November 28, 2015
The proliferation of smartphones adds a wrinkle to one of the worst refugee crises in recent history, with more than 4 million citizens fleeing the civil war in Syria since 2011. Refugees are no longer completely helpless or lost, with the mobile device serving as their lifeline to family and support organizations. [via C/net]
As governments are grappling with the issue, nonprofit organizations and startups like Disaster Tech Lab have stepped up to lend aid, whether with replacement handsets or using Airbnb-style strategies to locate housing. It also makes refugees better able to help themselves.
Read full article.
November 27, 2015
For the first time ever, more people are expected to visit retailers’ websites on their smartphones than from their desktops during the year’s busiest shopping period. [via Quartz]
Mobile traffic for the five-day shopping bonanza over Thanksgiving is expected to reach 56.9% of total traffic, up from 48.5% last year, according to predictions from IBM’s Watson.
Many shoppers don’t resort to buying anything after they spend time looking, perplexing retailers. But sales from mobile shoppers are also expected to rise to 36.1% of all online sales from 27% last year, IBM Watson trend predicts. Forrester estimates mobile to account for 35% of e-commerce this year, up from 29% a year ago.
Smartphones have gotten bigger, making it easier to see what’s on offer, and mobile wallets are facilitating easier transactions, AP noted. Retailers have improved their mobile apps and coupon offerings.
Forrester predicts online sales to increase 11% to $95 billion, with mobile sales accounting for more of the total.
Some retailers are already way past the 50% tipping point. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, predicts that 75% of US traffic will come from mobile devices during the holiday season.
Read full article.
October 16, 2015
The Pew Research Center study of Millennial communication habits, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychology of Popular Media journal, found that texting is hugely popular among teenagers, with 63% of teens reporting they send and receive an average of 167 texts per day. (Only 35% report socializing face-to-face outside of school.)
... The findings show a gender disparity: while boys and girls both text at about the same rates, girls compulsively text about 20% more than boys. There also seems to be a connection between poor grades and compulsive texting that affects girls more strongly than boys.
The reasons why this is the case could come down to the different reasons why girls and boys text. A previous study showed that while boys tend to text to convey information, girls use texting as a means of social interaction and developing relationships, whether they be familial, friendly or romantic.
October 7, 2015
Warning labels on smartphones, tablets and other digital devices in the manner of cigarette packaging could help prevent users becoming addicted to their gadgets, according to research. [The Telegraph]
Applying labels or messages on devices could encourage responsible usage and raise awareness of the potential side effects of digital addiction, researchers at Bournemouth University said.
Symptoms of addiction to social networks, sites and games can include tolerance to a continuous increase of usage, changes in user mood once they are online, withdrawal symptoms when away from the device and relapsing when trying to adjust to using it less, the study found.
The research drew parallels between the labelling used in the tobacco and alcohol industries to raise awareness of the potential consequences, stating ”we still do not have the same for addictive software”.
SMS Enable Your Applications
Using Our SMS Gateway API
October 2, 2015
"Something as common as cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness". [via TIME]
You probably Pphubb all the time, even if you don’t know what that means. And a new study says it could be damaging your relationship.
Pphubbing refers to “partner phone snubbing,” or when you get distracted by your cell phone when you’re with your significant other. A new study from Baylor University found that Pphubbing hurts relationship satisfaction, thus also negatively impacting overall happiness.
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” James Roberts, a professor of marketing and co-author of the paper, said in a statement. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
September 9, 2015
Almost half of Kenyan mothers do not give birth in a hospital and, thus, receive little professional care or education on basics such as how long to breast feed, what to do in the case of diarrhea and vomiting, or where to go for an emergency. In this issue of Digital Diversity, Cayte Bosler looks at an innovative text messaging service which helps parents differentiate between normal behaviors and signs that something might be wrong. [via National Geographic]
Even in low income settings like Kibera, the majority of people have basic phones,” explains Malele Ngalu, marketing director for Kenya-based Totohealth. “We utilize SMS technology to help reduce maternal mortality and child mortality and to detect developmental abnormalities in early stages.”
