The Mobile Lowdown 04-25-11: Amazon; T-Mobile; iPhone @ Work; Android Fund


Our look at some of the stories in mobile today: Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) looks at service and device bundles; T-Mobile reportedly testing iPhone on its network; new research on iOS and Android usage in the enterprise; and the launch of a $100 million fund in Asia to develop more Android apps.

Amazon: More kindling (geddit?) is getting piled on the speculation fire that is called Amazon Tablet. Today, Amazon is starting a new promotion where people who buy Android devices via can get $25 of credit for Android apps from the Amazon Appstore.

The offer — you can see one of the pages offering the promotion here — kicked off midnight last night and will only last until 11:59 PM, May 1.

Taken on face value, the deal could just be Amazon’s way of promoting the new Appstore, which only launched last month, and is part of a growing portfolio of mobile interests for the company that include reselling handsets and tablets with calling/data plans; developing its own apps to buy books and other products; and of course its very own wireless device, the Kindle e-reader.

Looked at a bit deeper, this new promotion could also be Amazon’s latest attempt to get better data on how users are buying devices and services to use on those devices — to help it better prepare for a future strategy around the launch of a new mobile device of its own.

If you are of the camp convinced that Amazon is very close to releasing a tablet, then it is very hard not to fit everything Amazon does into this idea. Last week’s release of an Android Honeycomb-optimised Kindle app? Of course, that also points to an Amazon tablet strategy.

I happen to think it more likely than not that Amazon will release another wireless product of its own, and it will probably be something that looks more like a tablet than a smartphone — but even if it doesn’t, all of these moves forward cross-promote the wireless products that it does already stock makes sense, and, really, would you expect anything less from the company?

T-Mobile and the iPhone: Looks like T-Mobile USA just might be getting an iPhone at some point soon after all, irrespective of its proposed merger with AT&T (NYSE: T). Over the weekend, some pictures got leaked (via BGR) of an iPhone getting tested on the T-Mobile USA network.

If you look at the pictures at the link, you’ll see that the model getting tested is tagged as the N94 — the current AT&T iPhone is N90 and the Verizon iPhone is N92 — which is leading some to speculate on whether this is perhaps a first look at an iPhone 5, or possibly a 4GS model that runs on the higher-speed HSPA network that T-Mobile sells as “4G” service. Up to now, even though AT&T no longer has iPhone exclusivity in the U.S., T-Mobile would not have been able to use the device on its network because although it uses the same GSM technology as AT&T, it operates on a different frequency that is not supported by the iPhone.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Android in the enterprise: Some more data has come out that indicates the inroads that Apple, and to a lesser extent Android, have made into the enterprise market with its iPhone and iPad devices, which should come as worrying news for competitors like RIM (NSDQ: RIMM), HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which have worked so hard to make themselves synonymous with enterprise mobility.

Good Technology found that between January and March of this year, iOS accounted for “just under 70 percent” of all device activations among U.S. enterprise customers that it surveyed, while Android accounted for the remainder. Most of Apple’s advance was down to iPhone usage. Among iPad adopters, financial services companies were the most keen.

But you need to view these figures with a grain of salt: it turns out that RIM and WP& are not even measured by Good’s research: “RIM devices use only the BlackBerry Enterprise Server for corporate email access,” the company writes in the report. “Good does not have insight into BlackBerry handset activation trends and they are not reflected in this report. Windows Phone 7 devices are also not reflected in our activation numbers as we do not yet support Windows Phone 7.” Meanwhile, it also points out that Symbian and other platforms ranked too low to register in the data.

Android fund: Android has gotten a big boost in Asia in the form of the A-Fund, a new, $100 million venture that proposes to help develop “applications, services and enabling technologies” for the Android ecosystem. The fund is being spearheaded by the Japanese mobile social gaming company Gree, along with Japanese mobile operator KDDI and Chinese internet giant Tencent; it will be managed by the Japanese VC firm DCM.

The move comes on the heels of another big piece of news or Gree: the acquisition of San Francisco-based OpenFeint, the cross-platform social gaming network, for $104 million. OpenFeint, you may recall, was involved in another $100 million drive to fund Android content development. Called Fund9, it was developed in partnership with Chinese gaming company The9. It’s not clear yet how Fund9 will be impacted by the launch of the A-Fund.

If you take these two ideas together, it’s clear that Gree is looking to not just invest in more Android app distribution but also in developing compelling content to distribute on that network. OpenFeint’s established success on Apple iOS gives it an inroad into working on that platform, too. It’s notable as well that the company does not specify games developers as the sole target of the A-Fund. One to watch.

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