22 Apr 2014

Apple Challenges Samsung to 'Copy' its Environmental Efforts

By Nick Summers at TNW:  

After launching a website and video detailing its environmental efforts, Apple has today followed up with a related newspaper advert that indirectly mocks its rival Samsung.

At the top of the page, the company has placed a huge headline that reads: “There are some ideas we want every company to copy.” While many firms are considered guilty of copying Apple’s software and hardware innovations, the timing of the advert clearly points to its ongoing patent trial with Samsung.

As MacRumors reports, two paragraphs follow underneath:

“There’s one area where we actually encourage others to imitate us. Because when everyone makes the environment a priority, we all benefit. We’d be more than happy to see every data centre fuelled by 100% renewable energy sources. And we eagerly await the day when every product is made without the harmful toxins we have removed from ours.

Of course we know we can continue to do better. We’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for reducing our impact on climate change, making our products with greener materials and conserving our planet’s limited resources. So the next time we come across a great idea that can help leave the world better than we found it, we look forward to sharing it.”

In particular, the opening line is a shot across the bow for Samsung and other technology companies accused of mimicking its products. Today is also Earth Day, an annual event that celebrates environmental awareness, which explains the timing of today’s advert and the materials Apple released yesterday.

#INFOGRAPHIC: Guide for Small Businesses on Facebook

By Mona Zhang at SocialTimes:  

For small business owners, launching a social media presence can be a daunting task. Which platforms should I be on? How much time and money should I be investing? And, of course, the ever-vexing question: What’s my ROI?

Step one is to decide which social platforms to invest in. Here’s some advice from Peter Friedman, whose guest post on SocialTimes can help you figure out which sites make the most sense for your business:

When companies worry about overextending themselves on social, I tell them to start out in one channel rather than spread themselves too thin. Different channels also lend themselves to different levels of interaction. Twitter is primarily experienced as a newsfeed, constantly streaming by, so conversations tend to happen in real-time. Meanwhile, Facebook’s page format supports asynchronous communication, so it may be a better choice if you don’t have full-time resources for social. Get to know each of the platforms and how various brands are using them before you commit to a direction for your company.

If you’ve decided that Facebook is the right platform for your company, this guide for small businesses on Facebook can help you get started:

Are you a small business owner thinking about setting up a facebook page? Don’t know where to start? Check out our step-by-step guide. (via SimplyBusiness).

17 Apr 2014

Apple Partnering With Shazam to Integrate Song-ID features

By Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends

Apple and song-ID service Shazam have struck a deal that could see elements of the popular cross-platform music app brought to a future version of iOS, sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg Wednesday.

As anyone familiar with Shazam knows, the software allows users to quickly identify a music track simply by holding a mobile device’s mic close to the sound source and waiting a few seconds for the result to return.

It’s not entirely clear if the app itself would be baked into iOS or if its technology would be incorporated into Apple’s mobile operating system in other ways. For example, Bloomberg’s report talks of a song-discovery “feature” being integrated into iOS, while also suggesting it could be incorporated in the same way as the Twitter app, which has been baked into the operating system of iDevices since version 5.

The report also says Shazam is likely to be integrated with Siri, allowing a user to ask, “What song is playing?”, in which case everyone within a five-meter radius will also discover the name of the music track you wanted to ID. Google Now for Android has long had a voice-activated song-ID tool, while Microsoft’s new virtual assistant for Windows Phone, Cortana, also offers a similar feature, so many will see Apple’s entry into the space as long overdue.

Twitter Launches Mobile App Promotion Suite

By Chris Crum at WebProNews:  

As expected, Twitter announced the launch of a new mobile app promotion suite, enabling app developers to use mobile app-install ads on Twitter, and throughout the MoPub Marketplace, which spans over a billion Android and iOS devices.

The suite is in the beta testing phase, but includes tools for targeting, creative, and measurement. Partners so far include Spotify, HotelTonight, Kabam, SeatGeek, GREE, GetTaxi, and Deezer. It’s entirely possible that you’ve already seen ads from them.

“Advertisers can now set up campaigns directly on ads.twitter.com to run across the Twitter Publisher Network, which is comprised of the thousands of apps and over 1 billion monthly devices the MoPub mobile advertising exchange reaches,” says product manager Kelton Lynn. “Advertising campaigns run across the Twitter Publisher Network are automatically translated into programmatic bids on the MoPub exchange, on a level playing field with MoPub’s existing DSP partners. This is now available to U.S. advertisers in a private beta. Combined with the targeting and measurement features in the mobile app promotion suite, this affords advertisers the ability to easily run on-Twitter app promotion via Promoted Tweets, while simultaneously running off-Twitter advertising via the MoPub Marketplace.”

