Web/Tech

70 posts categorized

September 17, 2014

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

(More Than) Texting From Your Computer

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As many iPhone users know, it can be a breeze to respond to iMessages whether you have your phone or not. Due to the fact that Apple has designed the iMessage platform to run on Mac, tablet, and smartphones alike, users have the benefit of sending and receiving messages from a computer if they want to. But what if you don’t have this luxury? Perhaps you are using another type of smartphone or you prefer PCs. Well, now you have an answer.

A new platform called Pushbullet serves to mirror all of the content on your android device, sending it to the computer of your choice. And yes, this includes text messages.

Many will argue that they don’t need to send or receive texts from their computer, but note all of the powerful benefits. First of all, mobile phones have much smaller interfaces with tiny on-screen keyboards that can be difficult to navigate. When you attempt to type on them, they autocorrect your every word. Were you to type the text message from your computer, you could type the whole text message on your regular keyboard – some without even looking at the screen.

When you work on a computer all day long (as most people do these days), isn’t it easier to send and receive text messages without having to look down at your phone every few seconds. Sending and receiving SMS messages from your computer is easier on the eyes and the neck. Also, you can turn off the loud text alert in the office without worrying about missing texts due to silent mode.

The Pushbullet platform also provides messaging history. If you have more than one mobile device, you can review all of your messages at once, along with any documents currently on the mobile device.

Pushbullet technology allows users to send a variety of items from their computers to their phones, save SMS attachments on a computer’s hard drive, and seamlessly transfer links between computer and phone. Essentially, Pushbullet has a variety of options for Android/PC users that can increase productivity immensely, which is arguably even more significant than sending a text messages from a computer.

September 12, 2014

Facebook is Converting 100m Africans Per Month

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The African continent is signing up to Facebook in droves, with 100 million users joining the social network every month. Most exciting for mobile marketing campaign managers is the fact that 80% of those users are joining via smartphones. This is indicative of a rapidly expanding mobile marketplace in emerging economies, as smartphone adoption in many African nations outstrips desktop adoption.

In part, this explosion has been driven by a deal inked between Facebook and cellular networks which ‘zero rates’ the service. This means data used by accessing Facebook does not count towards bills or data limits. Despite drawing some criticism from net neutrality advocates, the move has undoubtedly helped emerging economies in countries like Nigeria and Kenya compete; companies across Africa are reaching new, global audiences that were hitherto tough to crack.

This is just the beginning of what looks set to be a connectivity revolution in a continent historically beset with infrastructural problems. Some researchers are predicting mobile web use will increase 20-fold over the next five years. That’s double the predicted rate of growth in the rest of the world.

The relative affordability of, say, an iPhone compared to an Apple desktop computer is allowing citizens of developing countries to engage with the online world, and businesses to grow more quickly as their local audience builds. The declining cost of data, alongside faster transmission speeds, is improving communication in some of the remotest parts of the world, with sub-Saharan Africa undergoing a mobile digital revolution. 

It’s not just the low cost of recent generations of smartphone that suits these markets. Smartphones don’t need to be physically connected - either to network or electricity cables – to the same degree as desktop computers. This convenience and portability is allowing a whole new kind of mobile consumer to take advantage of internet access. 

Recent research from mobile tech firm Ericsson predicts voice call traffic in the region will double over the next five years. By the end of this year, there are expected to be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also says that 70% of users in the countries studies browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers.

Analysts say the Ericsson research confirms mobile’s dominance. In a recent TED talk on technology in Africa, the editor of South Africa’s Stuff magazine said:

"Africa is a mobile-only continent. There never was a landline infrastructure to begin with, apart from urban areas. Mobile has allowed anyone to have a phone in places that were previously impassable and uncontactable. It has also been enabled, from a business perspective, by prepaid payments that handily remove the equally widespread legacy problem in that very few people have banks accounts. It really is that technology leapfrog the industry likes to talk about."

 

September 11, 2014

Apple Tightens Consumer Privacy Regulations

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Much has been made in the media of consumer data gathered by search engines, and the potential breaches of privacy such activity entails. Less frequently discussed is the issue of what app developers should and shouldn’t do with users personal information, but Apple has preempted concerns by tightening its privacy rules regarding health apps. 

The new rules were announced ahead of the iOS 6 launch this month. Apple has told app developers using their new HealthKit software that they must not sell any personal data to advertisers. Apple hopes the move will keep concerns surrounding privacy at bay, as the tech giant moves into the health data industry.

Health data is not fully regulated by the law, which makes Apple’s unilateral decision to crack down on privacy breaches all the more interesting. Their revised iOS developer license agreement tells developers using the HealthKit interface that they “must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers”.

In addition, the agreement states:

“Your application must not access the HealthKit APIs unless it is primarily designed to provide health and/or fitness services, and this usage is clearly evident in your marketing text and user interface.”

