Tech

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May 21, 2015

Global Smartphone Sales of $96bn in 2015 Q1

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Recently released figures suggest 2015 will be a record-breaking year for the smartphone. According to market research company GfK, global sales hit $96 billion in Q1 - an 8% year-on-year increase.  

The market has never witnessed such a successful quarter. The number of units sold went up by 7%, to 309.7 million (from 290.1 million in the first quarter of 2014). The lion’s share of that growth comes from Middle Eastern and African markets, but strong growth in North America continues to drive revenues. 

Outside the USA, there has been a slowing of growth in other mature markets such as China and Japan - though analysts predict this is a temporary hiccup rather than a new trend. As more consumers make the transition from 3G to 4G, developed Asian markets are expected to fuel a resurgence in regional sales. 

Much of the ground made can be attributed to a combination of 4G and large-screen adoption, but low-end smartphones have also experienced an upsurge, increasing their market share from 52% in the previous quarter, to 56% in Q1 of 2015. Mid-range devices remained stable and price erosion in emerging markets has seen high-end models (retailing at $500+) take a tumble.

What are we to make of these figures? According to GfK, global smartphone demand is predicted to grow by at least 10% year-on-year for the remainder of 2015. Asia - and in particular India and Indonesia - is forecast to be the primary growth area, as the economies are strong but smartphone penetration is still relatively low.

May 20, 2015

Millennials Pose Biggest Mobile Security Risk

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Internet technology security has become of increased concern for companies with sensitive internal data. The risk from outsider infiltration has been of topic for years, yet a recent report conducted by endpoint security specialists Absolute Software, says otherwise.

According to the survey, almost fifty percent of the workforce will be millennials by 2020. As this group replaces the baby boomers, there are new concerns posed by use and behavior with employer-owned mobile devices and personal computers. 

The survey took a look at 750 Americans over the age of 18 who work for companies with at least fifty employees. Although seventy-nine percent of those questioned reported they prefer separate mobile devices for personal and work use, fifty-two percent will use the company-owned property for personal reasons. What’s more, of that total, fourteen percent admit their personal behavior could compromise company data and lead to a potential security risk. 

What’s more interesting still, the age demographic and position level have strong influences on this behavior. Only five percent of baby boomers reported compromising activities on company property, while twenty-five percent of millennials report similar activity. Sixty-four percent of millennials reported using desktop computers for personal use, while only thirty-seven percent of baby boomer reported the personal use of company desktops. 

Aside from breaking company policies that protect sensitive data, among those surveyed, twenty-seven percent reported the content they view is not safe on company property. Five percent concluded their personal content was of no threat to the company’s security. 

Moreover, as position level increases, so too does the likeliness of an employee using employee-owned property for personal use. Of those at senior level positions, seventy-six percent admitted to personal use, and twenty-six percent have actually lost company devices in the last five years. Lower level positions were significantly less, with fifty-one percent admitting to similar personal use.

Vice President of Global Marketing Absolute, Stephen Midgley, says the report was conducted to help companies become more aware of this unique threat to IT security.

“Armed with this information, our customers can consider user behavior as an additional data point in their endpoint security and data risk management strategies,” said Midgley. 

The recommendation is simple: implement a security solution on all employee-owned devices. Additional measures might also include a combination of employee training, updates to guidelines and procedures, as well as personal responsibility placed on the employees.

 

May 18, 2015

Mobile Gaming Revenue to Hit $110 Billion by 2018

 

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New research from intelligence firm Digi-Capital highlights the omnipresence and financial power of the mobile gaming industry. Spending predictions are record-breaking, with a steady annual growth of eight percent leading up to $110 billion by 2018.

Currently, mobile games are taking $3 of every $10 spent by gamers. That figure is expected to increase to $4 in three years time, which will have a dramatic impact on who and how new games go to market.

Spending on smartphones and other mobile devices is already high, generating more revenue than game console software this year—this does not include hardware, or free to play games. Strong growth predictions account for current trends as well as the success of popular games currently in market and budding player downloads in foreign counties.

