Europe’s antitrust chief scrutinizing Google’s Android contracts

android Google will be concerned the European Commission’s antitrust commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, is not letting up the pressure in an ongoing probe of its Android mobile OS. Read More
Android – TechCrunch

Android Probe Has “High Priority”, Says Europe’s Antitrust Chief

android Europe’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has couched a probe of the Android OS as “high priority” for EU regulators. Investigations into other aspects of the company’s operations are also being prioritized, she said, speaking in an interview with the WSJ. Read More
TechCrunch » Android

Europe’s Antitrust Chief Confirms Google Shopping Objections, Launches Formal Android Probe

EU Competition Commissioner As widely expected, Europe’s antitrust chief, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, has issued a formal Statement of Objections (SO) regarding the operation of Google’s shopping search comparison service — marking both the latest step in a five-year long antitrust investigation, and an escalation of European anti-competition action against Mountain View. Read More
TechCrunch » Android

Europe’s iBeacon Pioneers Sensorberg Raises $1 Million To Improve Retail Customer Experience

Sensorberg

Hardware startup Sensorberg just raised $ 1 million (€750,000) from Technologie Holding GmbH and undisclosed angel investors. Part of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin, Sensorberg is one of the most promising iBeacon startups in Europe. As a reminder, iBeacon is an indoor positioning system developed by Apple to trigger and send relevant information to your smartphone when you are walking inside a shop.

As a retailer, you first have to buy a few Sensorberg Beacon sensors and place them in your store — for $ 120 (€89), you get 3 sensors. Then, you’ll be able to take advantage of the SDK and dashboard to implement campaigns or location features for your app.

Estimote is a serious competitor in this space. It has been chosen for Best Hardware Startup at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 and recently raised a $ 3.1 million seed round.

Beacons work on Bluetooth Low Energy to detect when a customer’s phone is close to a sensor. Sensorberg promises a 10-month battery and a 30 meter range for its devices.

While the devices are pretty similar, the two startups will probably differentiate themselves through their respective SDKs and sales teams. In fact, Estimote beacon sensors work with Sensorberg’s SDK. It is probably too early to tell which company provides the best implementation of iBeacon.

But there are many potential real world use cases, and this is what makes iBeacon interesting. For example, when you enter a clothing shop, you can receive a push notification with all the latest promos. When you enter a coffee shop, you could get the brew of the week on your phone. Or a shopping mall could display a map to help you find the right store. It could power a new payment system as well, essentially a Square Wallet on steroids.

The hard part is to convince big retail chains to use iBeacon. These customers have the potential to develop a good mobile app, get a large user base and integrate iBeacon features. In the U.S., Macy’s is experimenting with iBeacon. Apple will take advantage of its technology as well.

But for now, it remains a novelty. It can go either way and become a massive retail technology or end up like QR codes. Remember QR codes?

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Fujitsu Finally Enters Europe’s Smartphone Market With A Senior-Focused Android Device With France Telecom, Starting In June

STYLISTIC_S01_front_FR

It was exactly a year ago that news began to surface of Fujitsu’s intention to come to Europe with its Android-based smartphones. Now the Japanese company is finally coming good on those reports: on Tuesday, Fujitsu is launching its first device in Europe, marking its first “extensive foray into the smartphone market outside Japan.”

But it’s not the company’s high-end Arrow Android phones that will be leading the charge. Instead, it is the Stylistic S-01, a senior-focused, Android 4.0 device with big icons, enhanced audio and a de-sensitized touchscreen aimed at elderly users. The device will sell first in France, starting in June and in partnership with France Telecom/Orange. The first devices will be shown at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona next week.

While targeting elderly users first may seem like a strange tactic for a smartphone market debut, it actually makes sense for a number of reasons.

According to WPP’s Kantar Worldpanel, there are already countries in Europe where smartphone penetration has passed the 50% mark (the UK is 61%). France is not quite one of them yet, but it is close, at 46%.

That means that in a world where Samsung and Apple are dominating smartphone sales, competition is getting tight to sell to mass-market, younger demographics and some more specific targeting is needed.

Smartphone penetration among seniors in France is only around 20%, but some 75% of mobile users in the senior age bracket plan to buy a smartphone in the next year, according to one survey. France Telecom tells me that it has more phones in the pipeline for seniors. “We’d like to see what the appetite for this device is but we recognise the senior user segment as a new market for us to target, so we will be considering other devices for these users in the future,” a spokesperson says.

Indeed, Orange is also bucking the ageist trend that assumes smartphone technology is only for young people. “The senior customers within our customer base are just as hungry for smartphone technology and mobile internet services as anyone else,” noted Yves Maitre, SVP of device and mobile multimedia, France Telecom-Orange.

Fujitsu says that it has sold some 20 million phones in its Raku Raku senior phone line since its launch in 2001 in Japan, where it is sold exclusively by NTT Docomo. Fujitsu’s only other foray outside of Japan has been for a trial of smartphones in China.

