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Roundup of the month: 5 things you may have missed

The first month of summer has been another busy one for the mobile industry. You may have seen all the big stories already, but here’s a quick rundown of news that flew under the radar for most.

Picture of possible Surface Phone leaks

It has been rumoured for more than a year that Microsoft is possibly working on a flagship phone tentatively called the Surface Phone.

The Redmond giant originally planned a Surface Phone in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal and other publications.

However, the plans were put on ice as Microsoft bought Nokia’s smartphone business. If the device does see the light of day – and there are hints of a 2017 launch – it will likely be designed by the same teams responsible for the Surface Pro and Surface Book.

It seems that earlier in June, a photo of the highly anticipated device may have been posted on Chinese forum Baidu:

Microsoft Surface Phone

 

Despite the prospect of a powerful new device from Microsoft, some of you may be left to wonder, is it too little, too late?

T-Mobile US offers free shares to customers

T-Mobile US has broken the mould once again, and in June began offering ten million customers free shares as the company attempts to stand out from its rivals.

Customers on pay monthly plans can receive one share – worth $43.67 today – and possibly more if they refer new customers.

“This has never been done before”, said CEO John Legere, who is well known for his eccentric style and the firm’s unique “uncarrier” strategy that has seen the customer base grow through free video-streaming, gifts, tie-ups with ticket agencies and more customer-friendly plans.

T-Mobile US Shares

Legere said “Get ready for a gratitude adjustment, America. This Un-carrier move is all about giving you a good thanking! No strings. No gotchas. Just ‘thank you for being a customer'”.

The EU proposes wholesale roaming rate cut

The EU recently proposed cutting wholesale roaming rates – that is, the rates mobile firms pay each other when customers use their mobiles abroad.

A year ago the EU agreed to abolish mobile roaming charges in the 28 country union (soon to be 27) by June next year, but it’s dependent on wholesale prices being competitive so that the operators can offer free roaming without operating at a loss.

Mobile Phone Mast

The EU proposed cutting the maximum amount mobile operators can charge each other to 4 cents a minute for phone calls, 1 cent for a  text message and 0.85 euro cent per MB of data.

“In a year from now, we’ll say goodbye to roaming charges”, said Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip said.

Huawei makes its own mobile OS

Huawei, just like most other smartphone makers, uses Android to power the vast majority of its devices. It even made the 6P in collaboration with Google.

However, just like Samsung (with its Tizen OS), Huawei is said to be developing its own mobile operating system as a kind of insurance policy if it ever decides to cut ties with Google. Huawei’s devices now run a skin on top of Android called EMUI, but it has reportedly hired ex-Nokia software engineers to develop a completely new OS.

 

Huawei P9

Huawei is also working hard to improve EMUI which hasn’t been favourably reviewed for its design language. Huawei is rumoured to have hired a former Apple designer, Abigail Brody, to update the firm’s Android skin before it’s released in the autumn.

Barclays Android users can now pay up to £100 via mobile contactless

Barclays Bank this week launched its contactless mobile payment service called Contactless Mobile.

The company previously said it would eschew Android Pay in favour of its own system, and now that’s here Android users can just tap to pay if their phone has NFC.

Barclays says its customers can use it to pay up to £100 anywhere contactless cards are supported, which is some 400,000 locations in the UK.

Barclays Contactless Mobile

Any spend up to £30 requires just a tap, with anything over that figure requiring confirmation of a PIN. The Contactless Mobile app also allows tap to pay on the Underground instead of an Oyster card.

There are however a few caveats – Contactless Mobile doesn’t work with Basic Current Accounts, Business Accounts, Corporate Accounts or ATM only cards.

It will however support Initial, Freedom Rewards, Platinum cards, Cashback, IHG, Hilton Honours Platinum Visa, IHG Rewards Club Visa and IHG Rewards Club Premium Visa.

Best of all, the only thing Android users need to do is to update their Barclays app…

By Roland Banks

Roland Banks has been passionate about mobile technology for the past 20 years. He started his career at British Telecom's research division working on collaborative virtual reality environments, before becoming a video streaming specialist at 3 UK where he helped launch some of the world's first mobile video services. More recently he enjoys writing about his obsession, and developing software that helps mobile operators analyse their subscriber data.

Roland has lived in Asia for the past 5 years, and tries to indulge his other passion for riding motorcycles whenever possible.

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