFi calling and 4G LTE data to users for a flat fee of $20. It does this by cobbling together networks from T-Mobile, Sprint and now U.S. Cellular, automatically switching from one to the next when a signal is lost.

 

Securing enterprise data and assets in the mobile era is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. Enter a new partnership between Lookout and Microsoft. The two have fused Lookout Mobile Threat Protection with Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) to create a solution that gives companies and their employees the freedom to harness the cloud and mobile productivity while limiting their exposure to potential security breaches.

 

On the app front, alternative medicine guru and international bestseller Deepak Chopra debuted Jiyo, a health app that builds small acts of mindfulness and wellness into everyday routines. The app taps into information gathered from the smartphone’s camera, gyro and accelerometer to learn information about the user, and then offers contextualized tips, or “bits”, to make people happier and healthier. Available now for free on iOS and Android.

 

Finally, backing up your smartphone to a computer is a drag. Entrusting all of your data and files to the cloud can be too. The solution? Meem, the world's first charger cable with automatic backup. The product works on iOS or Android, whether you're charging with power adapter, car charger or pc port. It’s as easy as plugging in your phone and tapping in a four-digit PIN. Product started shipping in the U.K. last week.

 

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.