Web/Tech

203 posts categorized

May 01, 2016

Apps vs. Mobile Site

 

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered whether to focus on making your website mobile friendly or utilizing the skills of a talented app developer. Both offer mobile marketing strategy advantages in light of industry, budget, and target audience, yet considering the amount of conflicting advice floating around, deciding which one to go with is often challenging. 

In 2013 a Compuware survey found that 85 percent of consumers enjoy apps over mobile websites. However, this hardly means one is better than the other, or that there isn’t just as huge a market for mobile sites. It’s like saying a percentage of people prefer the beach to the mountains—there’s still plenty of reasons to market mountain-based attractions. 

The decision to go with apps over a mobile website or vice versa depends on your mobile marketing strategy and related tactics.

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites

A mobile-optimized website is essentially a responsive design that recognizes when a visitor is using a mobile device and then converts the site to a version that’s easy to read via mobile. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to produce different or additional content for a mobile site, as you would have to for an app. This makes mobile marketing management a much more streamlined process, and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business, rather than concerning yourself with content all the time. 

Mobile websites arguably drive more traffic than apps, so consider your ultimate goals behind site use: are you looking to improve consumer loyalty, or increase revenue by expanding your customer base? A cross-channel site may be your best option depending on what you wish to accomplish. 

 

Apps

The main advantage of having an app for your business is that it lets you make excellent use of a tablet or smartphone’s hardware and native functionalities. Cameras, GPS, speedometers, gyroscopes, and other useful pieces of technology found on the vast majority of modern devices are easily worked into your app’s operation. 

Another advantage of apps is that they rarely require an internet connection to run. Most apps store data locally on a phone or tablet’s hard drive, so users may enjoy them even if no internet connection is available. For example, some news apps download and store content through a Wi-Fi connection so users may read about current events until the app is able to sync with another connection. 

App infrastructure and development tools are more sophisticated and user friendly than ever thanks to demand for app developers, with major operating systems offering a serious selection of frameworks for developers to work with. Most frameworks are free. 

 

Wrapping Up

Again, which one you decide to go with depends on what your ultimate marketing goals are, how big your budget is, and more factors. If you have the means and the employees to handle a mobile-friendly site and an app, why not try both and see if one offers more benefits to your company than the other. You also might find that your team is efficient enough to provide content to each channel, thus increasing brand awareness and reach. Whatever you decide, remember that it’s a very good idea to offer at least one of the two options to your target audience. 

April 25, 2016

Pet Care Goes Mobile

 

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American’s love affair with animals has opened all kinds of doors for entrepreneurs and capitalists that see the growing obsession as a way to make a quick buck. Gluten-free dog treats and luxury cat towers are certainly more common today than they were just 10 years ago, and that’s just the beginning.

 

The Rough Life 

In the U.S. alone, the ASPCA estimates that there are 70 to 80 million dogs; approximately 37 percent to 47 percent of all US households are “with K9.” As pets become increasingly integrated in our home lives, it makes sense that a slew of products, gadgets, and services would also arrive in the marketplace. The newest of these is available on your mobile device. 

One of the greatest challenges many dog owners face is balancing a healthy schedule for the dog with the need to keep regular business hours. But that’s a lot easier said than done, especially for dog owners who often need help exercising their pooches, as well as ensuring they get regular bathroom time outside. According to this article, millennials in particular struggle with this issue: they prefer the jobs and the lifestyle of urban areas, but they also seek companionship from pets. 

Hunter Reed, a Nashville-area native, is one such pet owner. Long hours at his job meant that his boxer, Bella, would be stuck at home for long periods of time without company. He would look for dog walkers on craigslist, but found that most were unreliable. Reed would ask his friends in desperation, but ultimately found the issue too troubling not to act. 

"It got to the point where you feel bad asking your friends or neighbors," said Reed.

 

Pet-Sitting App 

Reed’s solution, in collaboration with Cody Dysert and Kris Molinari, was to create an app that connected dog owners with dog walkers using similar technology to the one used by Uber and Lyft. Reed’s app is called Walkio, and it’s competing for market space with similar apps in the pet-sitting arena. 

