The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

The Best LTE Phones Out There

In the world of mobile, Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices are regarded as the heir apparent to the current generation of 3G technology. Already the standard for smartphones, all that needs to happen for LTE to cement its place and earn its name is for the inexorable rise of smartphone adoption to continue.  

If you’re looking to upgrade to a new smartphone, the wealth of options available can be a little overwhelming. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the very best LTE phones on the market today:

 

iPhone 5S

Apple’s fastest phone yet, the 5S come with a raft of new features including a fingertip reader, 10-hour battery talk time, high quality screen resolution and 64 GB built-in memory. Though it’s drawn some criticism for it battery life, which some feel could be longer, there’s no doubt that the 5S continues to justify the hefty pricetag (unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Apple abstainer). 

 

Moto X

The Moto X features a variety of proprietary Motorola apps and enhancements, and promises an all-day battery life. On the downside, the camera has been described as “inconsistent,” and the phone lacks features now demanded as standard by many smartphone users (such as 64GB or removable storage options). Several recent updates have improved the phone’s speed, and if you’re after an Android experience for an affordable price, the Moto X is an attractive option.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4

Hugely popular following its launch, the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains a firm favorite among LTE fans. It’s not as speedy as other models, but other features more than make up for it. Primarily, HD voice, which brings a clarity that has to be heard to be believed.

 

Motorola Droid Maxx

The Motorola Droid Maxx offers efficient connectivity, a long battery life, touchless control and hands-free features. The display could be sharper, and the phone only works with Verizon, which network scrutineers may balk at.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 

Renowned for its sizable 41MP shooter, the Lumia 1020’s LTE speeds are fair even when browsing the web. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and LTE bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. Best of all, the camera is peerless, so it’s a good LTE option for people who take lots of pictures.

 

HTC Droid DNA

Again, this device is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, which will be a big no-no for many consumers. Luckily, the HTC Droid DNA more than makes up for it with a sharp screen, very fast download and upload speeds, and a first rate camera.

 

Blackberry Z10 

The Z10’s “modest” 4.2-inch display makes it one of the more portable LTE smartphones around. The inclusion of NFC features means it’s easy to transfer content between handsets and other enabled mobile devices without the need for network connectivity.

 

SMS Helping Sierra Leonean Become 'Citizen Reporters'

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Advances in text messaging have extended to social causes, including those fighting disease and providing assistance to third-world communities. 

International development charity Christian Aid launched “SMS Voices” in January of last year, working in partnership with ENCISS, a Sierra Leone-based governance program funded by U.K. Aid and the European Union. The program is designed to help elected officials and citizens maintain an open dialogue, and was created by Radar, a U.K. communications nongovernmental organization.

SMS Voices trained 45 volunteers from Sierra Leone’s Bo and Koinadugu districts, including farmers, traders, students, and teachers, to become “citizen reporters.” Throughout 2014 they used text messaging to report issues of concern to their local councilors via anonymous micro-reports. Issues raised included the lack of teaching materials in schools, conflict among local groups, unsafe roads and bridges, clean water access, female genital mutilation, teen pregnancy, inefficient waste management, and violence against women and children.

Messages were received by nine participating elected officials, who were instructed to respond to micro-reports through text messaging and explain to reporters their plans to rectify these issues in their respective communities. Some said they would investigate, while others claimed they would bring the issues up at council meetings or alert the relevant police officer or mayor. Whatever the decision and outcome of the reports, an effective dialogue was indeed created between officials and citizens. 

Over 300 reports were sent during the 12-month period, and towards the end of the year some two-thirds concerned the Ebola crisis. Volunteers discussed how households were affected by quarantine regulations, reported regulation breaches, and shared concerns about infection.

“During the rebel war there were no mobile phones; now with Ebola, communication is possible,” remarked Martin M B Goba, deputy chairman of the Bo District Council. “During my time in quarantine, I was able to communicate with my ward development committee with an immediate response.” Goba lost several family members to the disease.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s helping me to improve on my job and to know the problems in my community, so that I can find solutions to them,” he added. “It has improved my interaction with civil society and shown me how to act immediately and promptly to community concerns.” 

The project has demonstrated the possibility of running low-cost, innovative programs in low-resource environments, such as within Sierra Leone, where less than 10 percent of the population have access to electricity, and a mere 2 percent use the Internet. 

