The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

Net Neutrality Vote Happening on February 26th

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During a discussion at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the commission will vote on a proposal to reinstate Net neutrality rules. The vote will take place at an open commission meeting on February 26th. 

Wheeler also said the proposal will circulate among commissioners beginning February 5th, and while he didn’t delve into specifics, Wheeler alluded the new proposal will “reclassify broadband traffic” as part of Title II utility. Some supporters believe this reclassification will put new neutrality rules on “stronger legal footing.”  

In November 2014 President Obama encouraged the FCC to reclassify Internet traffic under Title II of the Communications Act, though Wheeler has not said whether he supports the president’s suggestion. 

Net neutrality is defined as the idea that all online traffic is subject to fair treatment by broadband providers, meaning no restrictions or preferential treatment is bestowed on certain types of traffic. The FCC is working on new rules that will replace those adopted in 2010.

The issue of broadband traffic reclassification has been one of the hotter issues regarding the net neutrality debate, with large broadband providers such as Verizon and AT&T noting reclassification will “stifle innovation” via imposed, antiquated telecommunications regulation for an industry they believe has evolved positively despite no government regulation. However, other consumer advocates and Internet companies such as Netflix say broadband service reclassification is the only option for ensuring new Net neutrality rules hold up in future court challenges.  

During his discussion with Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro, Wheeler made it quite clear that the FCC’s approach to the proposal will not include “all of the restrictions under Title II meant for traditional telephony networks to broadband.” Rather, the proposed rules would “forbear or exclude” broadband from clinging to Communications Act provisions that don’t apply to broadband service. 

He said the idea is to make certain that the agency can “provide a legal standing” for rules prohibiting broadband providers from “blocking content, throttling traffic, or offering a paid prioritization service.” The other idea is to ensure Internet service providers manage their wares in a way that is transparent to customers.

"The wireless industry has been wildly successful as a Title II regulated industry," he said. "So there is a way to do it right."

Wireless industry reps disagree with Wheeler in terms of Title II restrictions on broadband. 

"Comparisons to the regulatory framework for mobile voice are misplaced and irrelevant," Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO,CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in a statement. "Congress created a regulatory regime for mobile voice under Section 332 and Title II. Congress also created a separate regulatory regime - -explicitly outside Title II -- for other services like mobile broadband. The FCC cannot now rewrite Congress's intent to rewrite the Act or rewrite history."

Wheeler has also remarked that he has “no intention of allowing broadband providers to create a two-tiered Internet of haves and have nots." The vote later this month will hopefully settle some much debated issues around this topic. 

What's With the Round Smartwatch Craze?

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Round smartwatches are increasingly popular, and new offerings are providing consumers with an array of fun and practical features, including those designed to keep users healthy and fit. Let’s check out some of the smartwatches on the market today, as well as those in the soon-to-be-released file: 

 

Alcatel Onetouch Watch

Available in March on Amazon, the Alcatel Onetouch Watch comes in four style options, two metal and two micro-textured resin. It supports both iOS and Android devices, which sets it apart from just about every other smartwatch currently manufactured. Controlled through a companion iOS or Android app, the watch makes it easy to a) view all the health information it’s collected about you, b) pick which apps you want to notify you, and c) manage the various ways the watch communicates with your phone.  

While watch reviews indicate the device does not provide as appealing an interface as other Android Wear options, it makes up for it in battery life. The Alcatel watch is designed to last for two to five days, under the right circumstances. Plus, health features include a built-in heart rate monitor, gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter and e-compass to measure metrics such as sleep cycles, steps, distance and calories burned. It’s also possible to make the watch ring if you misplace your phone, while tapping the screen brings up multimedia controls. The USB charging port is conveniently hidden...and small. 

The Alcatel Ontouch Watch will feature an entry price of $149, making it less expensive than some of the other options currently available. 

 

LG G Watch R 

Arguably one of the most popular round smartwatches on the market today, the LG G Watch R is a stylish option featuring “Ok Google” voice commands with Android wear, the “world’s first” full-circle P-OLED display, and fitness integration that includes a built-in heart rate monitor. The watch is compatible with most devices housing an Android 4.3 or later operating system. 

 

Samsung Smartwatch

Samsung is set to unveil a smartwatch around the time it launches its latest Android offering, the Samsung Galaxy S6. A round watch believed to be similar to the Moto 360, the Samsung S6 is currently known as  “SM-R720,” and is referred to by the codename “Orbis.” It will run the technology giant’s own Tizen OS system, and the device is expected to make a huge splash at the Mobile World Congress this March. 

Any of these round smartwatches appeal to your sensibilities? 

