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39 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

July 24, 2014

Apple’s ‘Reuse and Recycle’ Prices Falling

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Earlier this month, Apple quietly made a few key changes to its ‘Reuse and Recycle’ program. The lack of ceremony surrounding the changes are easily explained: it’s not particularly good news for customers.

Customers in Canada and the United States will now get less money for trading in their iPhone. The new top value is $225, versus the former rate of $270. Go back two years and Apple were offering up to $345 for a pristine iPhone 4S (then the latest model). The new pricing plan is the lowest since the program was launched.

Even with the higher prices on offer, Apple’s recycling scheme was one of the least-trumpeted aspects of their business. Many iPhone users remain completely ignorant of its existence. It works like this:

  • An Apple customer goes to the Apple Store and asks to trade in their older phone for a new, on-contract model.
  • The Apple Store rep keys in the customer’s existing iPhone details using their EasyPay device (those neat mobile touch screen gizmos you see reps clutching).
  • Based on the information entered, a value for the old iPhone is given to the customer. Metrics include display quality, button quality, overall hardware damage, liquid damage and functionality.
  • The Apple Store rep lets the customer know they cannot get their original phone back, and they should back up any info they need.
  • The customer gets a new iPhone and a gift card with the agreed-upon value pre-loaded to go towards the new device.
  • The old phone is placed in a plastic bag, and the old SIM card is given to the customer while the employee sets up the new iPhone.

According to Apple, recycled iPhones are only re-sold in the United States, although they’ve not ruled out expanding the program to international markets. Despite launching the scheme to little fanfare, the tech giant did assert its commitment at the time, stating:

July 17, 2014

Mobile to Surpass Print Advertising in the UK

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According to a forecast by eMarketer, mobile advertising spending will soon overtake traditional print ads. The report predicts mobile spending to grow by a staggering 96% this year, hitting £2.02bn. That’s still a shade behind the forecast print spend of £2.06bn, but the report anticipates mobile ad spend will be worth £4.5bn in 2016. The UK’s total digital advertising market is forecast to be worth £7.25bn by the end of this year, growing to £8.64bn by 2016.

This rapid growth reflects the widespread adoption of secondary mobile devices used in conjunction with smartphones. By 2018, 50% of Brits are expected to own an iPad, Kindle or other tablet.

The eMarketer report states: 

“Continued robust growth in the mobile channel is driving the bulk of [overall] digital ad growth in the UK. The dramatic growth of mobile and video ad expenditures will boost digital ad spending throughout the forecast period.”

This “mobile mushroom” is showing no signs of letting up. The numbers are truly dramatic: compare the £7.25bn valuation put on the market today with the £83m from four years ago and you get an idea of just how seismic this shift is. Mobile advertising will account for nearly 30% of all digital ad spending in 2014, according to the report.

So what’s prompted such an explosion in mobile marketing campaign spending? Most analysts agree that, in the UK at least, a strong economy, with the pound ringfenced from the worst effects of the Eurozone crisis, has instilled confidence in consumers. Plus, the efficacy of mobile marketing tactics are easy to track compared with traditional channels, causing advertisers to turn away from print (the report also predicts that the newspaper and magazine market will lose £276m in ad spend between 2014 and 2018).

A similar story is playing out on this side of the pond, with mobile spending accounting for 22.5% of all digital ad investments in 2013. A study conducted last year – also by eMarketer – indicated worldwide growth of mobile web ad spending had exceeded 100% by the year’s end, with mobile accounting for 15.2% of digital ad dollars spent globally.

The implications for your mobile marketing strategy are clear. Firstly, track the results of your print and mobile marketing campaign. Secondly, compare and contrast the success rates of your digital campaign and your traditional print campaign. If recent analysis is correct, you’ll find more and more consumers are turning to mobile to browse commercial prospects. Once that happens, you can adjust your budget accordingly, and start reaping the benefits of mobile.

July 08, 2014

Six of the Best: World Cup Apps

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Another World Cup, another rush from mobile marketing strategists and app developers to come up with ways of capitalizing on an event that has the attention of millions around the globe.

With multiple matches each day (at least during the group stages) and live screenings beholden to every different time zone, it’s not always convenient – even for the most ardent fan – to keep track of all the action. On the Pacific Coast, for instance, games kick off between 9am and 3pm, when most people are at work.

