Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Xiaomi selfies beautify you

I’ve not gotten my hands on any Xiaomi kit (yet; I’ve wanted to grab a Mi4 for quite some time now, and the Mi3 before that), but this piece in the WSJ about the Mi4i (india edition) being available caught my eye (China’s Xiaomi Unveils Mi 4i Smartphone in India):

…its automatic photo-retouching setting for selfies, called beautify, does not enlarge eyes the way it does for the Chinese market, where that feature is popular. The beautify feature will smooth wrinkles and lighten skin tone, as it does in other markets

For one, I had no idea that all Chinese selfies from a Xiaomi phone have enlarged eyes. Or elsewhere, wrinkles are smoothened out and the skin tones are lightened. So you’re not capturing the image as is, but some sort of automatic software edited version. Hmm. Read more on beautify at their page (guesses age, gender, then applies one of 36 beauty profiles — smoothens skin, brightens eyes, slims the jaw and more). Apparently, photography was optimised for lightened skin tones.

I’m glad the Mi4i is tailored to have a really long battery life as well. It’s 1/4 the price of a 16GB iPhone in that market (and most; good luck Samsung). 

Cyanogenmod raises money – how will they make money?

OK to USE?Cyanogen, makers of Cyanogenmod for Android devices, just raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. The founder Steve Kondik has a really nice story: a new chapter.

When you raise money, you certainly have to provide some form of “exit”. Many comments are asking how they’re going to commercialise, since they have a great commitment to opensource. Just look at their repositories.

The Verge thinks Cyanogenmod might be the third OS in mobile (after iOS and Android). It might even be ahead of Windows Mobile. Impressive. Just look at the opt-in installation statistics (~7.7 million installs).

I’ve never loaded Cyanogenmod on my Android device. I’ve owned a Nexus One, HTC Desire HD (10 days?) and a Samsung Galaxy S III. Samsung is clearly not pushing out updates yet (they delay them from what I gather now that the S IV is out) so I might look into Cyanogenmod soon.

I’m interested in how they’re going to monetize. Some options:

  1. Make an easy-to-use end user installer. Charge for it.
  2. Work with device manufacturers who are making cheap devices. 
  3. Work with device manufacturers like HTC, who are making devices but aren’t really “successful”, and replace their UI to be more streamlined.
  4. Secure messaging already exists; offer even better at a price tag?
  5. Secure voice calling for a fee? The resurgence of VOIP in an easy-to-use format.
  6. Offer hosted secure email, that is a gmail replacement? Nokia tried this to some extent with Ovi services. You got an Ovi account when you got a device.
  7. Preload a Whatsapp-equivalent, like Samsung does (ChatON); make it available on many platforms?
  8. Encrypted/secure backup & restore. Restoring on Android loses account details for example.
  9. Acquire TrueCaller and have the services built-in. Imagine this running as a default? Imagine paying $1/month to never have to answer spam again?

Many options exist. The firmware will be free. This is great, because older devices that manufacturers choose to neglect will just run Cyanogenmod.

The potential for developing nations is great too. The second hand market for an Android device just got a lot better. The total lifespan of a device might become tremendously longer. Interesting moves and something to watch, especially in a world where more open options are starting to come by: FirefoxOS, Ubuntu phones, etc.

Facebook Home

Colored houseI happened to be awake last night so I caught the announcement via livestream for Facebook Home. I’m glad its just a system launcher. There are many (I myself on my phone use Nova Launcher), but from the demo, this is beautifully designed with a new take on the interface. The demo showed it being smoother than butter ;)

Chat heads look interesting. Some may claim it being bothersome or unintuitive, but most iOS users have this already turned on via accessibility settings assistive touch since the home button breaks far too easily. Why a little white dot when you can now make it do things for you?

I was impressed with the amount of partners on launch day. Buy-in from manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, Alcatel. Chipmaker like Qualcomm. Telcos like AT&T, Orange, EE. I can only expect this to grow of course. Gives great competition in the mobile landscape for 2013.

You see, FirefoxOS has a huge amount of partners & buy-in. I continue to be surprised that Ubuntu doesn’t have a similar page.

Am I switching from iOS as my main phone? Unlikely. I’m almost certain that many at Facebook, including Zuckerberg runs on IOS. But I will be playing with this on my secondary device (the Galaxy S3). I’m a little surprised that the April 12 launch isn’t available for the Nexus set of phones… and in Asia, the Galaxy Note form factor is popular, where did that go?

HTC First will be the first device to come with the Facebook Home system launcher as a default. I’m not sure how this is different to them applying skins and admitting that Facebook does it better. This isn’t the first time they’re playing around with a Facebook phone though.

Interesting times as Facebook has confirmed that their strategy is clearly mobile first. The fact that they built this on top of Android can’t really impress Google very much ;)

Others have also covered this well, i.e a strategy for Facebook, how this isn’t good for privacy.

Mobiles & crowdsourced weather measurement

pressureNETI shared this from The Economist quite some time back: Counting raindrops. Here is an example of folk using mobile phone networks themselves for weather forecasting. 

Today I stumbled upon Cumulonimbus. They have an Android application called pressureNET, which makes use of the barometer in some Android phones. This is user-contributed atmospheric pressure readings, embedded on a Google map. It is available to view at

It seems many devices have a barometer as well. Samsung leads the pack with the Galaxy S3, S4, Note, Note II, Galaxy Nexus. It also comes with the Nexus 4 & Nexus 10.

BBM now does voice calls – will people care?

I’m the only one amongst my close friends & colleagues that still use a BlackBerry. I use it primarily for email. During its heyday, it was dead popular for BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), but group messaging apps like Whatsapp came along to disrupt it.

I see that BlackBerry is now finally offering free calls over WiFi for BBM users. Its unlikely to work on my aging Bold 9700, but I’m holding out for a BB10 device.

Is this a first? No, not really.

In the USA, T-Mobile offered this feature since probably 2007 – see more about UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access). I used to be dead jealous of friends with these kinds of BlackBerries as they could be in Iceland and still call the USA for free over wifi basically.

Now it comes to everyone on the BlackBerry.

However, is this still important? We’ve had several generations of FaceTime that transmits both voice & video over WiFi. The latest iOS 6 even allows this to happen over the 3G/LTE networks, so Apple has just said it is OK to make use of all that bandwidth even when you’re on a mobile connection.

Is BlackBerry being disruptive with this feature? Far from it. I think many have ditched the platform. I am willing to give BB10 a go, but I have no idea if I’ll stick with it for much longer.

And the connection between FaceTime and BBM? Most BlackBerry users carry an iPhone. Don’t forget to read Mark Suster’s good post on this.

Alan Knott Craig, Mxit & African mobile tech

I know nothing about the African continent, having never stepped foot into it before (something I’m sure I will remedy within the next decade). I read a piece in the FT Weekend about Alan Knott Craig, Jr. (@alanknottcraig), an entrepreneur in South Africa that runs Mxit. Mxit is impressive: 750 million messages a day served, plus allowing 581 million mobile users in Africa to make electronic payments.

You have got to love Mxit’s mantra: help more Africans make more money.

This is a social entrepreneur at his best. I’ve already picked up his book titled: Mobinomics: Mxit and Africa’s Mobile Revolution, which I presume will be an interesting read.

He is also a workaholic with suggestions on how to improve his work-life balance with 3 simple rules:

  1. no working after 6pm
  2. no working on Sundays; and
  3. no travelling for more than seven consecutive nights

I just subscribed to his blog and followed him on Twitter and am totally eager to learn more about this amazing continent.