 

The SMS Modification Craze

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Remember flying in the 80s? Long haul flights seemed to take days. There was only one movie and three screens in the entire cabin, so if you were wheezing a bit too much at Shanghai Surprise for the fifth time, everyone knew about it. To hear the audio you had to shell out $4 for those stethoscopic ‘headsets’ that were barely-glorified tin-cans-on-strings (no really, kids – they were nothing more than hollow tubes that plugged into two tiny speakers in the armrest). You could smoke.  

The funny thing was, nobody complained. It was as if flying through the air incredibly and winding up thousands of miles away in a few hours was enough for people. They didn’t need anything else. 

Like aviation in the 80s, SMS in the 90s was a primitive affair by today’s standards – if by ‘primitive’ you mean ‘the sudden ability to instantly transmit the written word to people around the world.’ 

For much of the 90s and 00s, text messaging was impressive enough to flourish without extra bells and whistles. Rapid advances in technology allied with free market forces soon put paid to that. These days, the new normal is modified, souped up, pimped out text messages adorned with fancy new skins and non-QWERTY keyboards capable of sending anything from emojis to rap lyrics.  

It should be noted at this point that SMS is SMS; the protocol hasn’t changed a jot in twenty years, only the window dressing. In many cases, ‘SMS modification’ really means ‘SMS replacement’ in the form of messaging apps. The appeal of these apps lies largely in their ability to provide users with a bespoke messaging experience.

Among the most popular of these is Chomp SMS, an easy-to-use, customizable app that lets users create their own themes and download custom font packs as they tire of their current look. 

GoSMS Pro is a similar idea but with a much bigger palette from which to work. It allows users to completely overhaul their visuals with new icons, fonts, animations, backgrounds and text bubbles. It also comes with a raft of non-visual features, including a private storage space for storing locked conversations and a text message backup service. 

Not all messaging apps are designed for purely aesthetic reasons. Some, like TextSecure, prevent screenshots of messages being taken and uses end-to-end encryption, thwarting prying eyes (whether criminal or federal!). 

The trouble with these apps is that both parties have to be using them in order to reap the full benefits. Unlike standard SMS messaging, which everyone in the world with a phone has access to, the playing field is not level. For instance, Strings - the app that lets you recall text messages you regret sending - is of no use unless both parties are running the app; two people agreeing to send messages with the app is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a lack of trust in the relationship. This will be the major stumbling block for Strings (and others) as they try to grow.

Our favorite SMS messaging apps are those with objectives no loftier than bringing a smile to the face. There are a plethora of text messaging apps designed to add some levity to your conversations with friends and family. Here are some of the very best:

Crumbles. Sends messages in the form of cut-ups from famous movies, one word at a time. You type the message, hit send and the recipient sees an array of great characters - from Doc Brown to Darth Vader - deliver each word. Hard to describe, but loads of fun once you try it.

PopKey. Leverages the power of Apple’s GIF-supporting Messages app to send any number of GIFS from a huge library of possibilities. Also enormous fun!

RapKey. Far and away our favorite messaging app right now, RapKey sends hip hop lyrics instead of boring prose. With a cool, 8-bit influenced retro interface, it works by giving you a series of categories to choose from - talking to your spouse, griping about money etc - and a list of couplets to scroll through. Find the most appropriate rhymes for your situation and make text messaging more fun!

 

 

 

5 Nokia Classics

If you’re over 20, you remember a time when Nokia ruled the mobile roost. The Finnish pioneers - now all but swallowed whole by Microsoft - released a huge range of handsets. Their reign began in the early 80s and culminated in an unceremonious exit from the cell phone market following the Microsoft acquisition.

What you might not remember is just how crazy some of those designs got during Nokia’s 90s heyday.  They were out on their own, with very few serious competitors. This climate fostered a sense of boundary-pushing at the company, resulting in moments of pure genius – and moments of pure folly. 

To commemorate the passing of a true mobile giant, we took a look back at some of Nokia’s most outre successes, and a few of their noble failures. It all helped today’s predictably effective tech market get where it is now. Those were strange days indeed. We’ll not see their like again…

Nokia 3210
If you owned a phone 15 years ago, it was probably one of these. Hardy, reliable and compact (it was one of the first phones to cast aside the visible exterior aerial), it’s no wonder the 3210 shifted 160 million units.

Nokia Cityman
The Cityman was Nokia’s first mobile phone. Back then, in the mid-80s, Nokia was still establishing itself as a major player. This brick of a handset - then regarded as an exclusive, highly desirable product - announced their intention to stick around, and by the end of the decade, Nokia had secured nearly 15% of the global mobile market.

Nokia 5100
The 5110 was as ubiquitous as it was hard-wearing, with an unparalleled battery life and - most importantly for terminal time wasters - the fondly-remembered Snake game. Also notable for being one of the first customizable handsets, the front panel on the 5110 could be switched out for a different color.

