Mobile Nations Weekly: Anniversary Update

BlackBerry’s newest phone is a new approach and Microsoft ramps up for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

Microsoft is updating in a big way — the week past brought a huge update for the Xbox One and the week ahead will be bringing the huge Windows 10 Anniversary Update to PCs. The Xbox update brings the console’s feature set even closer to that of core Windows, including the addition of Windows 10 app support and Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana.

BlackBerry’s seond Android phone is here, and it’s a mouthful: the BlackBerry DTEK50. Billed as the “world’s most secure smartphone”, the DTEK50 is actually a re-badge of the Alcatel Idol 4 — made by BlackBerry contractor and Alcatel owner TCL.

Apple’s earnings report landed, and as expected, they made several buckets worth of money. And in an interesting twist, an Apple veteran is back to take over their not-so-secret car project.

There’s all of that and so much more — like a VR roller coaster inside a real-life amusement park — in this edition of Mobile Nations Weekly!

Android Central — Prisma my DTEK50 photos

BlackBerry unveiled its second Android phone this week, the … wonderfully named DTEK50. It’s a re-badged Alcatel Idol 4, actually, with BlackBerry’s touches in the software — and while it isn’t going to captivate many in the Android world, it’s likely a good strategy for BlackBerry going forward.

Verizon also started officially selling what are likely to be far more appealing phones — the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid Editions. Hit up a Verizon store or its website if you’re interested in the latest from Moto.

The popular iOS app Prisma made its way to Android this week, and it’s a pretty neat way to take what could be dull photos and process them with awesome filters. The app’s a bit slow as Prisma’s servers try and cope with all of the requests, but if you haven’t given it a look yet you should.

In other app news, just in case you were wondering just how popular Pokémon Go is, the Android app surpassed 50 million downloads this week. That’s just a fraction of the players, of course, as there are tens of million more over on iOS as well.

How to set up Google Play Family Library

Samsung Galaxy S8 edge: What does a curvy Note 7 mean for next year’s flagships?

Moto G4 review: Balanced on a budget

OnePlus 3: A second opinion

JBL Charge 3 and Clip 2 prove there’s still innovation in Bluetooth speakers

CrackBerry — Deetech

If a new mid-range Android phone designed to address your security and privacy needs is what you were hoping for from BlackBerry, then you’re good to go after this week, as BlackBerry has now officially announced their second Android-powered device better known as DTEK50.

BlackBerry officially announces the DTEK50, pre-orders now open for $299

Watch the BlackBerry DTEK50 launch webcast

Watch the BlackBerry DTEK50 Facebook Live Q&A replay

iMore — Pokegone

It’s still a Pokemon Go world and we just live in it. Another week and a couple more launch countries, and it remains the most popular thing on mobile. That is, when the Pokemon Go servers aren’t down. Yet, somehow, we’ve all managed to go on and even get a few other things done!

How Apple could improve iPhone battery life in the age of Snapchat and Pokemon Go

The one change Apple made that’ll unless TV gaming

This is Tim: Our transcript of Apple’s Q3 2016 conference call

Bob Mansfield takes over Apple’s car project, Titan

VR Heads — Roller Coasters in VR

What’s the line between real world adventure and virtual fun? The new VR addition to Superman: Ride of Steel at Six Flags America blurs that line even further by taking a real roller coaster and adding a VR story on top. Outside of the theme park world, it’s important to remember the hardware powering these experiences can be a bit fragile. We got a different experience instead of gameplay, as we pulled the hardware apart to see what’s inside.

I rode a VR coaster, and it was beyond epic!

Exploring the inside of an HTC Vive controller

Steam’s VR Weekend Sale slashes prices on hundreds of titles

Windows Central — Behold the AU

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update hits PCs starting on this coming Tuesday, but we gave the big OS update a thorough review and walkthrough. While not a revolutionary update it does pack quite a lot of features and improvements driven by users on the Insider program.

We also gave a look at one of the first custom Xbox One controllers that you can design yourself.

