WhatsApp today officially launched its new WhatsApp Business app in select markets, including Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., ahead of its planned worldwide rollout. The addition of business profiles and new messaging tools aimed at business customers is part of the company’s broader plan to generate revenue by charging larger enterprises for advanced tools to communicate with customers on the platform now used by over a billion people worldwide.The WhatsApp Business app is the initial entry point in this market. Aimed at smaller businesses, the free app – Android-only for now – helps companies better connect with their customers and establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service. Essentially, it’s the WhatsApp version of a Facebook Page. The company had previously announced the app’s arrival, and begun verifying business accounts as part of its WhatsApp Business pilot program back in September 2017. Verified accounts were given a green checkmark as a means of demonstrating their authenticity. With the new WhatsApp Business app arriving today, small companies can set up their WhatsApp Business profiles by filling out information like a business description, email, address and website. WhatsApp says people will know when they’re talking to a business because these accounts will be listed as “Business Accounts.” Over time, some of these will become “Confirmed Accounts,” after WhatsApp verifies the account phone number it registered with matches the business phone number. Once established on the WhatsApp network, businesses can then use a series of tools provided by the app, like smart messaging tools that offer similar technology as what you’d find today in Facebook Messenger. For example, the app offers “quick replies” that provide fast answers to customers’ frequently asked questions; “greeting messages” that introduce customers to the business; and “away messages,” that let customers know you’re busy. Businesses will also be able to access messaging statistics, like number of messages read, and they can send and receive messages from the desktop via WhatsApp Web. While businesses will need to use this new app to communicate with customers, for the general WhatsApp user, there’s no change. They’ll be able to message businesses but can control their experience by blocking numbers and businesses, as well as report spam. In addition, businesses will only be able to contact people who provided their phone number and agreed to receive messages from the business, the company had previously said.
Italy’s antitrust organization has launched two separate investigations against Apple and Samsung over accusations of planned obsolescence.
The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, or AGCM, is trying to determine whether the two popular smartphone manufacturers are using software updates to slow down devices in order to influence customers to upgrade their phones. According to the group, Apple and Samsung may not offer enough information to customers as to the effects of software updates, and don’t offer details as to how installing them may slow down devices, which it says could violate several articles of Italy’s consumer protection code.
There’s no mention made to Apple’s recent admission that iOS software is intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries in order to maintain a usable level of performance, but it’s hard to imagine that the issue isn’t at least part of the impetus for the investigation. Apple is already facing a criminal probe over the battery slowdown issue in France, where planned obsolescence is illegal.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said this week that the next iOS update will allow users to disable the slowdown if they choose, and provide more transparent information as to the health of users’ batteries.
The new 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan Sleet edition is not just limited to a cosmetic update. The motorcycle gets an explorer kit as an addition that comprises of multiple touring friendly bits. The Sleet edition demands Rs 28,000 more than the regular model.
Google decided to brag a little bit about the success of its Home speakers today with a blog post claiming it sold “more than one ... every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October.” That means, from October 19th through the end of yesterday, Google sold at least 6.73 million speakers.
What Google doesn’t say is how those sales were split between the Home, the Home Mini, and the Home Max. It seems fairly safe to guess that the Home Mini was by far the most popular, since it was on sale for $29 for most of the holiday season. The Home Max only launched in mid-December — it’s also $399 — so it likely makes up an incredibly small portion of those millions of sales.
The other outstanding question is whether this is actually making Google any money. Google is thought to be losing money on every unit of the Home Mini; Reuters reported on one analysis that pegged the device’s parts alone at $26, not including the cost of developing the entire thing, supporting it, advertising it, shipping it, and so on. Of course, Google is in this for the long game — the Assistant is an attempt to make sure Google remains the way people get information, and Google has plenty of options to make money through ads or the data it collects in the future.
It isn’t alone in that situation either. Amazon is also believed to be losing money on the Echo Dot, which was similarly cut to $29 during the holiday season. Amazon never gives out specific sales figures, but it did say that “tens of millions” of its own Alexa-enabled devices were sold over the holidays, with the Echo Dot being one of the top sellers. Like Google, Amazon certainly expects to make up for the lost money later by blanketing people’s homes with devices that connect to its store.
Evidently, the strategy is working. These super cheap prices are getting people to buy smart speakers and commit to an ecosystem. These companies are clearly happy to spend a few dollars gaining customers in the short term so that they have an enormous audience available to them down the road.
Google also gave a vague look at its overall home device sales today. The company said that if you include all of its home products — like the Chromecast and Google WiFi — its sales figures reach into the “tens of millions” throughout all of 2017. That’s not at all a specific or helpful figure, but it’s at least a clear sign that Google’s hardware is reaching people.