Who will buy Bouygues Telecom? Rumor has it that the telecom company has been looking for a buyer for a while now. And it looks like Orange might be interested after all in order to make sure it remains the telecom leader in France. Read More
Following the formal reveal of the LG G2 yesterday, UK network Three was quick to report its plan to offer the handset “soon,” so we thought we’d follow up with all the other major providers to see where else you’ll eventually be able to find one. O2 is also on board, although it would only commit to a vague release window of “later this year.” Vodafone said it currently has no plans to offer the G2, and while EE has “nothing to announce,” we couldn’t get any assurance that it wouldn’t show up on its 4G network, or on the Orange or T-Mobile brands. Retailer Carphone Warehouse has put a tentative October arrival date on its website, and although we’re still waiting on a response from Phones 4U, you’ll more than likely be able to find it there, too. So, if you’ve developed a particular taste for the slim bezel design and quirky button placement, you’ll have at least a few options come launch time.
More signs today the HTC First might also be the last smartphone to ship with Facebook Home pre-installed: UK carrier EE confirmed today that the first Facebook Home phone won’t be launching in the UK soon as planned, as Facebook has decided to concentrate its efforts on making improvements to the Home software before looking to add international markets. EE says it will soon be contacting customers who already used its pre-order system to express interest in the First to let them know about the delay, which is indefinite in length.
Here’s the full statement direct from EE:
Following customer feedback, Facebook has decided to focus on adding new customisation features to Facebook Home over the coming months. While they are working to make a better Facebook Home experience, they have recommended holding off launching the HTC First in the UK, and so we will shortly be contacting those who registered their interest with us to let them know of this decision.
Rest assured, we remain committed to bringing our customers the latest mobile experiences, and we will continue to build on our strong relationship with Facebook so as to offer customers new opportunities in the future.
We’ve also received a near-identical statement from Orange in France, where customers were also able to register their interest, so this isn’t limited to just the UK.
This is not great news for either Facebook or HTC. We’ve seen reports that Facebook Home has been performing poorly as a download, and that the First isn’t selling well in the U.S. Home currently has a 2.5 cumulative average rating in the Google Play store, and AT&T is reportedly in the process of discontinuing the HTC First, though we’ve not heard definitely either way if that’s the final word as of yet.
A so-called “Facebook Phone” under-performing is nothing new; the HTC Status did almost just as poorly, lasting only 36 days before AT&T started considering a swing of the axe.
As of press time, there’s still a button on the Facebook Home splash page that directs you to a page where you can express interest in a pre-order, but presumably that will come down as the carriers move to reflect this change in their own pages and alert customers of the change in the First’s status.
Update: Facebook has povided the following official statement regarding its decision, which mirrors those issued by EE and Orange France:
We’ve listened to feedback from users on their experience using Home. While many people love it, we’ve heard a lot of great feedback about how to make Home substantially better. As a result we’re focusing the next few months on adding customization features that address the feedback we received. While we focus on making Home better, we are going to limit supporting new devices and think it makes a lot of sense for EE and Orange to hold off deploying the HTC First in Europe.
The HTC First might be launching on AT&T, but that doesn’t mean this built-for-Facebook device is going to be limited to the US: we just learned it will eventually arrive in Europe too, on Orange and the UK’s EE network. Unfortunately, whereas AT&T came armed with pricing and availability details ($100 on April 12th), we still have no idea when, exactly, the phone will hit these other carriers. If you want to try before you buy, of course, you should be able to download the Facebook Home skin through Google Play pretty soon.
All the mobile OS underdogs are coming out to play at this year’s Mobile World Congress — from Firefox OS, to Ubuntu and Jolla’s Sailfish — rushing in to fill the void left by Google’s lack of any Android marketing mania. Now it’s Tizen’s turn. At an event in Barcelona this evening Samsung-backed Tizen has officially launched Tizen 2.0, according to Engadget, showing off a developer handset running version 2.0 of the platform.
It has also announced that carrier France Telecom-Orange has signed up to sell Tizen 2.0 handsets this year. Orange is not the first to get in on the Tizen action: Late last year Japanese carrier DoCoMo also committed to launching Tizen smartphones in 2013.
According to IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo, who also attended the Tizen launch, the first Tizen device will debut in France in August/September — with Orange and Samsung, followed by other markets in 2014.
On the hardware side, Tizen devices will come from both Samsung and Huawei. Huawei is also joining the Tizen steering group, according to CNET.
[Image: Francisco Jeronimo]
Tweeting from the launch, Jeronimo said that Orange has 10 engineers working on its customisation of the Tizen device. With Telefonica stepping in to take an active role in collaborating with Mozilla on the development of the Firefox OS, Orange’s interest in Tizen looks like a similar play to diversify away from Android. It also evidently wants to paint Tizen with the Orange colours — customising the OS as it has for own-branded Android powered devices such as the Orange San Diego.
At the time of writing, Orange was unavailable for comment. Update: An Orange spokeswoman confirmed its intention to launch a Tizen device this year, saying: “We are planning to introduce a device in Q3 but not sharing details yet.”
The current companies on the Tizen Association board of directors are: Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, Kt, NEC, Docomo, Orange, Panasonic, Samsung, SK Telecom, Sprint and Vodafone.
Mozilla announced 18 new carrier partners for its Firefox OS at its MWC press event on Sunday.