Speaking of updates, Microsoft pushed out the Summer Update for the Xbox One, which brings Cortana, some UI changes, and more. We have a complete breakdown including a list of all the new universal Windows apps that are co-launching with the update.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update Review

How to get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

How to install and manage Microsoft Edge extensions in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

The five biggest changes in the Xbox One Summer Update

Windows Central Podcast 8: SE

Derek Kessler #AndroidCentral #Android #News #Google #Alphabet http://www.androidcentral.com/mobile-nations-weekly-anniversary-update  

The Tim and Marni Show hits Yahoo HQ, as real work begins on what will be a “thorny” integration with AOL.

AOL has also had some of the same integration struggles within Verizon

In front of a nervous audience of Yahoo employees at its Sunnyvale headquarters last week, AOL head Tim Armstrong tried his best to be enthusiastic and positive.

“We have to decide what hills we are taking the high ground,” said Armstrong, using an very old military reference (no drone warfare allowed!), according to many in attendance, after a question about the strategic direction of the Silicon Valley Internet company.

It was a nice though very non-specific metaphor. Largely designed to calm the troops ahead of the more onerous task of figuring how the new structure of combined companies will look, it said everything and absolutely nothing at the same time.

Armstrong is well known for being good at that — I am saying this as a compliment, Tim! — and showed off that skill when he appeared at Yahoo with his boss, Verizon’s Marni Walden. Yahoos there said she also projected what one person described as “Olympic-level confidence.”

That’ll surely be needed at Yahoo over the next six months as the $4.8 billion deal to buy it wends its way to completion by early next year.

I spoke to a dozen people at the event and all said they were reassured by the meeting, but that it seemed clear that the integration to come would be tougher than was portrayed. “It will definitely be thorny,” said one person, in what was a common refrain. “No matter how smooth Armstrong and Walden are — and they are very smooth.”

Those in attendance at the FYI said CEO Marissa Mayer, who hosted the pair and appeared onstage with them, largely got out of the way as the pair answered questions about their takeover of the troubled Silicon Valley Internet giant. Along with the event, top Yahoo execs, along with Walden and Armstrong, ate in the Yahoo’s URL’s, its main cafeteria.

The questions asked of Armstrong and Walden by Yahoos at the session were not much of a surprise, including about future strategies, what would happen to various units like email and search and, perhaps top of mind, when would the layoffs begin.

Or, using nicer terms, what did Armstrong mean when he talked about “synergies,” often a code word for letting go employees in areas where there is overlap. And between Yahoo and AOL there is lots and lots of overlap.

Armstrong had already addressed this in an interview with Recode right after the deal was announced, maintaining that nothing has been decided as yet. “The deal that we contemplated is about growing the company and did not start with synergies,” he said. “We will be walking through a pretty direct process about what is structure and then cost structure and there will be synergy, but it is not at the top of our list.”

Armstrong, said those in attendance, repeated pretty much the same thing at the FYI, also noting that which units to keep and which to go have not been made either.

That’s also been an issue that has yet to be sorted out at AOL, which is still struggling to be integrated after it was acquired by the telecom giant for $4.4 billion a year ago. Rumors rocketed the company right after the Yahoo deal that AOL itself was not meeting projections for revenue set right after that deal was struck.

Several sources saying the delta between projected and actual revenue was above $500 million. But other sources note that the budget got more complex with less-than-expected results from Verizon’s go90 video service and the pulling of some video inventory, as well the addition of another other parts of the media unit that AOL is part of into the mix.

Still, it’s not the home run that is always projected when these deals are struck and not meeting expectations is common to most deals. To deal with the situation, sources said, Armstrong has clamped down on the budget and had considered layoffs of up to 100. But that has been put off after revenue improved recently, although it is not a certainty that there might not be these kind of more drastic cost cuts later.

And that will be a certainty if more unexpected costs at Yahoo are discovered. Already, Verizon has to manage possibly higher costs if a Yahoo search deal with Mozilla goes sideways. More immediately worrisome are pricey employee retention plans that Mayer has put into place over the last year in order to keep talent at the company as its fortunes continued to wane.