Users subscribe to the service for free; the cost – about 25 cents per person a month – is covered by county governments, who see it as a way to improve community health. Once they’ve registered, users get weekly messages about what to expect from their children.
In addition to the weekly text messages, users also have full-time access to a help-desk feature for specific questions and concerns.
“Some of the questions we receive are life threatening,” Ngalu says. “We have a staff of trained medical professionals who respond within minutes.”
“Instead of building an app, we take advantage of what’s already used,” Ngalu says. “That’s the difference between what’s happening here and in other countries. SMS is still king in an African environment because over 50 percent of our communities are still remote.
Read full article.
September 8, 2015
For the Syrian refugees marooned at Budapest station in Hungary, charging a phone can be tricky. There’s one outlet in the train station, another in the nearby migration aid offices, and a few power lines offered up by satellite news trucks on the scene. Local businesses are a gamble – some have started charging high prices for the privilege of plugging a phone in. New Scientist reports.
It was very obvious that people were desperately trying to find ways to charge their phones,” says Kate Coyer, director of the Civil Society and Technology Project at Central European University in Budapest.
Smartphones are a vital survival tool for many of the millions who have been forced to flee Syria. Some say they relied on their phone’s GPS to navigate the thousands of kilometres into Europe. For example, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) documented one man’s trip from Aleppo to Hamburg, Germany, travelling by ferry, train, taxi and on foot. Throughout the two-month journey, he said GPS helped guide the way.
... WhatsApp also provides a critical link to friends and family left behind. Aid organisations have started to recognise the importance of a smartphone. In Jordan, a United Nations office hands out SIM cards. In Lebanon and northern Iraq, the IRC has given out thousands of solar-powered chargers.
Read full article.
August 27, 2015
You generally won't offend others if you use your cell phone while walking down the sidewalk or on public transportation, but use at the movies or church is definitely out. c/Net reports.
Those are some of the findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center on what Americans consider appropriate use of cell phones in public or social settings. The study reflects how technology is rewriting the rules of civility in a world in which 90 percent of the US adult population say they have a cell phone and 31 percent say they never turn it off, Pew said.
"People's cell phone use has injected itself into public spaces," the study's authors said. "This has blurred the line between private and public as often-intimate and occasionally blustering phone conversations have now become a common part of the background noise during bus rides, grocery shopping excursions, picnics, sidewalk strolls, waits in airport terminals and many other public venues.
August 26, 2015
The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station. The New York Times reports.
Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,” Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.
“I would never have been able to arrive at my destination without my smartphone,” he added. “I get stressed out when the battery even starts to get low.”
Technology has transformed this 21st-century version of a refugee crisis, not least by making it easier for millions more people to move. It has intensified the pressures on routes that prove successful — like this one through the Balkans, where the United Nations said Tuesday that about 3,000 people a day continued to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia.
Read full article.
August 25, 2015
The practice of 3D printing may soon be a lot simpler. New technology from the Microsoft Research Lab allows 3D scanning to be done from your smartphone, with no additional hardware needed. [via TheNextWeb]
Dubbed MobileFusion, the app allows you to walk around an object and scan it to your phone. It first captures the RGB data in an environment, then takes a stereo depth map as you make your way around an item.
Since an internet connection is not required, researchers see this as a useful tool for those on vacation, or hiking where a signal may not be available. Of course, given the time it takes to scan something, stationary people or objects are best.
Once a scan is complete, it’s rendered immediately, so users can see if they got the 3D image they desire.
China’s 4G mobile users surpassed 250 million for the first time at the end of July, according to newly released data (link in Chinese) from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (hat tip to TechNode). If you throw 3G users into the mix, that number shoots up to a whopping 695 million users, with China’s total mobile user base now at 1.29 billion. VentureBeat reports.
250 million is a milestone to be celebrated — it represents 4G penetration of nearly 20 percent, versus 40 percent (over 100 million) in the US at the end of 2014. Still, the figure belies a slightly shadier forecast: The report made clear that China’s mobile user growth rate so far this year has slowed to just a quarter of what it was over the same period in 2014.
... Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official press agency, on Monday also had the 250 million number. The same report pointed out that the country’s three telecom giants — China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile (currently the world’s largest telco) — “raked in a total of 75.3 billion yuan (about $11.8 billion) in the first half of 2015.” This was largely off the back of continued 4G growth.
Read full article.
August 21, 2015
A recent survey by Statista shows that, among all adults 18-65, 11% check their phones every few minutes. 41% check them at least a couple of times an hour. Tim Bajarin Analysis for TechPinions via re/code.
It seems one of the things they check often is email. 33.8% check their email throughout the day and 39% do it at least 1-3 times a day.
This is not too surprising since email has been a key info/data point since the Blackberry hit the market in the mid-1990’s. However, now that we also have access to news and social media, the tendency to pull our phones out and look at them over 100 times a day, according to various research reports on smartphone usage, is turning most people into infomaniacs without them even knowing it.
... Although we have had the technology to let us be connected around the clock for decades, the inclusion of a smartphone as an information enabler takes this to new levels. It makes it possible for anyone to gain access to just about anything they could want or need and that feeds their nomphobiac tendencies. I will let the social scientists deal with its impact on mankind but I suspect its long-term effect on most of us will not be good.
Read full article.
August 13, 2015
Ever since the first hand-held e-readers were introduced in the 1990s, the digital-reading revolution has turned the publishing world upside down. But contrary to early predictions, it’s not the e-reader that will be driving future book sales, but the phone. The Wall Street Journal reports.
For now, tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire remain the most popular platform to read digital books. According to Nielsen, the percentage of e-book buyers who read primarily on tablets was 41% in the first quarter of 2015, compared with 30% in 2012.
But what has captured publishers’ attention is the increase in the number of people reading their phones. In a Nielsen survey of 2,000 people this past December, about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books at least some of the time. That’s up from 24% in 2012, according to a separate study commissioned by Nielsen.
The number of people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 from 9% in 2012.
Meanwhile, those reading mainly on e-readers, such as Kindles and Nooks, dropped over the same period to 32% from 50%. Even tablet reading has declined recently to 41% in the first quarter this year from 44% in 2014.
The rise of phone reading is pushing publishers to rethink the way books are designed, marketed and sold with smaller screens in mind. It’s also prompting concern about whether deep, concentrated thinking is possible amid the ringing, buzzing and alerts that come with phones.
Read full article.
August 12, 2015
Take a nap, read a book, or chat. But your phone won't work.
[via FastCo Design]
July 30, 2015
Users spend an average of 46 minutes a day on Facebook's apps, the company reveals during second-quarter results. The Telegraph reports.
Facebook now accounts for one out of every five minutes people spend on mobile phones in the US, the social network revealed, as it unveiled second-quarter results.
Users also spend an average of 46 minutes a day on Facebook's apps, excluding the massively popular messaging service WhatsApp, with people making 1.5bn searches a day on the site. It has also indexed more than two trillion posts.
The figures announced by Facebook, led by founder Mark Zuckerberg, shows its growth in popularity, with 1.49bn monthly active users as of June 30, up 13% from a year earlier. Of these, 1.31bn accessed the service through mobile devices, a rise of 23%.
July 29, 2015
Africa and Asia, the two fastest growing mobile markets, aren’t very big on apps. Quartz reports.
The overwhelming majority of mobile internet activity in the regions is spent on web pages, according to a report released yesterday (July 28) by Opera Mediaworks. In Asia and Africa, websites made up 90% and 96% of mobile impressions, respectively, in the second quarter.
Their habits are a sharp contrast to the US, where apps accounted for 91% of impressions. Globally, there’s a more even distribution, with apps making up 56% of mobile impressions and websites comprising the remainder.
The trend in Asia and Africa is somewhat surprising given their mobile penetration. Asia is home to the world’s two biggest phone markets, China and India. Phone ownership is also rising at a fast clip in Africa, with rates in some countries, such as South Africa and Nigeria, now on par with the US. The discrepancy with app usage can be explained by the phones being used in the regions.
