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theEweekly Wrap: AOL, bugs and Christmas shopping

Can ads save AOL? AOL has announced its earnings for Q3 2011, and seems to be faring better than expected. The total revenue of $532 million (£333m) has decreased 6 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2010, but is still well above what most analysts predicted. The same goes for Q3 net loss, at £1.6m the situation may not be as bad as many had feared, especially as AOL invested around £81m in buying back shares after their stock hit an all-time low in August. Chief executive Tim Armstrong described the quarter as “the lowest rate of decline in five years“.

Most surprising however is the revelation that AOL experienced an 8 per cent surge in ad revenues compared to the same period in 2010, earning almost £200 million in three months. Of course, in the past 12 months AOL acquired the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, both of which would conceivably boost display ad income, despite there being no improvement in traffic. The company has also recently been linked to a potential buyout of ailing search engine Yahoo, although Armstrong told AllThingsD on Wednesday: “When I think about our company and where our future is, it’s really as an independent entity.”

Gfail Google released their long-awaited Gmail app for iOS this week, only for it to be withdrawn a few hours later. The app would have allowed iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch owners to access Gmail through a native app rather than through their browser, but displayed an error message when launched. The @Gmail Twitter account revealed: “The iOS app we launched today contained a bug with notifications. We have pulled the app to fix the problem. Sorry we messed up.”

The online version of Gmail has also undergone a makeover this week. Improvements have been made to the search function and navigation, while conversation threads have been streamlined and now feature profile pictures, creating the feel of a messenger rather than an email client. The general look can be customised with HD themes, while there are new layout density options of comfortable, cosy or compact. Users will be offered the switch over the next few days, but both versions will be available for a while yet.

London’s browsing 26 new wi-fi hotspots are being launched in central London to provide free browsing. Mobile manufacturer Nokia has teamed up with Spectrum Interactive to switch on the hotspots, which are located on old phone boxes around London’s main retail areas, including Oxford Street. The free wi-fi will be available until the end of the year, although the company could extend the free service in 2012 if successful. Access will be unlimited with speeds of 1Mbps, and users will be able to use Nokia’s map to find their nearest hotspot to improve their wi-fi reception. It is thought the project is an attempt to generate interest in the new Nokia Lumia handsets.

TheNextWeb speculated that the free wi-fi could make Christmas shopping in London less of a nightmare: “Like something you see in-store? Tap into the free WiFi and buy there and then, bypassing any horrendous queues.” Of course, this advantage will only be available if the retailer has a mobile site; according to research from Virgin Media Business published this week, that’s a huge 61 per cent of Oxford Street’s flagship stores.

Written by rachel_hand_swapRachel Hand

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