According to sources, those costs are enormous, and are closely linked to what some consider excessive stock compensation grants given to top execs. Sources said that under newish change-of-control rules members of Mayer’s executive staff — such as CFO Ken Goldman and SVP Adam Cahan — will be allowed to fully vest their four-year stock option grants if they are fired within 18 months of the deal.

You read that right: Fully. Vest.

More reasonably, VPs at Yahoo — and there are lots of those — get 12 months of future vesting if they are fired within one year of the deal; other employees get sic months of stock options accelerated with the same time frame.

“It is a terrible plan for AOL, because it encourages top executives to find a way to get fired,” said one person familiar with Yahoo’s human resources systems. “They can smile and be gracious, but not care or do any work.”

AOL and Verizon execs seem very aware of this dicey issue. “Retention comp is important, but that money less important than real commitment to make this work,” said one person. “The biggest issue we are going to have is buy in from talent.”

Kara Swisher #ReCode #TechNews #BizNews #News http://www.recode.net/2016/7/31/12282384/aol-verizon-visit-yahoo-hard-integration  

Capital Gains: Mobile gaming, robots for kids and former Apple execs landed cash for startups

Plus, a lending startup gears up for an IPO.

Two startups in sectors not known for pulling in money raised pretty big rounds this past week: Food delivery service Good Eggs and the mobile gaming company Scopely. Here’s the rest of what went down on the funding front in Silicon Valley:

Elevate, a startup that issues subprime loans to borrowers with low credit scores, has added a $545 million line of credit from Victory Park Capital as it starts toward a planned IPO (TechCrunch).

Cloud services startup Upthere raised $77 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Western Digital, with additional funding from GV (formerly Google Ventures), Elevation Partners, Floodgate and others. The company was founded by ex-Apple software engineering VP Bertrand Serlet (Fortune).

Los Angeles mobile gaming startup Scopely raised $55 million in a new funding round led by Greycroft Partners’ growth capital arm, with additional cash from video game publisher Take-Two Interactive, Elephant Partners, Evolution Media Partners, TPG Growth and others (Variety).

DC-based education software startup EverFi raised a $40 million Series C round that featured investment from Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, NEA and other investors (Fortune).

Wonder Workshop, which makes educational toy robots for kids, raised a $20 million Series B round (with a $12 million to $8 million equity-to-debt funding split), and announced a China product launch. WI Harper and Idea Bulb Ventures led the round, with participation from Learn Capital, Charles River Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and TCL (Wall Street Journal).

Freight delivery booking startup Transfix raised a $22 million Series B round at a $75 million-plus valuation, led by NEA and with participation from Canvas Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Corigin Ventures (Wall Street Journal).

Cyber security startup Acalvio came out of a two-year stealth launch with $17 million in combined Series A and Series B funding. The first round was led by Accel Partners; the second was led by Ignition Partners (TechCrunch).

San Francisco-based organic and local food delivery startup Good Eggs has raised $15 million in new funding, less than a year after shedding staff after saying it “scaled too quickly.” The new round was led by Index Ventures, with cash from Obvious Ventures, S2G Ventures and others (San Francisco Business Times).

Noah Kulwin #ReCode #TechNews #BizNews #News http://www.recode.net/2016/7/31/12337982/capital-gains-mobile-gaming-kid-robots  

Should you buy an “Amazon” version of the Moto G4 or the BLU R1 HD?

You can save $50 on a budget-priced Android phone if you’re willing to put up with ads on the lock screen and a bit of app drawer clutter. But is it worth it?

Amazon is no stranger to Android. With a fairly popular line of tablets in the Kindle Fire series, a pretty nice set-top box and their own Fire Phone that wasn’t very well received, they know more than a little bit about getting a product running our favorite operating system out the door. And they are pretty MLGPro when it comes to writing software — they even have their own Android app store.

Amazon also knows how to grab the attention of millions of people and get them to buy stuff. Whether it’s the stuff we were looking for or impulse purchases we’ll never use, Amazon is pretty good at making us want it.

Enter the Amazon Prime version of the Moto G4 and the BLU R1 HD. Both phones started as budget models, and Amazon has made them ever more “budgety” by shaving $50 off the price of each in return for your eyes seeing their apps and ads on your lock screen. Is the $50 worth it, or should you buy the regular version if you’re interested in either of these phones?

