By adaptive - December 7th, 2015

Google changes the game (again) for how mobile ads work, this time with an innovative app streaming concept, as LinkedIn finally catches up with the times with a solid mobile app. Andrew Tolve reports.

In this week’s Digest: LinkedIn, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo!, Google, Samsung, Best Buy, Amazon, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, MacRumors, Apple, HP and ABI.

In the news

All ye LinkedIn faithful, rejoice! LinkedIn has finally launched a full-bore mobile platform. The company rebuilt its flagship app from scratch with an emphasis not just on the mobile enterprise but on the mobile workforce at large. A new messaging feature allows colleagues to easily converse via quick, informal pings. The search function is now 300% faster, so users can find people, jobs and groups quickly and accurately. There’s also a new customized content feed that features the most relevant news for a user's industry, function, and skills combined with the conversations and content they care about most. LinkedIn may always lack Facebook’s cultural cache, but at least it's finally catching up with the mobile business climate that’s transforming the way people work. We say bravo.

In the money

Word leaked to The Wall Street Journal that Yahoo!’s board is debating selling off the company’s entire core internet business. Yahoo!’s stocks jumped 7% the same day. Investors value the internet business at less than zero, so selling the business may actually make good sense, although what that means for Yahoo’s mobile assets like Flickr and Yahoo Mail and its mobile-committed CEO, Marissa Mayer, is unclear. Private equity seems to be the most likely destination if Yahoo! decides to sell. Yahoo! is refusing comment. No word on what price the company might fetch either.

In other news

How many times have you downloaded an app and used it once, only for it to languish without use on your smartphone for the rest of its existence? Statistics suggest that one in four apps find this fate. Enter Google’s new “Trial Run” ads, which allow companies to stream their apps in a Google ad bar. Yes, like actually play an app or allow a potential customer to play it (if it's a game), all over the Cloud without ever requiring a download. The goal is to lead to more informed consumer downloading and to give businesses a better shot at illuminating their products. The ads can run as long as 60 seconds. Google also introduced “Interactive Interstitials” — ads that allow users to swipe through photographs of a product, right there in the ad bar.

The long-term viability of virtual reality consumer devices may remain unproven, but the short-term verdict is in: They’re killing it. Samsung’s Gear VR has already sold out of mega retailers Best Buy and Amazon, and the wait for one of the devices through Samsung’s website now crawls well past Christmas. Demand has been so high that a secondary market has cropped up on eBay and Craigslist, where the devices are retailing for 150% or more of MSRP.

Google, sniffing the momentum, released a new Google Cardboard Camera app for Android that allows users to take VR photos. It works like a panorama shot — hold up your phone and trace a circle — only now when you plug your smartphone into Google Cardboard, the photo lives and breathes in virtual reality. Pretty cool stuff.

Yahoo! introduced a reimagined messaging service, Yahoo! Messenger, with the hope of supplanting WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Messenger and all the other messenger apps you may or may not use on your phone. This may prove a tough sell for the beleaguered company, but its app does make it easy to add multiple contacts to a conversation and share animated GIFs and photos via Flickr’s photo platform. There’s also an unsend feature that removes any unwanted text from a conversation thread. So long sender’s remorse.

A four-inch iPhone is coming! Hark, make way! A four-inch iPhone! That’s the rumor anyway, according to a research note from an inside analyst at MacRumors. If true, the phone would buck Apple’s recent trend toward bigger phones and phablets. The goal may be to capture the smaller percentage of the market that's keen on smaller phones, thus driving more overall iPhone sales next year. The device is rumored out in early 2016 at a $400 to $500 price point.

The tablet is a dead consumer device. More and more that seems to be the conclusion companies are drawing — Apple’s recent reorientation of the iPad toward the business segment (iPad Pro) being case in point. Add HP to the list. The company says that it will continue to sell high-end tablets aimed at businesses (field service, education, retail and healthcare), but it’s finished with its low-cost, $100-$150 consumer tablets. "We are going to focus where there is profitability and growth and will not chase the low-end tablet market,” said Ron Coughlin, president for personal systems at HP.

ABI released market data suggesting that tablet sales will spike in the fourth quarter to 40 million devices sold around the world, up from 30 million devices sold in Q32015. The holidays are the explanation, with uber cheap tablets like Amazon’s $49 Fire Tablet stoking the shopping frenzy. But in Q1 2015, sales are expected to return to their lackluster ways, and the holiday-season spike won’t do anything to the reverse the fact that year-over-year consumer tablet purchases are plummeting; they dropped nearly 20% just this year according to ABI.

Finally, how stressed out are the folks over at Samsung? Stressed enough to bring in a new president of the mobile division, Koh Dongjin. Here's his unenviable task: Stop Apple from crushing Samsung on the high end. Stop cheap Chinese competitors from nibbling away on the low end. Stop the string of underwhelming Samsung devices that fail to bring anything new to the table other than a heap of hyperbole (exempli gratia: the Galaxy View, Samsung’s ginormous 18-inch tablet that's already sputtering beneath a ream of bad reviews). Good luck.

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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