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Chinese Smartphone Market Explodes; Bharti M-Money; Autonomygate - Telco 2.0 News Review

In the build-up to our Asia-Pacific Executive Brainstorm next week in Singapore, 3-5 Dec, this week’s review focuses on the region.

China’s smartphone market is about to explode, blogs Kai Fu Lee. A year ago, there were 50 million smartphones, with typical pricing $500 for the device and $30/mo for service. Now, there are 250 million, “basic” Androids cost $100, and “acceptable” ones $200, and 58% of subscribers have access to wireless broadband.

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And who’s going to scoop the pot? Gartner reckons Lenovo is likely to be the biggest manufacturer, although at the moment they’re behind Samsung, the great beneficiary of the Android disruption. Here’s a moderately critical review of their Ideapad Yoga 13, an Ultrabook-based laptop-tablet which has the interesting feature that it converts by simply folding the screen all the way back through 360 degrees. Jeff Atwood is more positive.

Samsung, for their part, audited their Chinese suppliers after criticism from China Labour Watch.

Meanwhile, HTC denied claims that it was paying Apple a $8/phone royalty on Android devices. A court has ordered HTC to publish the terms of the agreement, at Samsung’s request, so we’ll know soon enough.

Huawei’s G330 model, a sub-$100 Android, will be appearing in the UK fairly soon.

Indian hacker claims to have a zero-day exploit of Google Chrome. It looks like Android users are less forgiving of crashy software than iOS users.

Here’s a preview of the Android future in China. OK, so China Mobile sells a lot of those MiFi pocket-hotspot WLAN devices, backhauled by their 3G network. Apparently 80% of them are sold in Shenzhen, which is interesting as it’s Huawei HQ and they produce enormous quantities of these things. Legally, there’s an EIRP cap at 100mW transmitter power, but there are apparently black-market ones, or possibly hacked ones, that crank it up to 11.

Which is a serious problem, because the Shenzhen Metro system chose to use the 2.4GHz band for its signalling system, and now the 2.4s are flooded with pocket hotspots. For obvious reasons of safety, the signals are designed to fail on red and stop all the trains. Apparently, 7 of them in a train are enough to constitute a denial of service attack on a whole line. The Metro got China Mobile to turn off 3G data for a day in order to rule out interference between the cellular network and their network, but of course this will only help if the users also turn them off.

CallMeInChina lets you map a local phone number in your home country to a Chinese number, saving your friends the pleasure of dialling 17 digit numbers and paying sky-high international rates.

Pakistan banned cheap late-night phone plans for being immoral. And here’s an interview with Mayasahi Son of Softbank about his plans for Sprint.

Bharti Airtel has expanded its mobile money transfer service across 17 African markets, using the HomeSend hubbing service from Belgacom’s International Carrier Services division.

In other bottom-of-the-pyramid news, here’s Nokia’s Asha 205, a Series 40 device with a QWERTY keyboard, heavily optimised for social networking and backed by their Xpress Opera Mini-like cloud-compressing browser. More at the Nokia blog - they’re also proud of the dual-SIM capability, which lets you switch between SIMs on the fly and remember the settings for up to five of them, and the battery life.

The GSMA thinks Africa could benefit by around $34bn if it could find some more spectrum to accommodate mobile data traffic growing at 46% annually. Which would be handy if Ethan Zuckerman is right in saying that African hackers are the world’s leading innovators.

Microsoft is experimenting with a data centre that generates power from biogas extracted from a sewage works.

Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has a mobile application! Get notified if your wife leaves the country. It’s compulsory.

It was Black Friday last week and now it’s Cyber Monday. It must be time for some Retail 2.0 news. Business Insider quotes a report suggesting that the impact of Facebook and Twitter referrals on sales was basically zero. Oddly, no link to his pre-IPO Facebook predictions.

However, Horace agrees that Android users (at least in the US) are less valuable, as the percentage of shopping traffic from them actually fell as the Android installed base surged. It’s baffling, but he works through it with typically superb charts, to arrive at this.

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Perhaps price- and marketing-push driven adoption has brought the late adopters in early, and they struggle to get the best from the devices?

It’s not down to a lack of shopping apps. Here’s Ars Technica’s suggested collection. Interestingly, AllThingsD points out that a lot of users aren’t shopping on mobile devices but rather with them, going to the shops and then looking for price comparisons and product reviews on their phones. This implies that a VRM or customer experience approach may be more interesting than an advertising one.

And the FTC is apparently struggling to find evidence that Google has harmed consumers in their anti-trust case.

RIM shares hopped 5 per cent after one of the most vocal bears changed his mind, having heard that BB OS10 is now on time. Mind you, the US National Transportation Safety Board also dropped their BlackBerry fleet this week.

Nokia’s HERE app for iOS dropped this week, and it gets reviews. The app is here.

Here’s a really interesting point about the iPhone - because it requires substantial handset subsidy to shift the units, Apple has to constrain its availability in order to create a competitive advantage for the carriers that subsidise it.

Google’s Nexus 4 has LTE support in stealth mode, covering only the 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands. The XDA-Dev crowd identified it and, inevitably, there’s now an app that lets you select it as a preferred network.

Microsoft Kin usability testing - the outtakes!

Jolla, the startup trying to revive Maemo/Meego Linux, has shown off their Sailfish OS, and they claim to have their first distribution deal in place. Shiny is expected for MWC.

And the chief of cameras at Nokia quits.

HP took a monster $8bn charge to profits last week, via a writedown of the value of Autonomy, and claims this is because it discovered an accounting fraud there. Their statement was clearly very carefully lawyered.

In contrast, Peter Eavis (who you may remember exposed much of the fraud at Enron) argues that the practices HP mentioned accounted for possibly 10 per cent of Autonomy’s revenues and can’t possibly explain the massive write-off. He suspects HP of kitchen-sinking the Q3 numbers in order to make next year’s, the first ones under the new CEO Meg Whitman, look better by comparison.

In network news, Benoit Felten argues that AT&T’s “New Paradigm” network upgrade essentially means the end of the US universal service regime. Dave Burstein comments over here.

OFCOM has issued a consultation paper on how white-space spectrum would work in the UK. The document is here.

The FCC has set conditions for DISH’s effort to rehash the LightSquared concept. The 3G & 4G Wireless Blog explains the benefits of LTE.

And Google is seeing 1% of traffic over IPv6 for the first time ever.

Orange has announced a strategic alliance with Akamai to provide a CDN service to their enterprise customers via Orange Business Services. Benoit Felten discusses it from a net neutrality perspective here.

The AWS Blog has a case study of using Amazon CloudFront with a third-party front-end optimiser.

Ever wanted to be an AWS Solutions Architect?

Equinix has started a carrier-neutral IX in Dubai.

Skype 3 is here. NoJitter has run-down of browser support for WebRTC.

Ericsson Research’s Bowser now supports videoconferencing and is available as an app.

Did the shutdown of filesharing site Megaupload actually reduce the movie business’s income? A group of researchers think it might, with the effect being concentrated on smaller productions. They argue that the filesharers tended to transfer information from people with a low willingness to pay - i.e. themselves - to people with a higher willingness to pay, who then paid.

Pulselocker is an all-you-can-eat music service for DJs, which stashes the whole library locally but encrypts it. That’s probably not going to last.

Google has launched a huge augmented-reality game.

BBC Research has had an interesting workshop on how the Internet of Things integrates with content and media, which is a refreshingly creative way to think about it.

An interview with last.fm inventor Richard Jones.

The API for your car. An app that rewards you for not using your phone. The world’s startup centres, we’re no.7.

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