On the user interface side, Safari now features a new homepage with access to your bookmarks, but most importantly, it will feature a new sidebar. This sidebar now gives you access to your bookmarks, but also your reading list. One new feature for the reading list is the addition of shared lists.
Apple is also adding iCloud Keychain to Safari. This is essentially a cloud-connected password manager for Safari that seems to work a bit like Lastpass. It’ll support passwords, but also save credit cards and other information.
Other new features include one-click bookmarking and a new look for Reader.
The NSA whistleblower who exposed America’s massive spying operation has come out and taken an interview with the leak reporter, The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald. “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards,” he said, in an interview taped in Hong Kong.
Edward Snowden, 29, who has claimed he has worked with the National Security Agency, admits he never expects to see home again, but said, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things.”
In response to officials downplaying the NSA’s targeting capability, “the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America.”
Snowden argues that the institutional culture of the NSA has a sort of self-righteous attitude on national security: “Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action.”
As for Snowden himself, “The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me,” noting that he might jet off to Iceland in the hopes of finding a place that will protect him.
The full, fascinating interview is on The Guardian here.
Nimbuzz is continuing its push for South Asian dominance with its latest telco partnership. The Indian messaging startup just announced a tie-up with Hutch in Sri Lanka, offering six months of free Nimbuzz usage to Hutch subscribers.
Today’s announcement is just another in a steady string of telco partnerships that the company has been striking up. In May, it linked up with Mobilink in Pakistan, to give the telco’s 35 million subscribers access to Nimbuzz at a flat cost.
The deal was similar to one that Nimbuzz made with India’s Aircel in February. The company has a total of eight telco tie-ups in India, covering nearly 75 per cent of the country, except for Vodafone’s users, said Vikas Saxena, Nimbuzz’s CEO.
The point of all these deals is to ease friction in getting Nimbuzz on phones in the country.
Saxena explained that billing continues to be an issue in Asia, where credit cards are not as common as they are in the West. Here, telco billing is one of the easier ways to reach users, offering the option of prepaid credit or through monthly phone bills. ”Ringtones and ringback tones sell (over phones) like hotcakes here, even though you can download these over the Internet,” he said.
Telco billing is a strategy that even music providers in Asia have turned to. KKBOX and Deezer, for example, have used carrier tie-ups in the region to reach users more effectively.
A second reason for the telco tie-ups is that bundled offerings are especially necessary in price-sensitive markets like India and the neighboring countries.
In the Aircel deal, for example, signing up for Nimbuzz granted users 40Mb of data per month to use. It doesn’t sound like much, but it helps in a country where people hold multiple SIM cards to use different offers from rival telcos, such as more voice minutes from one and free texts from another.
The smartphone messaging landgrab
Nimbuzz has a total of 150 million users, and counts more than 210,000 new registrations per day. 25 million of its users are in India.
Its plans to stake a claim to South Asia is not unchallenged. Other Asian messengers are eyeing new markets too, and have large existing user bases to pull new users toward them.
Tencent’s WeChat app has a base of 300 million subscribers, and Japan’s Line just passed 150 million. US-based WhatsApp has 200 million active monthly users. Korean Kakao Talk has a smaller but growing base of 90 million, according to recent reports.
Vikas Saxena, Nimbuzz CEO
The fight for Asia’s new markets is evident. WeChat has started to air TV commercials in countries in Asia. And in the emerging markets—clashing head-to-head with Nimbuzz, especially—WeChat just made its apps compatible with the low-end Nokia Series 40 Asha smartphones. WhatsApp is also compatible with the Asha line.
India, as a relatively less penetrated market, appears to hold great potential for getting a large volume of users onboard. But several barriers persist in the immediate timeframe.
For one, the smartphone base is growing but still minuscule because of the relative price of smartphones to average income. Data plans are generally priced a little outside of mainstream access, too, resulting in a small mobile data subscriber base. According to the country’s regulator, only 2 percent of Indian cellphone users had 3G subscriptions in 2012.
Besides price, part of this can be blamed on the country coming late to 3G. The spectrum licenses were only auctioned in 2010.
For now, Saxena is eagerly waiting for smartphones to become mainstream in India. “When smartphones get below $100 in the next two to three years, the 60-70 million mobile Internet users will become 200-300 million,” he said.
Nimbuzz gets a cut of data revenues or has flat fee deals with the telcos, but this isn’t the main plan for revenue—mobile advertising is.
In March, it launched a commercial tie-up with Mentos-maker, Perfetti Van Melle (India). Nimbuzz has a Chat Buddy module allows Mentos to directly chat with Nimbuzz’s users.
It seems opt in: Nimbuzz users can install the Mentos Chat Buddy and solve a murder mystery, with a prize awarded by a lucky draw.
Line has a similar strategy. According to an e27 interview with Bubble Motion’s CEO, Thomas Clayton, the Japanese company charges brands about $200,000 for official accounts on the app, which allow brands and celebrities to broadcast messages to users.
Nimbuzz is backed by Mangrove Capital Partners. Saxena would not say if the startup was profitable yet.
It employs less than 100 people, most of whom are located in India. It also has a regional office in Dubai.
Although you can’t ditch your leather-bound billfold yet, a startup called Lemon has been slowly building up a mobile wallet platform that’s encroaching on the traditional wallet’s territory, and even making it better in some cases. Today, it’s extending its feature set again with the addition of an expense reporting tool, which serves to augment its previously available receipt capture function.