Walkio uses a vetting system, like Uber, that requires all walkers to undergo a background check. The app handles most of the administrative work dog walkers would normal manage on their own, including payments, appointments, scheduling, and key exchanging though lock boxes. Walkio uses basic chat features to let pet owners and walkers communicate as the walker picks up, walks, and returns the dog home. 

Pricing for this service ranges from $17 to $75 depending on the length of time the dog needs to be cared for — which includes an overnight option. 

There are several similar apps already on the market for this service, including Wag!, Swifto, Barkly, and Urban Leash. Reed hopes that by focusing on the customer services of the app, and starting in the Southeast region of the U.S., Walkio can become a market leader, at the very least in Nashville.

“The tech community in Nashville is really growing,” Reed said.

Reed and his co-founders are currently looking for funding to take the app to the next level. So far, the team has been primarily self-funded; the user base is still very small.

Will Walkio carve out a niche in the Southeast? One thing is for certain: Bella the dog is likely wagging her tail. 

April 18, 2016

Mobile Device Failure Rates Highest in Asia

 

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Last year, smartphone shipments hit record levels, up 10.1 percent in 2015 to an impressive 1.3 billion units worldwide. What’s more, 20 percent of the world’s population received new smartphones last year, which means 20 percent of the world’s population got rid of their old phones, for one reason or another. 

Blancco Technology Group recently published its quarterly trend report, and one of the fascinating details outlined in the research was the way different cultures used the same technology to achieve different ends. One finding involved the way human behavior in Asia influenced the failure rates of smartphone devices, which may be linked to the number of replacement devices we saw in 2015. 

 

What Went Wrong? 

Throughout the world, there are five primary issues that caused device failures; user behavior plays an important role in how we interpret this data. The top five issues included trouble with the camera, touchscreen, battery charging, microphone, and speed/performance of the device. These issues affect both Android and iOS users. 

In Asia, these device issues have a unique spread, with speed and performance ranking the highest, followed by camera, then battery charging, during Q4 of 2015.

Device failure rates are the highest in Asia. Of all the devices returned, or sent to the manufacture for repairs, 50 percent of the devices were returned ‘NTF’, or No Trouble Found. But what does that mean exactly? Why are so many phones having issues in Asia, but when customer service representatives or repair specialists review the device, there’s nothing wrong with it?

 

Mobile Cultural 

This trend could go back to cultural differences in the way people use smartphones. In places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, mobile users frequently use messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat to communicate socially, even professionally. In some instances, large numbers of users may be communicating simultaneously in a single group chat or bulk text messaging, which can greatly reduce the battery life of the phone, as well as slow down the overall performance. 

Similarly, leaving popular social networking applications open, which regularly cache and store user data, can be extremely draining to battery life, limiting other resources on the device. This makes accessing email and other important functions more difficult, resulting in issues for the user. 

These are not hardware-related problems. In fact, Blancco’s report suggests that human error plays a large role in the number of issues being reported by participating countries.  The U.S. and Europe, for example, report their own distinct device issues, many of which can also be linked to human error. 

 

Why It’s Important

As smartphone use becomes more standardized in our work and professional lives, it’s going to be important for network operators and device manufactures to understand the cultural differences that affect the overall performance of a phone, depending on the country it’s shipped to. This is also important for businesses that have adopted the BYOD (bring your own device) ideology in the workplace, where device failures can have a serious impact on a businesses’ bottom lines. 

Education will play a large role in lowering the excessive cost of device issues for manufactures and repairs specialists alike. Teaching a user how to keep a phone in good working order will ultimately save everyone time and resources.

April 08, 2016

Samsung Has Launched Its Mobile Wallet in China

 

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Samsung’s mobile wallet is making its way to China, no tunneling required. The international tech firm recently announced Chinese shoppers can now use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases, and are therefore joining the Asian country’s trillion-dollar mobile wallet market. 

 

Partnership With UnionPay

SamsungPay was launched in partnership With UnionPay, the same bankcard company that helped bring ApplePay to life. UnionPay credit and debit cards are currently the only cards linked with local Samsung phones at this time, with up to 10 cards allowed per device. SamsungPay is available in China on the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5 smartphones. 