“I have seen change,” remarks volunteer Evelyn Turay. “I have now seen council officials in the community raising awareness on issues around teenage pregnancy and early sexual activities [of young people] which I have been reporting on.” 

As the program progresses, it’s increasingly obvious that text messaging provides a powerful tool for helping third-world communities stay engaged and empowered.

 

Six of the Best: Customized Text Message Keyboards

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Android users have historically enjoyed the better deal in terms of smartphone keyboard options. However, Apple’s iOS 8 update means iPhones now support third-party keyboards, something sure to make Apple fans happy. Check out six of the best third-party, customized text message keyboards available today:  

Swype

The keyboard for those who like to type, er, swipe, extra-fast, Swype predicts words when users move their fingers across the screen to connect with different letters in “one continuous motion.” Users may input up to 40 characters per minute using this keyboard, which costs 99 cents on the App Store. 

Kids Keys

This customized keyboard is perfect for parents with children who commandeer their mobile devices. It comes with seven different themes sure to entertain little ones, including polka dots, tricks, monsters, and letters and numbers, and is $2.99 on the App Store. 

 

SwiftKey

The people of SwiftKey are also the team responsible for Stephen Hawking’s communication system. An ultra-smart keyboard that adapts to how you type, it remembers consistent typos and corrects them. The keyboard also learns what emojis you like and how you use them, and allows you to type bilingual messages. It includes a swipe flow feature similar to the one Swype employs as well. SwiftKey is free.

ScribbleBoard 

A custom keyboard for those who want to express themselves with more than words every now and then, ScribbleBoard allows you to “draw your feelings.” It offers a rainbow of colors and swatches for doodling, and you can also copy and paste your drawings into chat sessions. It costs 99 cents on the App Store.  

PopKey 

The perfect custom keyboard for those who enjoy adding GIFs to every text they send, PopKey allows you to pick from hundreds of options within your keyboard rather than switching to your mobile browser or another app. It also lets you store your favorites for easy access. The app is free. 

SNL

If you’re a huge Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll love this SNL emoji keyboard. Add emojis of favorite characters to text messages, such as Stefon, Gilly, Hanz and Franz, Cone Heads, and many more. The app features a keyboard add-on, and is also free. 

Whether you’re looking to add a bit more flavor to text messages or you simply want a practical option that suits your needs, check out the above and other super-cool customized text message keyboards. 

 

 

Is Magic, the Text Message Courier Service, actually Any Good?

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Magic is the new on-demand service based in text messages. It’s designed for really busy people….or really lazy people. Some 8,600 people are currently trying to gain access to this “magical” service, which promises the ability to purchase practically anything by “texting your desires.” 

It works (in the U.S., anyway) by sending a text message to a number on the official Magic site. Assuming there aren’t 9,000 people in front of you, you’ll then register your information. This includes name, address, credit card number...you get the idea. The company utilizes payment processing service Stripe to deal with credit card details, allowing such details to remain hidden from Magic employees.  

After all your details are registered, you can use Magic to order basically anything so long as it’s not illegal. Trained Magic operators “figure out the rest,” and all fees and tips are included in the final price. 

Originally a side project, Magic creator Mike Chen notes this is hardly the case anymore.  

“It topped 10,000 incoming messages on Sunday and was closing in on 18,000 Monday morning. Magic's team of magicians on call … grew from two or three at launch to 18 on Sunday,” Chen told Mashable.  

Likened to ChaCha’s text-a-question-and-receive-an-answer service, Magic has already been used to request a tiger (as in the actual jungle cat), as well as less-fangy items and services, such as those for bike wrenches and help in court.  

So how magical is Magic? Popular perhaps due to its simplicity, the service is receiving mixed reviews. It promises quick service that’s “like magic,” with couriers scurrying to your door ready to give you what you wanted, but some argue it’s more like Amazon in that you receive your requested item in a few days’ time. One reviewer notes that even a fairly simple request, such as a delicious chicken parmesan sandwich, took nearly half an hour for a response, which said the restaurant with the very best sandwich was closed.  

The supposedly-speedy courier service could just be experiencing growing pains, and Chen acknowledges the company let too many people sign up in too short a time. 

“We under-predicted how badly people wanted to use the service,” he said in an email. “If we let in a group of people, almost all of them start using it within a few minutes, which is not typical for wait lists with lower-demand services. As of now, I can say that we are letting people in at the correct rate, and that the number-one top focus of the company is quality.” 