Nokia N90
The Nseries was another boundary-pushing innovation, representing Nokia’s first true convergence of phone and computer. The N90 was clunky as hell, and frankly it looks a bit silly in retrospect - but it really was a precursor of the multi-function smartphone we see today.  

Nokia N95
With its 5 megapixel camera, GPS and Flash-compatible browser, the N95 is a lesson in versatility. Hard to imagine now, but this was, for a short time, the world’s most powerful smartphone. 

Nokia couldn’t have done more to cement their place in history, and in light of how far they’d brought the mobile phone, you can’t help but feel sorry for them at how short-lived their smartphone king status would be. Nobody could have predicted how earth-shattering the launch of the first iPhone was. It completely changed the game. But without Nokia’s constant bar-raising, would Apple and Google have gone quite so far with their operating systems? Nobody can say. But we can raise a glass of Akvavit to those Finnish pioneers and their twenty-year reign as cell phone leaders. Here’s to you Nokia!

How Does the World’s Most Powerful Organization Rule with Outdated Technology?

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The United States has the strongest economy in the world, and therefore its government should have access to the latest devices and cutting-edge tech. Unfortunately, however, the U.S. government has had a problem getting its equipment up-to-date. Despite the creation of the technology cabinet position by President Obama, the Chief Technology Officer appears to have little control over the deployment of state-of-the-art equipment throughout government departments.

Megan J. Smith is President Obama’s top technology adviser, and with her background we may expect to see a great deal of change in government tech. She matriculated at MIT, and spent a good deal of her career working in various departments at Google – the divisions that developed Google Glass and the driverless car, as well as the acquisition of Google Maps and Google Earth. Clearly, her reputation precedes her. 

So why is the Chief Technology Officer using a BlackBerry?

In a recent New York Times article, Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported that Smith is using a Blackberry and a 2013 Dell Laptop. These are not considered outdated technology by government standards, because the Administration has had a history of being a little behind the tech curve. As evidenced by the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov, perhaps we should expect this of the devices that the government chooses to use.

Because of her direct connection to the executive office, Smith will have the opportunity to convince the Obama administration to recruit technologists who can build a proper infrastructure for digital services. A drawback of the relative newness of her position is that there is very little funding available in the budget for the Chief Technology Adviser. Furthermore, the position doesn’t have any authority over other agencies. This makes the implementation of new technology a very difficult task for Smith. 

Fortunately, America’s CTO has a history of problem-solving in her career. She has gained a reputation as a woman with big ideas, and of course she has a great deal of confidence and expertise in the area. Regarding the necessity of a technological update, she stated: “We’re on it. This is the administration that’s working to upgrade that and fix it.” (New York Times)

We’re likely to see some exciting updates to technology in government. Megan J. Smith has the bona fides necessary to help the United States catch up with the rest of the modern world. Only time will tell how long – and with what resources – it will take the Chief Technology Officer to implement these sweeping digital infrastructure changes.

 

Nokia Unveils Cheapest Ever Web Phone

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Earlier this month Microsoft presented its latest creation: an inexpensive, internet-enabled Nokia phone. The company is hoping the device will significantly increase its market share in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. 

A $29 phone, the Nokia creation features the Opera Mini Browser and Facebook Messenger, and is capable of running Twitter among other apps. This phone is still “low-spec,” however, and includes a 320 x 240 pixel display, 0.3 megapixel camera, radio and a torchlight. The lack of high-tech specifications indicate the durability and affordability of the device, something attractive to those in developing countries. Microsoft notes its battery lasts up to 29 days on standby, with the software engineered for more “difficult terrains.” The built-in apps work without a 3G connection. 

This phone also makes it possible to connect in new ways via SLAM, which allows content sharing between devices and those making hands-free calls through Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth audio support for headsets.

Additional features include up to 20 hours of talk time, MP3 playback for up to 50 hours, FM radio playback for up to 45 hours, and a VGA camera. Available in white, green or black, the device’s polycarbonate shell retains its color if scratched. The soft rubber keys are easy to use, and Microsoft notes the phone feels “fantastic in your hand.”  

The technology giant also points out the importance of the torch feature, as it will be useful when shipping the phone around the world, particularly to the 20% of the population that doesn’t have regular access to electricity. 

Advertised as the “most affordable internet-ready entry-level phone yet”, Microsoft says the phone is “perfectly suited for first-time mobile phone buyers or as a secondary phone for just about anyone.” 

“With our ultra-affordable mobile phones and digital services, we see an inspiring opportunity to connect the next billion people to the Internet for the first time,” said Jo Harlow, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Group. “The Nokia 215 is perfect for people looking for their first mobile device, or those wanting to upgrade to enjoy affordable digital and social media services, like Facebook and Messenger.”

The Nokia 215 is slated for release in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia during the first quarter of 2015. Normal and dual SIM versions will be available.

The $29 price tag is before taxes and subsidiaries; but it still seems to be a great deal for a versatile phone that’s “built to last.”