 

Positive Reception

Injong Rhee, EVP and Head of R&D, Software, and Services of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said the company is pleased to partner with CUP in order to bring SamsungPay to Chinese consumers. Rhee said SamsungPay reception has so far been very positive, and the service has found success in both consumer adoption and availability. 

The EVP also stated that Samsung hopes to make the payment option available to as many Chinese consumers as possible so that “everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy the simplicity, safety and convenience of this mobile payment solution."

 

Participating Institutions

Banking institutions currently participating in SamsungPay include the largest bank in the country, ICBC, as well as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank. Other major institutions such as Bank of Communications and Bank of China are said to follow suit. 

 

Additional Phones

In addition to the Samsung phones listed above, the Korean tech giant noted the possibility of adding more devices, including the Galaxy A5, A7, and A9, as they were also tested in public beta. Rooted devices do not support SamsungPay. 

 

The Challenge

China’s mobile wallet industry is quite well established, making Samsung’s foray into the market a challenging one. Local services such as WeChat and AliPay are used for online shopping and transportation services among other things, and are now available for brick-and-mortar store use. Analysts recently remarked that AliPay and WeChat are so ingrained among Chinese consumers that introducing new mobile wallet options will be an “uphill battle.” However, Samsung has previously noted one essential factor working for them: the technology is applicable to a larger number of existing payment terminals. 

 

“Simple and Safe”

Samsung also believes its mobile wallet option will work because it’s “simple, safe, and easy to use,” and that it works “virtually anywhere” in China that allows consumers to swipe or tap their cards. There’s no need to unlock phones or use special apps to access Samsung’s mobile wallet, which makes it arguably more appealing than earlier incarnations requiring these steps, such as Google Wallet. 

The mobile wallet is similar to ApplePay in that it utilizes near field communication technology (NFC). Samsung’s version will also support the magnetic secure transmission technology used on standard credit card machines. 

As of the fourth quarter of last year, Samsung was No. 6 in China’s smartphone market with a 7 percent share compared to Apple’s 15 percent. It will be interesting to see how the new mobile wallet option fares. SamsungPay is currently available in the U.S. and South Korea, and should enter the UK market later this year. 

March 31, 2016

Is Twitter Stagnating?

 

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Twitter launched in 2006, and within a year fell into the “global phenomenon” category. The social media platform’s origin story is a bit muddled, thanks to the ousting of various creators, however the invention of the hashtag brought with it the chance to promote and comment on worldwide issues, interact with celebrities, emphasize brands, products, and services, and so much more. Yet, despite the changes Twitter made to the world of media, some argue the platform is stagnating, if not dying

Let’s take a look at why Twitter is faltering, including the issues with which chief executive and founding father Jack Dorsey is currently dealing: 

 

Losing Money

Twitter has been losing money for a while now. The social media juggernaut is currently on a $2 billion revenue run rate, and in 2015 it earned $1.4 billion but lost $539 million. The company reported that, in its last quarter, it lost $137 million on $502 million in revenue, with industry experts noting that the $2 billion rate isn’t going to do much. 

 

Not Enough Heavily Active Users

The social media platform has plenty of users, but there’s a decline in the number of people who tweet on a consist basis. Users aren’t taking the time to share the social media option with others and convince them to sign up, among other problems. Dorsey touched on the importance of helping people extract value from the service as soon as possible, which raises the issue of whether people are eschewing Twitter because it’s challenging to use or because there’s simply little interest. 

 

Slow User Growth

Another issue Twitter’s bigwigs are facing is a slowdown in user growth. The social media platform is subsequently not only losing money, but also keeping away investors. Twitter will launch new products and features in hopes of appealing to new users and investors, however current changes haven’t affected the slow user growth rate so far. 

 

Abuse Issue

Some point to Twitter as a tool for abuse or bullying. Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Mean Tweets’ segment is an example of this, as celebrities come on the show to read negative tweets about themselves, often with hilarious results. While this is the lighter side of the bullying that takes place on Twitter and other social media platforms, industry insiders say that the “abused have become the abusers,” resulting in an age of stagnation and numbness. 

 

No Longer Retaining Talent?

