Google’s Project Fi coverage map shows where data-only SIM cards will work

The new coverage map for Gogole Project Fi's data-only SIM cards.

If you like the idea of the free data-only SIM cards now available through Google’s Project Fi mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) program, just know that you won’t be getting 4G LTE service everywhere.

Today Google published a coverage map for the data-only SIM cards, and it’s revealing. If you compare it with the coverage map for regular Project Fi SIM cards, you’ll see that these new cards rely on 2G or 3G service for a whole lot of places around the U.S.

The 4G LTE service does show up in many cities and major thoroughfares, but once you go outside of those areas, things change.

In the New York and San Francisco metropolitan areas, the difference is not so big.

Google Project Fi coverage in New York with new data-only SIM cards.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in New York with new data-only SIM cards.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi coverage in the New York metro area with its primary SIM cards.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in the New York metro area with its primary Fi SIM cards.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi coverage in the San Francisco area with a data-only SIM card.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in the San Francisco area with a data-only SIM card.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi coverage in the San Francisco area with a primary Fi SIM card.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in the San Francisco area with a primary Fi SIM card.

Image Credit: Screenshot

But if you zoom out on the map, you can observe the pattern.

Google Project Fi coverage in North America with data-only SIM cards.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in North America with data-only SIM cards.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi coverage in North America with a regular Fi SIM card.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in North America with a regular Fi SIM card.

Image Credit: Screenshot

And in some metro areas the difference is significant. Take Phoenix for example.

Coverage in Phoenix for Google Project Fi's data-only SIM cards.

Above: Coverage in Phoenix for Google Project Fi’s data-only SIM cards.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi coverage in Phoenix with a regular Fi SIM card.

Above: Google Project Fi coverage in Phoenix with a regular Fi SIM card.

Image Credit: Screenshot

Same with Portland.

Google Project Fi's data only SIM card coverage in Portland.

Above: Google Project Fi’s data-only SIM card coverage in Portland.

Image Credit: Screenshot
Google Project Fi's regular coverage in the Portland area.

Above: Google Project Fi’s regular coverage in the Portland area.

Image Credit: Screenshot

So before you go online and order one of these new data-only SIM cards by navigating to the Your Plan section of your Fi account page, just be aware of what you might be in for.










Amazon Leads $23M Investment In India-Based Home Services Startup Housejoy

Screenshot 2015-12-17 02.30.52 Amazon has led a $23 million investment in India-based Housejoy, a startup that — as the name not so subtly suggests — is much like Homejoy, the home services on-demand company that closed its doors this summer. The U.S. e-commerce giant was joined in the Series A round by existing investor Matrix Partner, and new backers Vertex Ventures, Qualcomm and Ru-Net Technology Partners. Read More

Facebook now lets you relive your 2015 — promises only good memories this time

Facebook_YearInReview

Facebook has relaunched its tool designed to help you be nostalgic about the past 12 months. But while Your Year in Review surfaces the “important moments” that you’ve shared or been tagged in, it’s been improved following criticism the social networking company received for its approach last year. Now the tool has been simplified, features updated filters, and cedes more control to the user.

Facebook_YearInReview_PermalinkWhen activated, Facebook’s tool will provide you with up to 10 photos that it thinks should appear in the year-end piece, arranged in chronological order. A company spokesperson told VentureBeat that the final product is not a video but rather a static card that will feature the photos that you can share with friends. This is different from previous years, which offered more than 10 photos and were separated into chronological sections based on the month they were posted.

The Year in Review feature is available to all of Facebook’s 1.55 billion monthly active users and while the majority may appreciate reminiscing about 2015, that’s not necessarily the case for some, which the company quickly learned last year. Whether it’s painful memories about a breakup, divorce, death of a child, fleeing your home for natural or man-made disasters, or whatever else, how people decide to look back at the year shouldn’t be based on what Facebook’s algorithm says it should be.

