Mobile

If you’re a telecoms or online firm that’s been itching to invest in China, now’s your chance – as long as you’re happy to set up shop in the new Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), a kind of sandbox lab for Chinese market liberalization. On Tuesday state-owned outlets CRI and Xinhua reported that foreign investors will be able to own up to 55 percent of the e-commerce operations of “data-processing companies”, and as much as they like of app store, home internet access and “multi-party communications” companies. Most services can be offered country-wide, though foreign-owned ISPs will only be allowed to operate in the FTZ for now.

The British carrier EE, which got a headstart on its rivals in offering high-speed 4G/LTE mobile broadband, said on Tuesday that it now has over 2 million 4G subscribers. What’s more, takeup seems to be accelerating – it took 10 months to score a million, and only 4 months to score the second million – and EE claimed it has the fastest 4G sign-up rate outside South Korea. The company, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Orange, also said its LTE services would cover 70 percent of the UK population by the end of this month.

Mobile shopping app maker inMarket has rolled out Apple’s iBeacon technology in Safeway and Giant Eagle grocery stores, allowing customers with iPhones and other Bluetooth Low Energy smartphones to use their handsets as proximity-based shopping aides as they peruse the produce. The iBeacons detect where a customer is in a particular store, sending them coupons, alerts and other informational and promotional updates based on that location. inMarket is starting in San Francisco, Seattle and Cleveland, but will expand to grocery stores in other cities in the coming weeks. Shopkick announced a similar initiative with Macy’s last year.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are already the dominant app engines in smartphones and tablets, but the company is now targeting a much larger device: the automobile. The silicon vendor announced at CES on Monday that it has developed an automotive-grade version of Snapdragon for the connected car infotainment system. The 602A chip includes a quad-core CPU, Adreno 320 GPU and additional multimedia and communication cores designed for the unique use case of the car. Qualcomm isn’t the only chipmaker that sees big opportunity in the automotive industry. Nvidia has also been pursuing the vehicle infotainment space aggressively.

In a time-honored tradition, former Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski has joined private equity giant Carlyle Group as a managing director, according to Variety. Carlyle is well-known for attracting former government officials to its ranks, and it’s nice to see a former FCC commissioner that isn’t heading to Comcast or an industry lobbying group. Genachowski was in the private equity world prior to his tenure at the FCC as a co-founder at startup incubator LaunchBox Digital and as an advisor to General Atlantic.

Google has bought a small Swiss app developer called Bitspin, known for its Timely alarm clock app. Timely has a neat gesture-based user interface, a “Smart Rise” mode that gently introduces the alarm sound ahead of time in order to wake the user from a deep sleep, and the ability to synchronize alarms between devices. The Zurich-based outfit said in a weekend post that the app would “continue to work as it always has,” but I daresay we’ll also see the stock Android alarm get a bit smarter soon.

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