The App that Stops You From Using Apps

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Is one of your new year’s resolutions to spend more time with friends and family and less time absorbed in your mobile device? Perhaps you’re looking to limit screen time while at the family dinner table? Believe it or not, there’s actually an app for that.

Entitled Moment was originally launched as a “well-designed and practical tool” for anyone wanting to shorten time spent staring at their mobile device screen. Designed by developer Kevin Holesh, Entitled Moment makes it easy to set daily smartphone use limits, and runs in the background of your phone. It makes a noise and sends a notification when you exceed your limit for the day. 

Currently being promoted as a “family application,” Moment now allows family members to track each others’ daily phone use from their devices and create “screen-free” timed sessions that includes loud alerts should someone pick up their phone.

Holesh notes that most people underestimate how much time they spend on their smartphones by some 50%. The developer’s own mobile device “addictions” helped inspire the app, as he found time spent in the digital world was interfering with his real-world relationships.

Similar apps were released following the launch of Moment, including Checky, which tracks how often users check their phones each day. 

The app’s creator also remarked that parents wrote to him thanking him, as Entitled Moment significantly helped manage kiddie screen time. This prompted Holesh to create Moment 2.0 and make limiting screen time a family activity.

Subsequently, consumers can now view daily family member phone use patterns, and configure “family dinner time” mode—an hour-long block that encourages users to put their phones down while at the table. Should a family member break the “phone down” rule, the person will hear a loud alert until they stop using their device.

Downloaded over one million times thus far, the app’s alerts are quite humorous, and include sirens, thunder, buzzer/alarm clock, and “the most annoying sound in the world” from the comedy classic Dumb and Dumber. A free app, it currently has about 200,000 active monthly users. Moment is available on iTunes, and includes the option of paying $3.99 for three months, or $19.99 for the whole year.

Rather than punishing children with a “no phone” rule, this app makes family dinner time something any member can implement at any time. Moment serves as a highly useful tool in decreasing kids’ screen time at home, and may be used in conjunction with other parental controls for mobile devices. 

The Tizen Smartphone Has Finally Arrived

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The long awaited Tizen smartphone was unveiled yesterday in New Delhi. It represents Samsung’s first major break from Google, whose Android platform has dominated the Korean company’s phones (and indeed the global mobile market).

The launch comes after 18 months of rumor, gossip and speculation swirling around the operating system. In August 2013 Samsung delayed the release of the first Tizen-run handset until the end of that year. Then another twelve months passed, during which tech-watchers the world over speculated the firm’s enthusiasm for the platform had waned.

Then Samsung seemed to switch focus, heralding Tizen as an OS tailor-made for cross-convergence. In an interview with CNET Korea, Samsung’s CEO J.K. Shin said:

"There are many convergences not only among IT gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and cameras, but also among different industries like cars, bio, or banks. Cross-convergence is the one [area] Samsung can do best since we do have various parts and finished products."

Shin failed to mention the much-anticipated Tizen round smartwatch. This omission was either an oversight on his part, or another indication that the rumor mill is spinning out of control on all matters Tizen.

All we know is the Samsung Z1 is definitely here. Or rather, there. Samsung is training its sights firmly on developing markets where Apple and Android are less entrenched. In India, where the Z1 was unveiled, 70% of people still use basic cellphones, and designers of entry-level smartphones are hoping the only impediment to smartphone adoption is a financial one. Create an affordable device for everyone and, in theory, everyone will upgrade.

Gaining a strong foothold in markets like India is crucial to Tizen’s long-term success. App developers won’t bother developing iterations of their products for a new operating system unless its future is assured. Lack of interest from app developers and carriers have already forestalled the release of a Tizen smartphone in Japan, France and Russia. Whether the India release is accompanied by market support or is more of a hit-and-hope strategy on Samsung’s part remains to be seen.

But even with a price tag of just $92, the phone’s success is far from guaranteed. There are (unconfirmed) suggestions that Google has barred its smartphone partners from using anything but Android in major markets. If that’s true, Samsung will have to make a huge splash in niche markets before it develops an ecosystem large enough to do away with their Google alliance.

The biggest profits may lie in smartphones, but wearable tech may be the more secure route for Samsung. They’ve already released a Tizen-powered television and camera, and are planning to integrate the OS into home appliances. Clearly, Samsung is trying to position itself as a leader in the ‘Internet of Things’, connecting household devices to each other with one overarching platform.

Certainly, there’s a lot less legwork to be done in the home appliance market. Samsung is the biggest television brand in the world, with about a third of the global marketplace sewn up. If Tizen can’t become a serious rival to Android and Apple, either through entry-level devices in developing markets or by making user switch allegiances, Samsung need only retain its position as a leading electronics name in order to bring their fledgling operating system to millions.