This is the reason why the company now gives you the final say about which photos make the cut: you can replace any of the photos with another image that you uploaded or were tagged in during the year. The interface has been made much simpler which we’re told is intentional as Facebook wants to present an position that users are in control.


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To activate this feature, you’ll see a promotional box at the top of your News Feed. Unlike previous years, Facebook only has descriptive text shown as it got harsh feedback last year due to an insensitive photo appearing on author Eric Meyer’s News Feed.

From there, your Year in Review will be pre-populated with 10 suggestions that Facebook thinks you’d want to include. These are selected based on engagement such as Likes and comments. Filters that Facebook enhanced following last year’s feedback and code pulled from the social network’s On This Day feature are being used, restricting certain things from initially being seen such as memorialized accounts.

In a sign that Facebook has learned its lesson, the company wants you to create your own highlights of 2015.

Some might confuse this with Facebook’s Year in Review video that was released earlier this month and that’s understandable. However, that one has a more global perspective versus today’s announcement which is all about individual users and celebrating your year, not billions of others worldwide.

Your Year in Review video will appear in the News Feed and will be viewable on both the Web and on Facebook’s mobile apps.

 

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You can now order an Uber via Facebook Messenger

Messenger Uber Request Ride

Today Facebook pulled the wrapping off its partnership with Uber to bring the transportation service to Messenger. Starting today, select users will be able to order a car through Uber inside of Messenger.

Facebook said the feature is still in testing and will only roll out to some users in the United States. However, if you’re one of the lucky early testers, your first ride using the service will be free (as long as your tab is under $20).

In this update to Messenger, the “more” button — designated by an ellipsis icon — will include a transportation feature. Where once the more button offered a list of GIF makers, stickers, apps, and filters, as well as a way to send a current location, it will now have three categories: transportation, GIFs, and location.

Messenger Uber More Button

Clicking on an address or the “Request a ride” suggestion inside of Messenger takes you to a new screen where you can order a car, set a destination, and see your driver en route.

Messenger Uber Request Ride

Facebook will also enable Uber to communicate updates to riders directly through Messenger, leveraging the customer service chat windows it first unveiled at the F8 conference earlier this year.

Messenger Uber Ride Updates

The partnership with Uber is the first real manifestation of Facebook’s goal to be a sort of WeChat of the west. The Chinese messaging app WeChat pioneered much of the in-app commerce that Facebook hopes to enable down the road. In 2014, WeChat was already facilitating some 21 million rides through its partnership with car-hailing service Didi Kuaidi, according to TechinAsia.

To bring Uber inside of Messenger, Facebook is leaning on its partnership with payment processor Braintree. That may seem like a small, boring detail, but it’s anything but. Braintree, which is owned by PayPal, works with a wide variety of hot services like Hotel Tonight, TaskRabbit, Minibar, and mattress startup Casper.


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If Facebook and Braintree were to extend their relationship further, we’d likely see a blossoming of on-demand services inside Messenger — for instance, being able to book an Airbnb or order home goods from Jet.com while inside the chat app.

Though it’s hard to say whether people in the U.S. will want to place orders from a messaging app, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Americans like shopping on their phones. Over the holiday season so far, an increasing number of online consumers shopped from their mobile devices. Even Walmart noted that 70 percent of traffic to Walmart.com was coming from mobile. Much of the rapid growth of mobile commerce may be due to easy solutions like PayPal One Touch, Apple Pay, and now Android Pay, which allow consumers to enter their payment information once for a wide spectrum of retailers and services. The mobile shopping experience is shaping up to be a more fluid experience than ecommerce ever was, to great effect.

This confluence of technological advancement and consumer expectation is exactly what Braintree, Uber, and Facebook are betting will get people to make purchases in unlikely places.

“There will be a lot of purchases happening outside of the traditional merchant checkout,” said PayPal global head of product and engineering Bill Ready, “and we are a key enabler of those kinds of those experiences.”










