The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

6 Common Mobile Security Issues

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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 And these reports (which represent the most recent figures) are now three years out of date.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.

The World’s Most Valuable Startup

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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.

 

How Accurate Were Last Year’s Predictions for Mobile Tech in 2014?

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At the end of each year, tech journalists look into their crystal balls and attempt to predict trends and changes in the coming year. How often are they correct, though? We took a look at some of the most popular prophecies at the end of 2013, and just how accurate these predictions turned out to be.

First, some of the winners:

Prediction: "E-Commerce Will Thrive"

First of all, we know that e-commerce is thriving (with or without Amazon), so clearly this prediction was spot on. We’ve seen many emerging markets begin to adopt e-commerce, and we’ve witnessed Alibaba’s growth as the world’s Mecca of e-commerce. We’re still waiting for our drone deliveries, but no one can doubt that e-commerce will continue to grow in 2015.

Prediction: "Social Media Interactions During World Cup Will Break Records"

Not only did people around the world tweet, post, and message each other during FIFA’s World Cup games, we got to see the most widespread interactivity in the history of social media. The peak interaction first occurred during the final match between Germany and Brazil, and often featured the popular meme “Germany just scored a Brazilian goals.” They broke it again when the number of tweets broke 35.6 million, and 350 million people participated in World Cup conversation on Facebook. The prescient bloggers knew it would break records, and rightfully so.

Prediction: "Mobile Web Use Will Decline Significantly"

Many predictors foresaw that mobile web use would shrink – some even claimed that it would die. Well, it’s not dead yet: you can still search the web using the clunker-of-a-browser on your smartphone. Reports show that we have much more affinity for apps, however. Time spent using apps increased to 86%, while mobile web use dropped to about 14%. Perhaps we haven’t seen the end of the mobile web yet, but the seers of tech were right to assume that mobile consumers would use the web a great deal less. 

And now for the losers:

Prediction: "IM to Replace SMS as the Messaging Platform of Choice"

This prediction has proven to be pretty far off. Despite a decline in SMS use in 2012, we saw a surge in the use of SMS for business and personal reasons in 2014. The simplicity and low-cost nature of SMS text messages appear to have made the platform desirable for businesses, which means SMS messaging isn’t going anywhere. (Let’s not forget that SMS generates much more revenue than IM, as well.) Not to mention Facebook’s new privacy policy regarding their messaging app, which definitely turned off users in 2014. So the sibyls of tech can’t be right all the time. SMS messaging lives on!

Prediction: "Smartphones Cheaper than a Carton of Cigarettes"

Web prophecies predicted that a smartphone manufacturer in China, Xiaomi, would make a global move in 2014. They also claimed that the ubiquity of the phones in China would reduce the price to less than a carton of cigarettes. Well, neither prediction occurred. That said, we may see Xiaomi’s presence in other countries, like Brazil and India, in 2015. And the price of Xiaomi phone certainly has dropped – you can now buy a phone in China for less than 25 US dollars (but it’s not yet less than a carton of smokes).

Prediction: "Google Glass Will Be Everywhere"

Wearable tech has been all the buzz in 2014, for sure. But when the Nostradamus’ of the web claimed that Google Glass would be seen all around this year, they made a critical error. The world is not ready to embrace wearable tech, especially recording devices that sit right in the middle of your face. Tech bloggers predicted upwards of 800,000 Google Glass units sold in 2014, but they’re barely reaching 250,000. We’ll see what’s to come for wearable tech but, at this point, it’s just not happening in any significant fashion.

So just as in any year, several predictions were right and just as many were wrong. What’s in store for 2015? Only time will tell, but – judging from last year’s predictions – we’re bound to see the pendulum of mobile tech swing toward further globalization.  

Mobile Marketing for Finance Products and Services

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It’s near impossible to argue the benefits mobile marketing offers a wide variety of industries, including finance. Over a third of major U.S. bank customers regularly turn to mobile banking, and as such it’s essential that marketers take full advantage of what this ever-evolving channel provides. Chase has some 12 million customers moving an astounding $6.5 billion through mobile platforms each month, and that’s just one example. 

“For us, mobile is a critical channel, the fastest growing channel we have, and one that uniquely makes banking a lot more convenient,” says Robert Tas, Managing Director, Head of Digital Marketing at JP Morgan Chase. Tas understands full well the convenience mobile offers customers. “If I don’t have to get into my car and drive to an ATM to deposit a check, you could have saved me 30 minutes to an hour,” he says. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the many benefits mobile marketing offers the finance industry: 

Customer Loyalty

Mobile marketing functions as a true gift to finance, as late-arriving low-balance alerts are just one of the ways to create seriously unhappy customers. A simple text message notification warning customers of their account situation, however? The loyalty such messages provide banks is invaluable. 

And that’s just one way mobile ensures bank customer loyalty. SMS notifications regarding shady transactions is yet another way, as fraud and low-balance notifications are highly time-sensitive. Text also wins over email like nobody’s business, as send-to-open time for texts is 14 minutes, and email 6.4 hours. That’s one enormous difference. 

Increased Communication

Nearly 90% of American adults own mobile phones, and 75% of those send and receive text messages quite regularly. And unlike apps, text messages are compatible with every mobile device under our sun, and most open and read every single text that comes their way—95% of incoming texts are read, compared to 10% of emails. It’s therefore not a stretch to say text messaging is the best and most reliable form of mass communication currently in existence. 

