Tag Heuer maintains its commitment to Android Wear with a $1,600 modular smartwatch

Emboldened by the surprise success of its $1,500 Connected smartwatch, Tag Heuer is back with something even more expensive. Starting at around $1,650, the Connected Modular 45 once again finds the luxury Swiss watchmaker teaming up with Google and Intel, and this time living up to the “avant-garde” bit of the company’s tagline a touch more with a truly modular design.

That’s in-line with claims made by Tag’s CEO back in January, regarding the company’s forward-looking take on the staid world of smartwatches. What it means in practice is that those willing to pony up several times the price of your standard Android Wear device will get an extreme level of customization ahead of purchase.

Buyers will be able to pick from among all different sorts of colors, buckles and modules. It’s a key break from most smartwatches on the market, which, at best, offer a few different color options. All told, there are 500 different design combinations for the thing, according to Tag. Perhaps most compelling is the company’s trade-in program, which lets users swap the connected Android Wear module for something more traditional like the company’s Tourbillon Heuer 02-T.

 

It’s a clever addition to the system that flies in the face in the sort of forced obsolescence of other smartwatches, which have applied the two-year upgrade cycle borrowed from their smartphone counterparts. It’s one thing when you’re talking about a $200 watch — it’s another when it’s eight times that price.

“This is a Swiss watch which embodies the luxury codes of tomorrow, and which not only enables you to connect to the future, but also to connect to eternity thanks to its simple and smart modular design,” CEO and president of Tag’s LVMH Watch Division, Jean-Claude Biver said in a sufficiently hyperbolic statement attached to the unveiling. “This innovative, unique and distinctive watch is at the forefront of the latest technologies available in Silicon Valley and, at the same time, a genuine Swiss watch, bearing the Swiss Made label. It is the incarnation of our leading position with luxury connected watch and with this high level of technology.”

 Of course, the watch will run Android Wear 2.0, the much delayed version of Google’s wearable operating system that brings it up to speed with the likes of Apple’s watchOS and Samsung’s Tizen fork. That’s running on Intel’s Atom Z34XX processor. The partnership with the chip company also means the watch will eventually run its upcoming intelligent assistant.

That piece still seems a bit of a mystery at the moment. Like a number of other manufacturers, the companies are shying away from simply embracing Google Assistant, one of the biggest new features of Wear 2.0. It’s clear why Intel is going that route — the company has clearly had some stumbles in the wearable space of late, and partnerships with Tag and Oakley present the potential to gain a foothold without having to invest too heavily in their own hardware. Ahead of launch, Intel is claiming that its own in-house AI will offer up even better contextual info than the likes of Assistant or Siri.

As for why Tag is so committed to smartwatches at a time when the market appears to have, at best, plateaued, the Swiss watchmaker is clearly emboldened by the 56,000 units it managed to sell last time around. Granted, that’s not a huge number, but when you’re charging several times the cost of your average Android Wear device, you can get away with being a successful niche.

There’s NFC on the device, and the company has managed to make it waterproof to 50 meters. But there are certain now-standard smartwatch features like GPS and heart-rate monitoring that are conspicuously absent. Though it was already pretty safe to say the company wasn’t exactly edging in on Garmin territory with this one.

The notion of a $1,600 Android Wear device remains, as ever, hard to swallow. But at the very least, Tag is going out of its way to shake up a market full of dull and overly large devices. And if the last version of the Connected taught us anything, it’s that the market for such devices (while modest), does apparently exist.

Teams, Microsoft’s Slack rival, opens to all Office 365 users

After unveiling a limited preview of Teams in November last year, Microsoft is now rolling out its collaboration and communication platform, positioned as a rival to Slack, more widely: Teams is now available, and free, for all 85 million monthly active users of Office 365, Microsoft’s suite of cloud services and apps as a web app and native apps for Windows, iOS and Android.

Along with it, the company is announcing some 150 integrations with third-party services like Asana, Zendesk and Hootsuite, alongside the ability to chat (with other humans or with bots), security services, customization options and more.