The launch of HealthKit was announced in June. The software, which gathers data on health metrics such as blood pressure and heart rate, reflects a growing market for health tech tools like wearables. Consumers can choose from a plethora of apps to track their vital signs, calorie intake and burn, diet and exercise, but despite the large amounts of biological and personal data collected by such tools, many users aren’t cognizant of how much information they are giving up.

Apple’s tightened regulations go as far as barring developers who violate the terms by selling health related consumer information to advertisers. The rules state that developers using HealthKit can collect data, but can’t sell it to “advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.’ If user consent is obtained, developers are allowed to share data with third parties for medical research purposes only. 

The health industry has been trying all manner of ways to use mobile technology to the benefit of patients. In Scotland, SMS messaging is being used to help smokers quit and drinkers cut down, and app developers have flooded the market with variations of fitness trackers and calorie counters.

 

 

August 29, 2014

SMS Marketing for Web-Only Businesses

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The most traditional way to interact with customers is of course to talk with them face-to-face. Second is to communicate with them via voice phone calls. But what if you don’t maintain these capacities due to the nature of your business? Many online brands today simply don’t have the infrastructure for live agents, or a brick-and-mortar location where they can foster live customer engagement. Luckily, this age of technology has opened a lot of doors for small businesses in the form of SMS marketing.

By engaging customers over their text messaging apps, customers have absolute freedom. They aren’t bothered by telesales reps, nor do they have to visit a store to learn about the latest deal. They can choose to open and read text message at their leisure. And with more than a 97% open rate, smart business owners are taking advantage of text marketing—the simplest and most effective form of mobile communication for customer interaction.

Call-to-Action

When connecting with customers through SMS, remember to always emphasize a concise and appealing call-to-action. Letting them know who you are, why you’re contacting them, and what’s in it for the customer is tough to do in such a short message…and that’s why text message marketing is a bit of an art form. A/B test your messages; discover which words and phrases hit home and which ones don’t create traction.

VIP Treatment

Another critical piece is to make customers feel as though they are part of a special club or VIP group. Receiving exclusive offers will develop brand loyalty, as well as continued excitement around opting in to your text marketing list. Offering promotional codes and coupons can be very effective in converting mobile users into new and repeat customers, and loyalty programs are a good follow up to such promotions. Think of some free or discounted items loyal customers might enjoy as a reward for their participation.

Event Marketing

Reminding customers about upcoming events also works well via SMS messages. Oftentimes, readers will overlook an email with the exact same content as a text message. Due to the exorbitant amount of spam that customers find in their inboxes, they are less likely to open many of their emails. So next time, text them event invites, and you just might find turnout numbers increasing dramatically.

Surveys and Feedback

Finally, offering your customers a way to provide feedback is very effective in text messages. Surveys these days need to be kept short, and a text message survey is the perfect feedback tool. It’s cheaper and more effective than other forms of survey solicitation, as brands will often receive an immediate response to the message. Simply ask a couple question via text (instead of in a lofty email or phone call), and your customers may be happy to oblige. Surveys are especially effective when offering a reward for participation.

In utilizing these simple techniques for your web-based business, you’re likely to see the benefits of SMS marketing campaigns immediately. Everyone is using their phone to text these days – shouldn’t your business be taking advantage of a well-executed SMS campaign? Once you implement text message marketing into your overall customer engagement strategy, customers will be able to communicate more seamlessly with your company, and for a fraction of the cost of other marketing programs.

August 20, 2014

The Big Mobile Marketing Match: Email vs. SMS

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No doubt about it, email marketing has been king for many years in the new media advertising realm. The accessibility to potential clients, coupled with low-cost delivery has proven to be a boon for marketing campaigns across the board. Since spam filters have enhanced and email open rates have decreased, however, SMS text message marketing has taken a leading spot in digital advertising.

First off, there are a great deal more mobile users than email users. According to a study by Ericsson in 2014, there are reportedly 4.5 billion mobile users in the world. This number does not include users who own and use multiple devices. Each of these users has the capability of receiving a text message via SMS. The Radicati Group recently reported that there are a projected 2.5 billion email users around the globe. Essentially, that’s about 45% more people who can receive SMS versus email.

SMS, unlike email, has not yet been impacted by spam – at least not in the same fashion. Often emails that are completely legitimate are considered spam simply because inboxes are inundated with junk mail. This has driven down the possibility of connecting with readers of email, with only 22% of messages having the opportunity to be opened and read by email users. SMS, in contrast, has a 98% open rate by mobile users, with only 1% filtered by spam text messaging.

Think about how the average mobile user addresses a text message versus an email. For years, email users have complained about the content of their inboxes, scrutinizing the subject lines to determine if each email is worth opening. When mobile users receive texts, however, they choose to open virtually all of them. It is still natural for mobile users to assume a text is coming from a more trusted source, whereas email users are highly skeptical of the correspondence they receive – especially if they do not recognize the sender. Perhaps as text marketing is adopted by more companies, this trend will alter toward the high filtration rate of email filtering. On the other hand, with such strict guidelines set forth by the FCC when it comes to SMS marketing, the level of spam texting may stay significantly low for quite some time.

