By adaptive - January 25th, 2016

Carmaker GM keeps the pedal down on the ridesharing front, as Exploding Kittens goes viral and court documents reveal that Google pays big bucks to Apple for iPhone default search settings. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

You know when you open up the Safari browser on an iPhone and Google pops up as the default search engine? Turns out that Google paid Apple billions of dollars for that. One billion in 2014, to be exact, as part of an ongoing unpublicized revenue sharing agreement between the two tech giants. In 2015 Google likely paid more, but both companies have stayed mum on the news. The only reason we found out at all is because Oracle and Google are locked in a bitter copyright lawsuit, and court documents in the case aired that juicy little nugget out for all to see. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, that in a world in which smartphone-based searches have surpassed searches performed on laptops and desktops combined, the value of being the default search engine on the planet’s most popular smartphone should fetch top dollar. The really interesting part is whether any of the other search engines featured on the iPhone today — Yahoo!, Bing or DuckDuckGo — will be willing to outpay Google for iPhone search supremacy in the future.

In the money

The market is down, venture capital is drying up, but don’t tell that to LendUp, a socially responsible loan company that just raised $150 million in series B funding. LendUp’s goal is to harness software and smartphones to create a more equitable and ethical money lending platform. It offers PayDay loans via its smartphone app, and has a new credit card called the L Card, both of which have lower, more transparent fees and encourage people to pay on time via education tools and incentives.

Mobile phone service provider FreedomPop landed $50 million in funding of its own. The company offers free talk, text and data plans in the U.S. and U.K. — so long as you don’t surpass its monthly ceiling of 500 texts, 200 MB of data and 200 minutes of phone time. With the new funding, the company just took its free data model global, with 25 new countries across Europe and Latin America to receive coverage in the coming year.

In other news

Three weeks after pumping $500 million into ridesharing company Lyft, carmaker GM kept the pedal to the metal. First, it acquired the technology, assets and many of the employees of third-place ridesharing service Sidecar for an undisclosed sum. Then it launched Maven, a new umbrella term for all its ridesharing initiatives around the world. Initial rollout is 21 cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Skype is seeking more traction in the enterprise world with the launch of a new suite of productivity tools. Chief among is the ability to easily schedule calls within the app (the lack of which was a thorn in the side of many a Skype user, this author included). Now users just tap a user on their smartphones, schedule a call, and then send a confirmation email through Outlook. It’s also way easier to now download files in-call; a simple tap of a Word, Excel or Powerpoint document downloads it and opens it for use during meetings.

The inexorable march of Facebook into every realm of our lives, from cars to calendars to homes to phones, continued with a new sports forum called Facebook Sports Stadium. The idea: People love sports. They love to socialize around sports. They love to congregate around sports. Facebook Stadium takes these natural synergies and gives them a dedicated feed that streams scores, highlights and commentary in a linear fashion. No more updates from grandma breaking up the Chelsea-ManU game. The new channel launched around the NFL playoff games this weekend. Big debut scheduled for the Super Bowl.

The iPad Pro v Microsoft Surface Pro wars raged into a new chapter with Microsoft’s launch of its latest tablet, the Surface Pro 4. Like the latest iteration of the iPad, the device targets enterprise users, with 1TB of storage capacity and advanced graphical processing tools (not to mention a fancy new gold-plated stylus). The device retails for $2699. Microsoft also launched its first laptop, the Surface Book, in its online stores.

Stupid Games were so 2015, you know? Nice to know that society has finally said enough and elevated itself beyond the dross of Candy Crush, Angry Birds and ... wait, this just in, Exploding Kittens just landed in the #1 spot for paid apps on iTunes. This, a day after launching. The app is the pixelated approximation of the hugely popular card game of the same name, which was thunk up by two Microsoft grads and Matthew Inman, founder of The Oatmeal. Players draw Russian Roulette style until someone draws an exploding kitten. Boom.

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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