EZ Texting News

EZ Texting Updates

At EZ Texting, we continue to improve the industry’s leading text messaging platform for businesses. Check out some of our recent enhancements below.

Drip Campaigns

Use Drip Campaigns to send a series of text messages automatically based on a schedule that you define. Drip Campaigns are a great way to nurture your customers!

Recurring Texts

With recurring text options, you can schedule a message to be sent periodically at an interval of your choice. The recurrence can end after a certain number of occurrences, or on a specified date.

Message Templates

Having trouble getting your campaign started? Use one of our helpful message templates for inspiration. You can also create and store your own custom templates.

Campaign Data Export

Use this feature to export summary-level data or details related to your sent campaigns. If you'd like, use filters to isolate a subset of data and then export only that segment.

Stay tuned for more great product, tools, and enhancements coming soon.

Recent EZ Texting Enhancements... And More To Come

EZ Texting is dedicated to ensuring that our industry leading text communications platform remains at the top of its game.  To that end, we’re always releasing updates, enhancements, and other improvements.  Check out some of the items we’ve released over the past six months!

 

Virtual Phone Numbers

Virtual phone numbers allow you to conduct one-on-one correspondence — such as for customer support or appointment scheduling and reminders.

Zendesk Integration

Zendesk is one of the world’s most widely used customer support platforms. EZ Texting’s Zendesk integration allows you to receive and reply to support tickets via text, and gives end customers an easy and convenient way to get help when and how they want.

Data Uploading

EZ Texting’s redesigned data uploading tool makes adding new contacts to your account a snap.

Advanced Search and Filtering

Reporting on sent messages just got easier with advanced search and filtering enhancements.  Search by group, contact name, and number, and filter by date range, message type, recipients, date range, and more.  Once you’ve filtered your data, export it with ease!

In addition, we’ve implemented some changes that, while not readily visible, are no less important.  These infrastructure upgrades allow your largest campaigns to go out without a hitch.

Stay tuned for more!  The second half of 2016 will see several new features, including:

  • Additional reporting enhancements will enable you to slice, dice, filter, and export the specific data you need.  Use message tagging to identify different types of messages and group them for intuitive analysis and reporting.
  • A handy reminder wizard will allow you to proactively manage time-dependent messaging:  payment reminders, birthday messages, appointment reminders, and more.
  • With an upcoming data capture add-on tool, you’ll be able to capture more than your contacts’ phone numbers when they opt in to your lists.

Diabetes Treatment Finds Ally in Texting Services


Texting services are increasingly being utilized by the healthcare industry, as they provide a number of helpful applications, such as reminding patients about appointments and sending tips that contribute to health. Text service health applications now include those relating to diabetes, with Arkansas-based nonprofit corporation ARcare using text messaging to improve its treatment services. 

 

A Valuable Educational Tool

ARcare added SMS texting services to its treatment program for diabetes patients, resulting in a cost-effective way to educate patients about the disease. “Interactive SMS” is utilized to provide patients with vital diabetes information. ARcare CIO Greg Wolverton recommends healthcare organizations focused on population health management recognize messaging tools’ role with regard to electronic health records and care coordination across numerous facilities. He also emphasizes the supreme scalability and efficiency texting services present. 

 

Increased Revenue Options

Implementing text services has been shown to help both the patient and the provider, as it offers an increase in operational revenue. For example, texting diabetic patients about their next appointments significantly reduces chances of no-shows, as most people have their phones with them constantly and look at text messages much sooner than emails. The reduction in no-shows and the ability to easily reschedule should a patient not be able to make the appointment are some of the ways text services are helping the healthcare industry financially. 

 

More Helpful Applications

In addition to its use among diabetic patients and their healthcare providers, text messaging is also increasingly used to treat smoking addiction and pregnancy issues. A recent Swedish study suggested text services make it easier to quit smoking, as the implemented text messaging program “doubled the rate” of self-reported smoking abstinence “with occasional lapses.” It also encouraged quitting cigarettes entirely, though not to the same degree. 

In regard to pregnancy issues, texting was found to help maternal and child mortality problems in Rwanda. The African country’s health workers use text services to keep track of pregnancies, report related health issues, and provide emergency alerts. The latter helps pregnant women obtain emergency care when needed. Health workers also text information about their pregnant patients’ histories for database storage purposes, let women know when it’s time to come in for checkups, and provide doctors with information about any complications. 