Microsoft finally gives OneDrive for Business customers unlimited storage

onedrive_logo

Microsoft today announced that it’s finally providing unlimited storage to people who pay for the OneDrive for Business cloud file sharing service.

This fulfills a promise that Microsoft made last year. Once known as SkyDrive Pro, OneDrive for Business unlimited storage will be provided to customers of specific product SKUs:

  • Office 365 Enterprise E3, E4, E5
  • Office 365 Government E3, E4, E5
  • Office 365 Education
  • OneDrive for Business Plan 2
  • SharePoint Online Plan 2

These products now clearly stand out from the basic OneDrive service, as well as other Microsoft products that include OneDrive for Business (not including the ones above). End users of those products will continue to have 1TB of storage and will not get the unlimited storage perk.

The move also brings Microsoft on par with other cloud sync and share services with unlimited storage, including Box and Amazon Cloud Drive.


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Still, this is not a perfectly positive development, especially given what has happened to OneDrive users recently. Microsoft made the very controversial decision to take away unlimited cloud storage for Office 365 consumer subscribers and reinstitute the 1TB cap. Microsoft apologized for that last week. Today the company is apologizing for a second time.

“Overall, we have taken too long to provide an update on our storage plans around OneDrive for Business,” Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint corporate vice president Jeff Teper wrote in a blog post. “We also recognize we are disappointing customers who expected unlimited storage across every Office 365 plan, and I want to apologize for not meeting your expectations. We are committed to earning your business every day by delivering a great productivity and collaboration service and improving our communication approach.”

But Microsoft isn’t just apologizing today — it’s also rolling out the production-ready OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client, which was previously in preview. It’s now available for Windows 7, 8, and 10. A Mac client will be out by the end of this month, and Windows 8.1 support will arrive in the first quarter of next year, with SharePoint and Office support also on the way, Teper wrote.

OneDrive for IOS will get offline support.

Above: OneDrive for IOS will get offline support.

Image Credit: Microsoft

The Office Lens app on iOS now lets you upload content into OneDrive for Business. That functionality will extend to Android and Windows 10 Mobile in the first quarter of next year. And OneDrive’s iOS app will support offline storage by the end of this month. The feature will roll out for Windows 10 Mobile in the second quarter of next year.

Microsoft is also introducing a OneDrive for Business application programming interface (API). Documentation is available here.

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Microsoft releases new Windows 10 preview for PCs, will roll out builds more frequently in 2016

Windows 10

Microsoft today announced the release of a new Windows 10 preview for PCs for people in the fast ring of the Windows Insider Program. There aren’t many obvious changes in this build. But consider it a starting point — Microsoft is committing now to putting out builds more frequently starting in just a couple of weeks.

“One of the things that I have heard many times from Insiders in the Fast ring is that they want to see a faster pace of build availability,” Gabe Aul, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s engineering systems team, wrote in a blog post. “We’ve been considering how we want to respond to this feedback, and in January we expect to pick up the pace. To do this, we are re-evaluating the ring promotion criteria to allow more builds to reach Windows Insiders. The new criteria will be much closer to our criteria for flighting to our internal rings, which means more builds will pass it and be released externally to the Fast ring. This also means however that the builds we release to the Fast ring may include more bugs and other issues that could be slightly more painful for some people to live with. It’s a tradeoff — as the thing that throttles the rate of builds is the promotion criteria.”

Build 11082 follows the big November update of Windows 10, which was essentially build 10586.

The lack of major changes reflects Microsoft’s current consideration of feedback on the November update, Aul wrote. And the company has been busy working on OneCore, the “shared core of Windows across devices,” he wrote.

The release does have a few issues. Rather than document the known issues in this build, starting today Microsoft will be spelling them out in the Insider Hub app for Windows Insiders. The known issues include resets to default applications when it comes to opening files. “Music & Video will default to Windows Media Player,” the announcement said. “This can be reconfigured [by] opening Cortana or Search and searching for ‘Choose default apps by file type’ to open the correct settings page.”

