By adaptive - September 19th, 2016

With Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 on fire (literally), all the iPhone 7 had to do was show up to the party. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

All eyes in the mobile world turned to Apple as it unveiled its newest smartphone, the iPhone 7. The phone doesn't offer much of an upgrade from its older sibling, the iPhone 6, other than a move toward wireless headphones and a new water-resistant exterior, but it was refreshing nonetheless to see the good old smartphone back at the center of the mobile universe for a week, ahead of upstarts like virtual reality headsets and self-driving cars.

What the iPhone 7 failed to do was to produce any compelling reason why our attention should remain there. Smartphones seem to have been relegated to a world in which all devices look more or less the same and offer roughly the same features, with annual upgrades that will be a little faster and screens that will be a little less likely to crack. The latest iPhone fits that mold. The 7 is twice as fast as the iPhone 6 thanks to a new A10 Fusion chip and comes in two sizes, 4.7 and 5.5 inch, meaning that the iPhone's phablet days seem to be a thing of the past.

In the money

Samsung is set to shell out more than $1 billion to pay for a worldwide recall of its new Galaxy Note 7, which was meant to present neck-and-neck competition for the iPhone 7 and instead burst into flames. Literally, the new lithium ion battery in the phone has caused nearly 100 fires and many serious burns to customers and property around the globe. Samsung has issued an official recall for every Galaxy Note 7 out there and is having to sell shares in a number of its investments to cover the cost. These will include selling off stakes in Seagate Technology and chipmaker Rumbus.

In other news

Tesla reeled from the revelation that a second driver died in a Tesla Model S while its Autopilot mode was engaged. This driver was in China back in January; his unfortunate demise at the hands of driverless tech only came to light now due to an investigation by Chinese news station CCTV. Tesla claims that it didn't divulge the information at the time because it couldn't one hundred percent confirm that auto pilot was on or to blame -- to which the tens of thousands of people who have used the technology since then issue a collective "Come on Tesla, really?"

Uber launched a robot car pilot in Pittsburgh. Select customers can now hail self-driving cabs from their smartphones and whisk around in them in select downtown neighborhoods. The cars are souped up Ford Fusions outfitted with 20 cameras and seven lasers to enable driverless maneuvering. There's still a driver for safety, although Uber says that in the long run drivers will go, thus illuminating its largest overhead.

To date, the virtual reality landscape has been dominated by the big names of Facebook-owned Oculus, Samsung Gear VR and to a lesser degree Google Cardboard. But upstarts are on the move, as more than twenty VR devices are now on market and gaining traction, with newcomers poised to eclipse the pioneers in ease of use, display quality and other features, according to Lux Research. Specifically, Lux identifies Sulon Q and Star VR as on the verge of wresting the lead from Oculus in terms of quality and performance among standalone headsets. Similarly, across 65 smartphone-based VR headsets, Samsung Gear still grabbed the most attention but was overshadowed in ease of use by Pinch VR and in display by Freefly VR. Game on.

On the mobile enterprise front, Microsoft announced that its Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform Intune was joining the Google Android for Work program. This is a win for enterprises and a loss for Microsoft's ambition to be the go-to provider for EMM solutions on the market. Until recently, Microsoft refused to allow its mobile security and management platform to work in concert with anything Mac- or Android-related in an attempt to force enterprises to go exclusively with Microsoft if they wanted to use Office 365 applications. No more. 

Four out of 10 companies have suffered a loss of key corporate data from a mobile device, according to 150 US IT pros surveyed by research firm NetEnrich. This is due largely to employee lack of awareness and compliance. Fifty-four percent of IT professionals surveyed by NetEnrich said, for example, that their biggest challenge when it comes to managing employee use of mobile devices is simply confirming that all employees have received and reviewed their company's policies. Another 55 percent of respondents said their biggest challenge is convincing employees that following the company's mobile device protocols is in their best interests.

Apple released iOS 10 three days before the new iPhone 7 hit the market. The new operating system includes a number of improvements over iOS 9 that will ripple across Apple's various mobile devices: It's faster at opening apps, both third-party and native; Siri can now engage third party apps; messaging now includes interactive features like bubble effects, finger doodling and stickers; the lock screen now provides a bounty of useful info about weather, events and updates from apps; users can easily expunge native apps they don't care for, like Apple Calendar and the Apple Watch app; and there's a fancy new smart home app for managing a host of smart home devices.

Finally, Microsoft revealed that it is phasing out the last vestiges of Nokia smartphones, that ill-fated line of mobile headsets that it acquired for $7 billion in 2014. Microsoft is removing Lumia phones from its stores and has already erased all direct links to the Lumia smartphone from its website. Rumor has it that the phones will be officially retired in December and that Microsoft may unveil a dashing new surface phone in the new year, intended to elevate it to the level of apple and android. Wishful thinking in all likelihood, but perhaps Microsoft will finally get mobile right.

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

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