SMS News

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July 31, 2015

T-Mobile to Add Advanced Messaging to its SMS Services

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According to a recent study, texting is the most used feature on a smartphone across nearly every age demographic. Third-party apps jumped on the wagon early to improve built-in SMS and MMS features and developed apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple's iMessage. Many of these apps make it easier to send large data files, communicate quicker, and confirm messages have been received. However, T-Mobile has just released a new feature for its users that may change the message game altogether, by bringing advanced messaging directly to the device.  

SMS and MMS messaging are still incredibly relevant to smartphone users despite the millions of apps now available to them. Rather than develop its own third-party app, T-Mobile has introduced software called Advanced Messaging, which is built on Rich Communication Services (RCS) and addresses many of the limitations various apps have capitalized on. The service is very democratic—while it’s currently only available on the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime, the software was designed to work on all carriers and across every operating system. Software updates will be necessary for existing devices, but T-Mobile has said that several phones will be available later this year with Advanced Messaging already enabled. 

 

Understanding Advanced Messaging 

Advanced Messaging incorporates several features including real-time messaging, read notifications, currently typing icons, and the ability to send up to 10MB of data via text. With improved regular SMS and MMS messaging on the device itself, users won’t have to reply on compatibility or downloading multiple apps and interfaces. There’s no extra charge for the service but it does require Wi-Fi or LTE to operate the improved features—otherwise the software defaults to regular messaging.

While it is unclear whether or not all smartphones will adopt the software in the future, it’s an interesting approach to take on behalf of the user. On the one hand, the promise of a unified messaging system that operates as well as, if not better than, popular third party apps is a gift to users who would no longer have to think about availability or compatibility. On the other hand, it’s a bold move from T-Mobile that undercuts Apple’s highly integrated app-based platform that emphasizes selection and choice through a variety of different apps.

T-Mobile is not the first carrier to launce RCS, but it is the first carrier to offer it in the US. In 2012, MetroPCS, a flat-rate carrier, released RCS just prior to a merger with T-Mobile. At the time, RCS delivered features like simultaneous voice and multimedia messaging as well as social presence. The merger delivered the scale and financial resources to expand geographic coverage, as well as offer an improved selection of devices and services, so T-Mobile could compete with the nation’s larger carriers. 

Launching Advanced Messaging was a bold choice in the wake of a developing app-based mobile culture. Time will tell if the user-friendly software will proliferate or remain exclusive to T-Mobile users. 

July 28, 2015

SMS Messaging: Conversation Before Apps

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Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? For a GUI (Graphic User Interface) designer, that question is becoming more relevant as the nature of the mobile user influences app development—perhaps towards a post app world? 

That’s a scary thought for a GUI designer, or a developer who unintentionally overlooked the simple truth that text messaging is far and away the most commonly used feature on a smartphone. Almost 97% of all smartphones users engage in text messaging; this familiarity creates incredible potential for a new generation of text-based application that can solve any problem an app can solve, through a more convenient interface: the text screen. 

 

Text-Based Apps Are Nothing New

The above, however, is not a new revelation. In fact, some apps controlled exclusively via text or SMS messaging already exist. Magic, for example, can help you reserve a table, check a bank account, or buy a car, all via text between a user and a concierge (an actual human being) who assists with these requests. WeChat is another app that uses text to bypass traditional apps altogether—effectively creating a universal portal to all things mobile.

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, across all age groups in the US, text messaging is the most popular feature used on a smartphone. In this way, life is beginning to challenge the artist; while app designers may have intended to make our lives easier by developing apps to meet out every need, at the end of the day, people are universally more comfortable texting—having a virtual conversation to get at what they want. 

There are some people, like Matt Galligan, co-founder of the news aggregation app Circa, that believe we’re headed towards an overhaul of basic software and design. Galligan feels that something called “MessageKit” will be Apple’s catchall for apps located in iMessage. Instead of opening different apps with different design characteristics and UI controls, all the apps would perform their same functions but via text command or queries inside a fluid conversation.  