“We are excited to offer new ways for marketers and developers to drive mobile app installs and app engagements, using Twitter Cards and Promoted Tweets on Twitter, and leveraging the scale of MoPub and the Twitter Publisher Network across the rest of the mobile ecosystem,” Lynn adds. “This is the first of many opportunities to join Twitter and MoPub to create a large-scale, rich and well-targeted advertising platform — one that provides high ROI for marketers, and a great experience for users.”

Expect Twitter to announce plenty more different ad types. A recent report indicated that they had fifteen lined up.

Data fro Resolution Media found that Twitter’s ads consistently drive higher click-through rates than Facebook’s.

Yahoo Wants To Become The Default Search Engine On iOS

By Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends:  

Marissa Mayer has been working diligently to revive the fortunes of Web firm Yahoo since taking the reins back in July 2012, though the enormity of the task means the challenge is far from over.

Decisions have included hiring hundreds of engineers to help bolster Yahoo’s gargantuan site and its slew of services; making a ton of acquisitions, such as Tumblr, which has given Yahoo access to a younger generation of users; and making a commitment to mobile, a growing sector of the market where it needs to establish itself in order to take on the likes of Google and Facebook, who currently dominate when it comes to revenue from mobile ads.

According to a Re/code report Wednesday, part of Mayer’s plan to make the company’s presence felt in the mobile space involves trying to convince Apple to replace Google with Yahoo as the default search engine on all of those iDevices out there.

Speaking to unnamed insiders at Yahoo, the report says Mayer has prepped a detailed pitch that she hopes will be enough to persuade Apple executives to take a serious look at her proposition and ultimately make Yahoo the default search service on the Cupertino company’s mobile phones and tablets.

No official meeting has yet taken place between the two companies, though Mayer has reportedly talked with some Apple executives about the idea, including long-time friend Jony Ive.

Trying to ‘grab the pole position in iOS search’

“This is the aim of the whole effort here, to grab the pole position in iOS search,” an unnamed source told Re/code, adding that it’s currently one of Mayer’s main goals.

That the Yahoo boss might get her way is not impossible. After all, Yahoo already provides the data for the weather and finance apps on iOS devices. In addition, Apple had few qualms about getting rid of Google Maps as its default mapping app, though admittedly the company replaced that one with its own equivalent app (sort of).

However, when it comes to search, Google remains the go-to service for Web users across most platforms, so Apple would be understandably wary about suddenly switching to Yahoo. Service quality would be a concern, too, with one of Re/code’s sources questioning whether Yahoo has adequate technology yet to power an effective and efficient mobile search product.

Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the annual $1 billion payment that the Mountain View company currently hands over to Apple for keeping its search engine as the default option on iOS devices.

Of course, iOS users can switch search engines by going into settings, but considering many just go with the default service, Yahoo’s apparent plan to get its offering front and center on millions of Apple devices is perfectly understandable. Whether it can achieve this is another matter entirely.

New Facebook Feature Shows Your Friends When You’re Nearby

By Chris Crum at WebProNews:

Facebook is rolling out a new feature for its Android and iOS apps called Nearby Friends. It shows you when your Facebook friends are close to your location (and vice versa), so you can meet up with them if you want.

“If you turn on Nearby Friends, you’ll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up,” says product manager Andrea Vaccari. “For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward.”

Before you start freaking out, note that this is an opt-in feature. Everyone has to turn it on. If you want to use it, and be discoverable with the feature, you need to turn it on, and so do your friends. You actually choose who can see when you’re nearby. You can set it to friends, close friends, or a specific friends list. You can always turn it back off if you want.

A Facebook spokesperson tells us, “A friend qualifies as ‘nearby’ when she is within approximately 1/2 mile from you in any direction.”

You can also set a precise location to share with specific friends for a set period of time, so you can determine where to meet up. It shows your friends exactly where you are on a map.

“When Nearby Friends is on, you can see when your friends are traveling if they’re also using this feature and sharing with you,” says Vaccari. “You’ll be able to see the city or neighborhood they are in, including on their profile. When you see a friend visiting a place you’ve been, it’s the perfect opportunity to send a recommendation for a great restaurant. You can also make last-minute plans to meet up with a friend who happens to be in the same place you’re headed to.”

To use the feature, you’ll tap More, then Nearby Friends, then choose who to share your location with. To share a precise location, you’ll tap the arow to the right of the friend’s name, then select how long you’d like to share the location, and include a note.

