The Mobile Lowdown 03-18-11: iPad; Mobile Payments; Groupon; AT&T Tethering

Our look at some of the big stories today in mobile: iPad 2 shipments face delays due to events in Japan; new funding and expansion in mobile payments; Groupon’s mobile deals service; AT&T (NYSE: T) gets cranky about MiWi tethering.

iPad: A new teardown report from iSuppli gives fresh data to fuel suspicion that delivery of key electronics devices — in this case, the iPad 2 — will be hampered by events in Japan.

iSuppli’s people have identified five components in the device that are sourced from Japanese suppliers: “NAND flash from Toshiba Corp., dynamic random access memory (DRAM) made by Elpida Memory Inc., an electronic compass from AKM Semiconductor, the touch screen overlay glass likely from Asahi Glass Co. and the system battery from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Japan Inc.,” notes the report. There may be further parts as well, says the research group, because often origin of all parts cannot be determined.

While most of the manufacturers named above did not report any damage to their factories, there could be logistical issues that will delay shipments for all of them. In the case of chipmakers, says iSuppli, their equipment will automatically shut down when there are tremors of more than five on the Richter scale — and the country has been seeing aftershocks of this kind since the main earthquake one week ago. While Apple may be able to move some of their component sourcing to other countries, it notes, although that will take time and may not work for all parts.

The news comes as the iPad is seeing strong initial demand and reports of sell-outs in different retail locations in the U.S. The device is due to go on sale in other parts of the world on March 25, and so far Apple has only confirmed delays to that date in one country, Japan.

Jumio raises; Zong expands: Some interesting advances in the mobile payments space. On the day that one more will-he-won’t-he report about Apple NFC in the iPhone, a new payments startup, Jumio, still in stealth mode, raised $6.5 million, with funding led by one of the founders of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. The company is planning to release its first product in six to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, the mobile payments expansion/landgrab continues. The mobile payments company Zong has announced that it has extended its payments platform to Flash, Unity, interactive TV, gaming consoles, and the mobile web platforms. Previously it was only available for HTML and Android. Zong has built a platform that processes mobile payments by a person entering a phone number rather than other details; Zong confirms the number with a text message, and then the charge is made either to the users’ phone bill from its prepaid account.

Groupon: The group-buying leviathan is gearing up to launch a new mobile version of its local deals service, according to a feature in BusinessWeek.

“Groupon Now” as the app is called in the story, lets users check out deals in their immediate vicinity at the moment of inquiry. In the article, the service seems to work on two tracks, “I’m Hungry” and “I’m Bored,” although there may be more to the app when it launches in April. In any case, using your mobile to find deals nearby seems to be the natural direction that location-based “check-in” apps are moving, too, with Foursquare recently relaunching its app to include similar functions.

It looks like it will be a battle for scale as much as functionality in this space: Foursquare touts 15 million venues in its worldwide database; while Groupon says it currently sends out 900 deals in 550 markets each day.

AT&T: Well, you could see this one coming from a mile away… AT&T is starting to inform its iPhone customers that use their iPhone for “tethering” (letting other devices use its wireless Internet connection) will get automatically put on to a $45/month/4GB data plan for the privilege.

Using an iPhone as an WiFi hotspot is a popular activity among users who are on unlimited data plans and have “jailbroken” their iPhones in order to run apps like these, which are unauthorized by Apple — and AT&T.