Updates from Mobile World Congress

By Brian Martin on February 26, 2014 in Events

The big news so far is that Whatsapp will offer free voice calls to its circa 500M users, some say as early as April of this year. As to how it will work, and how it will compete with Skype, Viber et al is unknown as yet. Why is Whatsapp so popular, and why would Facebook spend 16Bn to acquire it? Well they are acquiring users at the rate of 1m per day apparently, and if we take the current user base times the cost of the app, we get 500mn in revenues per annum. However most if not all of those users are free app users, and of course there are many free alternatives. It’s a nice easy way to use instant messaging on a phone however. As to the purchase price, your guess is as good as mine, but if I was an FB shareholder, I’d be pretty livid. I can’t see it making a return.

On MWC itself, some questions have been asked by many about why Apple aren’t here, and moreover why aren’t Google here? Given the popularity of the Android O/S and the fact that nearly all of the mobile phone manufacturers which are here are using it, it would seem like a good idea for Google to do something.

Nokia just unveiled their first Android phone, and I hope it does something to help the struggling Finnish company. It’s remarkable that their seemingly unassailable lead in the phone market could have eroded so rapidly. However I think now the problem is that using Android may even limit manufacturers in how they innovate. Just about all of the smartphones on show here at MWC look the same – they all look like the iPhone and use the same form factor as the original smartphone. So given that the O/S is largely down to a single company, the possibilities for innovation revolve largely around the actual hardware. and so far they look pretty much the same to me – I’m pretty sure that your average user couldn’t identify any of the top ten smartphones from a few steps away.

Good news on that front however is that Firefox are releasing their O/S and we’re hopping to get a phone loaded up later on to try it out. One interesting feature so far is the location randomiser – which is a nice privacy tool if you don’t feel comfortable with Google or Apple knowing where you are all the time.

Feargal Brady

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