You can turn push notifications on and off. More in this FAQ.

The feature is rolling out to U.S. users over the coming weeks.

Facebook already has a Nearby Place feature, which can serve as a location recommendation tool.

A couple years ago, they tested a feature that showed you nearby Facebook users who weren’t your friends as a way to “make new friends,” but quickly pulled it.

16 Apr 2014

Google Launches Chrome Remote Desktop App for Android

By Emil Protalinski at The Next Web: 

Google today launched a Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, which lets you remotely control your computer using your smartphone or tablet. You can download the new app now directly from Google Play.

The app’s description says you can “securely access your computers from your Android device” but doesn’t elaborate on the security features. Instructions are fairly straightforward though:

- On each of your Windows or Mac computers, set up remote access using the Chrome Remote Desktop app from the Chrome Web Store.

- On your Android device, open the app and tap on any of your online computers to connect.

Chrome Remote Desktop first launched out of beta in October 2012, but it only let you remotely access your machine from another laptop or computer. There have been rumors of an iOS version coming as well, but Google didn’t reveal anything about such an app today.

Because of Heartbleed You Need To Change All These Passwords

By Zach Epstein at BGR:  

By now, we all know what a huge deal Heartbleed is. The massive vulnerability in OpenSSL protocol impacted 66% of all sites on the Internet at the time of its discovery, and now companies are scrambling to fix the issue. Most big companies seem to have done a pretty good job of acting quickly, but this bug is several years old so users have been at risk for quite some time regardless of how quickly a site might have patched the flaw. As such, the cybersecurity experts at LWG Consulting have compiled a great list of all the huge sites that were impacted by Heartbleed.

Do you have accounts on any of the sites listed below? Change your password immediately — and be sure to change your passwords on any other sites if you use the same password there.

This is Amazon’s Kindle Smartphone

By Zach Epstein at BGR:

After years of development, Amazon is finally close to unveiling the first of several own-brand smartphones.

At a distance, Amazon’s upcoming flagship phone looks much like any other touchscreen phone on the market. But the company has spent years creating a unique and, at times, novel user experience that has two main focuses: Amazon products and services, and a custom 3D interface unlike anything we have seen before on a smartphone.

And so begins the story of Amazon’s first smartphone.

Recent reports have shed some light on Amazon’s plans to enter the competitive smartphone market with an own-brand handset. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the company’s first crack at a cell phone will be announced in June and released in the third quarter. The report also claimed that the phone features a glasses-free 3D interface.

An earlier research note sent to investors by plugged-in KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo revealed a few key specs, including details about several internal components Amazon plans to use in the device.

BGR has spoken with multiple trusted sources and confirmed much of what has been reported thus far. We have also exclusively learned many new details surrounding Amazon’s upcoming smartphone, which is set to debut in the coming months.

Finally, we have obtained exclusive photos of a prototype of the unreleased device, giving the world its first look at Amazon’s hotly anticipated phone.

As can be seen in the images, the device is covered by a protective shell intended to prevent people without authorization from seeing the physical design of the phone. Some areas of the photos have also been blocked or otherwise obscured by BGR.

In the past, BGR has exclusively reported early unannounced details surrounding numerous Amazon products including Kindle eBook readers, Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon’s current-generation Kindle Fire HDX tablets and, most recently, the Fire TV.

Amazon’s first smartphone is one of at least two handsets the company is currently working on. We’re told that the second, an entry-level device that will feature lower-end specs and a very competitive retail price, will launch sometime after the phone pictured here.

The device set to debut in the coming months will be a higher-end model that has been in development at Amazon for several years.

According to details from multiple sources, Amazon’s first phone will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and it will also include 2GB of RAM. It will run a heavily customized version of Google’s Android operating system similar to the version that powers Amazon’s tablets.

Our sources state that the phone’s display will measure 4.7 inches diagonally, making the handset’s screen a bit smaller than recent flagship offerings from Samsung and HTC. The handset also have comparatively low pixel density, featuring 720p HD resolution compared to 1080p HD resolution on many rival devices.

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 is also rumored to feature a 4.7-inch screen with Retina resolution that falls short of full HD.

It’s not clear exactly what Amazon plans to call its first phone.

The most novel aspect of Amazon’s upcoming smartphone is its 3D software interface and the hardware mechanism that enables it.

Our sources state that the new Amazon phone includes a total of six cameras.

The main rear camera is thought to feature a resolution of 13 megapixels, and the phone also includes a standard front-facing camera for video chats as well as Amazon’s Mayday customer service feature.