Thankfully, there are loads of clever apps on the market to help you stay abreast of all the action. And unlike 2010, this year’s tournament has arrived at a time when smartphones are most definitely the default mobile device for Americans, so almost everyone can benefit. Let’s take a look at the very best World Cup apps out there…

1) ESPN FC Soccer & World Cup

This free app takes an exhaustive, comprehensive approach to football stats from around the world, but what we’re really interested in is the World Cup tab where users can find out all the latest match news and scores. It includes video content so you can key moments and catch up on goals. Customizable, well designed, and easy to use, the ESPN offering is a stellar one.

2) World Cup 2014 Brazil

Available for free with Google Play, this app is as utilitarian as its title. Stats-focused, with full competition details and data customization, this neat green and yellow app is a beautiful, Brazilian-themed tool that will ensure you won’t miss a thing.

3) 2014 Table

Another Android offering with a straightforward name, this takes a pared down approach, giving subscribers only the essential information they need. Great for bloggers and journalists who want to cut to the chase and find the latest scores and tables, 2014 table auto updates as each new development occurs.

4) LiveSoccer World Football Cup

Track live matches from soccer leagues around the world, or just use it for the duration of the biggest sporting event on earth. Customizable push notifications will keep you informed of all the latest goings on, and a rich user interface doesn’t interfere with a high degree of user friendly slickness. 

5) Squawka

Mobile marketing campaign managers have aimed this little number squarely at the stats-obsessed football fan who wants easy access to the cold hard facts. Player information is cross-compared, allowing subscribers to play the ultimate living room manager by supplying detailed information on everything from goals and substitutions, to fouls and assists. Every tackle and pass is logged. This one’s for the completist.

6) BBC Sport

Available free for both Android and iPhone, the BBC app is an essential download for any World Cup devotees. It combines live text commentary for each game with push alerts every time a goal is scored. There’s also a way to stream regular Radio 5 World Cup bulletins. Along with the iPlayer, British football fans get everything they could need to see them through to the final.

June 30, 2014

How SMS is Revolutionizing Emerging Economies

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Since 2007, individual farmers in developing countries are estimated to have made up to $4000 in additional profits and saved twice as much – and it’s all thanks to SMS messaging.

First trialed in India, and now being rolled out in other emerging economies, Reuters Market Light (RML) has had a truly revolutionary impact on the lives of rural workers since being introduced. This noble scheme was designed to level the playing field for remote farmers operating in a globalized marketplace. The service acts as a watchdog-cum-information-hub for agricultural commerce, issuing crucial information to people who may not have internet access.

It’s a far cry from the sophisticated mobile marketing tactics employed in the western world, but RML has demonstrated just how powerful SMS messaging can be in the absence of smartphones and web connectivity. Thus far, millions of farmers all over the world have received vital updates throughout the season, with information tailored to the specific needs of an individual’s profile. Information like regional and global market rates for crops; local weather data and disaster alerts; advice on increasing productivity and reducing risk, and other information that could have an impact on operational costs.

The scheme is intended to safeguard vulnerable workers against exploitative middlemen who seek to undercut them. There’s no shortage of compelling testimony to the efficacy of the work being done by RML. One story tells of a grape farmer who began exporting produce to Russia after learning of the country’s higher prices. It’s estimated that a staggering 1.2 million farmers in India are using the program to improve their chances.

RML offers a moving demonstration of how the humble mobile phone can help some of the world’s poorest people without the bells and whistles of the smartphones which proliferate among the world’s richest. SMS messaging, it seems, is powerful enough to raise living standards and brings some semblance of equality to a globalized economy. Kenya has used SMS messaging payment programs to reduce robbery statistics, with an amazing 25% of the country’s GDP now flowing through the M-Pesa system.

Studies indicate that introducing ten cell phones per one hundred people in the developing world can boost economic growth by 1%. RML, M-Pesa, and others are truly improving the lot of some of the hardest-hit regions on earth, giving citizens cheaper services, better access to crucial economic data, and ultimately creating greater expectations about acceptable living standards.

 

June 20, 2014

iPhone Users Will Soon be Able to Leave Group Text Message Chats

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When Apple unveiled its new iOS 8 mobile operating system earlier this month, iPhone users everywhere expressed unprecedented delight with the upgrades. Some of the changes soon coming to the iPhone and iPad alike include features like longer-lasting batteries as well as an improved system for sharing photos. Users will also be able to access home automation apps and services allowing the iPhone to be used as a remote control for connected home devices such as certain types of lighting systems. 

