Android

48 posts categorized

January 26, 2015

What's With the Round Smartwatch Craze?

Depositphotos_47774555_xs
 

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? 

 

January 22, 2015

The SMS Modification Craze

Depositphotos_6156719_xs
 

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!

 

 

 

January 16, 2015

The App that Stops You From Using Apps

Depositphotos_50556361_xs
 

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. 

January 15, 2015

The Tizen Smartphone Has Finally Arrived

Depositphotos_21957323_xs
 

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.

 

 

 

January 12, 2015

6 Common Mobile Security Issues

Depositphotos_33199947_xs
 

How secure is your mobile? It’s one of those boring questions that few people want to ask themselves when acquiring a new phone. Security? Pah! Just let me hit the App Store and I’ll sort all that out later.

Of course, later never comes, a fact that cyber criminals rely on to do their ‘work’. A 2012 Congress report found a 185% increase in the number of mobile-targeted malware variants between 2011 and 2012. ABI research from the same year went further, suggesting a 2180% rise in malware variants.  

The disparity between the government’s and the private research company’s estimates is in itself disturbing. That two different studies throw up such wildly different results is indicative of just how little we know about the mobile threat. And these reports (which represent the most recent figures) are now three years out of date. It’s anyone’s guess how many malware variants are out there now.   

It’s true that some vulnerabilities faced by mobile devices are the result of inadequate technology, but bad consumer practices are by far the commonest causes of security breaches. Protecting your mobile device means acquainting yourself with these causes and taking steps to avoid them.

 

1) Poor Password Protection

Despite the wide availability of password controls, many consumers do not enable password protection. Those that do often use easily-cracked passwords like sequential numbers, or a row of zeros. Always use two-factor authentication when conducting sensitive transactions like payments and accessing bank details. Remember, if your passwords are too easy to remember, they’re too easy to guess.

 

2) Insufficient Security Software

Many mobile devices do not come preinstalled with security software, leaving them open to malware and spyware. Too often, users fail to install software, either because they don’t want to affect their battery life or because they don’t want to slow operations down. The price paid is too high, so make sure your device is adequately protected against Trojans, viruses and scam bait from spammers. 

 

3) Out-of-Date Operating Systems

Security patches and updates are not always installed as soon as they become available. This is partly down to carriers taking their time over testing, and partly down to the proliferation of archaic systems which are no longer supported by the manufacturer. If you want to maximize security, it’s a good idea to update your mobile device at least every couple of years.

 

4) Out-of-Date Software

Similarly, old software may not have security patches readily available, and third party applications like web browsers do not always notify customers about updates. Be aware that using outdated software increases the risk of cyber attacks.

 

5) Using Unsecured WiFi Networks

Connecting to an unsecured WiFi network is like an open invitation to hackers. They insert their device into the middle of the communication stream and steal information. Be vigilant when using public networks and, if possible, avoid them altogether.

 

6) Bluetooth

The schoolboy error of schoolboy errors, it’s startling how many people use Bluetooth without being aware of what it is. Remember, if your device is in ‘discovery’ mode it can be seen by other Bluetooth-enabled devices. Easy pickings for a cyber attacker, who can install malware or even activate your camera and microphone in order to eavesdrop. As with public WiFi, the best protection against Bluetooth scams is to simply avoid using it altogether. Failing that, keep it turned off whenever you’re not using it.

January 09, 2015

The World’s Most Valuable Startup

Depositphotos_14031445_xs

As of Monday, December 29th, 2014, the Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has become the world’s most valuable startup. Late in 2014, the company closed its last round of funding, topping off its latest run at $1.1 billion dollars. With that, Xiaomi’s valuation has skyrocketed to $45 billion – past even the controversial pseudo-taxi startup Uber (valued at $40 billion).

If you haven’t heard of Xiaomi before, you are not alone. The company is a giant in China, however, with brick and mortar locations throughout the country. After taking advantage of a void in the Chinese smartphone market, Xiaomi has managed to increase their manufacturing output, and they are now the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. In their third quarter report of 2014, Xiaomi sold over 16 million units, an increase above last years’ report by over 3.5 million.

Many people throughout China prefer to purchase Xiaomi phones due to their low-cost. Samsung and Apple are still the power players throughout the world, and they have retained a good deal of the Chinese smartphone market. In the past year, though, sales by these juggernauts have been chipped away by Xiaomi – Samsung’s sales in particular, which has declined by 29 percent in the region. Surprisingly, Xiaomi’s gross sales in China has not come as close to defeating iPhone sales. Apple still retained $25.4 billion in sales in China alone, while Xiaomi only garnered $56 million in sales. 