Will Magic work out its kinks? Will it become the next big delivery service, bringing clients their hearts’ desires quickly and efficiently? Time will certainly tell.

Ignorance of the Difference Between SMS and MMS Could Cost You Big

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 is less than two years old, but it’s not equipped to send emojis without first converting them into picture messages - costing unwitting senders hundreds on their phone bills. Older handsets - including the Galaxy S, S2 and S3 - are also thought to be affected. 

Picture messages are also known as MMS messages, and can cost up to three times more than an SMS. Once upon a time, the high cost was somewhat justified, as MMS was the only way for people to exchange rich content between phones. Now, with a slew of apps designed to send and receive rich data (often, as with WhatsApp, for free) the MMS is anachronistic. 

A recent article in the Daily Record reported the case of a woman from Airdrie, Scotland, who ran up a £1,200 bill in just four months after sending emoticons that automatically converted to emojis which, in turn, were sent as MMS messages.  

Similar reports have appeared on internet forums, with many claiming their iPhones are affected by the problem. HTC phones are also affected, but they at least send a warning message to users that the SMS they think they’re about to send is in fact an MMS.  

UK mobile phone network provider O2 have been quick to point the finger at manufacturers, saying the issue is ‘down to the handset and not as a result of the O2 network or the settings used for the O2 service.’

O2 also said that some apps - including Facebook - that integrate a contact list from the handset may result in MMS charges as well. People are advised to disable integration between such apps and their contact list. 

There’s still no complete picture regarding which handsets are affected, but Samsung told moneysavingexpert.com that every device launched since April 2014 has a default setting classifying emojis as SMS and not MMS. For the Galaxy S4 and earlier devices, emojis will continue to be converted from SMS into MMS. Apple has declined to comment on the susceptibility of their handsets to the problem. 

The problem is one of transparancy. Are operators doing enough to inform their customers how their pricing structures work? That remains to be seen. According to Ofcom, the UK’s communications watchdog, 4% of people said they had received a high bill caused by unexpected charges for emojis, but it’s likely to have affected significantly more. Like the SMS-MMS conversion itself, not everyone will have noticed. Take a careful look at your next bill to see if you’re being charged for a service you didn’t know you were using. If it was not made clear to you when you sent the message that it was converting it to an MMS, it’s well worth complaining.

 

SMS Alert System for Pregnant Cows is Up for Design of the Year

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There are some weird and wonderful uses for SMS messaging out there, but one of the innovations up for this year’s Design of the Year award is milking the technology for all its worth.

The 76 nominees were announced last week by London’s Design Museum; they will go on display from March 25 to August 23, with the winner announced in June. Designs range from new Norwegian banknotes to high-profile projects like Google’s self-driving car.

But the gadget that’s got us most excited is a new SMS-based monitoring system that tells farmers when their cows are going into labor. If you’ve never had any experience of dairy farming you’ve probably never even realized such a gizmo was necessary, but the brilliantly-named Moocall is a promising solution to a problem that’s largely invisible to the general public.

The gadget hooks onto the tail of a pregnant cow and sends a text message to the farmer when the animal is within an hour of giving birth. It uses 3-D motion sensors and a roaming M2M SIM card to ascertain when a cow is going into labor. Other birthing monitors exist, but they are notoriously invasive and uncomfortable for the cow. Most farmers simply opt to keep vigil over pregnant cows in order to maximize the chances of a live birth. Moocall promises a reliable alert system that causes minimal discomfort and frees up vital resources that would otherwise be spent on watching and waiting. 

Designer Niall Austin first conceived the device for use on his own farm in County Offaly, Ireland, and hopes to break into cattle markets in North and South America. He told Irish Tech News: “Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable.” 

Created with the help of Irish tech firms Motech Engineering and Dolmen, Austin’s innovation went through a long development process, with a series of prototypes - tried ‘in the field’ so to speak - helping them shape the design to withstand the elements and the animal’s clumsy heft (sorry, cows - no offence).

Moocall is another example of the diversity of SMS messaging. If it didn’t send a text message it would require some other pieces of hardware for farmers to receive the alerts. That would drive the cost up and give farmers more hassle. It would also make the gadget a much less marketable product. By combining sophisticated birthing monitor technology with the simplicity and near-universal availability of text messaging, Moocall seems to provide a solution to a major setback facing dairy farmers worldwide.