I’ve been fiddling with them both and am about to tell you what I think.

What you get

The Moto G4 and the BLU R1 HD aren’t going to compete with something like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the HTC 10. They weren’t designed to fight for a spot on the top shelf where the high-end phones you see in commercials live. Instead, you get a phone that does just about everything you could ask it to do without parting with 600 or so dollars.

Quick specs

Category

Moto G4

BLU R1 HD

Display

5.5-inch Full HD display

5-inch 720p display

SoC

1.5GHz Snapdragon 617

1.3GHz Mediatek MT6735

Memory

2GB RAM/16GB storage
microSD slot

1GB RAM/8GB storage
2GB RAM/16GB storage
microSD slot

Battery

3000mAh

2500mAh

Colors

Black

Black

The changes Amazon has made to these are all superficial and software-based. The hardware is the same as the more expensive versions without Amazon apps pre-installed and ads on the lock screen. Exactly the same. You even get the same manufacturer warranty. If you were hoping for some sort of Bezos magic or Washington Post headlines engraved on the back, you’re out of luck. This is a really good thing.

Lenovo/Moto and BLU are companies who make electronic gadgets like smartphones — that’s what they do. Amazon is in the business of selling them to as many people as possible. While I’m going to guess that Amazon doesn’t care which phone you buy as long as you buy it from them, they realized that a $50 incentive means more people will buy a phone from them. And all the folks who were attracted by the price and ended up buying get to see the things that Amazon has for sale with targeted ads. That’s a pretty good deal for Amazon — you can hardly put a value on a captive audience.

What you don’t get

Neither the Moto G4 or BLU R1 HD offered as a Prime Exclusive come with any service or a SIM card. That means you can’t walk into the AT&T store (or whichever carrier you use) and expect them to help you. It also means there is no contract to sign and no monthly obligation — feel free to switch carriers or stop service whenever you please. You are buying the phone itself, and it’s yours to do whatever you want to do with it.

You don’t get to be on the same software “channel” as the normal retail unlocked models. When BLU or Lenovo send out an update — whether it’s an OS update or a security patch — you will have to wait for Amazon to give the OK after they make sure they don’t need to make any other changes. Having said that, the Moto G4 had an update waiting when I took it out of the box and the BLU R1 has received an update as well during the couple of weeks I’ve had it. This also means that the Moto G4 Amazon edition isn’t eligible for Motorola’s bootloader unlocking program, though it was for the first week before anyone noticed. That’s been “fixed.”

And of course, you don’t get to opt-out of target Amazon ads on your lock screen or get to remove the pre-installed Amazon apps.

The Amazon stuff

We’ve established that you’re getting a decent little phone on the cheap, made even cheaper because Amazon will trade you $50 for your attention. But what exactly are they doing?

We’ll start with the lock screen because it’s the thing you’ll be seeing plenty of times every day. That makes it a perfect place to put ads if you want people to see your ads. And Amazon wants you to see their ads. As you can see in the picture above, the entire background of your lock screen is an ad, and there is a button or link you can tap to go spend your money on the thing or place being advertised. That link or button doesn’t seem to be in a spot where you’ll accidentally tap on it, but I’m sure that will happen. If it does, I don’t think it’s intentional. When you unlock your phone and get past the lock screen, the ads are gone. There is nothing in your status bar, no pop-ups or any other horrible thing.

Amazon knows what you’ll buy and they will show it to you on your lock screen. Sneaky, yet effective.

The ads themselves are target towards you. You’ll see items you’ve looked at on Amazon, items related to them and items Amazon thinks you’ll want to see based on your history. And Amazon doesn’t need you to buy one of these phones to track what you look at and where you go on the internet so that conspiracy theory can be put to bed. Amazon is a master of consumer profiling. Most times, the ads are for the same types of products as the emails you’ll get from time to time as a Prime member, or for the same products you’ll see in an Amazon shopping widget on your favorite website. Amazon knows everything.

If looking at targeted ads is a problem, you can use either phone without signing into Amazon — there is an entry in the settings for your Amazon account — and see generic ads. So far, nobody has seen any evidence that Amazon is doing anything nefarious or watching your every move when you use a Prime Exclusive phone.