Some of the controversy surrounding the startup includes a breach of international patents, but these claims have yet to be proven. Though Xiaomi publicly claims to operate under thousands of patents, most cell phone manufacturers own patents in the tens of thousands. And with their tight margins, it is unlikely that they are manufacturing under a series of licensing deals. In any case, the success of their business model is evident: build it cheap, run it with Android-based software, and sell it everywhere (in China). 

Xiaomi has announced that their next step will be to branch out into similar foreign markets, like Brazil and India. While Brazil fits all of the criteria of their business model, India is a bit less likely to embrace it. Historically, India has been wary of Chinese technology, and many consumers fear that the Chinese government will use the devices to spy on Indian citizens. Xiamoi has these and other roadblocks to get past as they expand into the rest of the Asian and potentially the South American market…but ambitions are obviously high.

The upshot for mobile marketing campaign managers is an increased need to cater their strategy to a variety of devices. Mobile marketing tactics that are effective at reaching iPhone users may not have the same impact on Android-based devices. Flexibility and adaptability are the watchwords for 2015, and if Xiamoi's explosive success is anything to go by, the world of mobile marketing and the wider world of tech should expect the unexpected.

 

January 01, 2015

5 Tech-Powered New Year's Resolutions

Depositphotos_37610269_xs
 

With the holiday festivities out the way our attentions turn to those New Year’s resolutions we must now fulfil. The thought of all that abstinence or exertion or spendthriftiness can be a mite depressing, which is why we’ve cast around for some technological solutions (or at the least, assistants) that will help you achieve your goals:

1) Stay Safer Online

Data privacy was one of the big stories of 2014 - even if it took a nude celebrity photo leak to snap us out of our complacency, and a high-profile Hollywood hacking scandal to confirm what we already knew: digital information is vulnerable and there are loads of unscrupulous cyber-gits out there. Keep your passwords regularly updated, and find out how to avoid bad password practices. Helping take the headache out of the task is Dashlane, a rather good password manager that makes turning insecure, easily hacked passwords into more secure versions. 

2) Cull Old Devices

For anyone who grew up before the age of mass computer gadgetry, throwing out old electronics devices is anathema. Even that Nokia handset from 1995 seems too, well, hi-tech to be consigned to the trash. Except you’re not supposed to throw old phones and computers away, that was your resolution six years ago, remember?! Your instincts are right: the components contained in old laptops and cellphones are still useful. You just need to give them to a local e-recycling program who can get the most out them. Check the EPA website for your nearest donation drop-off point. 

3) Go Mobile

Remember last year, when you vowed to engage with mobile marketing? You knew it would be beneficial to your business, and yet twelve months later you still don’t have a mobile marketing plan in place. Don’t beat yourself up, just crack on with a mobile marketing strategy this year. It’s affordable, effective, and will probably end up shaving a bunch of cash off your overall ad spend - all of which can go in the slush fund for next Christmas! 

4) Get in Shape

Wearable tech is in rude health right now, and the New Year is the perfect opportunity to start getting fit and bidding goodbye to those extra winter pounds you gained. If yoga’s your thing, try the SmartMat, a really clever piece of technology that gives you personalized feedback on your technique. At just under $300, it’s only for those committed to improving their fitness in the long run - but that’s what resolutions should be all about anyway. Get the lowdown on how the SmartMat works here.

5) Learn a Language

For many of us, being fluent in a new language is the ultimate unfulfilled ambition. Gaining such a useful skill used to entail paying for expensive courses, travelling to and from the lessons, and having to learn in a proscribed way that wasn’t necessarily right for you. Luckily, there’s a raft of new apps that have not only made learning a language more affordable and convenient, but actually more efficient as well. Lingua.ly is among the most notable examples; it lets you pick out words you like the look of from international publications. Then it builds personalized flashcards which are more appealing than rote phrasebook learning.

 

 

December 31, 2014

Movie-fy Your Texts with This App

Depositphotos_8718328_xs

 

As much as we love the simple SMS message, it’s also fun to jazz things up occasionally with some of the weird and wonderful messaging apps out there - especially when talking to friends with whom you share an interest in pop culture.  

There’s already PopKey for gif-lovers, and RapKey for hip-hop fans. Other musical genres are promised by the makers of the latter, and Emoji-fication has already put down strong roots in the text message world. The SMS modification craze is showing no sign of abating, and there are new additions to the canon seemingly every month. 

If movie references are more your scene, the latest way to mod out your text messages is an app called Crumbles. It takes typed text and transforms them into edits from a bewildering array of popular movies and TV shows, one word at a time. It’s kind of hard to describe, but try it for yourself - it works like this.

The audiovisual dictionary from which Crumbles pulls words is featured in a sidebar so you can easily access the full database. There’s even a special Homer Simpson themed version, although it has a much more limited choice of words so if you write anything but the most prosaic of messages you’ll end up with a generic computer voice filling in the nouns and adjectives that Homer can’t utter. There’s even a dictionary with words culled from obscure animated web series Bee and Puppycat.

