SMS News

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April 22, 2015

This App Lets You Send a Text 25 Years into the Future... Sort Of

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In an age of instant communication and 24-hour rolling news, the notion of posterity may seem rather quaint. The emphasis is on the now, with scant consideration for what might happen a few weeks - let alone a few years - from now.  

One new app aims to put long-term thinking back in the spotlight, by providing users with a platform to delay the release of their text messages for up to 25 years. Launched last month, Incubate Messenger is the innovation of Atlanta-based entrepreneur Michael McCluney.  

Incubate’s uses aren’t immediately obvious but, according to McCluney, it doesn’t take long for people to ‘think of reasons they need to strategically time [a] message’ when you give them the functionality. Those reasons range from forgetful spouses priming an anniversary text message months ahead of the date, to soldiers on tour sending a time-delayed SMS to their kids when they know they’ll be unable to reach a phone on duty. In addition to SMS messaging, movies, photos and audio messages are also catered for by the app.

McCluney’s lightbulb moment came when an exhausted friend - and father of triplets - told him of the nightly struggles tending to three 3-month-old babies. The developer suggested his friend make audio recordings to capture the chaos of a trio of screaming infants in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t it be great if Dad could somehow share these moments with his kids when they were old enough to laugh at their tiny selves?  

That exchange inspired one of Incubate’s unique features: Nursery. The feature allows parents to send time-delayed messages to their kids from the moment they are born. Parents simply create an account, which their child can access when they get their first mobile device. Anyone with an account can exchange messages and see how many messages await them in the future but - and here’s the clever bit - they can’t access the message or see the identity of the sender until the date set by the sender. Having a mystery text message that you can’t read for 25 years is the ultimate in delayed gratification, and a masterstroke of an emotional hook.

Asynchronous communication is not entirely new. Boomerang and Gmail both have options for time-delayed messages, as do Vine and Snapchat. But Incubate aims to promote the sharing of information with a little more gravitas than photographs of desserts. It’s about creating a time capsule capable of creating a bond through space and time. Until now, a dewy-eyed father packing his kid off to college can do his best to reminisce about his youth - and probably get rolled eyes and groans in return. With Incubate, it’s possible to capture and store precious memories as they happen, and share them in the future when they’ve taken on new significance.

 

April 21, 2015

90% of Mobile Marketing Revenue Comes from SMS

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It is increasingly apparent that the SMS segment of the global mobile advertising market is very dominant due to the rapid surge in smartphone and tablet use around the world. Some 90 percent of adults in the U.S. use mobile phones, 60 percent of which are smartphones.  The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) believes that soon smartphone use in the U.S. will rise to 80 percent. 

“With consumers carrying mobile devices wherever they go, it has become crucial for marketers to target this large consumer base with mobile advertisements and promotions,” according to Transparency Market Research (TMR). “A mobile advertising platform firm provides services to marketers that allow them to send these advertisements to consumers using mobile devices. Each distinct mobile advertising platform contains opportunities for marketers to deliver their message to a broad range of consumers.” 

SMS is subsequently a “big deal,” as mobile advertising services are easily sent out via text message. Mobile advertising is also being used to place banner ads on smartphone apps, which appear either at the top of the app (mobile web banner) or at the bottom of the app (mobile web poster). One of the many advantages of SMS is it allows users to view and send short messages without worrying about privacy issues or seriously interrupting the receiver’s day. It’s therefore not shocking to note that SMS accounts for 90 percent of total mobile marketing revenue. Simply put, it's the most cost-effective of all mobile marketing tactics.

In addition to SMS, multimedia messaging services, aka MMS, are experiencing an increase in popularity. Other services gaining momentum include full-screen interstitials, mobile videos, and mobile games. 

Transparency Market Research believes the next few years will see advertisers in the global mobile ad marketing space focus increasingly on performance. An increase in ROI spending will likely occur, as will the quantifiable results that follow. Preference for location-based advertising is also growing, and will only get bigger and better in the future. Such advertising makes it possible for advertisers to target specific portions of their target demographic, therefore dramatically enhancing mobile ad effectiveness.  

Unlike traditional phone calls, “spammy” emails, and the days of going door to door, SMS is a safe and effective means of catering to target audiences. Most read text messages as soon as they come through compared to the hours that pass before reading an email or the disgruntled consumers on the other end of a marketing phone call. In addition to its effectiveness, SMS messaging is a low-cost marketing option. No wonder it makes up 90 percent of mobile marketing revenue….

 

April 17, 2015

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Reach a Million

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Apple recently began pre-selling three versions of its new smart watch to the world, with orders now hitting the one million mark. And that’s just in the United States.  