(No word on when and whether Teams would expand outside the Office 365 ecosystem: “We’ve had some discussions but right now remain focused on our huge user base,” noted Mira Lane, Microsoft Teams’ UX lead.)

The wider launch comes in the wake of some reasonable success so far. Microsoft said the Teams preview has had some 50,000 organizations sign up and try out the service.

That figure includes both companies that have tried it as well as those who have stayed on to become active users, and Microsoft would only tell me that many stay on, with the number of people per company ranging from small groups to organizations with hundreds of users. (Notable customer wins, it said, include Accenture, Alaska Airlines, Conoco Phillips, Deloitte, Expedia, J.B. Hunt, J. Walter Thompson, Hendrick Motorsports, Trek Bicycle and Three UK.)

For a new app that is coming to the market after the meteoric rise of Slack, as well as other competing services like Workplace from Facebook and Hipchat from Atlassian, some might argue that Teams and Microsoft are late to the game.

In its favor, Microsoft is banking on the low-friction aspect of the service: Those being targeted are already using Microsoft apps like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI, so there will be familiarity and convenience. And it’s free to try out.

As we noted when Microsoft debuted the service in November, Teams throws a lot at the user from the start. If you’ve ever used something like Word or Excel, you know that this is a very Microsoft approach.

The basic interface follows a lot of what you might already know for workplace collaboration products, which are often based around a left rail that lists discussion groups, and the main stream to the right that charts conversations.

 Within that, Microsoft takes you into a pretty huge range of different options that tap into its many other products. These include direct chats, the option to hold audio and video calls, the ability to call in spreadsheets and other documents, run some analytics and more, along with spaces for “evergreen” content as well as others for more rapidly changing data.

On top of this, Microsoft has built a chatbot framework that initially is dedicated to helping you use Teams better, but over time will include integrations built by developers to bring in a variety of other services too, similar to Slack, Messenger and a number of other chat services.

This seems to be intentional, not accidental or a sign of disorganization at Microsoft.

“The shift to modern working styles that are open and transparent by default are part of our core philosophy of one size does not fit all,” Lane said in an interview. “Organizations are different in how they do business and collaborate. Some will use multiple tools, for example Yammer for a CEO to speak to the whole organization, but for more tight collaboration they’ll use Microsoft Teams. We think it’s okay to be fluid.”

The strange balance that Microsoft is trying to strike here is between giving you too much to do, too many options; but also the lingering question of whether all this will be enough to sway users to the service.

This is not just an issue when considering Microsoft Teams compared to products from different companies, but when comparing it to Microsoft itself, which already has a number of applications where users can communicate and collaborate with each other, including Yammer, Skype and more.

So far, the experience has been that while some services have definitely gained traction (Slack now has more than 5 million daily active users, and 1.5 million paid accounts), given that there are millions more businesses in the world, there is still a lot to play for, and a lot to win. “We’re seeing people kicking the tires on all products and looking for something more enterprise grade,” Lane noted.

LinkedIn revamps timeline with Trending Storylines: curated, algorithmic news clusters

LinkedIn — the social network for professionals that’s now a part of Microsoft — has long been working on ways to get its 465 million users to stay on the site longer and use it for more than simply looking for jobs and quick networking exchanges — part of its bigger advertising and audience play — and today comes the latest development on that front.

The company is debuting a new feature called Trending Storylines — personalised news clusters based around topics of the moment, composed of content from outside LinkedIn’s walled garden coupled with related writing published on LinkedIn itself. Trending Storylines — which you access by way of the “Trending” tab on mobile, or a via a tab on the top right hand side of the desktop site — will launch in the U.S. in English-only at first, with an initial focus on stories in technology, finance and healthcare (more regions and topics to come down the line, product manager Tomer Cohen tells me).

Here are some screenshots of how Trending Storylines looks across both mobile and desktop, along with a look at what the alerts will look like on your phone if you opt in for push notifications from LinkedIn. A deeper dive into the product is below:

 Curated by a team of 24 editors, Trending Storylines also uses machine learning and other algorithms to tweak each cluster for specific users, based on who is in your network, what they may be writing, and what you have read or commented on in the past on LinkedIn. In other words, if two of you and I all look at the same Trending Storyline about, say, the latest personnel departure at Uber, the three of us are likely to see different things.