 

Part of the Mobile Health Movement

Diabetes, smoking, pregnancy, weight loss, HIV….texting services are part of the mHealth, or mobile health, movement for all of these, according to David Finitsis, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology and author of the February 2014 article Text Message Intervention Designs to Promote Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The article was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Finitisis found text messaging of great assistance to HIV patients, as it improved “adherence to drug regimens” among other benefits. The author remarked that the possibilities connected to text messaging and healthcare are endless, and that smartphones, tablet computers, and social media platforms provide many more avenues for treating the chronically ill. 

Is text service a huge part of the healthcare industry’s future? It certainly seems so. 

Volvo Plans to Replace Car Keys with Phones

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.

Are The Biggest Problems with Smartphones Their Users?


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. 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, it is users that are the biggest problem, not the devices.  

 

“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. 

How Mobile Apps Are Changing the Construction Industry


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. 

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


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.  

How to Protect Your Business in an Earthquake


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

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

 

Research

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

 

Get Involved

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

 

Purchase Non-Perishable Food and Bottled Water

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

 

Set Up an Emergency SMS Notification System

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

 

Learn More

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

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

Disaster Relief & the Tech Community


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

 

Improved Communication Efforts 

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

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

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

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

 

Contain Epidemics

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

 

More Than One

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

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

Could Google's Mobile Update Backfire?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap Raises $3.5 Million in Series A Funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap is expected to launch in September 2015. 

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Reach a Million


Apple recently began pre-selling three versions of its new smart watch to the world, with orders now hitting the one million mark. And that’s just in the United States.

Unsurprisingly called the Apple Watch, the device allows you to read emails, send messages, and answer iPhone calls, all from the convenience of your wrist. A Taptic Engine feature alerts you through—you guessed it—a tap, so no notifications are missed. The Digital Touch feature makes it easy to communicate by sending a tap, sketch, or heartbeat. There’s even health and fitness features, as well as Apple Pay.  

The watch is available in aforementioned three collections: Apple Watch Sport, priced at $349 and $399; Apple Watch, which costs between $549 to $1,099; and Apple Watch Edition, a watch created from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys. Prices for the Edition start at $10,000. 

"Apple users were waiting for the Apple watch, so when we saw this huge surge in demand, we were not surprised at all," Jaimee Minney, vice president of marketing and public relations for Slice Intelligence, told ABC News. 

The future of the Apple Watch looks good despite what Slice calls “ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans.” According to the company, the average Apple Watch buyer ordered 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Consumers opting for the Apple Watch Sport edition spent $382.83 per device, while those ordering the Apple Watch edition spent $707.04. 

“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years -- iPhone, Apple computer or iPad -- and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago,” Minney wrote in a recent blog post. “Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” 

Watch accessories are also popular, with Minney noting consumers who purchased the Apple Watch or the Sport edition choosing the larger 42mm case. The space gray aluminum case is a favorite as well, edging out the silver and space black cases. 

“The Black Sport Band was by far the most popular among both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport buyers, with 49 percent overall pre-ordering one, followed by the White Sport Band at 16 percent and the more expensive Milanese Loop -- $149 versus $49 for the black Sport band -- rounding out the top three at around 10 percent,” Minney remarked.  

According to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, should Apple continue to see one million units per quarter the company would easily become one of the most profitable watchmakers in the world. This means second to Swatch in regards to profitability and only just behind the legendary Rolex brand. 

“If you told people about a new Apple product that cost $400 and asked them if they would buy it, 1 million people would say yes," Entner said. "They don’t even need to know what it is -- and more often than not they wouldn’t be disappointed. Since the second coming of Steve Jobs, the missteps that Apple has taken are few and far between.” 

Mobile Devices Mostly Impervious to Hackers, say Verizon


Mobile has revolutionized the tech industry, creating as many new businesses as it has destroyed old ones. In the past decade, a ‘marketing strategy’ has turned into a ‘digital marketing strategy’ before morphing swiftly into a ‘mobile marketing strategy’ and it’s left countless heads spinning. 

Oddly, there is one perennial area of concern for the industry that has remained largely untouched by the smartphone: hacking. 

