By adaptive - September 27th, 2015

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus hit stores, BlackBerry hits another low point on the earnings front, while Oculus and Samsung launch virtual reality headsets for the mainstream. Andrew Tolve reports.

In this week’s Digest: Samsung, Netflix, Twitch, Oculus, Oculus Connect 2 Conference, BlackBerry, Samsung, Xiaomi, Qualcomm, Apple, Foursquare, Facebook, Bublcam, The Wall Street Journal, the Apple Car, Pebble, RePhone, Kickstarter and Seeed.

In the news

Ready or not, virtual reality is coming to the masses. Samsung’s Gear VR, which retails for $99, will lead the way, hitting stores in November in time for the holiday crunch. It pairs with a Samsung smartphone and includes streaming content from the likes of Netflix and Twitch. Samsung produced the headset in concert with Oculus.

Oculus will follow with its own device, the more advanced Oculus Rift, in early 2016. The device will have a strong gaming component — an Xbox one controller comes included — but Oculus hopes to take the mainstream by storm, as it made clear at last week’s Oculus Connect 2 Conference.

This is big news because both devices will no longer be hiding behind the moniker of explorer, developer or innovator editions. These headsets are targeted at everyday consumers. Whether those consumers are ready to view the world through a virtual lens with a weighty headset aboard their eyeballs remains to be seen.

In the money

BlackBerry swallowed another sour pill on the earnings front. Q2 ended with $491 million in revenue, which sounds great until you hear that’s 47% less than it made in the same quarter last year. Losses were $66 million. Most analysts agree that the company has already hit rock bottom and CEO John Chen needs to be given more time as he transitions from BlackBerry’s failed hardware business to a software, services and security first approach. Chen noted that this quarter was BlackBerry’s fourth consecutive of year-over-year double-digit growth in software licensing revenue.

Xiaomi launched a $200 budget smartphone for the Chinese market that packs a pretty impressive punch — rear- and front-facing cameras, a 64-bit processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 808), a 5-inch screen. It may not be the Galaxy s6 or s6 Edge, but it’s $500 cheaper, which could mean more trouble for Samsung. It also comes with inexpensive prepaid packages from Xiaomi, which is wading into mobile operator services for the first time.

In other news

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus hit stores on Friday. As we go to press, Apple still hasn’t released sales numbers, although Foursquare is projecting that Apple will sell between 13 and 16 million of the devices in the first weekend. That, based on stats from foot traffic at Apple stores around the world. Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in last year’s opening weekend.

Facebook introduced 360-degree video to its News Feed. Producing one of these videos requires a special set of cameras that most users probably won’t want to spring for at this point ($800 Bublcam is an example). But expect to see large brands and advertisers starting to sprinkle 360-degree videos into your news feeds in the coming months. You’ll be able to explore them by dragging your finger on your smartphone or physically turning the phone in different directions. Facebook partnered with Oculus on the project. The feature only works on Android for now, iOS expected by the end of the year. Demo here.

Rumors swirled that Apple’s next signature mobile device will be … an electric car. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has given the green light to what it’s calling Project Titan after concluding a year of feasibility studies. The company is shooting for a 2019 roll out date, with plans to triple its 600-person team dedicated to the Apple Car in the coming year. Unlike the Google Car, the Apple Car will not be exclusively focused on self-driving, although it will likely integrate autonomous technologies, the WSJ suggests.

BlackBerry confirmed that it will launch a fortified Android smartphone with a core focus on security. The phone will be called Priv (short for “privacy”) and is BlackBerry’s first foray into building a handset on anything but its own operating system. It still will feature a sliding keyboard, though, and will go hard after the enterprise segment, which is eager for security leading smartphones. If they don’t bite, this may be embattled BlackBerry’s last dance on the hardware front.

Pebble, the fashionable smartwatch that distinguished itself with a square face, has gone round. The new Pebble Time Round will ship in early November and retails for $249. The device boasts an e-paper display that highlights everything from incoming calls to social media messages to music controls.

Finally, want to re-imagine the smartphone? Start with its individual parts. That’s the philosophy behind the RePhone, a Kickstarter campaign from China’s Seeed that more than doubled its target of $50,000 in just two days. Not too shabby. The RePhone provides developers with a hackable modular phone kit, which includes a set of easily customizable essential phone parts (battery, phone display, audio box, etc.) with which they can turn around and build their own experimental phones and creations. How about tacking on cellular phone calling capabilities to a smartwatch? Or creating a sanitary mask that can do the same thing?

Check out this video for more on the project.

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.


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