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Apple acquires indoor GPS company WiFiSLAM for $20 million

wifislam logo

Big news out of Cupertino this evening. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has acquired indoor mobile location positioning firm WiFiSLAM, in a deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million.

Apple has confirmed the acquisition of the company, which possesses proprietary technology that allows mobile apps to detect a smartphone user’s location inside of buildings using preexisting ambient Wi-Fi signals…

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jessica Lessin reports:

“Apple has acquired indoor-GPS company WifiSLAM, a sign that the war over indoor mobile location services is heating up. Apple paid around $20 million for the Silicon Valley-based company, according to a person familiar with the matter who said the deal closed recently.

The two-year-old startup has developed ways for mobile apps to detect a phone user’s location in a building using Wi-Fi signals. It has been offering the technology to application developers for indoor mapping and new types of retail and social networking apps.”

WiFiSLAM has just a handful of employees, made up of a mix of former Google software engineers and Stanford graduates. It’s raised an unknown amount of money from angel investors, including Google’s Don Dodge.

Here’s co-founder Joseph Huang speaking about WiFiSLAM at GeoMeetup late last year.

Apple’s acquisition of the indoor positioning firm makes sense, considering that it’s trying to compete with Google in the mapping space. Google Maps currently supports indoor maps for a number of popular venues.

A company spokesman confirmed the buyout with The Journal, saying that Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time,” but generally doesn’t discuss its plans. And he declined to comment any further.

He’s right though, Apple has acquired a number of smaller companies in the last few years—particularly those with mapping technologies. In 2009 they acquired Placebase, and later added Poly9 and C3 Technologies.

Apple released its in-house Maps app last fall alongside iOS 6. It initially received a copious amount of criticism over the service due to data inaccuracies, but it has made a number of improvements within the last 6 months.

Google Play is growing faster, but Apple’s App Store brings in way more money..Top Apps 2012

App analytics firm Distimo has published a new report looking at how Google Play and Apple’s App Store have fared in 2012. It finds that while the former is growing rapidly, the latter still beats it more than four-fold in terms of revenues.

Over the past four months, combined daily revenue of Google Play has grown 43%, while for Apple’s App Store this figure has reached only 21%. Over the whole year, the App Store’s revenue has grown 51% in the 20 countries analyzed by Distimo: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the UK and the US.

However, in absolute numbers, the App Store with $15 million in average daily revenue in November by far beats Google Play with its $3.5 million.

An important trend in the mobile apps monetization is in-app payments. According to Distimo’s data, this type of fees accounted to 69% of total Apple’s App Store revenues, up 16% compared to January 2012.

In Apps Popularity Continues to Grow 520x371 Google Play is growing faster, but Apple’s App Store brings in way more money: Distimo

With the rise of in-app purchases, app prices in the App Store are down 8% compared to January 2012 for iPad, but up 16% for iPhone as of November. That said, Distimo notes that some publishers are still “very successful” using a paid-only strategy, and in 2012, 35% of the revenue from the top 10 publishers was a result of one-off fees.

It’s also worth mentioning that in 2012 the iPad was the main driver of the revenue growth for the iOS platform: while iPhone daily revenues increased by an estimated 40%, apps for iPad saw a 71% climb. A similar situation can be seen in mobile advertising, where Apple’s tablet showed eCPM more than thrice as high as the global average.


Another parallel with mobile advertising industry can be drawn in terms of geography. Just as the USA is the leader in ad impressions, it accounts for the largest revenue from mobile apps, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia.

United States Still Leads in Terms of Revenues 730x373 Google Play is growing faster, but Apple’s App Store brings in way more money: Distimo


Among its findings, Distimo has presented an “iPad savvyness graph,” showing the share of iPad downloads in the total iOS downloads by country in November 2012. Surprisingly, the most iPad savvy country has proved to be Russia with 46%.

Large Differences in Tablet Procliv ity Among Countries 730x262 Google Play is growing faster, but Apple’s App Store brings in way more money: Distimo

Top apps

Here are the top apps by downloads in both app stores, according to Distimo:

Top 10 apps 2012 — Apple App Store

1. Instagram
2. Temple Run
3. Find My iPhone
4. Facebook
5. iBooks
6. Draw Something Free
7. iTunes U
8. YouTube
9. Podcasts
10. Twitter

Top 10 apps 2012 — Google Play

1. Street View
2. Facebook
3. Voice Search
4. Maps
5. Gmail
6. YouTube
7. Adobe Flash Player
8. Skype
9. WhatsApp Messenger
10. KakaoTalk

Google and Apple also predictably have taken lead in the charts of top publishers in their app stores, where Google was only offering free applications, while for Apple the average price of an app reached $7.43. Google even made it to the third spot in the list of Apple’s App Store top publishers, following games developer Gameloft.

