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8 posts from December 2014


This App Lets You Turn Boring Texts into Rap Lyrics


If you’ve ever wanted to make your text messages more interesting, the RapKey app might be the answer to your messaging prayers. A free app created by Babson student Jonah Kaner, it promises to turn “boring” text messages into something a bit more interesting. 

In case you were wondering, the app doesn’t stop at text messages. It hip-hopfies messages on Facebook, WhatsApp, email, Messenger, iMessager, Yik Yak and pretty much any other program that features a keyboard. 

Newly launched at the iTunes store, Kaner had his vision of love when hired to run digital strategy for a few rap gods. A marketing major and co-president of his school’s eTower learning community, Kaner notes music “has been on his mind lately.” It would if you were strategizing for an Atlanta-based artist whose debut album spawned five singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Or a rapper who garnered 13 Grammys for his storied contributions to the music world. 

It dawned on Kaner that much of his text-messaging time had turned into sending rap lyrics to friends and family, and how awesome it would be if an app did such work for you. Kaner quickly put his idea into development with the help of fellow eTower member Ativ Patel. The pair had RapKey designed, coded and submitted in—wait for it—three days. 

The sublime beauty of this app? Its simplicity. All that’s required is scrolling through pre-loaded lyrics in the keyboard, and making a selection. The selection will subsequently auto-populate into the text box, and all lyrics are hand-curated by Kaner and Patel. Kaner explains that lyrics are categorically organized in use-cases. For example, one category features a collection of lyrics that serve as amusing responses to the age-old question, “Where are you?” Another suggests rap-tastic answers to “What are you doing?” 

Oh, and if you don’t like the available options, you can submit lyrics you’d like added to the app’s official website. Kaner and his team are currently building a more streamlined custom lyrics feature, which will certainly make the app all the more engaging. 

Kaner isn’t limiting the app to hip hop, as it believes there’s fantastic potential for other genres of keyboards, as well as custom options for individual and company tastes. 

“Rap was just a start, but we’d love to expand to other genres of music, as well as other forms of content,” the creator says. “There’s no reason why TV shows and movies shouldn’t have stand-alone keyboards.” 

Cool, right? 



Awear: The Text Message App for Smartwatches


Tired of using dictation and voice recognition to send text messages through your smartwatch? If so, you’ll be very interested in what the San Francisco-based company Awear has recently cooked up. The brand created a messaging app for smartwatches that make it possible to send texts using touch taps. Entitled ‘The Coffee App,’ it was created for Android.

A ‘smart’ app itself, it knows who your most popular message recipients are and allows you to tap on an image of a person to start a text conversation. Once you select your chosen recipient, the app produces a list of the most common messages you send to the person, and provides the option of resending one of those messages. For example, you can select a message such as “I’m running late” and subsequently choose from ‘late’ options, such as five minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes. The watch connects through BlueTooth with your smartphone and sends messages via SMS. 

Some may find the app “too restrictive,” and opt to simply use their smartphones instead. However, when needing to send a message quickly, turning to your watch is generally the better option. 

Awear founder Jakob Wilkenson recently told VentureBeat that the touch-based menu system is extremely easy to use. It’s also not as restrictive as you might think, as its menu system is capable of providing 800 different message options. Additionally, the app may have been created for Android, but works with watches from Sony, Samsung, Motorola, Asus and LG. 

“With Coffee, you can stay in touch and be responsive without constantly bending over your phone or awkwardly talking to your watch,” says Wilkenson. “Now all you have to do is glance at your wrist and with just a few quick swipes of your finger you’re sending messages. It’s faster, easier, and much more discreet than dealing with your phone.” 

The app also allows you to read text messages on your watch, and use it to set vibration patterns that match favorite contacts so you know who’s trying to contact you “without looking.” A flick of the wrist activates the app, and Wilkenson notes that the ‘touch alternative’ is definitely worth it, as dictating the same messages to your smartwatch over and over again gets tiresome. This is in addition to the watch having issues recognizing what you’ve just said. 

Coffee is being hailed as the first must-have app for the smartwatch. 



Niagara PD Adds Text Messaging to their Crime Fighting Arsenal


Victims of crime in New York can now receive text alerts about the custodial status of convicted offenders across the state. The announcement was made last week by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. 