Apple’s new iOS 9 has already made some considerable shifts in its latest version, one of which is prioritizing app content for Internet search queries made via mobile. While there’s nothing like “MessageKit” available quite yet, it’s an interesting theory that attempts to recognize the user’s reality in a predominantly designer-shaped mobile world. 

One foreseeable drawback is that our familiarity with texting may causes people to use these services at inappropriate times. For example, texting while driving is already a major concern in densely populated areas. Additional text-based services may further encourage our desire for instant access, even behind the wheel.  

It’s ironic that an entire generation gets labeled as ‘less socially communicative’ because it’s always on smartphones, and yet, somehow, that same generation may bring society back full circle, where the digital dialect of texting is used to reinsert what was missing from our mobile lives: conversation. 

 

 

July 27, 2015

Truecaller is Making Android SMS Messaging Smarter

 

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw a parallel between email and SMS messaging on a mobile device. Both collect messages from familiar and unfamiliar sources, gather spam, and offer instantaneous communication with countless people from around the world. 

At least, that’s what Truecaller noticed when it decided to launch Truemessenger, an alternative SMS messenger app for Android. The Swedish-based company recently raised $80 million in funding to further perfect this new line of communication powered by Google Inc.

 

New But Familiar Design

By connecting the proverbial dots, Truecaller is introducing a familiar system to the SMS world of communication. We’re all accustomed to filtering our emails, assigning spam when necessary and prioritizing mail in personal categories; now, Android users can operate their SMS inboxes the exact same way, making it easier to avoid unwanted spam, by verifying the identity of those who send messages. Customizable spam filters are another unique feature, as they allow inboxes to remain free of clutter and help streamline the experience for users.  

But that’s not all; what makes the app ‘smarter’ is the integration of familiar social aspects with the user’s interface. The app draws photos and nicknames from popular social media sites and adds them to contacts when they message you. The app also allows users to customize color themes. What’s more, the Swedish EDM artist Avicii created a custom ringtone for the app, as a ‘friendly favor’ to the company. 

Alan Mamedi, co-founder of True Software doesn’t believe we’ve seen the end of SMS messaging though. In fact, he believes some markets like the US and India have a long future of SMS usage ahead.

“The volumes are still huge, and no-one is tackling the problems,” he explained.

Currently, 15% of all SMS messages are reported as spam—this amounts to almost 1.3 billion unwanted messages every year.

By focusing on the user’s experience, Mamedi hopes that solving some of the basic communication problems with SMS will keep it viable in the future. 

 

SMS Competition 

But what about the competition? Unlike most app founders, Mamedi believes the company is headed in the right direction because a number of larger corporations have taken notice of the work it’s already accomplished with Truecaller and now Truemessenger. Companies like Facebook were so inspired by the company’s work that they created their own caller ID app earlier this year. Since Facebook’s Hello and similar apps have launched, Truemessenger has actually received more users by proxy. 

Currently, the app is only available in India and for Android users in the Google Play Store. Google’s operating system allows for third party SMS/messaging apps, whereas Apple’s iOS platform doesn’t—yet. 

The good news is that SMS messaging is wising up to problems faced by its users, as advertising becomes more sophisticated and deliverable on mobile devices. How long will ‘smarter’ be ‘smart enough’? We’ll all just have to wait and see. 

 

July 20, 2015

Android Leads the U.S. Market but Trails in Europe

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According to a recent report by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Android OS increased its market share by 2.8% at the end of a three month period; leading the US with an overall market share of 64.9%. The first full month of sales for Samsung’s latest Galaxy device propelled the company forward year-over-year in the US. However, the same did not hold true for the EU market, where sales have slowed throughout the big five: Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. 

According to the report, iOS users in the US began to drop off as the shares declined period-over-period and year-over-year. Meanwhile, in Europe, the demand for the iPhone 6 has been steadfast, with the latest model reaching unprecedented success in Great Britain, Germany and France. 