The real benefit of SMS marketing is the increased rate of return. It’s true that companies must still market via email, just as they must continue employing traditional advertising channels. But the open and click-through ratio for text messaging far surpasses that of email or traditional marketing methods. The numbers don’t lie – consider ramping up your marketing game by developing an effective SMS campaign today. You’ll be happy with the results.

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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Beacon technology incorporates the power of consumer-targeted advertising with location-based mobile marketing by installing small pieces of low-cost hardware within the shelves of retail stores. When customers enter a store with Bluetooth-enabled mobiles or tablets, the business can send customized advertisements directly to their devices thereby enhancing their shopping experience. While Beacons have only recently begun to appear in shops, the technology itself is already part of Apple devices since the 3rd generation of their products. And reports from the tech blogs are starting to take notice of the Beacon technology’s capabilities.

Mass Potential

Apple’s beacon system, called iBeacon, is automatically installed in all devices that use their current operating system, iOS 7. This means that, even if a mobile user knows little about how the iPad or iPhone works, they still have the infrastructure in place to benefit from Beacon technology. There could be as many as 190 million iOS devices currently capable of accessing iBeacons. Undoubtedly, this number showcases the unbridled potential of Beacon technology.

Current Barriers

There is a bit of a curve to this technology, though. An almost equal amount of the mobile and tablet markets use non-Apple products, which are less integrated with the Beacon infrastructure. Because the operating systems of non-Apple products tend to require updated versions of their OS, mobile marketers cannot rely upon these technologies for their Beacon-based advertising strategies.

Furthermore, Beacon technology requires mobile users to “opt in,” in a manner of speaking. First of all, customers will need to download the appropriate app for the business in question, and then they will have to activate it before entering the store. In addition, Beacons require ranging technology to function, which works in proximity of the devices using a mobile’s Bluetooth. The mobile will not receive any pushes or notifications, however, if a phone’s location is cloaked – the customer must allow the appropriate app to access its location for the Beacon to function properly.

The Future

In truth, Beacon technology is only beginning to get a foothold in the physical advertising space, and once it gains some traction, it will be here to stay. The unrealized potential of mobile location-based marketing is burgeoning, just waiting to be deployed. In the near future, we will witness customers taking advantage of flash sales and contactless payment options, as well as living in automated homes where temperature and lighting may be adjusted directly from mobile devices. The rule books have yet to be written. We do know that the key to capitalizing on Beacon technology will rely on corporations’ creativity and connectedness: sharing real-time information with customers to a mutual end and appealing to the changing temperaments of these individuals, all the while motivating these loyal customers in a direction – according to when and where – they want them to be. 

August 01, 2014

Hospitality Industry Divided Over Mobile Marketing

 

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience. 

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale. 

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars! 

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

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SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

July 30, 2014

Microsoft Finally Takes It's Head From the Sand... and Into the Cloud

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After years of threatening to become a computing anachronism, Microsoft is transmogrifying into a cloud services provider with a strong focus on mobile marketing. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant put the finishing touches to its Windows Phone 8.1 OS, and promised delivery to consumers by ‘Summer 2014’. They’ve already begun integrating Nokia’s smartphone business, and shares have gone up by 25% since the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella five months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft is finally joining the cloud/mobile party that’s been in full swing since the turn of the decade. It’s been a long time coming, and competing with the likes of Google and Apple will be a tough road aho.

Critics have lambasted Microsoft for its reticence regarding the obvious consumer appeal of cloud computing, but their strategy has become more focused on Nadella’s watch, with the professed ‘cloud first, mobile first’ philosophy at last gaining credibility.

In particular, the firm has begun to recognize the need to give partners more control over the cloud services they resell. They recently announced the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program, which grants affiliates who resell products like Office 365 and Windows Intune greater control of billing and customer service tools. Says Phil Sorgen, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Partnerships:

“It fundamentally enables our partners to own the customer relationship.”

The program will expand gradually until it covers all MS cloud services. It certainly appears that Microsoft is offering the right incentives to partners. They are waiving the first year fee for new registrants wanting to sell Azure and Office 365, and increasing the number of internal use rights licenses by anything from 25 to 200 percent. Even their traditional on-premise software products are getting a 10 percent price slash for partner programs.

The jury is still out on whether this cloud and mobile marketing strategy will pay off for Microsoft. With hundreds of thousands of partners out their, the challenge is to meet the needs of a vast, heterogeneous group with extremely diverse priorities. Not all of them are thrilled at the way the wind is blowing.

Many long-time resellers and integrators will find themselves struggling to adjust their models to cloud-based services after years spent building business around on-premises Microsoft software. For one thing, on-premises deals are usually made with a one-time payment, whilst cloud services are sold by subscription. The latter generates recurring revenue streams – but the size of the deal tends to be smaller.

But Microsoft have realized that focusing on the future is the only way to ensure long term prosperity. Their attentions are pointed at the ‘born in the cloud’ generation of entrepreneurs who have never used on-premises software. For them, Microsoft’s evolution can’t happen quickly enough.