Mobile Marketing is 'Next Big Thing' Says Mediacom Boss

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The fundamental differences between mobile marketing automation and web marketing automation must be thoroughly understood by marketers so they can provide a great user experience “across all touchpoints.” This is according to Ben Phillips, Medicom’s head of mobile.

While advertisers have pushed automated content on mobile devices for awhile now, an ambiguous view of how people switch between platforms has marred efforts. A form of mobile automated marketing that “goes beyond” the standard mobile app is set to become more ubiquitous as proximity triggers and push notifications increase in use.  

Phillips emphasizes the idea that mobile is no longer limited to phones, and that brands must take this into consideration. He notes the most successful advertisers are those who have designed creative mobile strategies first and “appreciate how their audience chooses to engage with them and provides the correct response.” In retail, for example, it’s a good idea to connect the experience with CRM, and personalize ads with relevant context rather than pushing random ads to shoppers as they browse aisles.  

The Mediacom boss also notes the role creativity will play in automated mobile marketing, “as many brands start to build 'mobile first' content that is relevant to the consumer regardless of point of engagement. Automated mobile marketing will enable deeper CRM learnings and processes that lead brands to a more personal one-to-one dialogue with their consumers.”

Audience data is essential to craft personalized dialogue with customers, and Phillips predicts “the race this year will be to obtain a persistent tracking identifier for an individual across platforms. By this I don’t just mean mobile and desktop, we need to be able to verify individuals against wearable devices, a smart TV a connected car and internet of things.”

Brands must step up their automated mobile marketing game and fully understand the wide spectrum that is mobile. Medicom is arguably ahead of the game, as the company is working on partnerships similar to its relationship with advertising technology platform Celtra. This means Medicom can create rich media ad units for both desktop and mobile.

“I believe [brands] aren’t doing enough because they aren’t being directed, taught or educated in the right way,” remarked Phillips. “Our industry will begin to consolidate and roll up into digital within the next year. The 'systems' lead thinking approach will win out as it becomes ever more apparent that mobile sits in every marketing and advertising discipline and not as a siloed specialist function.”

The consumer is at the heart of any mobile strategy, so focusing on a well-rounded marketing ploy that includes multiple platform and advertising options is key. Phillips is correct in recommending brands determine how their audience opts to engage them, and to build a mobile marketing strategy from there. The companies that take advantage of this idea are the ones who will figuratively blow competition out of the water in the next few years. 

 

DEA Accepting Tip Offs Via SMS

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The McAllen, TX branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has turned to text messaging to simplify citizen reporting of potential drug trafficking. DEA Assistant Special Agent Steve Jenkins in the branch office remarked that text messaging is another way to help residents feel safe in their community. 

"We're trying to get the message out to the community that hey this is available and it’s a way for them to help keep the streets safe," Jenkins said. 

Entitled ‘TIP 411,’ the anonymous program makes it possible to text a tip after witnessing possible drug activity. Tipsters can simply type TIP 411 into the “To” line, then use the message box to type RGV with either an image or a description of the crime. Jenkins says the tip will be passed to the DEA office, who will act accordingly. The number of anyone who sends a tip will not be viewed by the DEA agent.  

Jenkins also noted the new system allows the office to keep in anonymous contact with tipsters, as opposed to phone call where the information flow ends once the person hangs up. Texting is also much less personal, and therefore makes it easy for someone to provide information without feeling uncomfortable.  

The DEA hopes younger people will use the program, as it was designed for youth interested in keeping the community safe.  

Other cities, such as New Orleans, El Paso, and Albuquerque, have enjoyed success implementing the program. Anyone who uses the program must be connected with a cell phone provider. 

“This is a way for (the public) to anonymously provide the information to us and communicate back and forth with a DEA agent, via text message,” Jenkins added. “Then, if at some point they no longer want to communicate with us, they can send the word STOP in the message and all communication will be cut off with the agent.” 

Once the tipster texts the word “Stop,” the DEA has no way of getting back in contact with the person. 

Reports of the program have been met with somewhat mixed responses from the public, with some in favor of the idea, and others very much against it, saying the program isn’t particularly safe and is yet another wasted effort in “the war on drugs.” 

Is the program a good idea? Time will certainly tell...

 

Mobile Marketing Benefits for Realtors

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Marketing ideas for realtors should always include text message marketing, as this channel provides a wealth of unique options for real estate professionals. Let’s check out a few SMS marketing ideas that you might add to your overall advertising strategy: 

 

Specific Property Listing Upon Request 

The ability to instantly send specific property information at any time is a huge asset to any real estate marketing strategy. Set it up so information goes out automatically or at your discretion, though keep in mind that sending texts early morning and late at night will likely irritate potential leads. 