Unsurprisingly called the Apple Watch, the device allows you to read emails, send messages, and answer iPhone calls, all from the convenience of your wrist. A Taptic Engine feature alerts you through—you guessed it—a tap, so no notifications are missed. The Digital Touch feature makes it easy to communicate by sending a tap, sketch, or heartbeat. There’s even health and fitness features, as well as Apple Pay.  

The watch is available in aforementioned three collections: Apple Watch Sport, priced at $349 and $399; Apple Watch, which costs between $549 to $1,099; and Apple Watch Edition, a watch created from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys. Prices for the Edition start at $10,000. 

"Apple users were waiting for the Apple watch, so when we saw this huge surge in demand, we were not surprised at all," Jaimee Minney, vice president of marketing and public relations for Slice Intelligence, told ABC News. 

The future of the Apple Watch looks good despite what Slice calls “ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans.” According to the company, the average Apple Watch buyer ordered 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Consumers opting for the Apple Watch Sport edition spent $382.83 per device, while those ordering the Apple Watch edition spent $707.04. 

“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years -- iPhone, Apple computer or iPad -- and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago,” Minney wrote in a recent blog post. “Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” 

Watch accessories are also popular, with Minney noting consumers who purchased the Apple Watch or the Sport edition choosing the larger 42mm case. The space gray aluminum case is a favorite as well, edging out the silver and space black cases. 

“The Black Sport Band was by far the most popular among both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport buyers, with 49 percent overall pre-ordering one, followed by the White Sport Band at 16 percent and the more expensive Milanese Loop -- $149 versus $49 for the black Sport band -- rounding out the top three at around 10 percent,” Minney remarked.  

According to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, should Apple continue to see one million units per quarter the company would easily become one of the most profitable watchmakers in the world. This means second to Swatch in regards to profitability and only just behind the legendary Rolex brand. 

“If you told people about a new Apple product that cost $400 and asked them if they would buy it, 1 million people would say yes," Entner said. "They don’t even need to know what it is -- and more often than not they wouldn’t be disappointed. Since the second coming of Steve Jobs, the missteps that Apple has taken are few and far between.” 

 

April 05, 2015

Mobile Messaging: The Ultimate Customer Service Helpdesk

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Mobile marketing has witnessed a decade of innovation during which thousands upon thousands of apps have flooded the marketplace, doing everything from fitness tracking to spread betting. But what if there was no need for a separate app for each task? What if you could use a single interface to request and receive goods and services? 

The rise of apps like Magic has brought ‘conversational commerce’ - in which customers can make specific requests via SMS messaging - to the forefront. Facebook is soon to launch it’s own Magic-like on-demand text service. Meanwhile, messaging app SnapChat is expanding to offer a commercial iteration of its service - SnapCash - which allows users to make transactions for products. 

This is all relatively new stuff in the United States, but Asia has been harnessing the full potential of SMS messaging as a catch-all service tool for some years. In China, WeChat gives its 440 million users a single portal through which they can pay bills, order taxis and shop; the app has generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue since launching in 2011. In Japan, LinePay provides a similar service. 

In the U.S., most of the recent buzz around ‘conversational commerce’ has focused on Magic, the app that allows you to request any service that exists in the real world, from dry cleaning to dry stonewalling. The so-called ‘concierge’ service uses a winning combination of human and artificial intelligence to meet the demands of its growing customer base.

Other start-ups have followed suit. Scratch, for instance, offers a ‘professional shopper’ to not only help facilitate purchases, but actually offer fashion advice along the way. Native pulls off a similar trick in the travel world, working as a personalized travel assistant to help you plan every part of your trip via SMS messaging. 

The implications of this development are significant for the future of mobile. The limitations of the mobile interface have always been down to the problems of shrinking a desktop internet onto small screens. Fiddly shopping carts and multiple apps make for a fractious, incomplete experience. But the text message was made for small screen devices. Now it is liberating us from the process of browsing, comparing and purchasing goods which, even on a mobile-friendly site or app, is a little unwieldy.

 

March 30, 2015

Maestro PMS Add SMS to Customer Service Platform

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Maestro PMS Enterprise Property Management recently announced the addition of SMS messaging to its customer service platform. The communication module is meant to make personal guest communication that much easier, and is fully integrated with Maestro PMS. It offers convenient messages for early check-in room availability, as well as spa appointment notifications, group message alerts, concierge services, and property promotions. The text message module is available thanks in part to Maestro PMS’s partnership Swift SMS Gateway® Inc., a global company supplying mobile text messaging services since 2007.

"With more guests relying on their mobile devices, Maestro launched proactive SMS communications to serve guests on property,” said Warren Dehan, President of Maestro PMS. “We partnered with Swift SMS Gateway to provide the platform to allow Maestro PMS to communicate directly with cell phone networks. Swift SMS Gateway supports international phone protocols which enables Maestro operators to reach their global visitors regardless of their phone carrier.”  