Once you’ve typed in the phrase you want to send, simply share it on Facebook or Twitter. As apps go, this has to be on of the least useful and most fun. You’re never going to use it for communicating anything remotely important - it would be a terribly insensitive way to break bad news, for example, conjuring memories of Ralph & Ted for sheer inappropriateness. The luster doesn’t take long to wear thin either. Crumbles is destined to be used a few times and then cast aside, like so many Christmas toys. But the ride sure is fun while it lasts. If you’re after a fun, interesting way to send someone a message and give them a giggle at the same time (or if you’re just feeling spectacularly bored and want to hear Darth Vader, Christina Applegate and Forrest Gump say ‘I smell like Alabama’… not that anyone at EZHQ would do such a thing) then Crumbles is your guy.

December 30, 2014

What Will Happen to Mobile Marketing in 2015?

Depositphotos_48757909_xs

Change is inevitable (with the possible exception of vending machines), so what will become of mobile marketing in the coming year? Let’s take a look at what continues to dominate, what will change, and perhaps make a prediction or two: 

The Visual is Essential

One thing’s for darn certain: visuals aren’t going anywhere. The competition for consumer attention continues to gain momentum, and as such photos, videos and infographics are necessary to every piece of content created. A recent survey by the Nonprofit Times found nonprofits rank higher than for-profit organizations in content marketing strategies, with some 63 percent reporting current work on visual content as a big part of strategy. 

Personalization Increases

In-the-know marketers utilize analytics to create successful marketing campaigns, and in 2015 businesses will no doubt study customer behavior and interests in depth to craft customized content marketing strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Businesses are learning how to make adjustments with each new social media update, blog, etc. Measuring efforts will be easier than ever before in 2015 thanks to a number of new analytics tools. 

Consumers served content tailored to personal tastes will prevail in 2015 over marketing efforts that barely rings any bells. This includes blogs, guest blogs, articles and tweets, as brands have realized the value of personalizing content so as to reach different demographics rather than posting the same blog or tweet across all social media platforms. 

Mobile Friendliness: A Must

The mobile device surpassed the PC in usage for the first time in 2014, and brands are making adjustments to ensure content marketing efforts work for smaller screens…and shorter attention spans. Content designed for mobile devices, including location-based search terms, will be incredibly important in 2015. 

“Marketers have been advised to create and tailor different formats of content with customized copy for highly-fragmented marketing channels from TV to print to various social media platforms in order to reach their target audience,” says Pam Didner, a global integrated marketing strategist for the Intel Corporation. “It’s the right thing to do.” 

Interactive Applications for Product Storytelling Becomes Integral

Interactive storytelling will become an “integral part” of product demonstration in 2015, particularly at events such as conferences and expos. Brands are finding ways to use interactive 3D product models among other meticulously-crafted content to attract customers and give them a proverbial taste of the product without having said product on premise. 

These are just some of the ways mobile marketing will grow and change in the new year….

 

 

December 27, 2014

Google Brings the Museum to Mobile

Last week, Google announced the release of a platform that allows museums, galleries and other cultural spaces to build mobile apps using the search giant’s technology. The objective is to make exhibits viewable by anybody with a smartphone, in the same way Street View and YouTube allow remote access to content. 

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Google Cultural Institute, which is tasked with collating cultural treasures from around the world and making them accessible to people online. Previously, the group has led projects of major historical significance, such as the digitization of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the recording of World Wonders using Street View technology.

So far, the Google Cultural Institute has partnered with 11 museums worldwide. Early adopters include cultural institutions in France, Italy and Nigeria; the Musee Curie, Museum of Arts et Metiers, the Palazzo Madama and the Museum of Le Havre are among the venues that have taken advantage of Google’s expertise. 

Depositphotos_59849773_xs

The Nordiska Museum, Stockholm.

The beauty of Street View – as opposed to standard stills of exhibits – is the ability to move through a space and experience a 360-degree tour. The apps being developed with Google’s assistance also offer photos and audio tours, as well as sharing features that let virtual visitors post what they’re seeing to social media. 

An offline version of the virtual tour is available across many of the apps (depending on venue). It may not be quite the same as visiting the museums themselves, but Google’s scheme is the next best thing – and easily superior to viewing the standard promotional materials issued by an institution. 

Best of all for museums – many of which are public institutions, with the rest operating at low profit margins – they don’t need to invest in proprietary technology to make it all happen. Google provides the technical expertise and marketing clout, while the museums simply grant access to their exhibits. It’s a win-win situation.

If you know of a museum, institution, or even private collector who could benefit from the technology and know-how provided by the Google Cultural Institute, point them to the link near the top of this article or visit here to apply directly.