This is not LinkedIn’s first attempt at rejigging its timelines and infusing them with more news as a route to deeper engagement on the platform.

The company earlier this year debuted a completely revamped version of its desktop website that gave a new look for people’s home pages and put more of the content published on and shared on LinkedIn front and center. The timeline specifically was revamped with breaking news alerts and a whole set of actions alongside them: supplemental links to learn more; people on LinkedIn who are connected to you and relevant to the story; and links to relevant Influencer posts.

But LinkedIn’s efforts go back even further: in 2013, LinkedIn acquired Pulse, the app that aggregates and sorted interesting news for its users. LinkedIn subsequently incorporated the startup’s tech both into its main app, and made updates to the standalone app that brought it much closer to LinkedIn’s content.

I actually think that Trending Storylines appears to provide an experience that is very similar to what Pulse does, which might beg the question of what LinkedIn plans to do with that app down the line. Notably, Pulse’s iOS app hasn’t been updated in over a year; and the Android version, which has had no more than 1 million downloads (recall LinkedIn has 460 million+ users), last had an update in July.

“Yes, Pulse is staying a standalone app,” Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s editor in chief, tells me. “When we think about how to bring quality experiences to professionals, sometimes that means going deep and giving them a standalone app to deliver what they need — sometimes it means adding to an existing experience.”

There is also the push that LinkedIn itself has been making to push its own credibility as a publisher.

 Dan Roth, the company’s editor in chief, told me that currently there are around 160,000 posts written each week on LinkedIn with the total number of views in the region of “tens of thousands per post” (presumably for the most popular among them). Pushing another route to getting some of that content read even more through Trending Storylines will provide more incentive for those publishing to continue doing so.

What’s interesting to me is the shift that LinkedIn has been making into what kind of content is populating LinkedIn. In the early days, it felt like the majority of LinkedIn’s efforts were focused mainly around what you might generally think of as enterprise self-help: posts from (often successful or high profile) business people about running businesses and leadership.

Over time, LinkedIn has shifted that quite a lot to emphasize more need-to-know information and updates to help you start or throughout your day. “We compete with everyone and everything” for your attention, noted Roth. “You could be spending your time reading the WSJ and Twitter, or updating your Bitmoji, and we’re trying to provide useful information for to fill that time.”

The balance between filling five minutes, and hopefully tipping that into more than five minutes, is also an area that LinkedIn is playing around with a lot here.

In addition to a cluster of news around a specific topic,  you have hashtags and topic buttons to explore certain angles further (for example: a Storyline about Airbnb and a possible IPO might feature buttons about IPOs, collaborative economy startups, and travel startups). This is also in addition to LinkedIn suggesting completely different but related storylines at the bottom of each Trending Storyline cluster.

In an interview with product manager Tomer Cohen, I remarked on how it looked like LinkedIn was building rabbit holes and helping you go down them, and fittingly he told me that the internal name for Trending Storylines while it was being developed was “Project Wonderland.”

The new Trending Storylines feature comes in the same week that LinkedIn launched an enhanced Sales Navigator tier for enterprises, pushing another aspect of its business that focused on social sales and how LinkedIn the B2B product is inching further into the world of CRM.

Huawei starts delivering Alexa to its Mate 9 handsets

Two-and-a-half months after Huawei announced that its Mate 9 will be getting Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant is finally arriving for owners of the handset as an over-the-air update. The announcement seemed to fly in the face of Google’s attempts to bolster the profile of its own helper, Assistant, though when discussing its decision to go with Alexa on its U.S. flagship ahead of this week’s launch, Huawei said, “Alexa is a very good third-party software, which offers consumers one more option.”

The company essentially means that it’s not picking sides on this one. And why should it? It’s certainly in the hardware maker’s best interest to offer as many options on its devices as possible. And while it wouldn’t specify whether it was approached directly by Amazon, this launch is the result of a partnership with the mega-retailer.