According to a recent report from Verizon, mobile devices are seldom used by hackers to commit their nefarious deeds, which is not all that surprising, given the limitations of inputting complex code into small-screen devices. Perhaps more surprising is just how few mobile devices are targeted by hackers. 

The Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) is Verizon’s annual paper on cybersecurity issues. This year’s DBIR has concluded that “mobile devices are not a preferred vector in data breaches.” In other words: criminals use laptops and desktops to hack into networks.

The report draws on data from tens of millions of mobile devices on Verizon’s own network. It found just 0.03% of tablets and smartphones were infected with serious malware - significantly below the 0.68% rate of infection from unwanted software affecting non-mobile devices. 

That’s not all the good news. The few infections that make it through to our phones are generally less serious than the types of spyware and malware affecting our computers. The lion’s share of ‘successful’ mobile viruses were relatively harmless pieces of ‘adnoyance’ software, which are aimed at trying to direct users to purchase security packages and other money-making schemes, or collect personal data. These types of infection are also much easier to spot than the more malicious desktop infractions. 

Apple users won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of infections were found on open-source Android devices. In fact, most suspicious activity logged on iOS devices were failed ‘hit and hope’ scams aimed at Android users. 

This information, while reassuring, is not an excuse for lax security practices. But it does suggest the new model of closed, app-based software - designed to be impervious to hackers - is working, and that can only be a good thing. As more and more online activity is conducted via mobile devices, the tolerance for security breaches will (hopefully) continue to plummet. 

What Do the Israeli Elections Tell Us About the Future of Mobile Political Campaigning?

To note that mobile and social media carry great weight in today’s world is pretty obvious. Particular events, however, offer even greater insight into the impact of mobile, such as presidential elections. Let’s take a look into how mobile affected the recent Israeli elections, as well as the influence it will likely have on the 2016 U.S. presidential race. 

 

High-Quality Targeting

Mobile media offers the possibility of high-quality targeting, as it provides advertisers with the opportunity to target very specific audiences. Political parties’ media budgets are larger than ever before, and most candidates hire dedicated agencies to run their media campaigns. New advertising platforms continue to crop up, while Facebook’s mobile-only user base recently reached the half billion mark, making it easy to reach voters during every phase of a campaign. Location-based targeting also helps considerably, as parties can look at users from specific states and determine if they should increase their advertising efforts, and if so to which audiences. 

 

Political “Gamification”

Any on-point campaign manager knows it’s important to play to voters’ increasingly-short attention spans, and are subsequently utilizing gamification techniques to harness and hold this attention. Gamification techniques have been used with success in the Israeli elections, as ads focused less on direct message transmission and instead honed in on creating an experience that featured a more subtle approach.

Entertaining mobile games that sent strong political messages were also used. For example, one Israeli election game had users engage in a “temple run” game featuring their favorite candidates. Other games were used to align opposing parties, but again in a discreet way. Gamification has made politics a more fun and engaging experience for young voters, and allows candidates to reach an audience they would otherwise have a hard time engaging. 

 

Mobile User Power 

Video content was frequently used during the Israeli elections, as videos were widely shared across social media platforms by all parties, even orthodox religious parties. U.S. mobile video ad spending has doubled over the past year, so the idea that video content will likely play a large role in the 2016 elections is imminent. Often more entertaining and less formal than the political ads traditionally seen on television, videos are dissolving the boundaries between independent political activists and official messages. Content isn’t just user-focused--it’s also user-generated. 

 

Wrap-Up

Mobile has become the favorite device of all age groups, meaning campaign managers have to scramble to create a mobile-based approach to elections if they haven’t already. Rich media, text marketing, video content, and the plethora of other mobile focused campaigns must be implemented for any candidate developing massive public outreach.

Analytics App Raises $34 Million


In search of the best analytics tool for your marketing app? Localytics might be the answer to your app-tastic prayers. A service app that offers “analytics, insights, and marketing solutions in one place,” Localytics has raised $34 million in Series D funding so far.  

The company initially focused on app analytics, but CEO Raj Aggarwal noted that customers also called for tools that made it easy to move forward with their newly-acquired data. This prompted the Localytics team to add push notifications, integration with sales and business intelligence software, email marketing, and in-app messaging. Aggarwal explained that businesses are in need of “all the insights and tools to engage users and meet their expectations for an amazing app experience, in one place.”  