The New York Sheriffs’ Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) hotline allows crime victims to check on the status of offenders by checking their website or by phone. Text messaging was added to the list, with both Spanish and English language options available. It’s hoped the new technology will assist more crime victims, 2.8 million of whom searched the VINE Database in 2014. 

Sheriff James R. Voutour stated: 

“Crime victims need and want timely and accurate offender information to proactively ensure their personal safety and that of their families. I applaud the addition of texting and predict crime victims will embrace this new technology."

SMS is increasingly being used in the fight against crime, with police departments working alongside service providers to assist the public. In 2014, the four major wireless carriers began offering free text-to-911 services, allowing victims to more easily report crime as they witness it (a text message can be sent more surreptitiously than placing a phone call). 

Niagara is just the latest police department to start using SMS to fight crime. In Franklin, Tennessee, an anonymous texting service was established for students in 2009. Sgt. Charles Warner recognized the aversion young people have towards being labeled ‘snitches’ and the fear of retaliation brought about by reporting crime.

More recently, the Polaris Project – based in DC – fields texts and phone calls related to human trafficking. An app called Redlight Traffic not only lets members of the public report specific crimes, it educates them on the tell-tale signs of human traffickers, and how best to deal with anything they witness. Suspicious behavior can be submitted via the app, along with photographic evidence, GPS locations, vehicle registrations and personal descriptions. Police can use this data to enhance tracking of suspects. For citizens unsure of whether to call 911 in any given situation, the app provides the perfect solution.

Texting is also helping relieve law enforcers of more mundane duties, such as pursuing misdemeanors, which take up valuable police time – time that could be spent solving serious crimes. In Moscow, drivers can sign up to receive text alerts 20 minutes before their car is towed. When the scheme was launched earlier this year, city officials predicted monthly savings of up to $2.6 million.



How SMS is Affected by the Net Neutrality Debate


Tiered internet access may have been one of the biggest tech stories of last year, though it was hardly the only one. The net neutrality issue regarding SMS text messaging addresses whether mobile carriers should regulate the content they provide customers.

A recent Pew research poll found that most consumers don’t know a whole lot about significant technologies, influencers and concepts. Pew discovered some 40% of Americans aren’t aware of what net neutrality means or what it’s about; and how net neutrality affects content sent to mobile devices via Short Message Service (SMS) is even less likely to be understood.

So what’s the debate about? Net neutrality focuses on whether internet service providers should be allowed to discriminate among data delivered. As far as text messaging is concerned, the issue is whether mobile carriers can and should regulate content they provide to customers, particularly if it’s over the internet. This issue is obscure because of the merging of two elements: Voice and Internet. Voice is protected as “common carriage” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The Internet is not. 

As the year draws to a close, the FCC is expected to provide new rules regarding broadband internet governance. SMS, a “no man’s land” of sorts, has evolved to become a platform that links other applications via companies such as HeyWire Business, Twilio, Google and Microsoft. For example, if you’ve ever sent a text for Uber or Lyft services, you did so because Twilio made it happen by connecting you through SMS without disclosing telephone numbers.

The whole debate is a concern to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, who says carriers will have the power to “police” content and subsequently determine which messages are appropriate for recipients.

"As a company, Twilio has a unique viewpoint because we are a communication service that works with both sides," Lawson said. "Twilio favors Title II treatment for mobile, broadband, text and SMS. The fact is that when you don't have Title II protection, carriers have the ability to decide how to prioritize things. It's a scary world. 

Last month, Twilio, HayWire Business and similar service providers met with FCC officials to voice their concerns. And while the FCC hasn’t commented on the meeting or anything else regarding net neutrality, Michael Weinberg, a vice president with communications advocacy group Public Knowledge, believes the agency should keep a closer eye on the billions of text messages sent every year.

“It’s an important communications platform,” Weinberg said. “It’s often one that’s overlooked and dismissed, but it’s one that’s really critical for a lot of people.” 


Does Anyone Want an App that Transmits Texts as They're Typed?


Heard of Beam? It’s a new app offering consumers the chance to send texts in real time. The message transmits as you type—character by character, typos, deletes, emojis, etc. Think Google Docs typing, but in mobile device form.