Both worked directly on a Huawei-branded Alexa app, one that features much (though not yet nearly all) of the functionality of the app for Amazon’s Echo line. Huawei also told TechCrunch as a followup to the briefing that the addition of Alexa will not preclude Mate 9 owners from using Google’s new baked-in Assistant if they so choose, saying “users have the choice to use either.”

When you’re Huawei and the offer’s on the table to work with Amazon, you take it, particularly if it means being the first Android handset to ship with the popular smart assistant — even at the risk of alienating Google. Though as Google Assistant product lead Gummi Hafsteinsson told me at Mobile World Congress recently, “I think it’s up to the user to pick. Hopefully that should be the case with any product they want to use. If you have a phone with Google Assistant, our goal would be to make it possible for users to have access if they want it.”

It’s all very kumbaya, but it certainly echoes Huawei’s opinion on the subject: open as many options to users and let them pick the one that’s best for them. One of the key things Alexa has going for it over Assistant at the moment is a truly mainstream install base, courtesy of the wild success of the company’s Echo line. That’s something Amazon could have only dreamed of when it infamously tried and failed to get into the smartphone market.

This offers the company an interesting backdoor onto phones. And surely Huawei users who own an Echo will see the immediate benefit in using the same smart assistant across devices. That said, there’s still some downside. For starters, the functionality isn’t truly baked into the device. Users will have to launch the Huawei-Alexa app and have it running to take advantage of the home assistant, which is likely not the level of integration many users were hoping for.

 Also, a lot of functionality is still forthcoming. Alarms don’t work yet, and food ordering is still coming soon. You can get weather and recommendations using the app, but the location is based on a pre-set in settings, rather than simply using the phone’s GPS to locate you. Huawei assures us that most of the kinks will largely be ironed out this year.

Meantime, the functionality feels more like an app than truly deep integration, and, as such, I suspect that Google Assistant doesn’t have all that much to worry about when it comes to Alexa raining on its mobile parade. The war for the living room, on the other hand, is another matter altogether.

And then there’s the recent report that the company is working on its own Chinese-language assistant even as it becomes the first to run with Alexa here in the States. We reached out to Huawei for clarification on that front, and the company told us, “The Huawei 2012 Lab focuses on research into future industry innovations that will underpin the company’s technology leadership for years to come. Huawei works with the best industry partners to provide customers with the ultimate user experience.”

So, more info in the years to come, apparently.

Pandora’s on-demand music service finally arrives

Pandora’s long-awaited alternative to Spotify has arrived today. The company this morning announced the debut of a new paid tier to its streaming service called Pandora Premium, which offers a combination of radio-like listening as well as the option to search and play any track and create your own playlists. Priced competitively with the other on-demand music services on the market, the new service is $9.99 per month.

The launch follows the arrival of other expanded offerings from Pandora last year, as the music streaming market shifted to favor on-demand services that expose you to new music through personalized recommendations — like Apple Music and Spotify both do. Music discovery was an area where Pandora had earlier succeeded, as its radio service would play other, similar songs based off the artist or track you initially played.

But given growing user demand for access to on-demand music, Pandora announced it would roll out new tiers to its service last year. Last fall, it launched Pandora Plus, a $5 per month service that offered ad-free music streaming with a wider feature set, including the ability to skip more songs, more replays and offline listening. The service arrived with a smaller catalog around 2 million tracks.

At the time of its launch, Pandora said that Premium would arrive by year-end. It took a little longer, apparently.

Pandora Premium is meant to challenge Spotify and Apple Music head-on, but it also tries to differentiate itself via feature set and user experience.

 The app’s design is inspired by Rdio, the streaming app it acquired back in 2015, remembered best for its beautiful interface. In Pandora Premium, for example, there’s an all-new “Now Playing” screen where the background dynamically changes color to match the album art of the music you’re playing. There’s also a new menu for collecting, downloading and sharing, and a new layout for playback control, including the replay button introduced in Pandora Plus.

Taking on Spotify by offering a better design is a viable angle, as Spotify can feel more utilitarian at times, rather than pleasurable to use.