He pointed out that apps are an essential component of the digital experience, and as such, businesses need their marketing and product teams to use the same tools. Disparate data sets are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  

Localytics offers real-time, granular data analytics that answer questions such as, “How frequently do consumers visit my app?”, “How long does the average user spend on my app per visit?”, “What are people doing in my app?” and “Why aren’t my app users converting?” among other relevant queries. The insights portion of Localytics shows which demographic your app targets, what features pique consumer interest the longest, how many purchases were made over the last 15 days, and what makes some users “more valuable” than others. 

As far as marketing services, Localytics offers push messaging that helps re-engage customers, in-app messaging that lets users know about new features, and features answers to attribution questions, such as where to invest in terms of advertising. A/B testing is also part of the app’s marketing services, and helps determine what drives the most conversions, and which call to actions are best for specific campaigns.  

Localytics is currently used by some 32,000 apps, including those for eBay, ESPN, Fox, The New York Times, and the upcoming HBO Now app. 

The company will soon introduce a new predictive marketing feature, which is designed to aid businesses in discovering which customers are most likely to abandon the app. Once such customers are identified, they’ll receive targeted messages convincing them to keep using it. This marketing feature also determines which customers are willing to spend more on the app, and subsequently tempts them with targeted deals.

Current Localytics investors include Sapphire Ventures, Foundation Capital, and Polaris Partners.

New App Helps Canadians Pay for Parking via Mobile


Toronto, Canada drivers will soon have a new mobile option at their fingertips, one designed to make parking easier.  

The Toronto Star recently reported that Canadian smartphone users may use a new app to pay for parking in the city’s outdoor Green P lots.  

“City-owned Toronto Parking Authority unveiled a free app and said that, by the end of spring, motorists should be able to use it to pay to park — and remotely extend their time if needed — at all outdoor Green P lots that currently use ‘pay and display’ machines,” the report notes.

In today’s world, cities and municipalities in every shape and size are using mobile apps, iBeacons, and similar options to aid local residents in finding parking and paying for parking tickets. Since mobile apps are utilized to make innumerable familiar chores more convenient, it’s no surprise it’s extended to parking.  

The mobile app as well as cell phones and web browsers may be used to make payments, and signup is free. Registration is straightforward, and only requires a quick download and mobile number entry to receive and subsequently enter a verification code. The final step is creating a PIN number. The app is available wherever Green P Parking signs are found, i.e. non-gated, off-street parking lots all over the city of Toronto. 

Ticket enforcement officers check license plate number and payment standing after parking, and the only fee drivers pay is the normal parking rate. There’s no service charges or other fees associated with the app.  

"This kind of approach makes sense," said Mayor John Tory at a recent news conference held to unveil the app. "Our role isn't to fight the future, it's to embrace the future."

Tory also added that he believed Toronto  has been “frozen in time," and vowed that the city is set to use modern technology in its services. “I think we have actually ended up behind other Canadian cities in a number of instances and I am determined to see us where we should be,” he said, saying the app will give residents "the best possible parking experience."

The mayor also noted the app will “make lives easier for people in the city.” 

Green P Parking lets drivers know when their parking is about to expire, and allows them to add more time, whatever their current location. The credit-card based system is set to launch next year. 

The Best LTE Phones Out There

In the world of mobile, Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices are regarded as the heir apparent to the current generation of 3G technology. Already the standard for smartphones, all that needs to happen for LTE to cement its place and earn its name is for the inexorable rise of smartphone adoption to continue.  

If you’re looking to upgrade to a new smartphone, the wealth of options available can be a little overwhelming. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the very best LTE phones on the market today:

 

iPhone 5S

Apple’s fastest phone yet, the 5S come with a raft of new features including a fingertip reader, 10-hour battery talk time, high quality screen resolution and 64 GB built-in memory. Though it’s drawn some criticism for it battery life, which some feel could be longer, there’s no doubt that the 5S continues to justify the hefty pricetag (unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Apple abstainer). 