Celebrated as a highly-flexible guest engagement tool, the SMS text solution allows “independents” to update individual guests directly from Maestro PMS, such as when their rooms are ready for check-in. The tool also instantly reaches all guests in the event of an emergency, as well as specific guest populations, such as those on a business trip. 

An ideal option for independent operators looking to cultivate more personal relationships with their guests, the system also includes an app that allows housekeeping teams to efficiently coordinate their tasks. Considered perfect for any operation, no matter the size, the app provides protected access to staff and includes room attendant and supervisor modes that limit views to relevant assignments.  

“All room statuses are updated in real-time,” Dehan remarked.  “The system helps housekeeping teams coordinate their tasks with updated room assignment information to work more efficiently. Our mobile housekeeping platform puts clipboards and telephone room reporting in the rearview mirror.”  

Maestro PMS provides over 20 hotel and reservation software solutions for the industry’s “leading independent hotels, resorts, and multi-property groups.” 

Brian J. Johnson, President, Swift SMS Gateway Inc., said his company was delighted to partner with Maestro PMS.  

"Our system provides a simple seamless integration of text messaging into Maestro's front desk Guest Messaging and its back of house systems,” he said.  

Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Blackberry handheld and tablet devices, hotel groups may supply their employees with handhelds, though room attendants may also use their own devices for greater ease of use.

March 26, 2015

Pace is Using SMS to Tell People When Their Bus is Arriving

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The speedy reliability of the text message has proven useful to all sorts of businesses. As a long term mobile marketing strategy, SMS messaging is capable of nurturing the loyalty of existing customers and winning over new leads, but it also happens to be the most effective method for issuing time sensitive messages.

Bus arrivals and departures information falls firmly into this latter category, a fact not lost on Pace, who have followed the example of countless bus companies around the country by establishing a text message service for riders. The Chicago-based company had, until recently, been relying solely on its online bus tracker to disseminate information, but gave in to high demand from customers for an SMS program similar to that offered by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  

To use the service, riders must send a text message containing the word “Pace” followed by the relevant bus stop number. The bus tracker is available as both a pure text format (for people with feature phones) and a rich graphic version for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

A spokesperson from Pace said the firm had held off launching a text message service when CTA unveiled theirs. The success of CTA’s venture - and the increase in bus rider expectations it prompted -  convinced Pace that the “availability of real time information is a key source of customer satisfaction.” 

Pace makes no bones about directly following CTA’s lead, even using the same company to provide the service, and for a while considering joining the same contract. 

With a bus system that covers more than 25,000 stops and six counties, their reticence to undertake such a huge task is understandable. Even post-launch, Pace admits to having no timeline for completing the replacement of old signs with new signs featuring the shortcode and bus stop numbers. In the meantime, riders can access this information from the Pace website.

March 20, 2015

Did American Idol Help Kickstart the Text-to-Donate Fundraising Culture?

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Aside from launching the music careers of several aspiring singers, American Idol can also be credited with inspiring a new way to raise money for disaster relief. 

The show’s primary voting system, which allows viewers to cast votes via their mobile devices, became a springboard for AT&T engineer Marin Croak who realized a similar use for the technology as hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. 

Instead of transmitting fan votes via text message to an operator, Croak came up with a way to pass donations via text to participating charities. The donation would later show up as a charge on the person’s cell phone bill.

However, Croak recalls, during this time, that the use of text messaging was not nearly as popular as it is today. According to an informal poll taken in 2008 on AT&T’s website, approximately 22% of respondents reported having learned to text as a result of American Idol’s voting system—an interesting perspective attributed to the powerful reach of AI. The subsequent increase in text messaging may have also helped prepared voters to become donors.  

AT&T who originally set up American Idol’s voting system in the early 2000s, placed a patent on behalf of Croak in October 2005. And although AT&T currently maintains this patent, Croak says AT&T is not seeking to make the patent propriety—which is great news for nonprofits and disaster relief programs.

For example, in 2010 text-to-donate made its first major headline debut during the earthquake in Haiti. The relief organization collected an unprecedented $30 million via impulse disaster-relief donations— a term which describes the ease and accessibility of this technology. What’s more, these donations were collected $10 at a time. Other significant text-to-donate relief campaigns have included Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.  

Aside from generating these donations through a streamline system, nonprofits are now able to acquire donors, not just cash donations. Opening up this intimate communication channel may be more valuable than a $10 donation. Organizations can engage donors over time, build a relationship and collect future contributions. 

Notable organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, GlobalGiving, Mercy Corps, and Saving the Children have all established similar text-to-donate programs. 

Although Croak holds dozens of patents, she is particular proud of this one, which has made an enormous difference in the way people interact with their mobile devices as well as in the world of philanthropy.

 

March 10, 2015

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.

 

March 06, 2015

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.

 

March 05, 2015

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.