In terms of its user experience, Pandora Premium tries to one-up its rivals on recommendations. Instead of focusing on new releases and popular tracks, it offers more personalized album recommendations based on your listening habits. That is, if you tend to favor a certain genre, you’ll be shown new albums from that category instead of just a broad selection of new releases.

The company says it also has filtered its 40 million songs to remove the “karaoke tracks, knock-off covers and pet sounds…that slow down other services.” As a representative explains, Pandora continues to offer access to the same content as its competitors, but is using human curation for quality and machine learning for scale to make it easier to locate the right tracks users want.

The service also takes advantage of the Music Genome Project to make playlist building easier. You can track a new playlist with just a few tracks, then Pandora will offer an “Add Similar Songs” option that will suggest other, related tracks to fill out the rest. (This is a feature Spotify already offers, known as “Suggested Songs.”)

Thumbs up/Thumbs down remains a core feature in Pandora’s premium service, but now you’ll be able to revisit your liked songs via a dedicated playlist of thumbs’d up tracks. This playlist, as well as any other playlist, album or song, also can be saved for offline listening.

More features are coming, including AutoPlay — which will continue playing more music after your playlist, album or song ends. Pandora also will bring Premium to more devices, including the desktop web.

The service may be able to convert some small portion of Pandora’s sizable user base of more than 78 million, but it’s unclear how many Pandora customers looking for an on-demand experience are still around — many of those who wanted more features have since moved onto Spotify, which recently hit 50 million paying customers, or Apple Music, which has grown to 20 million as of December.

Pandora One, its premium service that transitioned into Pandora Plus, had only around 4 million users, for comparison’s sake.

Meanwhile, Pandora’s service hasn’t broken much new ground at launch to encourage happy customers to switch. Things like personalized recommendations, song suggestions and offline play are standard features on its rivals. The best thing it has going for it at launch is its fresh, attractive design. Over time, we’ll be able to better tell how well Pandora Premium’s music discovery features hold up, compared with its rivals. Ultimately, this is the selling point that could win the service more users, if it works well.

See you tonight at the New York Micro-Meetup

In preparation for Disrupt New York in May I’m going to hold a few pitching workshops in New York for you all. We’ll listen to and critique 8 pitches on March 13th at 7pm at the Knotel space at 22 West 38th Street, 4th Floor. This is an informal pitch-off, but the two best teams will get two tickets to Disrupt New York and the undying admiration of millions of people (actually more like 80 people, because the room isn’t huge.) PLEASE BYOB. There’s not much budget for these, but they’re fun.

The folks pitching are BandHub, OLIKA, Nightcheers, Workshop, Flytechnista, Adventurely, StyleKist and Reefill.

RSVP here. I limited the number to 8 so we’ll have time to talk about the pitches. See you soon.

 We’ll be voting on the best startup during the meetup. To vote please download Rapid Square or just search for “Rapid Square Cards” on the App store or Google play.

BlackBerry KEYone, the ‘Last Smartphone Designed by BlackBerry’, Launched at MWC 2017 for $549

Ahead of the official commencement of MWC 2017, the BlackBerry KEYone – the “last phone designed and engineered in-house by BlackBerry” – was launched by the Canadian company. The new BlackBerry KEYone sports the physical keyboard that once made the company an icon, albeit with several major upgrades. BlackBerry’s latest smartphone becomes available beginning April 2017 and will be priced at $549 (roughly Rs. 38,600) in the US, GBP 499 (roughly Rs. 41,400) in the UK, and EUR 599 (roughly Rs. 42,100) in Europe.

BlackBerry KEYone, the 'Last Smartphone Designed by BlackBerry', Launched at MWC 2017 for $549

The Canadian company in September announced its decision to end smartphone design and production, and instead license the brand to partners such as TCL.

BlackBerry is touting KEYone’s Smart Keyboard, which has a fingerprint sensor on the spacebar as well as capacitive touch on the entire keyboard for scrolling. You can ‘Flick’ predictions using the BlackBerry KEYone keyboard, and also assign shortcuts to keys (such as press B for browser) for use with a press or a long-press.