Peter Currie, Twitter’s lead independent director, recently commented during a conference call that Dorsey not only attracts talented people, but also keeps them. However, many of the talented folks Dorsey and his associates have hired are leaving the company. They view it as a sinking ship and put in their two weeks in order to work with companies where they can truly thrive. 

Dorsey is also a part-time CEO, which is seen as another big problem affecting the social media platform. 

Is Twitter on its way out? If so, which social media options will take its place? 

 

March 29, 2016

Volvo Plans to Replace Car Keys with Phones

 

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Swedish car giant Volvo will become the first major automotive company to introduce key-less vehicles. All aspects of car security - including access and ignition - will instead be managed exclusively from bluetooth-enabled smartphones.

Volvo is not alone in taking steps to consign the traditional metal key to history. Even cheap subcompacts are increasingly being manufactured with electronic key fobs which, though expensive to replace, eliminate the problem of keys becoming stuck or broken in ignition locks or car doors. 

The smartphone solution would work in the same way as key fobs, starting the car and unlocking the doors and trunk. It goes further, allowing friends and relatives who wish to borrow the car to be granted access electronically by receiving the key from the owner’s smartphone. Car rentals would be simplified by issuing an electronic key to the renter’s smartphone.

Volvo is looking to try out the technology immediately, roadtesting the digital keys with a car sharing firm operating out of Gothenburg airport. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with digital keys in 2017.

 

March 24, 2016

Is the Biggest Issue with Smartphones Their Users?

 

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Today’s smartphones are capable of withstanding pretty serious damage, including getting dropped many times over, being subject to dust and other floating particles, or somehow landing in the bathtub when it’s full of hot water. Phones still fail every so often, as do most products whether they’re electronically-based or not. This is quite normal, however a new survey indicates that the biggest problems with smartphones aren’t the devices, but the users. It appears not everyone is as smartphone-savvy as they might think. 

 

“No Trouble Found” 

According to a recent survey from Blancco Technology Group, as many as three quarters of smartphone hardware failures are of the “NTF” or “no trouble found” variety. The State of Mobile Device Performance and Health Trend Report: Q4 2015 outlined the top five “trouble spots” result in 39% of mobile phone failures around the world, with the camera causing the biggest issues. Smartphone cameras are responsible of 10% of hardware problems, followed by the touch screen (9%), battery charging (8%), microphone (6%), and performance issues (6%). The report’s findings are based on “aggregate, anonymized data,” according to Blancco Technology Group, and was collected by the company’s SmartChk platform. 

 

Varies By Region

Smartphone trouble areas vary by region, with North American users fussy over performance and blaming hardware issues on slow operation. This is followed by the camera, charger, headset, and microphone. Carrier signal is by far the biggest issue in Europe, followed by calling ability, camera, and Wi-Fi issues. 

 

Misunderstandings

The survey found that user behavior and misunderstandings are the cause of supposed hardware problems. For example, almost 74% of smartphones returned in North America due to “hardware issues” were labeled “no trouble found.” NTF rates are also high in Europe (71%) and in Asia (50%). Such misunderstandings about how to properly use smartphones indicates their complexities continue to baffle users and result in problems for enterprises and carriers alike. 

High NTF rates are particularly problematic for enterprises, according to the survey. 

“The ability to quickly triage mobile device issues – be it legitimate or specious—will mitigate these impacts and deliver on the promise of mobile connectivity for businesses supporting employees’ smartphones, be they corporate-issued or BYOD.” 

 

Up To Device Developers

These issues may cause problems for enterprises and carriers, however they aren’t their inequities to rectify. It’s the job of device developers to create smartphones and other mobile devices easy to use and understand. “Easy” devices won’t result in frustration...and subsequent “send-backs.” 

 

Apple Over Android

The survey also notes that Apple is currently ahead of Android in regards to user-related device problems, which found 85% of such issues came from Android devices compared to 15% of iOS devices. However, industry experts say these numbers don’t reflect the significant differences in the market share, nor the lower price points attached to most Android devices. Experts have remarked that Apple surpassing Android in this regard should be taken with a bucket rather than a grain of salt. 