Compared to North America and Europe, Asia will be responsible for nearly fifty percent of all mobile game revenues by 2018. Asia already leads these figures but is expected to take a larger share as the industry grows and the Asian markets continue to liberalize.

The top grossing mobile games are of no surprise. According to Digi-Capitol founder and managing director, Tim Merel, games like Clash of Clan, Candy Crush Saga, and Game of War will continue their reign from the top. These games have lead considerable marketing campaigns, including Super Bowl ads, regular television campaigns, and comprehensive online advertising. These games have also been available on both iOS and Android since 2012.

The growth potential for these games is great for shareholders, but a challenge for games being squeezed out of the competition. Player acquisition costs are high, $3 a player, which to too expensive for independent companies at the present. These costs are also slimming to already delicate profit margins even if some companies manage to edge it out.

All things considered, there is some good news for emerging mobile games. Mobile marketing automation technologies are improving and the prices seem to be lowering. Solutions used by games like Plants vs. Zombies, Rivals of War and Subway Surfers are becoming more available to independent games and small enterprise.

With China and India looking prospectively good for downloads and users in the coming year, there’s still plenty of room for developers to capitalize on this growing sector of the game market. Moreover, the real takeaway of this research is the proliferation of mobile use among users, which along with the gaming industry parallels in growth.

April 29, 2015

How to Protect Your Business in an Earthquake

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The thought of an earthquake sends chills down many a spine, and for good reason. Since earthquakes are capable of wrecking horrendous havoc that includes building demolition and loss of life, it’s important to know how to protect your business in the event of this natural disaster. Whether you live in California or another earthquake-centric area, it’s important to have a game plan ready should you and your employees endure a huge ‘quake.  

Let’s check out a few ideas on how to protect your business in an earthquake: 

 

Research

First things first: research earthquakes in your specific community. Look up local government policies, designated earthquake shelters, emergency routes out of the city, emergency phone numbers, etc. Create a list of all emergency contact information and send it via email to everyone you employ. Include a plan of action should an earthquake hit during work hours. 

 

Get Involved

Once you and your team have your emergency plan down, register with ShakeOut.org and join the millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide already prepared to hold a Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill. Simple and easily affordable, this event also functions as a team-building exercise. 

 

Purchase Non-Perishable Food and Bottled Water

Dedicate a closet in your office/warehouse/water” just for earthquake supplies. This should include enough perishable food and bottled water to last you and your employees for five days. Also use the closet for items such as hand-crank radios, candles and matches, medications, copies of important documents, flashlights, blankets, and other emergency preparedness items. 

 

Set Up an Emergency SMS Notification System

Set up an SMS notification system that alerts all employees about earthquake warnings. An especially helpful idea if you operate multiple business locations or frequently send employees on errands, appearances, and business trips, a notification system is an excellent option for staying in touch. It’s also an instant way to know everyone who works for you is aware of the earthquake warning, as most people look at text messages right away--far more than they do emails. The notification system can also let them know the varying degrees of emergency, where to take shelter, and so on. 

 

Learn More

Learn more about earthquake preparedness and encourage employees to do the same by suggesting a list of related apps. Think the American Red Cross app, the Ready.Gov app, and government branch apps for your specific county.

Remember, April is Earthquake Preparedness Month. Don’t wait until the big one hits--know what you and your team should do during natural disasters. 

 

April 28, 2015

Disaster Relief & the Tech Community

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Technology provides an incredible asset to those dealing with a natural disaster if utilized properly. Cyclone Pam recently hit the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, and while the tornado resulted in relatively few casualties, it was a stronger storm than New Orleans’ infamous Hurricane Katrina. Vanuatu is considered the world’s poorest nation, and as the rest of the world looks for ways to assist after the disaster, what can the technology industry do to help? Communication failures have made it difficult to determine the actual extent of the damage. 

 

Improved Communication Efforts 

While communication is imperative following any natural disaster, network overloads and satellite failures cramp the abilities of relief workers, hospital staff, and families searching for loved ones to keep in contact. Google launched crisis maps in response to such failures, a service aiding emergency preparedness and relief. The service utilizes Twitter and Facebook to help with communication during disasters should alternative methods remain unavailable.  