Also, no progress dialog will show up when you copy, delete, or move files. “This can cause confusion when acting on large files or directories,” Microsoft said.

To get the new build, sign up for the Windows Insider Program here.










Samsung slashed phone models by 30% this year — so why doesn’t it feel that way?

samsungs6

Late last year, Samsung revealed that it was planning on releasing significantly fewer handsets in 2015 than it had in 2014 — 25 to 30 percent less, specifically. Now, as 2015 draws to a close, we can look back at the company’s total output for the year (thanks to GSMArena’s Phone Finder tool) — 36 Android-powered models — and calculate that it did indeed cull its 2014 lineup of 54 phones by even more than that: a full 33 percent reduction.

Yet somehow it doesn’t feel like Samsung was any less prolific this year. There were still a number of devices with endless plays on the words Grand, Max, Plus, and Prime, along with numerous models in the A, E, J, and S series, plus a smattering of singular releases like Note 5 and Xcover 3. Why does 36 not feel much smaller than 54?

Before we get into that, it’s important to remember one thing: Samsung didn’t streamline its lineup for the sake of overwhelmed consumers or exasperated tech writers; this was purely an economic decision.


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Quarter after quarter since 2013, the phone division’s average margin has shrunk from a healthy double-digit percentage to an anemic single-digit one. By slashing the number of SKUs, and increasing the number of shared components among them, the company is hoping to see significant cost savings in both material procurement and inventory management.

Flagship creep

To understand the perception that Samsung is producing more phones than it actually is, I think it helps to characterize the perspective with which mobile enthusiasts view the overall market, and for the vast majority of them, it is in terms of so-called flagship devices.

Flagships are the (formerly singular) top-of-range handsets which are sold largely on a margin, as opposed to volume, basis. They tend to contain the very best components that a manufacturer can source, and are sold at premium prices that exceed their bills of material by several times. As aspirational products, they’re naturally going to be more widely discussed than lower-end, budget-conscious fare.

It just so happens that Samsung’s mobile division is in the midst of a multi-year flagship creep, a steady six-year march from the original Galaxy S (2010’s one and only Samsung flagship) to this year’s total of four. Next year’s Galaxy S7 may be one among five or even more handsets whose specs earn them that classification.

2011 saw an important expansion of the flagship category when Samsung added what would become a traditional second-half flagship in the form of the original Galaxy Note. The situation remained static for three years before 2014 saw the addition of a second Q3 introduction — and third for the year, overall — the Galaxy Note Edge.

This Edge form factor — consisting of a curved screen that tapers down the devices’ sides — proved popular enough that 2015 added a curved variant to the first-half flagship as well, the Galaxy S6, in the form of the Galaxy S6 edge. While there was no sequel to the Note Edge, Samsung instead paired the second-half Note 5 up with a similar-enough product, the S6 edge+. That makes four flagship-class handsets for the year.

Too much choice?

There’s nothing wrong with a company offering multiple, high-end devices; as the smartphone category gets even more granular and subdivided along lines of size or form factor, these subcategories will naturally have their own best-in-class offerings each year. In Samsung’s case, it has two size tiers, regular and phablet, as well as two basic body styles, flat and curved.

But the end result of this new status quo is something neither consumers nor the media are yet totally familiar (or even comfortable) with: four handsets jockeying for the mind share and newsprint that used to be dedicated to just one.

It’s something we’ll need to learn to live with, because next year promises more of the same, if not an increase in top-tier models. At last count, the rumor mill has hinted at the existence of no less than five Samsung flagships: Galaxy S7, S7 edge, S7 Plus, S7 edge Plus, and Note 6.