 

March 22, 2016

How Mobile Apps Are Changing the Construction Industry

 

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General contractors, construction managers, and subcontractors make up a small portion of the working components required to successfully build a home or other outdoor structure. In 2016, it’s no surprise that many of these working parts can now be managed, tracked, and organized using field-ready mobile apps specific to the work of construction. Here’s a look at some popular apps, as well as the tools they offer, that are changing the construction industry. 

 

No Time, No Problem 

One of the biggest challenges faced by construction workers and managers is to keep strict timelines that contain several inspection points along the way. Before the walls go up, the plumbing and electrical wiring must first be inspected, right? So keeping a tight schedule is an important part of the job—especially if you’re working with anxious homeowners. 

Thanks to apps like BuilderTREND, construction managers can handle everything from time constraints to subcontractors, with an interface that can be custom branded for a specific construction company. In addition to looking supremely professional with its customized logo and header, the system offers a great way to keep track of multiple moving parts, while keeping everyone in the loop. 

Now you don’t have to worry about who, what, when, or where. It’s all right there in one easy-to-use app, available on Android and iOS for about $99 a month.  

 

Improve Communication 

Another construction area that’s been greatly affected by mobile is communication. As you might expect, construction requires that communication among several parties be coordinated and constant. If something goes wrong at the job site, say with the plumbing, it’s important that the subcontractor is back on the site to fix it as soon as possible so that next steps aren’t delayed. 

Fieldlens is an app that allows construction managers to keep an open line of communication with every party involved. Fieldlens has settings to allow you to prioritize certain conversations and include or exclude individuals to segregate information. There’s also a “LiveLayer” function that allows contractors to mark drawings in layers to avoid excessive clutter. You can then color code those drawings and share them with the right people without distraction. 

The best part about this app is that it’s free, but only for up to three users per project. You can upgrade to the pro plan for $25 per user per month on both iOS and Android phones. 

 

Clean Up the Clutter

Like most industries, construction has looked for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, and thanks to mobile apps, a lot of the waste and clutter has been eliminated. 

The Canvas app is a great example of how streamlining the paperwork on a cloud-based system is both eco-friendly and extremely productive for construction managers and workers. 

Canvas is a pick-and-build your own construction app featuring more than 5,000 specific apps to fit needs on a per-project basis. Just drag and drop what you want—virtually everything is done on the cloud. You can even get signatures on your phone to complete inspections, fulfill requests, and place orders. 

Save paper on bids, estimates, and contracts with this app, which starts at $13 a month and is available on iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Windows 5.0-6.5. 

Construction may require you move a stone or two from time to time, but it sure doesn’t mean you have to live in the Stone Age. Check out one of these apps or look to others for a mobile solution that fits your construction needs. 

March 21, 2016

Chinese Mobile Companies Muscle in on Apple and Samsung's Territory

 

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Do you like the idea of a cell phone that has all the latest technology at a cheap price? A lot of people in China do, which is why Chinese brands like OPPO and TCL are closing in on the mobile market that Apple and Samsung have dominated for years.

It’s likely that the European and United States markets will appreciate an all-the-frills cell phone for a steal, too. 

Little-known tech companies in China are hoping that consumers will find their low-cost Android mobile devices attractive and turn to them over the now-more-popular competition. Even small Chinese brands, such as Xiaomi and Huawei, are giving the front-runners in the industry a bit to think about in terms of product cost.

 

What Does the Future Hold for Chinese Mobile Brands?

At the recent Mobile World Congress, a wireless show that was held in Barcelona this year, TCL, Hauwei, and Xiaomi revealed high-end cell phones that are part of an ambitious plan to take over the market. Xiaomi usually launches its phones in China, but the company was compelled to announce its new Mi 5 at the Mobile World Congress and steal the show from its well-established competitors. 

Will there be an audience for this new type of Chinese smartphone? Probably, considering what AndroidPIT editor Shu On Kwok implies when he says, “The Chinese smartphone vendors have a very unique feature - it is the price.” 

In today’s market, it’s common to get a standard collection of features from one Android device to the other. With a large group of consumers not needing functionality beyond what’s typical and necessary, innovation might take a backseat to price.