Twitter launches new photo filters after Instagram support is dropped!

The social networking site has partnered with Aviary to launch its new photo-editing facilities via the latest editions of Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android.

“Every day, millions of people come to Twitter to connect with the things they care about and find out what’s happening around the world,” read a post on the official Twitter blog.

“As one of the most compelling forms of self-expression, photos have long been an important part of these experiences.”

Eight filters, including a black-and-white filter, are on offer, and Twitter users will be able to see previews of how each filter changes a photo at-a-glance via a grid view.

Users will also be able to zoom in on photos, as well as employ simple photo-editing tools such as cropping and colour correction.

Twitter new photo filters

“We’ve created a unique experience that makes it easier than ever for people to create and share photos on Twitter, in real time. Each filter was designed from the ground up exclusively for Twitter, and we couldn’t be more excited about how they turned out,” read a post on the Aviary company blog.

“We designed these features so that it is very easy to add new and elegant filters to the photos that people share using Twitter’s mobile apps for iPhone and Android.”

Speculation that Twitter would launch its own photo filter software was first reported in early November, and gathered pace when Instagram – which is now owned by Facebook -disabled photo integration with Twitter over the weekend.

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom has denied that his firm is involved in a feud with Twitter and has instead insisted that the company is focusing on its own web presence, followingthe recent launch of instagram.com web profiles.

Facebook is buying WhatsApp ?!

WhatsApp hit the tech news circuit today because of a somewhat speculative article in TechCrunch asserting that Facebook has been sniffing around the mobile messaging company.

But the Facebook acquisition talks aren’t happening, said multiple sources. WhatsApp gave us the following statement: “The TechCrunch article is a rumor and not factually accurate. We have no further information to share at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Facebook gave a standard non-helpful statement of: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

But that doesn’t mean WhatsApp isn’t worth talking about.

Here’s what is definitely true: WhatsApp is one of the largest mobile apps in the world, hands down. You thought Instagram was a massive independent mobile app before Facebook bought it? It’s not even close.

Facebook and Google have both been very interested in buying WhatsApp in the past, but the company is fiercely independent. (In fact, former Google corp dev guy Neeraj Arora became so intrigued by the company when Google was trying to buy it late last year, that he jumped ship and now runs business for WhatsApp.)

WhatsApp hasn’t released much in the way of numbers, but it is one of the biggest apps on just about every mobile platform out there.

For instance, it recently crossed the 100 million download milestone on Google Play. The only other non-Google apps with that many downloads are Skype, Facebook, Angry Birds and Flash. It’s the No. 1 paid app on iOS in more than 100 countries.

As of August, WhatsApp said it was sending and receiving as many as 10 billion messages per day.

Still, it’s not necessarily clear how WhatsApp will evolve — right now it is a very good substitute for paid text messaging from carriers, especially across international borders. It’s a fast, clean mobile app that doesn’t have any of the complications and annoyances of Web applications ported to phones. But messaging is all it does.

WhatsApp was founded by Koum and Brian Acton, after they both were in engineering roles at Yahoo for about a decade. The company is run by a small team in Mountain View — it was 30 people last time I checked.

On the money side, WhatsApp has significant funding from Sequoia Capital and is privately valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The company makes money by charging $0.99 for its iPhone app, while leaving other platforms free. It also has struck carrier deals in places like Hong Kong because it is such a popular motivation for mobile data usage.

But here’s the thing. WhatsApp is very different from Facebook or any other social network. First of all, it isn’t really a social network. Users connect their phone address books to find others on the service. There’s no notion of a password. If users delete the app or get a new phone, their contacts don’t carry over.

And second of all, WhatsApp is not supported by advertising — unlike Facebook, Google and almost everything on the Internet. “Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought,” Koum wrote in a blog post this summer. “Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.”

So sure, everybody has their price — but that’s a big fat not-for-sale sign to any Internet company acquirers.