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti saw open-source software crowdsourcing information provided by locals, resulting in an interactive map of the crisis. A mostly urban environment, cell phones were the main forms of communication during the disaster, with those from affected communities offering eyewitness reports via SMS and social media. 

Reports were created and mapped with GPS coordinates before being sent to rescue teams thanks to information submitted from around the globe through text message, email and the web.

“I’m buried under the rubble, but I’m still alive” is an example of reports sent to the Ushahidi platform, making it possible for U.S. Marine Corps and hundreds of aid organizations to coordinate relief responses to the quake.

 

Contain Epidemics

Viral outbreaks are common following a natural disaster, however technology is helping to contain epidemics. Real-time analytics make it easier to provide huge amounts of data concerning previously-unknown virus trends, thus limiting death toll and dramatically reducing the spread of disease. For example, Harvard’s HealthMap called the recent worldwide Ebola virus outbreak an astounding nine days before the World Health Organization made the announcement. HealthMap used information from social media posts, including those of healthcare workers in Guinea, to create a visual outbreak report. 

 

More Than One

As with most things, it’s important to use more than one technique to ensure a full rather than partial picture of the issue. Accessing health clinic reports, social media posts, information from public workers, media updates, helpline data, and transactional data from pharmacies and retailers is clearly the way to go in regards to the “big picture.” One of the easiest ways to obtain such data quickly and easily? SMS.

SMS tools and campaigns are among the best options for ensuring all involved have the data they require at the right time. 

 

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

Could Google's Mobile Update Backfire?

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Today sees the roll out of Google’s most significant algorithm update in years. In response to mass migration from desktop to mobile, the search engine will now use a website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ as a ranking metric. 

It’s great news for businesses who put themselves ahead of the mobile marketing curve in time to reap the benefits. It’s not so great for those lagging behind - many of them big businesses with expensive, unwieldy marketing departments. According to research firm SumAll, a staggering 67% of Fortune 100 companies do not have mobile friendly sites. They can expect their traffic to nosedive now the change has taken effect

The changes - dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’ by some - are perfectly consistent with Google’s track record of responding to shifts in search culture. Mobile traffic has increased, and desktop search has declined correspondingly. For the average user, more likely to access the internet from a mobile device than a desktop computer, the update will doubtlessly improve their experience.  

Assuming Google isn’t doing this for purely altruistic reasons, what are their motivations for implementing changes that will not only harm powerful corporate influences but reduce Google’s own ad revenue?  

One answer may lie in the question. Google knows it must close the gap between desktop and mobile ad rates in anticipation of a full-blown small-screen revolution. Another possibility is that Google isn’t so much reacting to external trends, but rather influencing consumer behavior. If sites render well on mobile devices, they will become more popular, thus increasing the number of mobile clicks.

The businesses who aren’t ready for this will definitely suffer. They may even claim that the content available on mobile friendly sites just isn’t as good, nullifying Google’s objective to (ostensibly) provide a meritocratic search tool. The worst case scenario for Google is that big companies switch their search focus to Yahoo or Bing, and move their ad spending to Facebook. Such gloomy predictions have always failed to materialize in the past, and Google remains synonymous with search for the majority of internet users. 

Nonetheless, it’s a risky strategy. Without ad revenue Google is nothing, but they have proven themselves time and again to be deft at bending with the wind. Whether today’s major algorithmic update will turn into ‘mobilegeddon’ remains to be seen, but as risky as the move may seem, betting against Google is riskier still.

 

April 20, 2015

Here's Why Your Web Development Should Start with Mobile

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Responsible design goes way beyond pixel measurements and assorted limitations, as it’s about deciphering the behaviors and preferences of a target audience, and meeting their needs, whether through smartphones, tablets, or websites.  

