SMS News

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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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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.