 

Moto X

The Moto X features a variety of proprietary Motorola apps and enhancements, and promises an all-day battery life. On the downside, the camera has been described as “inconsistent,” and the phone lacks features now demanded as standard by many smartphone users (such as 64GB or removable storage options). Several recent updates have improved the phone’s speed, and if you’re after an Android experience for an affordable price, the Moto X is an attractive option.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4

Hugely popular following its launch, the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains a firm favorite among LTE fans. It’s not as speedy as other models, but other features more than make up for it. Primarily, HD voice, which brings a clarity that has to be heard to be believed.

 

Motorola Droid Maxx

The Motorola Droid Maxx offers efficient connectivity, a long battery life, touchless control and hands-free features. The display could be sharper, and the phone only works with Verizon, which network scrutineers may balk at.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 

Renowned for its sizable 41MP shooter, the Lumia 1020’s LTE speeds are fair even when browsing the web. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and LTE bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. Best of all, the camera is peerless, so it’s a good LTE option for people who take lots of pictures.

 

HTC Droid DNA

Again, this device is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, which will be a big no-no for many consumers. Luckily, the HTC Droid DNA more than makes up for it with a sharp screen, very fast download and upload speeds, and a first rate camera.

 

Blackberry Z10 

The Z10’s “modest” 4.2-inch display makes it one of the more portable LTE smartphones around. The inclusion of NFC features means it’s easy to transfer content between handsets and other enabled mobile devices without the need for network connectivity.

Former Ad Tech Exec Investing Millions in Mobile


Longtime mobile ad exec Nihal Mehta used to focus on ensuring advertisers invested in mobile ad platforms. Now he’s interested in assisting the new generation of mobile businesses. 

Mehta retired from mobile ad tech firm LocalResponse in 2013, now known as Qualia, where he served as CEO. He wanted to focus on mobile startup investment full-time via the firm he co-founded in 2009, Eniac Ventures. The firm raised $55 million to invest in the mobile tech landscape, and is looking to put the money into early-stage mobile startups. Mehta noted his firm is especially interested in companies who have not yet “raised a funding round,” are still in product development, and probably haven’t generated revenue. 

The areas that piqued the interest of Mehta and crew in regards to mobile startups include connected devices, personal utility, app development tools, messaging and communications, enterprise, marketplaces, and commerce. Mobile ad tech that “spans several categories” will also be high on the firm’s to-do list according to Mehta, who pointed out the increase of free ad-supported mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, neither of which run standard display ads.

"The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we've ever seen because they're going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory. It doesn't live anymore in banner ads; it lives in messaging, communications, interstitials, natively," Mehta remarked recently. He sold his mobile-marketing firm ipsh! to Omnicom in 2005.

Eniac Ventures was co-founded in 2009 with three fellow University of Pennsylvania graduates. It has stakes in Airbnb, Circa and SoundCloud, and also invested in several ad tech companies, including Mehta's former company Qualia, as well as Adtrib, mParticle, and Localytics.

As of now the company has made eight investments, including in password replacement tool LaunchKey, on-demand parking service Luxe Valet, and social commerce company Strut. Mehta and the Eniac Ventures team want to invest in at least 15 more companies by the year’s end. 

Eniac Ventures plans to initially invest $500,000 in each of the 35 startups, which equals more than the $250,000 per company. Mehta noted Eniac Ventures is setting aside two-thirds of the $55 million fund as “follow-up money”, which he plans to reinvest in the companies as they grow and become successful.

The follow-up money is essential because "in today's market you can get money from anybody," said Mehta.  "Funds that can't follow can create a negative signal to the marketplace. And oftentimes entrepreneurs want to know they're getting in bed with somebody who can support them all the way.” 

Companies Eniac Ventures invested in and have subsequently been acquired include Mobile ad-targeting specialist Metaresolver, which was sold to mobile ad-tech company Millennial Media in 2013. Ad-tech firm Beanstock Media bought mobile publishing technology company Onswipe in 2014, while Twitter acquired mobile retargeting firm TapCommerce the same year. 

Net Neutrality Vote on February 26th


During a discussion at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the commission will vote on a proposal to reinstate Net neutrality rules. The vote will take place at an open commission meeting on February 26th. 

Wheeler also said the proposal will circulate among commissioners beginning February 5th, and while he didn’t delve into specifics, Wheeler alluded the new proposal will “reclassify broadband traffic” as part of Title II utility. Some supporters believe this reclassification will put new neutrality rules on “stronger legal footing.”  