"Beam is the closest you will get," notes the app's Google Play page, "to having a verbal conversation in a messaging app. Everything happens in real time—texting, reading, interrupting, and taking back the last thing you wrote."

Text messages sent in real time arguably blur the line between typing and talking, with one Beam reviewer remarking, "Hard to go back to waiting for texts to arrive after. I'm impatient."

Yet as Buzzfeed points out, Beam is “terrifyingly transparent.” The app has also been accused of “taking the mystery” out of texting. This form of communication has eclipsed phone calls as the popular option, as it provides something calls cannot: non-transparency. Waiting to send text messages, reading them over and editing them for content before sending...there’s a lot to be said for these advantages.

Texting truly gives us the opportunity to think before we speak, something person-to-person communications and phone calls don’t necessarily allow. Anyone who’s ever blurted something out to the wrong person at the wrong time (which is most people) can certainly sympathize. 

Do people really want every thought, every emoji immediately displayed as soon as they travel from brain to fingers? While this may appeal to some impatient consumers such as the reviewer mentioned above, this app essentially takes away much of the attractiveness of text messages. Not everyone wants to send a text as soon as they write it, particularly those who have enough trouble speaking before they think something through.

Texting allows the mobile user to consider a response thoroughly and write out a few “drafts” if desired. It’s ideal when you don’t want to write back to someone right away, or would prefer to wait until you actually have the time to sit down and text. Rushing to write a text on a lunch break or otherwise in a hectic situation is hardly optimal, and can easily result in miscommunication or simply wishing the text hadn’t been sent at all. Why pay for an app that emphasizes this “rushed” feeling? 

Beam almost seems like a direct view into the user’s mind, as s/he contemplates and tests different wordings before actually delivering the message Don’t we do this before speaking sometimes? Isn’t running through various versions of a sentence or idea before communicating it often a good idea? Perhaps this new technology is too transparent for most people. Or maybe users will enjoy a more fluid and fast conversation via text messaging. 

So what do you think? Do you prefer to text as is, or would you like to have your text conversations mimic a stream of consciousness dialogue?



Six New Year’s Resolutions for Mobile Marketers


December is a time to reflect on what went right – and what went very wrong – for you in your marketing campaigns. Consider these six New Year’s resolutions for 2015 as you think about how to innovate your strategies for the coming year.

1.     Look beyond the downloads, and analyze the data.

Take stock of what occurred in the mobile marketing sector this year, both with your company and in global technological advances. Tracking downloads is essential, but you have to look deeper at the analytics to gauge ROI. Consider the degree of your customer engagement and your rate of conversion; that way you can learn what to take with you into 2015.

2.     Trim the fat.

Abandon practices that weren’t working in 2014. Use a mobile analytics suite to help you take a good look at your mobile advertising budget. Make sure that your ad spend is driven in the direction that produces results. If a certain channel isn’t performing, then it’s time to cut it out.

3.     Incorporate real-time bidding.

Real-time bidding, or RTB, has achieved tremendous results in 2014 for web-based advertising. By incorporating RTB into your mobile advertising budget, you can trim expensive ad costs by allocating media buys to effective channels at the right price. You can lock in the right price so that your ads show up at the time and in the venues that are most effective.

4.     Integrate social media marketing.

Every aspect of your marketing strategy should be intertwined, both online and offline. The integration of social media marketing into your mobile strategy will help your messaging and branding stay consistent. Everyone has a phone these days, and consumers constantly check their social media channels. Why not connect with your customers right where they stand?

5.      Eliminate multiple vendors.

Choose marketing partners with all-in-one capabilities. If you spent 2014 trying to manage multiple vendors, you probably know how difficult it is to navigate across fragmented solutions and piecemeal products. Stick with a few versatile vendors that can meet all of your needs – it will free you up to dedicate time to the more important aspects of your business.

6.     Up your customer engagement game.

Retargeting, retargeting, retargeting. Bring your existing customers back into the fold with the latest technology, and drive some brand re-engagement. Ensure that your best customers see your brand more than once, and improve their recognition of it. Make sure you attend to your high-value users as well: find the platforms that will allow you to implement impression caps so you don’t lose your best customers.