“A big portion of the mobile audience in mobile-first regions like Africa and [Asia-Pacific] are still using low-end feature phones because of the cost factor,” a spokesman tells Quartz. “This therefore compels them to use the mobile web more than apps, which are usually dominant on smartphones.
Read full article.
July 24, 2015
Where is the appropriate place for your cellphone while you dine? A reasonable person would say out of sight and turned off, but Ikea knows better and has decided to cater to our bad habits.
According to DigitalTrends, Ikea's new SITTNING Fall collection includes a placemat with a pocket for storing your smartphone while you eat.
Mr. Carson would be horrified.
Kenyans are preparing to welcome US president Barack Obama in many ways, including Obama-inspired clothing, restaurants, hotels, and hairdos, but the most fitting may be with ringtones. Quartz reports.
An estimated 32 million Kenyans, almost 80% of the population, own mobile phones and use them for everything from buying groceries and transferring money to tracking crop prices and managing their health. In the weeks leading up to Obama’s visit, residents of his father’s homeland have been downloading excerpts of his speeches to play when their phones ring.
The Obama ringtones range from inspirational quotes to rousing patriotic speeches about America that could apply to Kenya as well, a country trying to harness its economic potential in the face of political flux and security threats. Here are some of over a dozen of those ringtones being sold by Safaricom’s platform for add-ons, Skiza.
The number of Chinese accessing the internet via smartphones is growing at an incredible rate. Business Insider reports.
According to Xinhua, citing a research report from the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC), internet traffic through mobile devices surged by 36.79 million in the first six months of 2015, taking the total number accessing the web through smartphones to 594 million.
It’s 89% of China’s 668 million internet users, up from 85.8% at the end of 2014.
For some perspective, the total number of people accessing the web in China is more than double the entire population of the United States.
The top three most frequently-used applications for Chinese smartphone users are instant messaging, search engines and online news, but the growth in smartphone internet users has also increased the use of mobile payment, mobile shopping and other business-related apps. This growth in devices has become a major engine of China’s internet economy, according to the report.
There may be much more advertising in apps than it seems. Thousands of mobile applications are secretly running ads that can't be seen by users, defrauding marketers and slowing down smartphones, according to a new report by Forensiq, a firm that tracks fraud in online advertising. Bloomberg reports.
Over the course of the 10-day study, one percent of all devices observed in the U.S. ran at least one app committing this kind of fraud; in Europe and Asia, two to three percent of devices encountered fake ads. Forensiq identified over 5,000 apps that display unseen ads on both Apple and Android devices. Advertisers are paying about $850 million for these ads each year, according to the report, and the apps with the highest rate of ad fraud can burn through 2 gigabytes of data per day on a single device.
The sheer amount of activity generated by apps with fake ads was what initially exposed the scam. Forensiq noticed that some apps were calling up ads at such a high frequency that the intended audience couldn’t possibly be actual humans. The apps, says Forensiq, were hitting these numbers by showing as many as five ads in the background for every ad visible to users. Some apps continued to scroll through ads even after the app had been closed.
Forensiq calculates that mobile advertisers are losing 13 percent of their ad budgets to fraud. That’s a shame, and probably criminal, but there’s a an even bigger point that the report treats as an afterthought. The activity that fuels this fraud can use up to 2GB of data a day. With the average cell phone data plan from the Big Four mobile companies costing $13.01 per GB, consumers are getting scammed proportionally harder than the advertisers.
Read full article.
July 23, 2015
Xiaomi, a Chinese phone giant looking to boost its profile in global markets, is attempting the mother of all publicity stunts: delivering phones to customers by Uber. This morning, Uber announced that it would ferry Xiaomi’s new Mi Note smartphone to users in Singapore and Malaysia. [via FastCompany]
In a Facebook post announcing the launch, Xiaomi global head Hugo Barra said sales would kick off on July 27. He explained that customers would be able to request a phone delivery much like they already do an Uber ride:Ordering a Mi Note follows the exact same process as calling for an Uber — you simply open the Uber app, use the slider at the bottom to select "Xiaomi" (which shows Xiaomi-orange colored Uber cars on the map equipped to deliver the new smartphone), and hit request. Payment will be charged directly to the credit card tied to your Uber account and a Mi Note will be delivered to you within a few minutes. Pretty cool, right?