Consumer habits and expectations change depending on the device they’re using, meaning content and information must be displayed in the right way. The best option for learning about a target demographic and testing their “commitment to proper responsive build” is starting with a “mobile-first” approach. And while mobile may be the smallest of frequently-used platforms, it is still the favorite. Let’s take a deeper look at starting web development with mobile: 

 

Content 

When developing a brand, quality content is key. However, working through large blocks of copy and trying to find the important points gets tough, making it essential to ask the following question: What is the point I’m trying to make? Once the key theme is identified, it’s time to cut out “filler” content so the resulting post easily fits on a mobile device screen. This not only looks much better, but also makes it more readable for consumers. 

The other benefit to resizing content for mobile screens is once you’ve made the post fit, sizing it for tablets and the like is quite simple. 

 

Form and Function

Yes, you’re working with a smaller screen when crafting content for mobile, but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be anything short of engaging. Think form followed by function, and go for attention-grabbing headers and titles, visually-stunning telegraphic iconography, concise messaging, and quick yet memorable, meaningful takeaways. Create phone, tablet, and desktop “experiences” that takes user mindset into account—again, begin with mobile and go from there.

 

A Prime Example

A common request marketing agencies receive from clients is creating a product gallery. In terms of mobile, the gallery must be easy to swipe through so one product per swipe is featured with minimal copy. This results in a more intimate browsing experience. Image pairings are possible for tablets and desktops, or showcasing the entire product page. 

 

Wrap-Up 

Don’t think of mobile as far better than the other options, as each offers its own benefits. Rather, view them as complimentary. On mobile, for example, it’s easy to focus on a given element, while desktops make it possible to display an entire product line and emphasize that the brand meets the needs of a whole range of customers. It’s also possible to group products “visually, physically, or factually” in light of varying market approaches. 

The ability to solve the same issue on different devices is one that cannot be discussed enough, as it makes the ability to change content according to platform easier in the future. It also helps significantly in terms of prioritizing per device, and creating responsive designs. 

 

April 18, 2015

Wrap Raises $3.5 Million in Series A Funding

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In today’s mobile era, content in increasingly digested in “bite-size” chunks. Wrap Media is a new company looking to develop a viable alternative to what it calls “wraps,” or small stories delivered as swipe-able content on mobile devices. The company has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding from FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. 

Launching a wrap from your mobile device is easy enough, and once launched you may swipe left or right through the assorted pages to view content. It’s also possible to watch embedded YouTube videos or tap through links to connect with Wrap on social media. As far as potential use goes, options include sharing stories and embedding coupons or merchandise you can purchase from automated business emails, such as digital receipts and order confirmations.  

The folks at Wrap Media stress that what they’ve created is not “another website creation service,” but a “presentation layer” that sits pretty atop any platform. While wraps are currently delivered via the mobile web, founder Eric Greenberg says the company’s long-term goal is to provide such experiences from anywhere, whether a small smartphone screen or a gigantic living room television.  

Greenberg had the idea for Wrap while building a mobile gifting app through a card-based user interface. He found the interface had more potential than the app itself, and subsequently shifted company focus to the interface. Greenberg is also the founder of several other companies, including systems integrators Scient and Viant. 

Wrap’s web-based authoring service provides companies with the ability to create app-like messages using simplistic tools, and messages may be shared as links on social media, SMS, and email. The idea is to provide a new format for mobile marketing so companies can share their stories without having to invest in serious development and design resources, even though it still looks like they did. Wraps are created in 15 minutes or over the course of a few hours depending on the amount of content involved. 

“This is a story that can’t be told today…because you’d have to develop something from scratch. And to do something like this, is a minimum of six figures,” Greenberg explained. “So instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with developers and designers, you can literally create these interactive experiences with a junior marketing manager, with no code and no design experience.”  

Companies currently utilizing Wrap’s services include CBS Interactive, Loverly, and StumbleUpon. Wrap is also in talks with some 50 other companies. Pricing is on a transitional basis as well as software-as-a-service, as Wrap is still in private beta. Service is intended to start around $300-$500 per month. 

The $3.5 million Wrap has acquired in funding includes $3 million from Founders Fund’s seed stage fund FF Angel LLC and Raine Ventures. The remaining $500,000 is out of Greenberg’s pocket. He also seeded the company with another $2.5 million, resulting in $6 million in raised funds. 

Wrap is expected to launch in September 2015. 

 

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.”