Android-based smartphones received assisted growth from LG, which nearly doubled its US shares year-over-year. This was not the case in Europe. Android vendors in Europe had to count on winning new users away from apple—which has seen little success. Ending in May, only 5% of new Android users switched from apple; down from 11% percent during the same period the year before. 

The Galaxy S6 has been reported as the third best-selling device in the US, just behind the iPhone 6 and its Samsung predecessor the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s year-over-year success is up as well, down only .5% compared to 1.6% in three months ending in April.

Other foreign markets are shifting as the smartphone wars wage on. Urban China, for example, has introduced a third contender to a once two-pronged industry. Currently apple leads in China, followed by Huawei and third competitor Xiaomi. The three are all within half a percentage point share of each other, though considerable differences in niche markets may explain the spread. 

In China, Apple’s sales continually come from high-income users and throughout the most prominent cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Close to 7% of apple’s total sales in China are from these affluent areas, while Xiaomi only captures 2% of this same market.  

In urban China, Huawei became the best-selling Android device brand. Thirty-nine percent of Huawei’s sales come from users with a monthly income of less than 2,000 RMBs.  

With several markets developing new infrastructure, the likeliness of new users is on the horizon in several underdeveloped countries. With Apple prices comparatively high, it’s left considerable room for competitors to come in and offer less expensive alternatives. 

World Cup Hat Trick Heroine Gets 124 Text Messages Per Goal

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On Sunday, July 5th 2015, the world witnessed the fastest hat trick ever performed on a soccer field in the World Cup Finals. The player, Carli Lloyd, managed the amazing maneuver within the first sixteen minutes of the final match versus Japan, earning a total of four goals that veritably sealed the win for the US women’s soccer team. A hat trick has only been performed a handful of times in any professional soccer game, let alone the World Cup Finals. (The last time a hat trick was successfully executed in the World Cup Finals was in 1966, by England’s Geoff Hurst.)

Ponder for a moment the shockwave that this hat trick unleashed in the world of international football. Not only was the event shocking for players and fans in general, but it also comes years after another World Cup Final in which the US was defeated by the same country – Japan. It should come as no surprise that this past week’s finals were one of the most watched events in televised sports history.

Soccer Meets Social Media

The blogosphere and Twitterscape also reflected the ubiquitous nature of the historic hat trick. In a single week, the World Cup Final has been written about by several sports websites of note, particularly ESPN.com, Sports Illustrated, and Grantland. Further, Carli Lloyd herself has added over fifty thousand new followers on Twitter as a result of her extraordinary plays.

While Lloyd’s accomplishment is surely impressive, the most legendary statistic about the hat trick might not have anything to do with soccer, but rather the amount of messages she received on her smartphone during the match. Carly Lloyd claims that she received over 372 text messages over the course of the hat track. Essentially, this means that she received an average of 124 text messages for each goal that she made during her hat trick.

 To put that into perspective, imagine the amount of time you spend reading and responding to text messages. Perhaps one minute for each? Hence, Lloyd would have to spend a minimum of six hours to respond to all of the messages she received during the game! 

Contact EzTexting for Bulk Texting Help

For someone to receive such a myriad of texts in such a short time is astounding. Fortunately, modern technology makes it simple to prepare a response as a bulk SMS text message to be sent out to all of those adoring fans. With EzTexting, you can easily develop several different types of responses, depending on how you wish to address your recipients. And thanks to our competitive pricing, you can bet that our services will defeat the competition. So if you, like Carly Lloyd, are being inundated by massive texts from your customers, try out EzTexting to get on the ball for your business.

June 29, 2015

Uber Goes App-less With SMS Version

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Last month, Uber and Coding Dojo hosted a 48-hour hackathon competition in San Jose—a student and alumni challenge to generate ideas that would improve Uber’s impact on the community. The winner of the contest was TextBer, an SMS version of Uber’s popular smartphone app that will allow non-smartphone users to access the service using basic text messaging.  