Earlier this year, Xiaomi overtook Uber as the world’s most profitable startup. The partnership is a first for the two companies.
Read full article.
July 21, 2015
Web-based articles, these days, are increasingly an exercise in pain and frustration. In many ways, the experience of reading such things is worse today than it was in the early days of dial-up internet. Because at least back then web pages were designed with dial-up users in mind. They were mostly text, and even if they used images, the text always loaded first. Today, by contrast, everything is built for a world where everybody has a high-bandwidth supercomputer in their pocket. The Guardian reports.
When it comes to the economics of online publishing, the first thing to remember is that job No 1 isn’t to get the news to you. Rather, it is to monetise you, by selling you off, in real time, to the highest bidder. This happens every time you click on a link, before the page has even started to load on your phone. Once upon a time, if you and I both visited the same web page at the same time using the same web browser, we would end up seeing the same thing. Today, however, an almost unthinkably enormous ecosystem of scripts and cookies and auctions and often astonishingly personal information is used to show you a set of brand messages and sales pitches which are tailored almost uniquely to you.
That ecosystem raises important questions about privacy and just general creepiness – the way that the minute you look at a pair of shoes online, for instance, they then start following you around every other website you visit for weeks. But whether or not you value your privacy, you are damaged, daily, by the sheer weight of all that technology.
July 16, 2015
We found that the more time people spend on their phones, the more likely they are to be more depressed,” says David Mohr, one of the authors of the study and director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The researchers also found that spending lots of time at home was linked to depression—and that phone data like this could predict with 87% accuracy whether someone had symptoms of depression.
Read full article.
July 14, 2015
As Africa closes in on 1 billion mobile subscriptions, affordable smartphones are contributing significantly in bringing more people online across the continent. Quartz reports.
... Google’s Android is spurring the growth of Africa’s smartphone market by offering cheap smartphones. The IDC report notes that 89% of all smartphones shipped during the first quarter of 2015 were powered by Android. 45.1% of those were priced below $100. Affordable smartphones with added features–under $100–are gaining traction in emerging markets, as device manufacturers seek win market share.
To feed off the growth of Africa’s smartphone market, many African mobile operators have formed partnerships with device manufacturers to make lower-priced smartphones–coupled with voice and data bundles–widely available. Kenya’s Safaricom is one example–the popular mobile operator began its cheap smartphone strategy in 2011 with the launch of the Huawei Ideos, an Android phone that was sold at $100.
After tasting early success from the experiment–with the initial stock being sold-out within two weeks–Safaricom went on to partner with Microsoft to launch the 4Afrika smartphone, as well as Intel to launch the popular low-cost smartphone, Yolo by Intel, which sold 5000 units within two weeks of its launch.
Read full article.
Robin Lee, a 45-year-old artist based in Islington, was handcuffed and taken to a British Transport Police station on Caledonian Road after his arrest for “abstracting electricity”.
The 45-year-old, who lives in Islington, said the whole episode was "ridiculous" and was first confronted on the train by a police community support officer who said he was taking the electricity illegally.
He was arrested on the platform after getting off at Camden Road. "She said I'm abstracting electricity," he said. "She kept saying it's a crime.
He was taken to the British Transport Police (BTP) base in Caledonian Road, Islington, before he was de-arrested.
"I was just incredulous," he said. "It was an overzealous community support officer. "They should never have arrested me, they knew it was ridiculous. The whole thing was just ridiculous."
Abstracting electricity is an offence under section 13 of the Theft Act 1968. It carries a maximum custodial sentence of five years.
July 7, 2015
Several companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, are trying to bridge the gap between mobile browsing and desktop purchasing with a simple “buy” button. The New York Times reports.
Buy buttons have been around since the early days of the web, of course, notably with Amazon’s “One-Click Ordering,” where people set up a button that runs their credit card and ships whatever they have bought to a designated address.