However, it's not the Jetsons-era technology that appears to have gotten iOS 8 users the most excited. The new iPhone feature that has everyone cheering is the one that will now allow iPhone users to exit group text message chats for the very first time ever. The big news was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference that took place June 2 through 6 in San Francisco.

iPhone Group Message Chats: Past v. Future

Until now, iPhone users who felt tortured by non-consensual group text messages had very few coping strategies available to them. They could simply throw their hands up and cooperate, or they could try to ignore their inboxes and those annoying message alerts. Alternatively, users could lie and say they had switched to an Android device that would not read the group text message chats.

Now, however, thanks to the system updates, users will soon be able to choose to either mute the group text message notifications (and read the text message chats later) or simply exit the group text message chat altogether with just the click of a button.

Ability to Exit iPhone Group Message Chats Dubbed 'Miracle'

Twitter absolutely exploded with the sound of rejoicing when news of the updated group text function went public. “We're free! WE'RE ALL FINALLY FREE!” one Liverpool man Tweeted. “Looks like the big man has been answering my prayers,” a Georgia man wrote.

By “big man,” of course, Darnell Augustin meant neither Steve Jobs nor those individual humans responsible for developing the updated technology – nor even Apple as a whole nor any other mortal being. 

The Twitter user was not alone in responding to the news by thanking a higher power, either. In response to the big news, one woman Tweeted: “GOD IS REAL.” Other religious invocations in response to the new feature included, “praise the lord,” “our prayers have been answered,” and “praise his holy name!”

Unfortunately, users will have to ride this newly-discovered wave of happiness all throughout the summer months, as the update is not scheduled to be released until the fall. It seems that we mortals must endure our earthly tribulations just a little bit longer before the heavenly rewards of iOS 8 will all be ours.

May 30, 2014

FT Reaches Out to Young People via Mobile Marketing

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Britain’s premier business and economics broadsheet, the Financial Times (FT), last month launched a digital ad campaign aimed at the next generation of business professionals.

Digital posters are dotted around London train, tube and bus stations, imploring the public to find their ‘personalized Financial Times at FT.com.’ The mobile marketing assault includes video ads optimized for smartphones, while the usual social media suspects spread the word online.

Toni Ellwood, the FT’s boss of acquisition marketing, gave a statement at the unveiling of the campaign:

“Since the launch of our digital media acquisition campaign last year, we have seen that 40 per cent of new readers… were in the 24-34 age group – one we hadn’t specifically targeted previously.”

It’s an interesting development for the paper, which hasn’t always been so keen on the sort of mobile marketing tactics now used by most big businesses. Less than two months before the launch of the digital ad campaign, the FT’s chief technical officer John O’Donovan warned against obsessing over specific platforms, singling out mobile-optimized and responsive sites as examples of myopic tendencies among marketers.

And yet, the site was an early, aggressive adopter of certain online and mobile marketing practices that are now de rigeur among all sorts of enterprise. In 2007, FT.com became the first publisher to use a metered paywall and launch an HTML-5-based browsing experience. According to Donovan, the FT generates more revenue from content descriptions than it does from advertising - a pretty unequivocal endorsement as far as proponents of paid content are concerned.

Back then, Donovan described the FT as ‘pushing boundaries’ in the way it disseminated content through a diverse range of channels. His success cannot be ignored – but neither can the overwhelming power of mobile marketing which, frankly, is more effective than other strategies. After all, smartphone usage keeps growing year on year, and more than 90% of all text messages are opened and read within minutes of being received.

At the very least, Donovan would surely concede the point made by his colleague Ellwood, that nearly ‘half of FT.com traffic now comes from mobile devices.’ Their growing mobile audience appears to confirm the very thing Donovan denies: that a mobile marketing campaign should take precedence over other channels without excluding them altogether. 

May 27, 2014

Brazilian Teen Sets Text Messaging Speed Record

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A 16-year-old Brazilian, Marcel Fernandes Filho, has just set the Guinness World Record for the fastest texting with a touchscreen smartphone. He won this “honor” on April 25, 2014 in New York City. 

The touchscreen-keyboard startup Fleksy sponsored the teen's trip to New York. It was on Fernandes' Fleksy, which he has been using since 2012, that he broke the record with his texting prowess.