 

Mass Text Messaging Campaigns

Text messaging makes it easy to launch mass campaigns from your own device using web-based software. Messaging and contact lists are available and ready for use whenever you are, something of vital importance if you’re an agent who’s constantly on the move. 

 

Lead Generation Streamlining 

Streamlining the lead generation process is yet another mobile marketing benefit for realtors. It not only allows you to spend less time and money attracting customers, but also makes it easy to engage new leads. 

 

Mobile Database Generation

Use text messaging to easily generate a mobile database of home buyers you can contact about new property listings in the future. Collecting SMS details makes keeping in touch with clients simple, and it’s an ideal way to obtain referrals. 

 

Money Saved

This real estate marketing strategy saves you money on printing costs and classified ads. Forget sending paper—texting is a very “green” practice in addition to being inexpensive. 

 

Appointment Reminders

The appointment reminder feature available through SMS is another benefit you’ll want to take full advantage of. Send clients and leads reminders concerning meetings and showings, as well as open houses. Doing so can rekindle interest in certain properties, and also demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail. 

 

SMS Keywords and For Sale Signs 

Your For Sale sign should be working for you, right? List an SMS keyword on the sign so people can instantly text and receive an automated response when they drive by. Include your very best sales pitch, along with the best way to contact you. Potential leads sending texts to short codes also means they’ve opted into your marketing list for future contact. 

 

Multiple Agents, One Account 

Including multiple agents on one account makes certain everyone on your team is one the same page in terms of messaging and branding. While everyone can enjoy their own lists and permissions, the client receives content from a central location. This is extremely helpful if working at a large firm with dozens of agents. 

Text messaging is a fantastic platform for sending relevant information, latest listings, referral incentives, and a number of other important client engagement strategies for real estate professionals. If you haven’t already implemented SMS into your promotional strategy, it might just be time!

6 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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In-app push notifications and geo-targeting messaging platforms may be popular mobile marketing tools, but text message marketing still wins out as the choice advertising vehicle for small businesses. If looking to infuse fresh blood into your text message marketing campaign, check out the following tips: 

 

1) Encourage Customer Interaction

Today’s consumers have come to expect regular engagement, both at home and on the move. Try promoting brand awareness by using text to interact with digital signs. For instance, customers might send texts to a shared short code to receive an immediate, positive experience, such as seeing their name emblazoned on a billboard. Because this strategy doesn’t require downloading apps, it’s a quick and effective means of piquing customer interest. 

 

2) Implement a Multi-Channel Strategy

Today’s brands focus on multi-channel marketing strategies that takes full advantage of how consumers look for and process information. Almost every cell phone currently in use is SMS-capable, and as such all marketing campaigns should feature an SMS call-to-action. For example, an email offer that includes a way for consumers to sign up for mobile coupons is an excellent idea. Using SMS as a way to enter a Facebook competition also works. 

 

3) Keep Content Timely & Relevant

Delivering timely, valuable, and exclusive content to consumers is key in SMS marketing success. Promote existing campaigns, current coupons and discounts, and anything else that’s relevant to the “here and now” and for the “VIP text list” only. 

 

4) Create Actionable Local Advertising Campaigns

Local advertising should include an SMS shared shortcode and keyword that feature special discounts or offers. An ideal way to generate responses and track offline marketing channel effectiveness, this strategy is a much more streamlined, effective option than providing a phone number or a website and waiting for customers to call or click. 

 

5) Offer In-Store Recommendations

Improving consumers’ in-store experiences via easy access to product information, recommendations, and special discounts through SMS is yet another way to enhance your mobile marketing strategy. For example, a specialty store featuring a keyword that when texted provides customers with access to a special coupon, discount, or product recommendation, is an ideal way to attract new customers while satisfying current ones. 

 

6) Take Advantage of Opt-In Loyalty Lists

It’s essential that retailers have mobile opt-in loyalty lists that operate on a national scale as well as in individual store locations. “Even relatively small lists can drive significant sales, because they keep the store top-of-mind with their best customers,” notes Adam Lavine of FunMobility. 

So there you have it: a few tips for streamlining your mobile marketing strategy, with text marketing at the top of the list.