The new BlackBerry KEYone runs Android 7.1 Nougat software with the company’s numerous productivity and security optimisations on top, such as the BlackBerry Hub and DTEK security monitoring app.

BlackBerry KEYone Hardware Specifications
Coming to BlackBerry KEYone specifications, the smartphone sports a 4.5-inch full-HD (1620×1080 pixels) IPS display with a pixel density of 433ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The phone gets additional durability with its aluminium frame. The all-new BlackBerry KEYone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core SoC clocked at 2GHz, coupled with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU.

As for the camera, BlackBerry KEYone bears a 12-megapixel rear camera with a Sony IMX378 sensor – the same acclaimed sensor as the one on the Google Pixel – that has 1.55-micron pixels. For imaging, this smartphone also bears an 8-megapixel front facing camera with a wide-angle lens and a flash module.

BlackBerry KEYone offers 32GB of inbuilt storage that is expandable via microSD card (up to 2TB). The new KEYone comes with standard set of connectivity options, including 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v4.2, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB Type-C port. It runs on a 3505mAh battery that’s said to give all-day battery life and support QuickCharge 3.0 with a ‘Boost’ charging feature that gives 50 percent charge in “roughly 36 minutes.”

Announcing the KEYone, BlackBerry on its blog said, “KEYone pairs the best of BlackBerry software and security with TCL’s commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable smartphones to markets around the world. And we are very enthusiastic about how our long-term partnerships with TCL and our other partners, BB Merah Putih in Indonesia and Optiemus for the Indian sub-continent, will ensure availability of BlackBerry-branded smartphones to every corner of the world.”

LG G6 at MWC 2017: How to Watch Live Stream and Everything We Know So Far

LG G6 is all set to launch at MWC 2017, with LG finally taking the wraps of its 2017 flagship. The device is set to be water and dust resistant, have a large display real estate, and will boast a dual camera setup at the back. LG’s MWC event is scheduled to begin at 12pm CET (4:30pm IST) on Sunday, and users worldwide will be able to watch the event live.

LG G6 at MWC 2017: How to Watch Live Stream and Everything We Know So Far

How to watch LG G6 live stream
LG’s event will be live streamed on its YouTube channel here. If you’re watching the stream, we recommend you to be in a strong Wi-Fi connection for seamless broadcast. Gadgets 360 will also be on ground zero covering the event as it happens.

Just a few days ago, tipster Evan Blass gave us official renders of the LG G6 revealing what the phone is expected to look like. The device has an almost bezel-less front with no Home Button seen anywhere. The fingerprint scanner is situated at the back, right below the dual camera setup. The back has a glossy black finish, and appears to be all-glass, appearing set to take on the iPhone 7’s Jet Black colour variant. The antenna band is seen on the metal edges with the volume buttons housed on the right edge. The form factor is said to be the same as the predecessor LG G5, but the display real estate has increased resulting to a 5.7-inch display. In comparison, the LG G5 just had a 5.3-inch panel.

The LG G6 will sport a new UX 6.0 with many tweaks. Notably, the Camera UI will completely be changed and will have a new square capture mode which will allow you to click and preview square-shaped images on one screen (thanks to more room on display). It is also going to be water and dust resistant, as teased by LG earlier, and will come with wireless charging capabilities.

As mentioned, the LG G6 has been teased extensively in the past, and the company has already confirmed a large bezel-less display. The device is expected to sport a 5.7-inch QHD (1440×2880 pixels) display with an aspect ratio of 18:9 and pixel density of 564ppi. The smartphone was expected to sport the latest Snapdragon 835 SoC, but now it is tipped to come with a Snapdragon 821 SoC as Samsung has grabbed the rights to first launch the processor with the Galaxy S8.

As for optics, the LG G6 will sport a Leica branded dual camera setup at the back (two 13-megapixel lenses), and is expected to offer a 125-degree wide-angle view at the back. A fresh teaser confirms this, while also further goes on to say that the setup won’t bulge out of the frame, and will sit in line – which means no camera bump. It is expected to pack a battery larger than 3200mAh. It is also tipped to come in White, Black, and Platinum Colour Options. The big highlight is rumoured Google Assistant integration, making it the only the smartphone to come with it, apart from the Pixel devices launched last year.