Record-Determining Text Message a Real Challenge

As NBC News has put it, the world record-setting text “was no 'hi how r u' message, either.” Rather, Guinness required contestants to boldly text what no smartphone user has probably ever texted before: "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human." Whew! That sentence is 25 words long.

Those who turn their noses up at the art of texting should note that Fernandes' capitalization and spelling were perfect, as Guinness actually required them to be. The teen typed out that bear of a sentence in just 18.19 seconds, a mere quarter of a second faster than a 15-year old's January record, which was set at Microsoft's offices using one of its own smartphones.

Fernandes says he's been a longtime fan of Guinness World Records and has searched out obscure world record facts online ever since he was a child.

World Record-Setting Teen Studious, Not Addicted to Texting

The teen has also tried to set another “record” straight, explaining that he doesn't spend all day on his phone, regardless of stereotypes about “young people today.” In fact, as a physics student at southern Brazil's Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Fernandes says he's much too busy studying to get addicted to texting.

How did Fernandes find the time to become so good at texting, then? The young man confesses that back in 2009 he got so frustrated with how slow his laptop was that he took a hammer to it and smashed it.  He immediately realized he had no money to buy a new computer and was forced to use his iPhone 3G for everything from that point forward. As a result, he also had no choice but to become great at mobile phone typing. Little did he know that he'd someday be crowned the world champion.

Texting Champ's Story a Sign of the Times?

Predictably, the texting championship has spurred online debate about whether text messaging has eroded every old fashioned value imaginable, from good penmanship to the art of the phone conversation. Some commenters on CNN's website have expressed dismay over the teen's admission to having lost his temper with his computer, implying that the behavior is an example of what happens to an impatient, technology-addicted generation – regardless of Fernandes's claims to the contrary. Others have pointed out, however, that Fernandes was merely thirteen years old when it happened; and to look at this story in a positive light, he is clearly a resourceful young man.

Besides, other comments have said, technology is always changing, and that's a sign of progress. After all, if Fernandes had been the world champion of, say, stenography, would people be shaking their heads and mumbling about “kids these days?” As one commenter said to another, “How in the world is this bad? Is the future also lost because of the people who can type 130 WPM on a keyboard? The future isn't lost, you are.”

May 26, 2014

The Skinny on 911 Texting

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Since May 15, the four major U.S. wireless carriers have been voluntarily offering text-to-911 capability as an alternative to placing voice calls to the emergency service. However, the fact that carriers have made the service available does not necessarily mean that 911 text messages will get through to dispatchers in all areas of the country.

There are several important things the public needs to know about how the new text-to-911 system works, as well as where it works and when it should and should not be used:

Which Wireless Carriers Support Text-to-911?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T support text-to-911 in areas where dispatchers are equipped to receive such messages. These four companies represent the largest wireless carriers in the United States.

How does Text-to-911 Work?

Those needing to use the text-to-911 feature should type 911 into the number field. In the body of the text, they must state what and where the emergency is before hitting “send.”

The National Emergency Number Association has explained that call centers equipped to receive these emergency messages will be able to field the texts in a number of ways. For instance, centers that have not yet upgraded to the latest 911 technology will be able to start by receiving text messages via the TTY service previously reserved only for the hearing impaired. Those centers that can upgrade their systems, on the other hand, will be able to field the text messages through a browser-based technology that connects a secure virtual network to the text provider.

The public needs to be aware that the 911 dispatchers that are set up to receive texts cannot unfortunately accept photos or video at this time.

Where Does Text-to-911 Work? Where Does it Not Work?

It's crucial for the public to know that text-to-911 has not yet been implemented in every community. While the next six months will likely see many more communities adopting the technology, it could easily take several more years before implementation is widespread.

According to the FCC, people who try texting a message to 911 via Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T in an area where it is not yet supported should receive a "bounce back" text informing them that their message could not be sent.

Circumventing Potential Problems

Like all text messages, texts to 911 are, unfortunately, subject to possible delays. In addition, since mobile phones are not associated with specific, fixed locations, it's crucial that texters remember to report what the location of the emergency is so that responders may promptly find those needing help. Overall, while text-to-911 could save lives in situations where placing a voice call is dangerous or even impossible, it is being stressed that when contacting 911, people's first choice should always be to call, with texting as an option only when calling is not possible or safe.