Beyond those two units, the device houses an additional four front-facing cameras that work with other sensors to facilitate the software’s 3D effects. One source tells us these four cameras, which are situated in each of the four corners on the face of the phone, are low-power infrared cameras.

The device’s extra cameras are used to track the position of the user’s face and eyes in relation to the phone’s display. This allows Amazon’s software to make constant adjustments to the positioning of on-screen elements, altering the perspective of visuals on the screen.

The result is a 3D experience without the need for 3D glasses or a parallax barrier in front the LCD panel like the solutions used by the Nintendo 3DS portable video game console and HTC’s EVO 3D smartphone from 2011.

We’re told there are several areas of the phone’s software that utilize Amazon’s glasses-free 3D effects.

Since the 3D interface is the phone’s biggest point of differentiation, Amazon has tried to use its new technology in as many areas as possible. In fact, right from the start on the lock screen, Amazon’s new phone will include several special wallpapers with perspectives that shift as the user tilts the phone from side to side as well as up and down.

Moving past the wallpapers, Amazon’s 3D effect will also apply to application icons and other core elements of the user interface. Several main apps will be compatible as well; for example, we’re told that moving the phone while using the maps application will change the view of various objects on the screen.

Another smart use for the phone’s 3D effects is across Amazon’s various stores, such as its book store, music store and the main Amazon digital market. By shifting the position of the phone, users are able to see three-dimensional product images at different angles to reveal surfaces that cannot be seen in 2D photos.

One source tells us Amazon is also working to recruit big outside developers in an effort to have a number of key third-party apps available at launch that take advantage of the phone’s 3D interface. Amazon will make a set of APIs available to third parties and it will also assist them with development in other ways, we’re told.

A report late last week from Re/code also said that Amazon is working to get third-party developers on board.

Our sources are not clear on exactly when Amazon’s first smartphone will be released, though we’re told the company may be targeting an announcement in the next two to three months and a launch sometime late this summer. We were also told the phone will initially be available only in the United States.

Google Launches Standalone Camera App

By Chris Welch at The Verge:

Google has just launched its own Camera app in the Play Store. Simply called Google Camera, the app looks a bit different from the camera software currently shipping in Android 4.4 KitKat. Google has made a number of improvements and refinements here, introducing a much cleaner interface "that gets out of your way" with a prominent shutter button.  A brand new Lens Blur mode promises to achieve "SLR-like photos" offering a shallow depth of field.

"Lens Blur replaces the need for a large optical system with computer vision algorithms and optimization techniques that are run entirely on the mobile device, simulating a larger lens and aperture in order to creating a 3D model of the world," Google said. (The company has published a blog post offering more details on exactly how the Lens Blur effect was created.) Google Camera packs in signature Mountain View features like Photo Sphere, and also brings the viewfinder back to 100 percent, meaning what you see will always be what you get in your final shot.

15 Apr 2014

5 Of The Biggest Social Media Marketing Mistakes You Can Make

Via DigitalSherpa Blog

The press loves to share social media marketing blunders that brands make, and we love reading them because quite simply they are entertaining. However, when the joke is on your brand, you might feel differently.

What measures do you  have in place today to help prevent a social media PR crisis? If the answer is none, it’s time to start thinking about an action plan to help rectify the situation in the event that your brand becomes involved in a social media blunder. In the meantime, we wanted to share 5 of the biggest social media marketing mistakes that we commonly see businesses making, and hopefully this article will help you to avoid them:

1- Neglecting to implement a social media policy.

You absolutely need to have a clearly defined policy for how your brand’s social media will be handled, and this is especially important if you are going to allow your team members to access your social media accounts. Not having a social media policy that explains how employees should represent your brand online can put you at increased risk for a social media PR disaster.

2- Using the same marketing strategy for every social media channel.

Not only do the audiences vary on social media sites, but so does the lingo and content that you should be sharing. If you’re new to a social media site, take the time to research how your audience communicates before jumping on board.

3- Having an incomplete social media bio. 

Always be sure to include an excerpt about what your business does, where you are located, and your website address. Surprisingly, many businesses don’t complete their bios in their entirety, causing them to potentially miss out on leads and lose credibility with their audience.

4- Assuming that social media is a one-way street.

You audience does not want to constantly see push marketing efforts from your brand in their newsfeed. Instead, businesses need to realize that social media is a two-way street and provides a unique opportunity for them to connect with prospective customers and deepen the relationship.

5- Focusing too much on the number of fans versus the quality. 