Tizen’s holding a posh little shindig here at Mobile World Congress to officially launch the Tizen 2.0 OS, which was recently released to developers (but not on phones you can actually buy). In addition to showcasing the operating system, which we just got hands-on with, the company announced a bit of news: France Telecom-Orange will sell Tizen 2.0 handsets this year, with devices from both Samsung and Huawei. Unfortunately, we don’t have any more specifics to share, but we have to say, that was fast! The folks at Tizen don’t play, do they?
Back in January 2011, Orange acquired 49 percent of Dailymotion for $78 million (€59 million), and declared that they wanted to buy out the remaining 51 percent. But Dailymotion had to wait two years before further talks. By spending $80.6 million (€61 million) for the remaining stake, Orange acquired 100 percent of Dailymotion for $168 million (€127 million).
With 2.5 billion video views per month and 106 million unique visitors according to its latest public numbers, Dailymotion is a solid video sharing service, but far behind YouTube. When it comes to market share, it competes with Vimeo more directly than with YouTube. As video hosting consumes a lot of bandwidth, it’s hard to cover operating expenses with advertising.
Yet, the company has been profitable for a couple of years. Considered as the platform of choice in France, Dailymotion is very strong in other markets as well. In 2011, only 15 percent of its users were French. The U.S., Turkey, Japan and other countries are important markets as well.
Dailymotion’s immediate future will largely depend on whether Orange is ready to invest and support it. For instance, Orange has been key to Deezer’s expansion by bundling premium subscriptions in many mobile and Internet plans.
According to the AFP, Orange is currently looking for an American investor to buy out a small stake. The telecommunications company doesn’t want to stay the sole investor for long. While diversifying shareholders is a good financial decision, it also means that Orange probably doesn’t want to further integrate Dailymotion in its offerings and business units.
Update: An Orange spokesperson provided the following statement.
Since January 2013, Orange has increased its stake in Dailymotion to 100% (following an initial acquisition of 49% in April 2011). It is not our ambition or our role to remain a 100% stakeholder of Dailymotion and we are currently working to find the right partner/s. Obviously we cannot comment on this until a deal has been reached but it is clear that to accelerate the development of the company, Dailymotion needs to find a solid strategic partner, probably American, that is capable of opening the doors to the US market.
Beyond this, we are very happy with what has been achieved in the past few months (revenue growth of 55% in 2012). Our partnership with Dailymotion is an excellent illustration of the pertinence of our content strategy.
Perhaps aware of the tsunami of news that will hit during Mobile World Congress, we are seeing an increasing amount of news releases coming out before the actual event. France Telecom/Orange has already told us about one device — an Android smartphone with Fujitsu aimed at the senior market — and now it is following that up with three more, own-branded, Android handsets aimed squarely at the middle market of smartphone users.
The Lumo (pictured) is the carrier’s first own-branded LTE device; the Nivo is a device aimed at the budget segment; and the San Remo is a large-screened 4.7″ device with a brushed-metal casing. All will be out in selected markets in the first half of this year.
And while each of these devices will come loaded with Android 4.1, Patrick Remy, the VP of devices for France Telecom, also notes that we may soon start seeing own-brand handsets from the carrier not built on Android. “There is no willingness to only have Android devices in this range,” he said. “We believe the best opportunity is with Android right now, but we are looking at other operating systems, specifically Windows Phone, but potentially others.”
On the subject of Firefox OS — the mobile platform being built by Mozilla with other partners — “we are monitoring what is being done there,” says Remy. “We are not announcing any launch of such devices at this point in time, but we are definitely interested in that area and depending on the opportunities, there is a chance for an Orange-branded device among those.”
Remy also admits that Orange’s own-brand smartphone devices do not move the needle when compared to the volumes sold by carriers from smartphone leaders Samsung and Apple. But they are proving to be small hits for the carrier, specifically when targeting users in the mid-market — or “higher-end pay-as-you-go or lower end contract customers,” in Remy’s description.
This naturally means these devices do best in markets where these segments are biggest. “Not Luxembourg,” Remy joked of the very affluent little principality where the carrier offers services. But other markets do quite well. In Spain last year, Orange’s best-selling device was the Monte Carlo, another handset in its own-brand range. Overall sales of this line of devices has grown by 62% over the last year. But it’s telling that there are currently “no plans” for any of these three to be offered in the UK this year.
France Telecom/Orange does not release sales numbers on how well these smartphones do but did note that last year its entire range of own-branded devices — including both feature phones and smartphones — were about 10% of all handset volumes, “and that’s increased a bit to about 12%,” says Remy. He notes that within that proportion smartphones are a “significant part of that.”
Orange has struck deals with Alcatel/TCL, Gigabyte, Huawei and ZTE to make its own-brand devices. The Lumo and Nivo come from Gigabyte, whereas the San Remo is made by Alcatel/TCL, with Huawei and ZTE sitting out in this particular round.
Perhaps more than other European telcos, Orange has over the years dedicated a lot of time and energy to creating devices that are filled with Orange-customized services and the Orange brand. These devices play into that theme, but for now will not be packing as much Orange-punch as they can.
Baidu, for example, which has inked a deal with Orange to provide a customized browser for its devices, will not be making an appearance on the devices for now, although this may be something we will see going forward, says Remy. “They’ll come with our standard suite of services and customization,” he noted. These include customized lock-screens, the ability to port your services when roaming, and links to Orange services specific to your home country.