But these new buy buttons allow technology companies to act as middlemen between mobile shoppers and retailers — extending one-click ordering to thousands of small retailers and eliminating exasperating typing on a phone’s touch screen.
Despite spending close to three hours of each day staring at their mobile phones, Americans continue to do the vast majority of their online shopping through desktop and laptop computers, which have larger screens and physical keyboards that are more amenable to browsing and typing in credit card numbers. Mobile phones are projected to account for about half the time Americans spend online this year, but only about one-fifth of retail e-commerce sales, according to eMarketer.
Read full article.
July 1, 2015
The sun hasn’t exactly set on the era of U.S. dominance of tech, but it’s dipping a bit closer to the horizon these days. Venture Beat reports.
In a new report that brings the latest sign of the looming changing of the economic guard, Strategy Analytics said today that it expects India to become the world’s second-largest smartphone market by 2017. China will remain number one, and the U.S. will fall to third.
“China has been the engine of global smartphone growth in recent years, but China is now maturing and slowing,” said Linda Sui, director at Strategy Analytics. “India is fast becoming the next major growth wave. We forecast 118 million smartphones will be sold in India in 2015, increasing strongly to 174 million in 2017.”
That smartphone growth is mirrored by the rise of India’s overall Internet population. As of 2014, India was the third-largest Internet population with 243 million online, behind the U.S. with 279.8 million. But that will change in the coming years because while the U.S. has 86 percent of its population online in some fashion, India only has 19 percent penetration.
... As for overall smartphone growth, the report projects that global smartphone sales will increase from 1.471 billion on 2015 to 1.667 billion by 2017.
Read full article.
Data roaming charges are set to be abolished within the European Union by June 2017, it has been announced. The BBC reports.
The ban will be preceded by a 14-month interim period, in which companies can still add surcharges - but at a reduced rate.
A deal, reached on Tuesday, also sets out rules requiring telecom operators to treat most internet traffic equally.
But the net neutrality rules will allow firms to favour some services, such as internet TVs.
From April 2016, telecoms operators will be able to add a surcharge of no more than:
-- €0.05 (3.5p) extra per minute for calls
-- €0.02 extra per SMS sent
-- €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used
The cap would make roaming within the EU 75% cheaper during the interim period, the European Commission said.
The agreement is the culmination of years of campaigning to cut roaming charges and to define the EU nations' approach to regulating internet traffic - particularly in light of the US adoption of net-neutrality rules.
Read full article.
June 30, 2015
Matti Makkonen, who helped to launch the worldwide sensation of texting, has died at the age of 63 after an illness. The BBC reports.
Makkonen became known as the father of SMS after developing the idea of sending messages via mobile networks.
Despite the nickname, he was often quick to point out that he did not invent the technology single-handedly.
In 2012, he told BBC News - in an SMS interview - that he believed texting in some form would be around "forever".
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the first text message, Makkonen said that he considered the development of SMS a joint effort and that it was Nokia who helped to popularise the service.
"The real launch of the service, as I see it, was when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages (Nokia 2010 in 1994)," he said.
Read full article.
June 17, 2015
Utah Valley University’s new student center building in Orem has a brand new staircase with a “txting lane.”. The school’s creative director Matt Bambrough acknowledges it is meant to be an art project, as opposed to an official school policy. In a statement, he even admits, “Most people don’t obey the posted lanes.”
The Federal Supreme Court, based in Abu Dhabi, ordered the retrail of a man convicted of swearing at a colleague over the messaging app after the £523 imposed fine was deemed too lenient. Prosecutors appealed the verdict, demanding he should be fined up to £43,569 or face jail.
The defendant was prosecuted under the Cyber Crimes Law after the claimant presented his mobile phone to prove he had been sent "insulting words" in a WhatsApp message, although the exact terms were not revealed in court documents, according to 7Days UAE.
... Legal experts warned last month that using the forthcoming middle finger emoji could also earn you a spell in jail of up to three years or a hefty fine of up to £87,000 as the gesture is illegal in the UAE.