Yes, it’s great to have a lot of people that “like” your Facebook page; however, if you are just willy nilly trying to increase your fan base on social media by asking everyone to “like” your page, you may not have the best strategy in place. Instead, if you take the time to focus on the quality of your followers, you can build a much more powerful marketing resource.

While social media is arguably one of the most powerful marketing tools that business owners have available, it can also be very damaging to your brand’s reputation if mistakes are made. Remember that it’s better to be prepared with a policy and strategy in place before it’s too late!

After reading through this list, can you relate to any of these common mistakes? Any other mistakes to avoid?

10 Things to Know About Google's Project Ara Smartphone

By Roberto Baldwin at The Next Web:

The Build-it-yourself modular Google smartphone is one step closer to giving you the chance to build your perfect phone. It’s not going to be available this year. But, 2015 could be the beginning of a significant shift in the smartphone landscape.

Project Ara is part of the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. The group is what Google retained in its sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo. The project is a bold plan to create an open-source smartphone hardware platform. Users would start with a piece of base hardware known as an Endo. Features would be added to the Endo as plug-and-play modules.

These modules can be a camera, battery, wireless radios, really anything partners can come up with. The hot-swappable modules give users the power to create a phone that works exactly how they want. For power users, a second battery module could be added to an Endo. If your phone is your main camera, you can add the best camera module available.

Those modules will be built by the developers using the MDK (Module Developers Kit) released today at the Project Ara event. It’s a new way of building a smartphone that could benefit users and developers. This is what we know so far.

1- Availability: The phone is still in the early phases of development. But an introductory phone is expected sometime in 2015.

2- Cost: Google is hoping to introduce an entry-level Grey Phone into the market that will cost $50 to produce. Paul Eremenko, head of the Project Ara was quick to point out that the street price of the phone would be determined by commerce partners. Google is also planning a high-end phone with a $500 production cost. Like the Grey Phone, that is a manufacturing cost not the street price.

3- Size: Google showed off the “medium” Ara prototype today. The size is inline with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S5. A mini phone is also outlines in the MDK and a large phone for fans of the Samsung Galaxy Note line is on the product roadmap.

4- Modules: The feature tiles known as modules will connect to the phone’s skeleton, known as the Endo via electropermanent magnets. When the magnets are hit with an “On” electrical pulse they will create a solid bond between the Endo and module. When they are hit with an “Off” pulse, the magnets will release the bond and you can replace the module.  The magnets don’t need a constant charge to keep a bond. These modules will be created by various developers using the open source MDK that was released today. Cameras, antennas, batteries, processors, and anything that can be fit into a module shell will be available. The shells of those modules will be 3D printed to a user’s specified design.

5- Buying Modules: Google will have a ecommerce site that will work alongside the Google Play store. Like purchasing an app, you will be able to purchase modules online. To help you decide which modules to purchase, Google has three potential systems. One is to sell the Grey Phone and allow users to purchase modules via an app that demos module functionality. The second is to use a friend’s phone in guest mode to test out modules on that phone. The third option is physical pop-up kiosks.

6- Updating Android: Currently, Android doesn’t support a modular system, but the operating system is being updated to support it, with an expected release date of early 2015.

7- Prototype: A pre-production prototype will be shown off in September of this year. The current prototype shown off at the Project ARA event doesn’t have the electropermanent magnet system. It uses clips to keep the modules in place. The power bus is also still being worked on. And unfortunately, today’s prototype had a cracked screen. (haha wut??) Although Paul Eremenko joked that the phone’s screen could quickly be replaced with a different module in the future.

8- Modules can have multiple functions: A module can support as many features as a developer can cram into it. A rear-facing display module could also be a tiny battery to offset the power drain of the display. If it fits within the module’s physical constraints, it’s good to go.

9- Why you should care:  Project Ara phones are expected to have a life of five to six years – far longer than your current smartphone. Instead of updating your phone every two years, you save up for the latest modules. The goal is that when a new processor or high-megapixel camera is introduced, it’ll be available as a module for Ara owners to purchase. Plus, like the prototype at today’s event, when you break the screen, you can quickly replace it with a module.

10- Why should developers care: The modular system is a way for developers to create a device that plugs directly into a phone with having to design and build a third-party piece of hardware. It removes the much of the industrial design elements and having to deal with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi radios for connectivity. Plus, there would be a built-in market of users ready to customize their phones with whatever niche functionality developers can build.

Google is betting on a future where functions are what you update, not phones. It’s also hoping to get a bare-bones Ara phones into the hands of feature phone users. If it can get developers to start building modules, your next phone could be more like individual Lego blocks instead of a single brick.