In November 2014 President Obama encouraged the FCC to reclassify Internet traffic under Title II of the Communications Act, though Wheeler has not said whether he supports the president’s suggestion. 

Net neutrality is defined as the idea that all online traffic is subject to fair treatment by broadband providers, meaning no restrictions or preferential treatment is bestowed on certain types of traffic. The FCC is working on new rules that will replace those adopted in 2010.

The issue of broadband traffic reclassification has been one of the hotter issues regarding the net neutrality debate, with large broadband providers such as Verizon and AT&T noting reclassification will “stifle innovation” via imposed, antiquated telecommunications regulation for an industry they believe has evolved positively despite no government regulation. However, other consumer advocates and Internet companies such as Netflix say broadband service reclassification is the only option for ensuring new Net neutrality rules hold up in future court challenges.  

During his discussion with Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro, Wheeler made it quite clear that the FCC’s approach to the proposal will not include “all of the restrictions under Title II meant for traditional telephony networks to broadband.” Rather, the proposed rules would “forbear or exclude” broadband from clinging to Communications Act provisions that don’t apply to broadband service. 

He said the idea is to make certain that the agency can “provide a legal standing” for rules prohibiting broadband providers from “blocking content, throttling traffic, or offering a paid prioritization service.” The other idea is to ensure Internet service providers manage their wares in a way that is transparent to customers.

"The wireless industry has been wildly successful as a Title II regulated industry," he said. "So there is a way to do it right."

Wireless industry reps disagree with Wheeler in terms of Title II restrictions on broadband. 

"Comparisons to the regulatory framework for mobile voice are misplaced and irrelevant," Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO,CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in a statement. "Congress created a regulatory regime for mobile voice under Section 332 and Title II. Congress also created a separate regulatory regime - -explicitly outside Title II -- for other services like mobile broadband. The FCC cannot now rewrite Congress's intent to rewrite the Act or rewrite history."

Wheeler has also remarked that he has “no intention of allowing broadband providers to create a two-tiered Internet of haves and have nots." The vote later this month will hopefully settle some much debated issues around this topic. 

What's With the Round Smartwatch Craze?

Round smartwatches are increasingly popular, and new offerings are providing consumers with an array of fun and practical features, including those designed to keep users healthy and fit. Let’s check out some of the smartwatches on the market today, as well as those in the soon-to-be-released file: 

 

Alcatel Onetouch Watch

Available in March on Amazon, the Alcatel Onetouch Watch comes in four style options, two metal and two micro-textured resin. It supports both iOS and Android devices, which sets it apart from just about every other smartwatch currently manufactured. Controlled through a companion iOS or Android app, the watch makes it easy to a) view all the health information it’s collected about you, b) pick which apps you want to notify you, and c) manage the various ways the watch communicates with your phone.  

While watch reviews indicate the device does not provide as appealing an interface as other Android Wear options, it makes up for it in battery life. The Alcatel watch is designed to last for two to five days, under the right circumstances. Plus, health features include a built-in heart rate monitor, gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter and e-compass to measure metrics such as sleep cycles, steps, distance and calories burned. It’s also possible to make the watch ring if you misplace your phone, while tapping the screen brings up multimedia controls. The USB charging port is conveniently hidden...and small. 

The Alcatel Ontouch Watch will feature an entry price of $149, making it less expensive than some of the other options currently available. 

 

LG G Watch R 

Arguably one of the most popular round smartwatches on the market today, the LG G Watch R is a stylish option featuring “Ok Google” voice commands with Android wear, the “world’s first” full-circle P-OLED display, and fitness integration that includes a built-in heart rate monitor. The watch is compatible with most devices housing an Android 4.3 or later operating system. 

 

Samsung Smartwatch

Samsung is set to unveil a smartwatch around the time it launches its latest Android offering, the Samsung Galaxy S6. A round watch believed to be similar to the Moto 360, the Samsung S6 is currently known as  “SM-R720,” and is referred to by the codename “Orbis.” It will run the technology giant’s own Tizen OS system, and the device is expected to make a huge splash at the Mobile World Congress this March. 

Any of these round smartwatches appeal to your sensibilities? 

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