The idea isn’t as passé as one might think. While it’s easy to take smartphones for granted in the age of instant-access, the TextBer team focused on people who are marginalized from services like Uber due to various circumstances.  

According to an April study by Pew Research Center, only 27% of adults over 65 have smartphones; half of all adults making less than $30,000 a year are without smart devices as well. However, many of these individuals have the ability to send text messages using their mobile devices, which is precisely what TextBer aims to capitalize on in their SMS version. 

“My grandfather has Alzheimer’s,” said Arash Namvar, one of TextBer’s developers. “…TextBer allows him to easily get an Uber ride from his house to my house. It makes me feel better because he’s safe.” 

Namvar and four other creators spent several hours brainstorming the dilemma before they decided to construct TextBer for the contest, which is currently in beta and utilizing UberX car—Uber’s lower-cost product. 

 

How it Works 

Using a desktop computer, users create an Uber account with a credit card and link their TextBer account with a specific cell phone number. To receive the service, users simply text a pickup and dropoff address to TextBer. A time estimate and quote will be texted back to the user’s cell phone, at which time they can approve the message and dispatch the driver. 

 

Going Forward

The current version of TextBer is limited to UberX vehicles and SMS messaging; however, the team of creators hopes to build more features that will benefit the visually impaired and those with disabilities.  

Other features discussed may include default home settings and common location identifiers so users wouldn’t have to type repetitive information.

SMS is an affordable alternative for service-based communications, which may grow in popularity as this SMS service moves forward through production. In addition to helping users without smartphones, this service will hopefully provide a service that makes life a little easier (and safer) for those in need of a driver; regardless of age, economic status or smartphone.  

 

 

June 03, 2015

iOS Bug Crashes Phones via Text Message

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An iOS bug in the Apple Messages app is causing big headaches for iPhone users. 

The bug makes it possible to easily crash iPhones by sending a string of Arabic characters. It was discovered by a few Reddit users, and once received causes the phone to immediately crash and reboot so long as the recipient is not looking at their message history. The attack is believed to be caused by a glitch in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, which “renders Arabic text” and runs on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

“The implications of this, is that again, like other software flaws which have gained attention (Venom, Heartbleed), it involves bugs in older software routines which have been undetected until recently,” Cathal McDaid, head of data intelligence and analytics at AdaptiveMobile. McDaid said in an email to SCMagazine.com. “The difference here is that so far there has been no malicious use identified, other than a DoS [denial of service]. But this is in itself a serious result.” 

The text string causing the bug is super specific, making replicating the string by accident highly unlikely. Concerned iPhone users can disable notifications to protect their devices from crashing. Receiving notifications over the Apple Watch is also a way of sidestepping the bug. 

Some bug victims say they can no longer access their messages, while others are reporting that sending a photo to the contact through the Photos app allows them to access their message history. They can subsequently delete the conversation containing the very-bad text string, thus removing the crash source.  

McDaid remarked on his surprise concerning how many times the “bugged” message was sent.  

“We detected (and blocked) over a quarter of a million people in America attempted to send these messages, to other phones - in some cases they have sent hundreds or even thousands of messages,” he said, noting the majority of high-volume senders had “only attempted to send to a small set of receivers – although we have certainly seen some attempts to send to a much wider spread of recipients.”

The number of times the message was sent ties into its use as a prank. Many users have discussed their frustration on Twitter. This is not the first bug to cause such issues on Apple devices. 

So what does Apple have to say about it? 

“We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update,” a spokesman said. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

 

May 30, 2015

TextStyle: Nordstrom's Entry into Text Message Shopping

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Shopping addicts beware: one of your favorite luxury retailers has just made it that much easier to shop through your mobile device. The higher-ups at Nordstrom are determined to solidify their foothold in the e-commerce world, and with their new tech tool that allows shopping via text, they’re well on their way. 

Certainly a method of encouraging overspending, TextStyle is a new text shopping service that allows consumers to make purchases based on recommendations sent over the phone by a personal shopper or by a favorite salesperson. The tool allows Nordstrom to remain competitive, as the store and fellow luxury retailers are engaged in a race to provide customers with new shopping options and related technology.  