The Stylistic S-01 has several features that make it more friendly to the older user. Among them, the homepage icons that appear on the four-inch screen have been simplified and cast in a larger typeface to make them easier to see. The touchscreen, meanwhile, has been made less sensitive, with users required to push extra hard, as they would on a keypad, in order to tap through a command or number. While this might be annoying to the average smartphone user, Fujitsu says this reduces the amount of accidental touches that an older person might make on the device.

Other features include a personal security alarm and audio technology that slows down fast talkers, and adjusts the frequency of voice callers relative to a person’s age, and water resistance.

A France Telecom spokesperson says that for now there are no plans announced for further country rollouts, nor has it specified how it will be priced.  It will depend on what Orange France decides to roll into the tariff and what services it ultimately bundles with the device.

But it looks like Fujitsu, at least, has plans for this to be the first stage in a wider international plan.

“As Fujitsu’s first extensive entry into the smartphone market outside Japan, we are delighted that Orange – a company that holds a strong position in the European market – will be offering our phone, which features Fujitsu-exclusive human-centric technologies,” said Nobuo Otani, Corporate SVP, Fujitsu Limited, in a statement. “We are committed to the success of this partnership as we strive to expand our smartphone business overseas, while advancing the promotion of Japanese technology worldwide.”

Full release with more device specs below.

Fujitsu and Orange Partner to Deliver Smartphones to the Rapidly Growing Senior Market in Europe

Intuitive, feature-rich STYLISTIC S01 smartphone to debut June 2013 in France

Tokyo and Paris, February 19, 2013 – Fujitsu Limited and France Telecom-Orange today announced a new partnership to offer mobile phones and services in Europe. The partnership marks Fujitsu’s first extensive foray into the smartphone market outside Japan. The initial offering will be the STYLISTIC S01, a smartphone designed especially for senior users, and will be available through Orange in France in June 2013.

As the senior population in Europe continues to grow rapidly, smartphone usage in this demographic is expected to rise. With the release of the STYLISTIC S01, Fujitsu and Orange plan on offering users in this market segment an innovative smartphone that provides outstanding usability. The STYLISTIC S01 will include services like Orange Cineday (*1) and Orange et Moi (*2), which are unique to Orange. Based around the human-centric technologies that Fujitsu has cultivated for over a decade, the STYLISTIC S01 also offers a variety of original, convenient functions designed to reduce barriers to smartphone adoption by maximizing ease of use.

One of these barriers is conventional touchscreens, which do not offer the tactile sensation of pressing a physical button. The STYLISTIC S01, however, employs a unique screen technology that requires users to apply the same level of pressure to on-screen icons as they would to buttons on a keypad. This helps users avoid inadvertent touches, preventing unintended operations and improving input accuracy. Furthermore, the intuitive graphic user interface features extra-large icons and a simplified layout to ensure straightforward navigation for easier operation. The STYLISTIC S01 is also equipped with a loud personal security alarm that can be used to alert people in the surrounding area in emergency situations.

The handset incorporates audio technology that optimizes the frequency range based on a user’s age, making it easier to hear the voice of the person on the other end of the call. Another user-friendly audio function slows down the speech of callers who speak rapidly without lowering the pitch of their voice or changing the length of the conversation. These and other innovative features are currently in use in the Fujitsu Raku-Raku Phone series for seniors, which has been offered by NTT DOCOMO since 2001 in Japan where it has sold over 20 million units.

“The senior customers within our customer base are just as hungry for smartphone technology and mobile internet services as anyone else. We are thrilled to be working together with Fujitsu to leverage our combined strengths to provide products for an emerging smartphone market segment in Europe,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Device & Mobile Multimedia, France Telecom-Orange.

“As Fujitsu’s first extensive entry into the smartphone market outside Japan, we are delighted that Orange – a company that holds a strong position in the European market – will be offering our phone, which features Fujitsu-exclusive human-centric technologies,” said Nobuo Otani, Corporate Senior Vice President, Fujitsu Limited. “We are committed to the success of this partnership as we strive to expand our smartphone business overseas, while advancing the promotion of Japanese technology worldwide.”

The STYLISTIC S01 will be on display at the Fujitsu stand (Hall 5 Stand 5E120) and can also be viewed upon request at the Orange stand (Hall 5 Stand 5H110) during Mobile World Congress 2013, to be held in Barcelona, Spain starting February 25, 2013.

STYLISTIC S01 Product Specifications

· 130 x 64 x 10.9 mm
· 4-inch WVGA (800×480) touchscreen with unique tactile feedback technology
· Camera: back 8.1 MP; front: 0.3 MP
· Connectivity: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, GPS
· Memory: 4 GB + microSD
· OS version: Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0
· Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8255 1.4 GHz
· Battery: 1800 mAh
· Water- and dust-resistant (IPX5/8, IP5X)

Glossary and Notes
1. Orange Cineday
Allows Orange customers to take a friend to see a movie every Tuesday for free.

2. Orange et Moi
A free application enabling Orange customers to understand and manage all their account details directly from their mobile in an efficient and easy manner. Customers can track their consumption, top up their account, take out options, find out about special offers, access Orange help, and also discover all the applications published by Orange with just one click.

TechCrunch » Gadgets