With all of the advances in mobile marketing strategies and technology in 2014, next year is likely to be a very good year. Follow these resolutions and find the best way to reach customers in the New Year. Here’s hoping that 2015 will be an even better year for you and your mobile marketing efforts.



Digital Marketing Budgets to Increase by 8% in 2015


Digital marketing budgets are being cranked up by companies far and wide, and are expected to increase by 8% in 2015, according to a Gartner survey of advertising executives.

The survey found marketing budgets in 2014 averaged around 10.2% of total revenue, with digital spending accounting for around a quarter of the entire budget. Around half of all companies say they plan to increase their spending in 2015; the average planned increase for those companies came in at 17%.

Gartner’s Digital Marketing Spending report surveyed 315 organizations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Participants had to be bringing in more than $500 million in annual revenue. The questions were issued over the summer as a way of gaining insight into marketing priorities and future plans. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the larger companies allocate a higher percentage of revenue to marketing spend. Businesses with revenue in excess of $5 billion reported a current budget of 11%; those with revenues between $500 million and $1 billion averaged 9.2%. 

It all points to the fact that digital and ‘traditional’ marketing strategies are blurring into one. As Laura McLellan, Gartner’s research vice president puts it, 2014 was ‘less about digital marketing than marketing in a digital world.’ Companies in all industries are devising cohesive, integrated strategies with a heady mix of online and offline tactics, each feeding into the other. Customers are moving towards a self-service model, in which ‘The Internet of Things’ enables them to complete multiple transactions at home with minimal technical know-how. 

Next year will see a healthy progression of these trends, as brands, advertising agencies and publishers invest in targeted ads based on personal preference. The monolithic platforms of television, radio and billboard advertising are seeing their value take a hit in favor of vastly cheaper online strategies which have the added advantage of easy tracking and tweaking.

These changes are not the whim of over-excited digital marketing execs. Gartner found digital marketing was the No.1 priority for CEOs during the next five years. They’re moving more and more cash into digital purse, and they’re seeing the results as hard data that can be analyzed on a minute-by-minute basis.

If Gartner’s survey respondents are a true reflection of the state of business today, the English-speaking world of commerce is undergoing a slow revolution. Marketing budgets are migrating to places where their effects can be quantified, allowing businesses to adjust their spending over time.


Apple Faces Lawsuit Over 'Vanished' Text Messages


Apple is currently facing a U.S. federal lawsuit over “text messages that never appeared.” The company filed a motion over the summer to dismiss the claim, which stated Apple failed to inform customers that using its Messages app and iMessages service could result in undelivered texts. This occurred to users switching from iPhones to Android-based phones.

The motion to dismiss the claim was denied, with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California announcing Apple must face plaintiff Adrienne Moore's claim that message blocking disrupted her Verizon Wireless contract for wireless service, which she kept after switching in April 2014 to a Samsung Galaxy S5 from an iPhone 4. Moore’s class-action lawsuit, filed this past May, seeks unspecified damages.

Moore claims Apple did not inform her that using its iOS 5 software operating system would interfere with the delivery of "countless" messages from other Apple device users “if iPhone users switched to non-Apple devices.” She says the company is aware of issues users have receiving texts after switching to a rival smartphone, but doesn’t make customers aware of the problem. Moore also notes visiting Apple’s Help Page on their official website, but found it misleading in regards to undelivered message issues, and that calling the company and speaking to a representative was no help.

Judge Koh believes Moore deserves to show the technology giant the problems it created and that by blocking messages, Apple violated a California unfair competition law.

"Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple's intentional acts have caused an actual breach or disruption of the contractual relationship," the judge wrote.

 I put it to you that cellphones haven't even been invented yet.

Neither Apple nor Moore have responded to requests for comment at this time. Apple maintained in court papers that never it claimed this iOS 5 service and application would recognize when iPhone users switched to rival devices.

"Apple takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously, but the law does not provide a remedy when, as here, technology simply does not function as plaintiff subjectively believes it should," the company said in a statement.

Apple now has an online tool for helping customers retrieve messages after switching to a non-iOS device.

The case is named Moore et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-02269. Apple reported 169.2 million in iPhone sales for the fiscal year, which ended September 27.