Nordstrom currently gets 21 percent of its revenue from e-commerce. The company’s multi-year, $1.5 billion plan is all about “pushing its tech firepower forward,” especially as rivals such as Barneys New York, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus are also spending a lot on retail tech. 

TextStyle is a proprietary NEXT opt-in, a secure one-on-one service that allows Nordstrom customers to get in touch with sales associates through text message if that’s their prefered communication method. A shopper or the salesperson sends private messages with an image or description of the product, and if interested, the shopper sends a “buy” reply and enters a unique code. The transaction is complete using the shopper’s account at nordstrom.com. 

Since personalized service is a huge component of luxury shopping, it makes perfect sense to incorporate such service into e-commerce. Neiman Marcus gave its 5,000 salespeople Apple iPhones some four years ago so they could text customers about the latest designer handbag or shoe arrival. 

“TextStyle is an important step forward in our efforts to connect with customers on their terms,” Scott Jones, Nordstrom’s VP of Personalization, told Fortune, remarking that the tool is a way the retailer is hoping to be “relevant for customers.”

Both Norstrom’s TextStyle and Neiman Marcus’s iPhone-armed sales associates are hailed as the “little black book associates” of the 21st century. Luxury retailers have always kept tabs on their best customers and what they liked to purchase, and are simply reformatting their “books” in regards to e-commerce. 

Which other luxury retailers will follow Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and create their own shopping apps and text message services? Most likely all of them, especially since e-commerce isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

 

May 15, 2015

The World's First SMS Referendum Took Place Last Month... in Mongolia

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For all the rapid advances in digital technology over the past decade, the business of democracy remains firmly analogue. Ever since mutterings ranging from ‘foul play’ to ‘system error’ cast a pall over the 2000 Presidential elections, electronic voting in the U.S. has been in decline, with states abandoning machines in favor of traditional pencil-and-paper voting. Voting watchdogs and analysts have major reservations about the security of a digital system if faced with committed, politically motivated hackers. Strange as it seems, electronic voting may have had it’s day.

If e-voting - which is at least supervised by election officials in a centralized venue - is on the wane, it seems unlikely that mobile voting will fare any better. For those fearful of tampering and corruption, the remoteness of casting votes via a mobile device will do nothing to reassure. 

Well, it doesn’t get any more remote than Mongolia, which last month became the world’s first country to stage a referendum in which citizens can engage with the democratic process via their mobile devices.  

Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed asked three million Mongolians to air their views on the country’s dwindling economy, which, according to Bloomberg, has slowed down from a record 17.5 per cent in 2011 to around 7 per cent in 2013. The mining industry, a bedrock of the economy, is beset with legal wrangles. Foreign investment has collapsed, causing the Tugrik to fall 42% against the U.S. dollar. The government is involved in a tax dispute with Rio Tinto Group, who were slated to finance one of Mongolia’s biggest assets, the $6.6 billion Oyo Tolgoi mine. Public and political opposition to the open-cast mining industry has only fanned the flames of economic unrest.

With negotiations at a stalemate, Saikhanbileg has shrewdly recognized the only credible way out of the mess is via a public mandate. In January, just two months into his office, Saikhanbileg took to national television to offer Mongolians a stark choice to save the economy: press on with multi-billion dollar mining projects or cut spending and scale back investment in the industry. The Prime Minister invited citizens to state their preferred strategy via text message.

Four days later, the votes were in. Austerity measures received a resounding ‘no’ from the people, giving the government the go-ahead to - hopefully - revitalize the mining industry and resume negotiations with multinationals like Rio Tinto.

For the wider world, the implications of the result are perhaps less significant than the implications of the voting method. Democracy by text message had never been tried before. It seems to have worked, but only time will tell whether the Mongolian experiment is destined to be an anomaly or a historic precedent.

May 07, 2015

Infographic: Where Do People Use Smartphones?

 

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