According to an earlier report, the LG G6 is expected to priced in the same vicinity as its predecessor – somewhere between $500 to $600 (roughly Rs. 34,000 to Rs.41,000).

There is no official word on release date, but we expect it to hit main markets like the US, and Europe soon after unveil. We are just hours away from the official launch, where the pricing, availability, release date, and specifications will all be officially unveiled.

WhatsApp Appoints Facebook’s Matt Idema as COO to Boost Monetisation: Report

WhatsApp has been providing its service free to all its users worldwide ever since launch. The IM app does not make money through ads like Instagram and Facebook either, so naturally, it is looking for alternate and innovative ways to monetise its extremely popular service soon. To do that, WhatsApp has reportedly appointed Facebook executive Matt Idema as their new COO.

WhatsApp Appoints Facebook's Matt Idema as COO to Boost Monetisation: Report

According to a Recode report, Idema was announced as the newly appointed COO on Tuesday, and “monetisation will be his key focus.” However, his full role is reportedly still being ironed out. Idema was Vice President of Product Marketing at Facebook, his LinkedIn profile still notes, responsible for “product strategy and global go-to-market for all of Facebook’s Advertising and Business Products.” The report adds that Idema will begin his new role at WhatsApp in the coming weeks and will report directly to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum.

WhatsApp waived off its nominal annual subscription fee last January, and wrote on its blog that it will look at alternate methods to monetise. “Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam,” Koum wrote in the post.

Inside WhatsApp’s code, many references to structured messages for business and ‘enterprise’ have also been found, the most notable one being the translation of these messages to the user’s local language. What this means is that WhatsApp Enterprise could launch soon, which means businesses could use this feature to send messages to their targeted audiences directly through WhatsApp. These messages could arrive via push notifications, and presumably, could be disabled if the user so prefers. Of course in the absence of any official announcement, this is all speculation at this point.

However, Idema’s appointment could mean that he would oversee the development of the rumoured WhatsApp Enterprise, and scale up the team if the need be. Currently, WhatsApp has around 200 employees, and caters to over 1 billion users globally. With these monetisation measures, WhatsApp looks to finally become a revenue-making vertical, as it hasn’t been making any money since its inception in 2014.

However, the biggest USP of the app is its ad-free and spam-free nature, and WhatsApp will have to really be innovative to not break that USP and still figure out ways to make money. There’ll be more clarity on how WhatsApp plans to monetise once it starts testing tools in beta.

LG G6 Dust and Water Resistance Teased; Will Sport Battery Larger Than 3200mAh

LG has shared another teaser for the G6 flagship smartphone which promotes water and dust proof feature. The new teaser is part of the company’s several teasers that have surfaced on the Internet in past few weeks promoting several features like reliability, integration of an AI assistant on the flagship, and a ‘big screen that fits’.

LG G6 Dust and Water Resistance Teased; Will Sport Battery Larger Than 3200mAh

The latest teaser has been shared with Pocketnow and says “resist more under pressure” which seemingly confirms water and dust proof capability on the LG G6. The teaser image also has a tagline that says “witness the next-generation smartphone brought to you first by LG.” Based on initial leaks and official teasers released by LG, the G6 flagship is widely expected to come with IP68 certification. Though, the new teaser may point to something related to “extra-durable build,” points out Pockenow.

Separately, a South Korean report has claimed that LG G6 will pack a large capacity battery which will be over 15 percent more capacity than the previous LG G5. The report quotes a senior LG executive who said, “The G6 is equipped with a high capacity battery of more than 3200mAh.” The LG G5 came with a 2800mAh battery which was comparatively smaller than 3000mAh on the LG G4.

LG recently announced ‘Preliminary Experiment Group’ for select users in South Korea. Under the company’s group, limited users will receive the G6 later this month ‘free of cost.’ We will have to wait till LG’s February 26 event to see what the company has in stores for consumers.

LG’s G6 flagship smartphone will be unveiled at the company’s February 26 event which will begin at 4.30pm IST (12.00pm CET).