With the new Chinese phones coming on to the market, cell phone buyers get nearly the same features as high-end Apple and Samsung model phones for a much lower price. 

 

What Do Consumers Really Want?

During 2015, Samsung’s market share declined, and Apple forecasted its first decline in revenue in more than 12 years. These companies are going to need to prove that their products are worth the significant difference in price if they’re going to succeed and keep dominating the market.

Apple has tried to keep a stronghold on the smartphone market by positioning itself as a company with many exclusive hardware and software offerings. However, consumers have often been able to get features on Android devices that are similar to the brilliance that Apple is touting, and these buyers are completely okay with that “close enough” ideology.

So, if “close enough” is good enough to keep people from buying Apple products, it may be all that’s needed to make them opt for Chinese brands that offer similar features and functions. Samsung has all but stated that it’s not concerned about the Chinese mobile companies. Its mobile chief, D.J. Koh, said, "We have other ideas,” meaning that Samsung is depending on technology beyond mobile phone features, such as a virtual-reality headset that offers a 360-degree camera and is compatible with the company’s Galaxy phones. 

It seems that Apple and Samsung might need to keep reaching beyond their mobile phone markets to stay dominant in the future, and they might need to adjust their attention to include the needs of gamers and other tech enthusiasts.  

March 14, 2016

Top New York Hospital Embraces Mobile Technology

 

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People use mobile technology in many aspects of their lives, from ordering to-go meals and finding the closest coffee shops to banking and getting consumer ratings. Now, folks can turn to mobile technologies, including apps, to help them with something else: healthcare.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is adopting mobile platforms, such as apps, to take care of many patient needs and to make providing healthcare easier for doctors. The No. 1 hospital in New York recently launched the NewYork-Presbyterian app for phones and tablets, which enhances the experience of patients and gives them more ways to communicate with the hospital. 

They’ll be able to get in touch with physicians through the application and use an online payment system to settle bills. The app offers assistance navigating around the hospital, viewing information about services and medical professionals, and connecting with NewYork-Presbyterian’s social media channels.

 

A Health Care App for the Way We Live Our Lives

Since mobile technology has become so integrated in day-to-day living, the NewYork-Presbyterian app makes sense. It’s in its infancy, so there’s room for it to grow and become more perfect, but it’s a useful tool for people looking for a simple way to stay informed and correspond with those assisting with their care.

“If you were to come in for an operation, you would be able to give your loved one’s phone number to the registration desk and while you are having your operation, it sends automated messaging to your loved one’s phone number,” says NYP Chief Innovation Officer Peter Fleischut. The app allows you to make sure friends and family members are updated in real time, so that they always know what’s going on. 

Future updates to the NewYork-Presbyterian app will include a telehealth feature that allows for scheduling of follow-up visits and remote patient monitoring. The anticipated version of the application will also have a visitor’s guide and a way for users to request second opinions from doctors.

 

The InnovateNYP: Pediatric App Challenge

Along with the NewYork-Presbyterian app, the hospital has recently launched the InnovateNYP: Pediatric Challenge, a contest that asks techies and forward-thinkers to come up with games, creative tools, and activities to encourage the best healthcare for our kids. The Challenge is open to hospital employees and the public, and it’s the first of its kind, bringing designers, developers, technologies, and clinicians together in an effort to advance new ideas in pediatric care. The kick-off activity for the Pediatric Challenge is a 10-week InnovateNYP: Pediatric Appathon that will have participants from around the world creating what will hopefully be the next huge advancement in healthcare for children.

 

Patients Are Embracing Mobile Technology to Make Important Health Decisions

Fleischut says that patients are embracing the hospital’s mobile offers, in particular the text feature that lets them get in touch with the hospital when they need to. However, the actual usefulness of this feature, as well as the importance of future additions to the app and the hospital’s technology, is yet to be determined.

“It’s one thing to get initial downloads but I’m more interested in being able to engage with our users,” Fleischut stated. “How long are they staying in the application? How frequently are they coming back to the application?” 

With the tech community involved in the venture, there’s likely to be constant monitoring of the processes to build technology for the hospital that focuses on exactly what patients and medical staff need.