Mobile Digest: New Google Daydream platform turns everyday smartphones into VR devices

Microsoft’s smartphone division continues to hemorrhage jobs, as Google launches a suite of impressive mobile platforms and devices at its annual I/O Developer Conference. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

 

At Google’s annual I/O Developer Conference, the tech giant introduced a mobile virtual reality platform called Daydream that makes those old $15 Google Cardboard headsets feel as ancient as a Super 8 camera. Daydream will live inside Android’s latest operating system, Android N, and will turn Android smartphones into full-fledged VR devices. Google confirms that no existing phones will become retroactively Daydream-enabled when the platform launches in the fall, instead customers will have to purchase a new crop of VR-enabled phones.

 

Other mobile news from the event: Google rolled out Google Home, a thinly veiled knock-off of Amazon’s popular home assistant, Amazon Echo. Built around Google’s virtual assistant, Google Assistant, Google Home can respond to whatever you ask it and do pretty much whatever you tell it to — play this song, call that person, turn the temperature down, etc. — so long as you don’t ask it to dance.

 

Google also debuted a pair of communication apps — a rival to FaceTime called Duo and a new messaging app called Allo that includes built-in chatbots (with the same Google Assistant tech as Google Home). Finally, the company revealed a plan to insinuate itself into the dashboard of every car on the planet. A new Android Auto app will allow mobile phones to operate as fully connected digital dashboards. The app will pair with a car’s bluetooth so that the navigation, phone and music components of Android Auto can all stream through the car’s audio.  

 

In the money

 

Cisco completed its $1.4-billion acquisition of Jasper, creating a Internet of Things juggernaut for the mobile enterprise. Jasper is now Cisco’s new IoT Cloud Business Unit, which will provide a service platform that allows enterprises to connect their devices – from cars to jet engines to implanted pacemakers – over cellular networks and then manage and monetize IoT services.

 

Free apps that charge for in-app transactions are more effective than apps that cost something upfront, according to Gartner’s latest Mobile App Study. Mobile app users are spending $7.40 on paid-for apps every three months and $9.20 on in-app transactions, resulting in a quarter more spending on in-app transactions, says Gartner, which collected its data from 3,000 people in the U.K., China and the U.S.

 

Have a bunch of old photos sitting around in a dusty cardboard box in your attic? A new app called Photomyne, which just raised $2.6 million in seed funding, allows you to easily upload those photos into your mobile phone, adjust them for color and catalogue them for easy access and storage. Photomyne is based out of Tel Aviv.

 

In other news

 

Microsoft chopped another 1,850 workers from its smartphone business, which has been hemorrhaging jobs ever since Microsoft made the ill-advised purchase of Nokia for $7.1 billion back in 2014. Microsoft assures that its Lumia line isn’t finished yet, instead the company plans to focus its remaining team on courting enterprise clients that need special security and management features in their phones.

 

Enterprise mobility management firm MobileIron launched Rooms, an iOS app that allows people to quickly and easily reserve a conference room near their present or future location. The app shows pictures and details of available conference rooms within an adjustable geofence of the user’s location. Simply tap the screen of your iPhone or iPad to reserve. Rooms integrates with Microsoft 365 and sends reservations as Office 365 meeting invitations.

 

Flock, the popular messaging app for teams and businesses, opened its own app store. Inside, users will find a range of business utility apps, from Twitter to Trello to Github and Bitbucket, that they can now integrate with the Flock app. That means teams will get updates from their other apps while they’re having a conversation and can react in real time. Developers will soon be able to build their own apps specifically for the Flock App Store.

 

ARC published a comprehensive analysis of the best and worst business apps in 2016, based on customer reviews, the results were pretty bleak for many of the big names in the market. Under “Apps for Business Executives,” Skype for Business came in dead last, followed by Facebook Messenger, followed by plain old Skype and Google Voice. Top marks went to foreign language app Duolingo, with the likes of Microsoft Translator, WhatsApp and Slack all performing well as well.

 

Finally, remember those studies suggesting that excessive smartphone use may pose a health risk to humans? They’re back, this time in the form of a whopping two-year, $25-million study from the U.S. National Toxicology Program investigating the link between radio frequency radiation exposure and cancer in rats. In short, there seems to be one, albeit small, and only in male rats. Nearly one out of 10 male rats developed tumors in their brain or heart when exposed to cell phone radiation. Lots more research needs to be done before we understand this issue completely, but in the mean time, let’s all do ourselves a favor and spend a bit less time glued to our phones each day.

 

 

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.