Return on Investment

For companies still on the proverbial fence in regards to mobile marketing, take note: texting equals profit. The technology’s cheap and easy to use, and the average SMS user makes more transactions, has bigger “basket size,” and revolves balances, resulting in that much more income for card issuers. As a bonus, the cost of sending promotions via text is much lower than other marketing means. 

As Tracy Weber, the managing director for Consumer Interest and Mobile Banking in North America for Citi Bank notes, “To be able to delight them [customers] and provide things that really add value to their lives absolutely can go a long way in how they feel about this [mobile] category.” 

It follows that the only question left to bankers who haven’t utilized this strategy is, “Why ever not?” 

 

 

6 of the Best: Green Apps

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Mobile tech has made rapid advances in recent years. It’s reached a point where traditional desktop web browsers are beginning to look anachronistic. Apps and mobile-friendly interfaces not only provide a better customer experience, they are constantly evolving to change with the times. 

One of the key concerns for modern manufacturers and retailers is the desire to minimize the ecological toll their business takes. If they fail to judge public opinion, which is turning greener by the year, their bottom line will suffer. Commensurate with the rise in eco-consciousness is the mobile app boom. After all, software already has a headstart when it comes to lowering carbon emissions: no factories, no large commuting workforce, no production line. Just (generally speaking) some computer-wielding geeks and a good idea. 

Eco-friendly apps go further, actively helping their users live greener lifestyles. We’ve trawled the web (using virtual-dolphin friendly nets, natch) to bring you the very best green apps on the market: 

1) 3rd Whale

A brilliant guide to all things green in your area, 3rd Whale helps you find the nearest vegan restaurant, organic café or bike shop, wherever you are. As well as providing location information, the app serves up the details of a specific company’s green credentials so you can make sure you’re dealing with the right people. 

2) Earth 911 

This smart little app has been advocating a greener lifestyle for ages now, and they recently launched a free iRecycle app too. Ideal if you’re looking for recycling centres, iRecycle grants access to details for more than 100,000 of them. Find your nearest centre, as well as maps, routes, opening hours and a list of the materials that can be recycled there. With Earth911, you’ll never have an excuse for throwing anything to landfill!

3) GoodGuide

Helping you find everything from energy-efficient household appliance to green gifts for friends, GoodGuide Mobile is an indispensable little app. It provides access to more than 250,000 green products, each with detailed reviews and eco-ratings. 

4) GreenMeter

Green Meter helps you reduce energy consumption and get more mileage out of your vehicle by calculating how much gas you’re using and offering advice on how to improve your fuel efficiency. Like all the best green apps, it’s twin appeal lies in offering ordinary drivers the chance to save money and the planet.

5) Eco Dice

A fun way to turn good intentions into positive change, Eco Dice is devastatingly simple. You simply toss a die on your mobile device, but instead of numbers, the faces contain green tasks for you to fulfil during the day. Options include separating trash, taking your own bags to the grocery store and turning off appliances on standby.

6) Carbon Tracker

This free app uses GPS to calculate your carbon footprint according to how many miles you travel. It factors in emissions from different forms of transport, and even allows you to switch from miles to kilometers in case you’re travelling abroad.

 

5 Tech-Powered New Year's Resolutions

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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.

 

 

Movie-fy Your Texts with This App

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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.

What Will Happen to Mobile Marketing in 2015?

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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….

 

 

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. 

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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.

Thinner & Lighter Are No Longer Key Selling Points for Mobile Devices

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Rapid advancements in mobile technology make it quite easy to forget that smartphones and tablets have only existed for a few years. As of 10 years ago, there were no smartphones, tablets were enormous, and laptops had to remain near outlets. ‘Big and bulky’ was the name of the early tech game, meaning the thinner, lighter options that came after were all the rage. OEMs and mobile enthusiasts would quickly announce “Gadget X” as the “thinnest device in the known universe!” 

However, this is no longer the case. Most smartphones, laptops and tablets are highly mobile, with many very light and thin, and offering a battery life of seemingly endless hours. Prospective customers are subsequently unimpressed with gadgets claiming to be thinner and lighter than their predecessors, as “less girth” no longer does much to improve user experience. With the exception of the iPhone, most people aren’t looking to upgrade their devices. Samsung and similar competitors are seeing this more and more, as the new “flagship” mobile device isn’t selling the way it once was. 

Why? When featuring only “incremental” improvements over the newest mobile devices, people just aren’t interested. Mobile devices are incredibly versatile, so consumers don’t care about a device that’s slightly thinner than the one they already have. 

In light of this, Apple “went big” with its iPhone. A larger display gave the tech giant something to “push aggressively,” and while the device is now less portable and competitors are making similar phones, the strategy appears to be working.

“Apple has experienced a huge jump in sales share across almost all major markets thanks to the launch of the iPhone 6,” noted Dominic Sunnebo, the strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “In major European economies, the US and Australia, Apple's share of sales has risen…..most of these sales were driven by loyal Apple users.”

The reason for this jump in sales? The phone’s 4G capability, screen size, and design. 

To further emphasize this point, the previous generation of the iPad was as thin as it could be, and is probably affecting sales of the newest model. The latest iPad 2 may be razor-thin, but iPad Air owners aren’t exactly storming Apple stores to obtain this model.

The days of “thin and light” as main selling points are over. What consumers want now are devices featuring apps, displays, versatility, and updates that significantly improve their mobile device experiences.