May 14, 2014

Twitter Adds SMS Messaging Password Resets

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Twitter has updated its security options to allow users to reset passwords via text or email. The updates were unveiled last week.

In order to implement the SMS messaging option, users must associate a mobile phone number with their Twitter account here. Once the phone is activated, it’s possible to disable any unwanted SMS notifications. To reset a password via email, simply click the ‘forgot password’ link on the front page (the option is available on both desktop and mobile versions of the site, as well as the Android and iPhone apps).

Once the SMS messaging request has been sent, a code is sent to the associated mobile phone; the code must be entered on Twitter’s sign in page, followed by the new password.

The move comes after Twitter promised to ramp up security for their service following a spate of suspicious log in attempts. In addition to the new password reset options, Twitter has started analyzing log in attempts based on location and history, in much the same way banks flag up unusual ATM transactions. If they identify an apparently suspicious log in attempt, Twitter will request verification via email or text.

Additionally, the process will ask users a secret question about their account prior to granting access, followed by e-mail notifications if an anomaly has been spotted.
Twitter said recently that user security is a  priority concern, and by adding these new steps accounts will be safer than ever before.

The single biggest breach of Twitter’s security manifested as the recent Heartbleed Bug scandal, which compromised the personal data – including bank details - of millions of users. The micro-blogging site hopes the new measures will prevent similar security breaches in future. A statement on their blog said:

“We’re aware that many people reuse the same passwords across multiple sites. And when any of these sites are compromised, stolen passwords could be used to access your account on Twitter.” 

When it comes to tightening preventative procedures to limit third party hijackings, Twitter is somewhat late to the party. Google implemented a raft of similar security measures in 2010, giving users the ability to track log in history and other information so they could keep tabs on their accounts. 

May 09, 2014

Emergency Text Message Alerts Come to Richardson, TX

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In the event of an emergency, reaching help as quickly as possible can make all the difference when it comes to saving people’s lives. This is why many public agencies today support text-to-911 availability. Richardson, a city in North Texas, is just one of the latest places in the United States to embrace the use of emergency mobile text message alerts. Individuals in Richardson can now contact 911 from any device, any time, day or night. 

While there may be some who still prefer to make a phone call in the event of an emergency, law enforcement officials are in favor of the new text messaging system for several reasons:

Texting in an Emergency May be Safer

Emergency operators and 911 workers have pointed out that in certain dangerous situations, texting could be the only life-saving option. For instance, if the person trying to reach 911 needs to hide for his or her own safety, then talking on the phone could prove to be extremely dangerous, whereas texting can silently ensure that help is on the way.

Emergency Text Messaging for Individuals with Hearing Impairment

While deaf and hearing impaired individuals may reach 911 through TTY/TDD relay services, the unfortunate truth is that using such a system adds potentially life-threatening minutes to the time it takes to respond to emergencies. Andrew Phillips, who is an attorney for the National Association of the Deaf, says that there are unfortunate cases in which individuals with hearing impairment have had difficulty getting help quickly. This has been especially true on mobile devices, which are often better suited for texting.

Texting Capabilities and Public Expectations

The fact that smartphones today are in reality multimedia devices, allowing users to attach photos or videos that they've captured, for instance, means that mobile messaging has incredible potential as a crime-solving tool. Thanks to the new emergency text messaging initiative, it is hoped that emergency agencies in Richardson, TX and elsewhere will soon begin receiving essential photo and video data in addition to texted information about what is occurring and where.

The truth is that more and more people, especially younger individuals, expect to be able to communicate via text, regardless of what the context may be. Texting, rather than making a phone call, has increasingly become the public's first instinct, and North Texas and other areas of the country are beginning to respond to this demand. While some Richardson area public safety agencies still lack the technology for this texting system, plans to upgrade are already underway.

Logistics and Making it Work

While T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are currently the only carriers that have made the upgrades necessary for sending text messages to 911, AT&T is also making progress on similar upgrades; and Richardson's system is expected to be fully operational this summer. Once it is running, 911 call-takers will be able to receive texts and respond from their computers, asking mobile users the same questions they would ask when receiving emergency phone calls.

It will likely take some time for many local residents to get used to having text-to-911 as an option. However, emergency call workers and public safety experts believe that once people have heard local success stories, texting to 911 will become a commonly used and significant life-saving tool.