On one hand, such a cornucopia of high-end fare speaks to the continued health of the overall mobile market. But it also creates even more choice for a consumer already inundated with great options from numerous manufacturers. Want the best phone you can get from Samsung? That’s no longer an easy question to answer.










Adobe Lightroom lands on the iPad Pro

Adobe's Creative Cloud logo

Lightroom, Adobe’s other photo editor, has arrived on Apple’s iPad Pro.

Adobe’s mobile strategy is pretty transparent: Go wherever creative types go. That’s why the company, traditionally focused on dense workflows for pros, decided a few years back to break out popular apps and features into new mobile apps.

Lightroom is one of the few Adobe apps to remain full-featured on mobile — unlike Photoshop Fix, Mix, Sketch, etc. This makes the pairing interesting. If a full-featured photo editor-organizer belongs anywhere on mobile, it’s the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s equivalent, the Surface Pro.

At this point, just about every relevant Adobe mobile app officially supports the iPad Pro, aside from the Preview CC and Adobe Reader mobile apps. Maybe that’ll help Apple turn around crawling iPad sales this quarter.

Here’s a full list of what’s new in Lightroom mobile.










Think honestly, act globally: How to create an international sensation (webinar)

new markets.

Join this live webinar and learn how to break down borders for coveted global expansion. It’s your chance to learn from and ask questions of those who have been there before: 99Designs CMO Pam Webber, Talent Inc. CMO Diego Lomanto, and VB Director of marketing technology, Stewart Rogers.

Register here for free.


It takes more than simple translation tools to spell success in international markets. It takes careful analysis of factors such as local competitors, the region’s income levels, and the ability to team up with or acquire partners proficient in the area and market, says Pam Webber, CMO at 99designs and a panelist on our upcoming webinar, “How to spell ‘success’ everywhere in the world.”

The online graphic design marketplace, which was founded in Australia, generates 93 percent of its revenue outside its homeland. But before businesses take any of those steps they must scrupulously assess their product or service to see how it fits in the prospective international market and whether there’s a real need, she says.

“You have to first be honest with yourself: Can you deliver on that core promise to customers?” says Webber. “Is that core promise even relevant to your customers?”

A local bakery, for example, may make the best bread in town but could it really serve a pressing need thousands of miles from home, she asks. For its part, 99designs exports its blend of choice and value through offices in four countries and partnerships in a growing number of lands, says Webber. Over the past year, 99designs tripled new customer growth rates in the United Kingdom and Germany, and doubled new customer growth rates in the United States, she says.

The company melds together a strategy of partnership and acquisition to ensure it’s using the most appropriate communication tools, phraseology, imagery, and marketing channels in each region. Yahoo, for example, is very strong in Japan, while Google dominates most of the remaining nations, says Webber. In Brazil, many prospective clients use WhatsApp, a tool most U.S. employees and customers have heard of but don’t use, she adds.

“The other thing every company should consider is how the macroeconomic factors are changing. The dollar’s value massively influenced pricing,” says Webber. “You have to be watchful of things that can impact demand, such as currency exchange rates.”

The VentureBeat webinar will discuss how marketers can build an international brand, using lessons learned from Webber and fellow speakers Stewart Rogers, director of marketing technology at VentureBeat, and Diego Lomanto, CMO of Talent, Inc.


Don’t miss out.

Register here for free.


In this webinar, you’ll learn how to:

  • Think globally when creating campaigns
  • Find partners or acquisition targets in other nations
  • Increase sales, customer engagement, and brand loyalty through translation and localization
  • Gather, use, and analyze the right global metrics
  • Use localized storytelling to create regional brand ambassadors

Speakers:

Stewart Rogers, Director of marketing technology, VentureBeat
Pam Webber, CMO, 99 Designs
Diego Lomanto, CMO, Talent, Inc

Moderator:

Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat


 

Don’t forget to check out Stewart’s Marketing Technology report, and to access VentureBeat’s latest research on Marketing Technology.

 

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