Today in Mobile

DigiTimes has started a buzz with this piece that claims Apple will introduce two new versions of the iPad in January to complement its current tablet. The move will give Apple a lineup of iPads at various price points, DigiTimes said, including a low-end device to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire. But my colleague Darrell Etherington takes a skeptical view of that claim here, questioning among other things whether Apple would really focus solely on the camera when differentiating its high-end tablet. Darrell and I agree that Apple would be wise to roll out a low-cost tablet, and indeed the company could be moving that direction. But neither of us is expecting a three-iPad lineup anytime soon.

Today in Mobile

Apple’s presence on the mobile expanded in October, according to new data from Net Applications, with iOS accounting for 61.64 percent of traffic, up 7 points over the previous month. Part of that growth is likely due to the new iPhone 4S, as my colleague Darrell Etherington points out, but I think the increasing popularity of the iPad is also a big factor. The iPad has dominated the tablet market so far, of course, but will finally face some stiff competition when Amazon releases the Kindle Fire in two weeks. So I’ll be watching Net Applications’ data in the coming months to see whether Amazon’s device can help boost Android on the mobile web.

Today in Social

Darrell Etherington wonders, will anyone miss  click wheel games? I don’t know, but I’ll miss the click wheel. Most interpret the demise of these games as a sign of the end of the iPod Classic, the scion of the original iPod (hard drive storage, click wheel interface). I bought an iPod the day after it was introduced. I’m not usually an early-adopter gadget-guy (I’m mocked for my ancient iPhone and first-gen Kindle). But the iPod was different, because it was the best music device ever. And the click wheel was a brilliant UI innovation. It could handle a large amount of data speedily, used physics the way you thought it should, and was useful one-handed or even with your eyes off the screen. It was the ideal physical input and control device for information streams. I often wondered why it wasn’t duplicated virtually on the Touch, and I’d have used a Twitter app that mimicked it.

Today in Mobile

Amazon introduced its new $200 Kindle Fire this morning, resulting in a frenzy of posts about the 7-inch tablet. TechCrunch breathlessly claims that Amazon just won the Android tablet wars, ZDNet predicts that it could be the death blow to RIM’s PlayBook, and GigaOM discusses how the Fire is powered by the cloud. One of the most level-headed takes, though, comes from my colleague Darrell Etherington over at the Apple Blog, who notes that the stripped-down Fire isn’t really much competition for the more functional (and substantially more expensive) iPad. The Fire may find a sizable audience, but it isn’t likely to slow iPad sales in any substantial way.

Today in Mobile

Reuters is reporting this morning that Apple is building an 8 GB version of its iPhone 4. It’s still unclear, though, whether the gadget is Apple’s long-rumored entry into emerging markets or — as my colleague Darrell Etherington discusses here — is simply “the equivalent of the iPhone 3GS,” which is offered as an affordable alternative to the iPhone 4. Regardless, it’s the latest sign that the iPhone 5 will be announced in the next few weeks. Which means the rumor mill is only just getting started.

Today in Mobile

The mobile industry is waking this morning to the huge news that Google plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, marking a 60-plus percent premium for the business. Some of the best posts so far in reaction to the news: My colleague Kevin C. Tofel questions whether other manufacturers of Android handsets will trust Google post-acquisition, Henry Blodget outlines why the deal could be a disaster, and Florian Mueller explains why the pick-up isn’t entirely (or even primarily) about Moto’s patents. The most level-headed response I’ve seen comes from Darrell Etherington over at The Apple Blog, who predicts the deal “won’t give (Moto) what Apple has.” That’s probably true, but it’s still an acquisition that will have a huge impact on the mobile world.

Today in Mobile

TechCrunch has the industry buzzing today with the scoop that Facebook will open a store for HTML5 apps in an effort to reach iPhone users. Web-based apps are sure to become a mainstay in mobile eventually, but as my colleague Darrell Etherington points out we’re not at that point yet. Web-based apps will force Apple to loosen its grip on iOS at some point, but that day isn’t going to be here anytime soon.

Today in Social

The rumors about Facebook working on “Project Spartan,” an HTML5-based mobile platform so that it could do an end-run around Apple’s App Store are plausible. The idea would be to run within the mobile Safari browser, an environment Apple has less control over. That way, Facebook could do apps promotion and distribution, and not have to share 30% of its Credits purchases cut with Apple. Facebook knows how to do social games distribution on the web even if, as Darrell Etherington writes, it doesn’t get mobile apps. All of the talk around Project Spartan today is about mobile phones. But there’s another iOS device out there that Facebook still doesn’t have an app for – the iPad. I wonder if that’s where a Project Spartan-like initiative might have its best success.

Today in Mobile

The industry is buzzing this morning about this report from 9to5Mac that claims Apple and Verizon are preparing to deilver over-the-air (OTA) upgrades of iOS to users beginning this fall. OTA upgrades have been available on other operating systems (including feature phone platforms) for years, of course, but Apple’s strict control of its platform has prevented carriers from delivering them to iPhone users. As my colleague Darrell Etherington points out here, Apple will allow OTA upgrades only when strict conditions are met to guarantee a painless user experience. If it happens, it would free iPhone users from having to connect their devices to a computer to get the latest version of iOS. Which is a big improvement in the user experience in itself.

Today in Mobile

The story of the day is the whopping $41 million in funding that was announced by Color, a startup that offers an iPhone and Android app enabling users to share photos with others within the immediate area. As my colleage Darrell Etherington notes, the fact that Color embraces a few of the hottest trends in mobile isn’t enough to ensure its success. I too doubt Color will catch fire, but I’m even more skeptical of the investment strategy of backing specific apps. Mobile apps are a quirky, hit-driven business where top sellers often come out of the blue and offerings that look like sure-fire smashes often fail to gain traction. I think it’s a great idea to invest in publishers and developers who truly understand mobile, but pouring a lot of cash into a single app is a very risky strategy.