By adaptive - November 9th, 2015

BlackBerry takes its great white hope — the Priv — live, JP Morgan Chase debuts yet another mobile payment system, as Google plans world domination with its cardboard VR headset. Andrew Tolve reports.

In this week’s Digest: Samsung, Oculus, Google, The New York Times, YouTube, Square, Toyota, Toyota Research Institute, Stanford University, MIT, BlackBerry, JP Morgan Chase, Apple, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, Starbucks, Motorola, AT&T, Federal Aviation Administration and the Pew Research Center.

In the news

Talk about getting scooped. The virtual reality story this holiday season was supposed to be all about Samsung and its new Gear VR device, which retails for $99 and is due out any day, with the more advanced Oculus Rift expected to follow in early 2016. Instead, Google stole their thunder with the release of Google Cardboard, a dirt-cheap, DIY pair of VR glasses that assembles in three simple steps from basic cardboard. Slide a mobile phone behind the lenses and voila, you’ve got virtual reality in a box. Google kicked off its product launch via a savvy marketing campaign with The New York Times, which is distributing 1.1 million Cardboard VR viewers to print subscribers in conjunction with the launch of NYT VR, a hub for journalism stories that feature virtual reality films (starting with “The Displaced” this past weekend). Google also announced that the YouTube app will now support virtual reality video across all films.

In the money

Square is going public — and it’s not being timid about it either. The company, which helps small businesses process mobile payments with tiny white cubes on their smartphones, upped its estimated value by nearly 50%, from an initial public offering of $275 million to $403.7 million. Divide that by 31 million shares and you hit roughly $13 a share. The company generated almost a billion in revenue last year but posted a $154 million loss due to expansion.

Toyota invested $1 billion over the next five years in a new company devoted to autonomous technologies, including one of the hottest mobile devices on the planet: the self-driving car. Toyota Research Institute will be headquartered in Silicon Valley, close to Stanford University, and will focus on collaborative autonomy and artificial intelligence — “the way people and machines can work together, particularly in the area of mobility.” Toyota set up joint research centres on autonomous tech with Stanford and MIT earlier this year with a separate $50 million pledge.

In other news

The Priv, BlackBerry’s new flagship smartphone, began shipping Friday, November 6 — and with it rides BlackBerry’s future as a handset maker, according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen. The phone puts an emphasis on privacy and security for the enterprise; BlackBerry announced that it will beef up security on the phone with monthly over-the-air updates if any vulnerabilities are exposed. Price starts at $699 in the US.

Add JP Morgan Chase to the crowd of mobile payment enlistees. Chase Pay is set to debut in mid 2016 and will take on Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and all the other Pays out there. The system will harness the same technology that merchants use to scan gift cards, so the barrier to entry is low. More than 100,000 retail locations are already equipped to process Chase Pay when it goes live.

Apple created a new category in its App Store called “Shopping,” where apps from all the big boxes and major e-commerce brands (Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Amazon, Starbucks etc.) will now take up residence. The primary goal: bring apps that support Apple Pay to the fore.

Forget gorilla glass. Motorola unveiled the Moto Shattershield, a display screen that synthesizes five layers of shock absorbent material into a super crack resistant touch screen. Motorola is so confident it won’t break, it’s offering a four-year guarantee on it. The new Droid Turbo 2 phone is the first to feature the shatterproof display.

AT&T debuted the SpareOne, a basic cell phone that runs on a basic lithium AA battery. The idea is to provide people with a phone for emergency situations — plus those two weeks in between the time when you smash your old iPhone screen and buy a new one. Price tag: $59.99, plus an annual service plan for $25.

Walmart wants in on drone action. The company has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for the right to run a home delivery pilot powered by drones. already has something similar in the works. The FAA is taking its time figuring out sensible drone airway regulations, but if we were UPS, FedEx or the US Postal Service, we’d be shaking in our boots nonetheless.

Finally, talk about taking over: Smartphone use in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past four years, from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2015, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. In their wake, smartphones are leaving mp3 players, dedicated navigation devices (remember those things?) and e-readers, whose use has plummeted 19% in the past 2 years.

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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