Operating as a digital copy of your physical wallet, Lemon already helps you track credit card balances, access your saved cards on the go, cancel credit cards when your real wallet is lost or stolen, and save receipts by snapping a photo of them. But users have been demanding more, explains founder and CEO Wences Casares.
“The most active users of receipts were using them for their expense reports. And those users kept asking for more functionality,” he says. “They were doing a lot of inconvenient things to use it for receipts.”
Given that there are plenty of receipt trackers out there on the market today from services like QuickBooks, Expensify, Concur, and others, it’s somewhat surprising to find that users were turning to a consumer-facing tool to get the job done, especially when it required more manual effort.
Casares says that’s because, in many cases, expense tracking solutions (like Concur, e.g.) are sold to the enterprise, and then the company tells its employees this is what we have that you can use. But when users had more choice, they were opting for a simpler option: just snap a photo and be done with it, then deal with the headache of expense reporting later on.
Now Lemon can help with that latter part. Its new expense reporting application can accommodate photos of receipts and e-receipts which are forwarded to email@example.com for processing. When complete, receipts are saved in a PDF format for the user, and attached directly the expense report itself, which can also be output in CSV or XLS format for importing into other expense software.
Though Lemon has been designed for consumers, expense reporting pushes the product more towards business users, though not enterprise. With its centralized management dashboard, admins can group expense reports by individual, category or user-created tags, then approve and/or route approvals to others who process the reimbursements. The solution works well for smaller businesses or even individuals, who just need to track their expenses in a more organized manner.
The system is offered as a free trial within Lemon’s mobile app, updated today, and then the cost is $5/month per user going forward.
Casares says the company is now working to support deeper QuickBooks integration, and will soon offer a refreshed mobile wallet user interface which allows users to group their cards into compartments – the way a “real” wallet works. Though he declined to provide download figures or user numbers, he says that Lemon is now capturing 1,000 new cards per hour, and growth is doubling month-over-month.
Following the refresh, the next big move for Lemon will be to begin enabling transactions, using the data users’ have saved within their wallets already. Cesares says they’re considering many different avenues for this, but the plan is to start with e-commerce, not at point-of-sale. Guess you’ll have to hang on to your billfold for a bit longer, then.
The world of payments is being turned over by the likes of Square, PayPal, Stripe and others, which are tackling the idea of payments based on hardware terminals, and new services that focus on innovations in smartphones and tablets with functionality coming by way of software iterations. Not to be outdone, incumbents like point-of-sale device maker VeriFone are also cutting their own deals to keep up in the game. The latest is a deal with CardSpring, a payments startup founded by former Netscape engineers, which will allow thousands of merchants to enable loyalty programs, point-of-sale discounts, and more using customers’ existing debit and credit cards.
Unlike card-linked competitors edo and Cartera, CardSpring is not a merchant-facing platform itself. It’s infrastructure – like what Twilio is to voice, or Stripe is to e-commerce, for example.
And now, with the new VeriFone partnership, retailers and other third-party developers, like Foursquare, will be able to build card-linked services for point-of-sale systems and VeriFone devices, without requiring any change to shoppers’ current purchase experience or a store’s existing hardware setup.
These card-linked applications can include things like loyalty programs, discounts, gift cards, coupons, and more, and are triggered by the payment event itself. On this front, CardSpring is agnostic – payments can be traditional card swipes, NFC-based “taps,” or even Square’s “say your name at checkout” feature, for example.
Foursquare had previously partnered with CardSpring and First Data on its service launched earlier this year, which offers Visa and MasterCard cardholders discounts and other deals when they use Foursquare to check in at particular venues, after first adding their card to the Foursquare app. That move was made possible by CardSpring’s First Data partnership, which debuted last summer alongside a round of strategic investment from a number of high-profile individuals like Cloudera Chief Scientist Jeff Hammerbacher, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Ignition Partners’ Brad Silverberg, and former Intuit CEO Bill Campbell.
Going forward, Foursquare, and as well as other publishers and retailers, can connect their online promotions to transactions at point-of-sale which are registered with VeriFone’s PAYware Connect (PWC) gateway.
“VeriFone wants to enhance the consumer experience at the point-of-sale and add value for merchants by delivering solutions that support in-demand features such as loyalty, rewards, offers, and coupons,” says Harry Hargens, Director of PAYware Business Development, about why his company is now working with CardSpring. “Also, we want to make it easier for merchants to implement these services, and relieve them of dealing with the technical complexity.”
It goes without saying that the addition will also help VeriFone better compete with newcomers like Square, by offering merchants loyalty and marketing services to those who continue to use its products.
“We’re trying to make the Point of Sale system smart,” says CardSpring CEO Eckart Walther.
Eckart, like co-founder Jeff Winner, was an early employee at Netscape. “We come from a world with open standards, so when we started working in the payment industry, as developers we wanted to provide standard APIs to get access to payment systems,” he says.
“We do believe that you’ll get more value by creating APIs just like Stripe and Braintree have done, making it easy to accept payments online. We’d like to come in and make it simple to add functionality to payments at POS. That’s what this company was founded on.”
Today, CardSpring has around 400 developers using its APIs, and takes an undisclosed cut on each transaction, the terms varying depending on the size of the partner. “We are similar to how other transactions are priced on the internet,” Eckart tells us. “Some are flat and some are per transaction. There might even be a free version at some point in time.”
Though the VeriFone deal is a big one – it powers about half the retailers in the U.S. – Eckart says that another deal with a payments company will be announced soon.