And then there is bloatware. We all hate bloatware, even when the apps are ones we would be likely to download and install anyway. Besides the Amazon Underground (such an edgy name) app store and video player, the following apps are pre-installed and can’t be removed:

Amazon Kindle

A special Amazon Prime Video player app

Amazon Music

Amazon Photos

Audible

Amazon Drive

Prime Now

Alexa

IMDb

Goodreads

And of course, any apps the manufacturer has installed as well as the ones Google forces on us.

I’m torn on this. I would download and install five of those apps if I were to use either of these phones and having a dedicated Amazon Video app (like iOS but mysteriously missing from Google Play) is pretty nice. On the other hand, I don’t need (or want) an Amazon Echo so the Alexa app is useless to me, and I hate hearing Susan Sarandon or anyone else reading aloud to me so forget Audible. If you’re an Amazon user — and you need to have an Amazon Prime subscription to buy either of these phones — you’ll probably have a similar list of apps you like and apps you don’t.

In the end, this is no different than what Verizon or Sprint or any other carrier does, or even what companies like Samsung and HTC do when they partner with other companies. Most of the Amazon apps can be disabled, so you can stop looking at them and forget they are there then move on. Or you could hit Google and look for a method that does eXactly what is neeDed to remove the Apps and lock screen ads.

Enough! Should I buy one of these phones?

That depends on whether or not you’re looking for a cheap and reliable phone. As mentioned above, these aren’t a replacement or substitute for a Note 5 or Nexus 6P. They will run all the apps and things you want them to do, but they aren’t known for their barn-burning performance. They are a decent communications device that can play some light games or help manage your calendar. They aren’t a miniature computer and won’t ever run Crysis.

And then there’s the Amazon Prime factor. You can’t buy one without a Prime membership, but your friend could buy one for you — you don’t need to log into anything Amazon to use them. If you’re not an Amazon regular, you’ll find little use for any of the pre-installed apps and be unable to buy that Nivea skin lotion that you keep seeing on your lock screen. If you do use Amazon services, you’ll probably find some of the stuff — and some of the ads — useful. I certainly did, and besides using some of the bundled apps I’ve bought a couple things I saw on my lock screen. Things I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise or even thought about looking for. Amazon probably loves that idea and it’s why they are there in the first place.

If you use Amazon services, you’ll not be too bothered with the bloatware.

What about your carrier network? Both phones are designed to work only on cellular networks in the United States, including resellers like Simple Mobile. The Moto G4 will work on Verizon (I did it with a friends SIM card and everything worked) but folks are saying that activating a new line is a mixed bag because the IMEI number isn’t in Verizon’s database. I was unable to try and get Sprint working on either phone, but Amazon and Motorola both say the G4 is compatible and will work — chances are you drop in a SIM card and it just works. The BLU R1 HD is a dual-SIM GSM only device and isn’t compatible with Verizon or Sprint.

Finally, and most importantly to many, is the price. The Prime exclusive Moto G4 will run $150 for the 16GB version and $180 for the 32GB version. The BLU R1 HD checks in at $50 for the 8GB (1GB RAM) version and $60 for the 16GB (2GB RAM) version. That’s not a typo, and it’s not special time-sensitive pricing. That’s what they cost.

If I didn’t work here and have (literally) dozens of working Android phones, I’d buy one. I’d probably buy the 8GB BLU R1. It’s only $50 and when I break something, I have a decent backup in the drawer. Also, if I were looking for a cheap mid-range phone for daily use, I’d definitely pick up the Moto G4. I’m OK with the ads on the lock screen and use half of the apps provided, and like it love it when I can save $50. Either phone is a really good deal for the money as long as you don’t expect too much from the hardware or think you’ll be getting monthly security patches.

See the BLU R1 HD at Amazon

See the Moto G4 at Amazon

Jerry Hildenbrand #AndroidCentral #Android #News #Google #Alphabet http://www.androidcentral.com/should-you-buy-amazon-version-moto-g4-or-blu-r1-hd