By admin - August 22nd, 2016

Facebook launches a gaming platform and a teens-only app to help woo its most elusive demographic. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news

For all of Facebook's success, it continues to struggle mightily with one demographic: teens. Their parents are on it, their teachers are on it, why in the world would they want to be?

Facebook's got two new answers up its sleeve. First, the company announced last week plans to turn itself into the ultimate gaming destination on mobile devices. It’s partnering with popular game engine Unity for help. In addition to games for Facebook.com and the Facebook app, the two plan to build a dedicated gaming platform that will live on people's desktops, much the way rival gaming destination Steam does. The platform will be open to iOS and Android developers. 

Second, Facebook launched an independent, teens-only app called Lifestage. The app allows teens to create elaborate video profiles to share with friends. Rather than opening to a newsfeed, it opens directly to a user's profile with a list of friends who have recently answered new questions about themselves. 

Lifestage is organized around individual schools, much the way Facebook was in its founding days of 2004. Users select their school and can start interacting with each other once 20 students have signed up. It's a smart move to encourage virality, but whether this is enough to capture Facebook's most elusive, enigmatic demographic out there remains to be seen. 

In the money

Eight hundred bucks. That's how much Samsung's newest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, will set you back. The good news is that the phone has gotten stellar reviews for its combination of a large screen at 5.7 inches and an attachable stylus, called the S Pen, for increased mobile productivity. The phone isn't as big as a phablet, but its combination of powerful processing and streamlined design may be enough to get work done on the go — and thus shake up the iPhone's advantage with mobile enterprises in the process. 

In other news

Google launched Duo, a video calling app that looks a lot like Apple FaceTime, only it works for both iOS and Android. That means that Android users can place video calls with iPhone owners, and vice versa. This may prove a large enough draw to make the app a success, where other Google communication and social apps have failed in the past. The app is free and available in 78 languages. 

Pinterest is ready to make money and is leaning on video to make it happen. The company added a native video player to its application and the option for businesses to buy "Promoted Video". These short films will allow companies to bring their product to life and to offer a sampling of pins right below the video player, so that users can easily click to find featured products. Promoted Video is available to businesses in the US and UK currently working with a Pinterest account team. 

The wireless wars raged on in the US, as AT&T announced that US customers will no longer have to deal with data overages. Instead, when users exceed their data limits they now will be demoted to 2G, with enough juice to scan the web and check email but not much more. 

T-Mobile, always on the lookout for a way to embarrass its wireless competitors, followed the AT&T announcement the very next day with the revelation that it has done away with data plans altogether. Customers can now get unlimited data at LTE speeds for $40 a line for up to four users.

Want to turn an old car into the ultimate mobile device? Automatic just launched a car dongle that plugs into the OBDII port of any car manufactured after 1996 and has unlimited 3G connectivity baked in. That means that it can track your car, alert you to diagnostic problems, analyze gas consumption and send automatic notifications to emergency responders -- all without draining data or drawing wifi from your smartphone. Retail for the Automatic Pro is 129.99. 

There's one problem with turning your car into the ultimate mobile device: it makes it susceptible to hackers. Last week a team of researchers out of the University of Birmingham revealed that they can unlock any Volkswagen with a wireless key fob that's been manufactured between 1995 and today. How? With a $40 radio receiver and some reverse engineering, which allows the contraption to intercept any VW wireless key fob, so long as it's within 300 feet of the vehicle.

The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.

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