By adaptive - June 5th, 2017

Skype desperately wants to be cool again. Can its latest update pull it off? Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news


Skype, the company that unleashed the video calling revolution more than a decade ago, announced a complete overhaul of its application. Internet communication tools are a dime a dozen these days, and many of them are optimized for smartphones and social sharing — both components missing from Skype, whose mobile user base flatlined around 300 million back in 2013. Skype wants to change that, and it’s hoping that a new interface cut from the cloth of Snapchat and Facebook will help. The new Skype puts chatting, rather than video conferencing, front and center. Users can easily start group chats and customize their responses by color to match their feelings. Emojis unspool from a Reaction Button next to every line of text or video call. There are also new Skype Bots at the ready from the likes of Expedia, BigOven and StubHub to help with travel, food and entertainment searches. The new Skype also includes a Highlights feed just like Snapchat or Facebook Stories, where users can post photos and friends and family can react with emoticons or by jumping into a conversation. The new interface and features have already rolled out on Android with an iOS update coming soon. Skype for Business will remain unchanged. 


In the money


Uber lost $708 million in the first quarter of 2017, down from $991 in the last quarter of 2016 — a positive sign that the ride-hailing juggernaut is cruising towards profitability. That's about all that Uber has going for it though. Last week it came out that its head of finance, Gautam Gupta, is leaving the company in July, the latest defection amongst Uber's C suite. Also, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, its former head of self-driving cars who allegedly swiped 14,000 documents from Waymo. Levandowski could be facing prison time. Uber's self-driving program could be ground to a halt come October in court. Troubled times. 


In other news


Android co-founder Andy Rubin made a splash at the Code Conference with a new mobile hardware company called Essential. The startup has two products ready to hit the market, the first a luxury smartphone that will compete with the iPhone and the Galaxy S8. The Essential PH-1 will run on the Android Operation System (no shocker there) and feature edge-to-edge display and dual rear-facing cameras. The phone will retail for $699.


Essential’s second core product is a smart home device called the Essential Home that’s voice assistant agnostic. You can set it up for Google Assistant, Amazon Echo, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana. Better yet, you can have them all on there and cherry pick your favorite features from each. Also, the Essential Home puts a premium on privacy and limits sharing data with the cloud (i.e. no eavesdropping on your conversations to fuel advertising dollars). 


The rumor mill has been churning at full speed ahead of this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. The biggest leak: Apple is expected to debut a smart home device, possibly called the Siri Speaker. If true, the device would give Apple a signature piece of hardware to center its smart home offerings around. The speaker will supposedly differentiate itself from competitors like Google Home and Amazon Echo with an emphasis on premium quality and top notch sound for music. WWDC kicks off on June 5. 


Smartphone growth is plummeting according to legendary venture capitalist Mary Meeker and her 2016 Internet Trends Report. In 2014 smartphone shipments grew 28%. In 2015 that was down to 10%. Last year shipments grew just 3%. That sets 2017 to be the first flatline or even market contraction ever. The report also suggested that voice-based searches will soon replace typed searches and that our addictions to smartphones is growing. The average American is now glued to his or her phone three hours a day, up from one hour a day in 2011. 


iPads and other tablets on international flights heading into or out of the US may soon be a thing of the past. Homeland Security Chief John Kelly revealed that the Trump administration is entertaining the idea of expanding the current laptop ban on select flights from the Middle East and expanding it to include any digital device larger than a cell phone. 


Scanning apps are all the rage these days, from Tiny Scanner to Genius Scan to Scanable. Add Adobe to the list with its new Adobe Scan, which like its competitors can turn any physical document into a PDF on your phone with a simple point and click of the camera. Adobe Scan sets itself apart in that it can touch up blemishes on the scan with Adobe's Sensei artificial intelligence service; users can also edit any digital text with Adobe Acrobat Reader. The app is free on iOS and Android. 


Enterprises that use Gmail can sleep easier tonight thanks to a new suite of anti-phishing security updates to Google’s popular email app. The updates harness Google’s new machine learning technology to sniff out 99.9% of spam. Not too shabby. Google also added an extra layer for data security for businesses. If employees go to email a suspicious external account, Gmail will issue a warning to ensure the employees are certain of their actions. All Gmail users will receive the new features in the coming weeks.  


Finally, BlackBerry smartphones are officially back from the dead. The new KEYOne phone is on sale in the US at Best Buy and online at The phone features the classic Qwerty keyboard and BlackBerry's DTEK security systems to make corporate clients happy. China's TCL Communications produced the smartphone with a BlackBerry license. Price is set at $549.99. 


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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