Archives for September 2012

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September 30, 2012

Cell phones blamed for rising suicides in Indian Border Security Force

32.jpeg Mobile phones are to blame for rising suicides in the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) as it lets the troopers know about problems in their families, at times causing intense depression, an officer said Sunday. nvNews reports.

quotemarksright.jpgTill August, 15 BSF personnel have committed suicide in the eastern theatre. Depression is the major reason. In a sense, the telecommunication boom can be blamed for the suicides,” he said.

“You can’t worry about something you don’t know. That is what used to happen earlier when letters would take weeks to reach them. But with the advent of mobile they are now instantly aware of problems back home.”quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 4:14 PM | permalink

The Perils of Texting While Parenting

RV-AI282_DISTRA_G_20120928003229.jpeg Are too many parents distracted by mobile devices when they should be watching their kids? A recent rise in injuries, reversing the longstanding trend, has doctors worried that the answer is yes. The Wall Street Journal reports.

quotemarksright.jpgNonfatal injuries to children under age five rose 12% between 2007 and 2010, after falling for much of the prior decade, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on emergency-room records.

Is high-tech gadgetry diminishing the ability of adults to give a proper supervision to very young children? Faced with an unending litany of newly proclaimed threats to their kids, harried parents might well roll their eyes at this suggestion. But many emergency-room doctors are worried: They see the growing use of hand-held electronic devices as a plausible explanation for the surprising reversal of a long slide in injury rates for young children. There have even been a few extreme cases of death and near drowning.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

Related: - 'Parents On Phones' collects pics of mothers and fathers neglecting their kids while texting.

emily | 8:07 AM | permalink

September 28, 2012

Google's Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead

googles.sirix616.png The company's data stockpile and investment in AI means a smartphone helper that answers queries before you even ask them. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpgSiri, the virtual assistant built into iPhones, launched to great fanfare last October and soon inspired a crowd of copycat apps.

Now a year later, Google is rolling out a new assistant in the form of Google Now.

Google Now doesn't have a pretend personality like Apple's sassy assistant, instead just appearing as a familiar search box. But just like Siri, it can take voice commands related to phone functions such as setting reminders or sending messages, and field requests for information such as "How old is the Eiffel Tower?" and "Where can I find a good Chinese restaurant?"

Also like Siri, Google Now responds with speech. However, rather than passing along queries to third-party services such as Yelp for answers, Google's helper makes use of the company's recently launched Knowledge Graph, a database that categorizes information in useful ways.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 5:58 PM | permalink

A New Google App Gives You Local Information — Before You Ask for It

26bits-google-tmagArticle.jpeg

Google has created a new mobile app that gives people facts about the places around them — unprompted, without the need to even ask for the information. Bits reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe app, Field Trip, offers historical trivia about a park, an architectural factoid about a building or reviews of a nearby restaurant. Google says it’s like having a local friend with you as you make your way through a city.

... Google, along with other companies and researchers, dreams of so-called ubiquitous computing or ambient intelligence — computers woven into the texture of life as opposed to being separate machines. Eventually, the theory goes, computers will be part of the environment, know where people are and anticipate what they want to know.

The Field Trip app is a small step in that direction, and an example of what Google is capable of doing. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 10:43 AM | permalink

Where do “Obama phones” come from?

2542298.jpeg This video of an Obama supporter bragging about having an “Obama phone” has gone viral on the web, but where do these “free cell phones” come from? The Washington Examiner reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe program is called Lifeline, established in 1984 was originally created to subsidize landline phone service for low income Americans, funded by government-collected telecommunication fees, paid by consumers.

In 2008, the program was expanded to support cell phones which quickly escalated the cost of the program. In 2008 the program cost $772 million, but by 2011 it cost $1.6 billion.

A 2011 audit found that 269,000 wireless Lifeline subscribers were receiving free phones and monthly service from two or more carriers. Several websites have been created to promote “free” government cell phones, including the”The Obama Cell Phone” website at Obamaphone.net.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:45 AM | permalink

September 27, 2012

Apps for Afghanistan

A_AFGHANISTAN_1.jpeg Just a decade ago, Afghans had to travel to Pakistan to make international calls. The landline phone infrastructure had completely fallen into disarray during the civil war, and there were no mobile phone operators. The first American diplomats and U.N. workers to return to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban carried backpacks full of costly satellite phones for the new Afghan emergency government. USAid reports.

quotemarksright.jpgBut smart, early regulatory decisions by Afghan lawmakers, based on technical assistanczze from USAID and other donors, engendered the rapid growth of a profitable and competitive sector, pushing down airtime prices well within reach of normal Afghans. Today, Afghanistan is awash in mobile phones, with more than 18 million active subscriptions in a country of 28 million.

This explosion of mobile users has created a network that bridges the country’s formidable urban-rural divide while transcending gaps in physical infrastructure, low literacy rates and pervasive insecurity.

The near-ubiquity of mobile phone coverage has allowed Afghanistan to join the vanguard of countries experimenting with innovative new uses for the mobile channel, using the networks to extend services and information cheaply to populations lacking access through other means. Among the most promising is mobile money—the ability to safely store and transfer “e-money” via SMS, avoiding the expense and danger associated with moving cash, while extending the reach of basic financial services from the 5 percent of the population with accounts in brick-and-mortar banks to the 65 percent of Afghans who use mobile phones.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:36 PM | permalink

Cell phones: How cultural differences affect mobile use

A wonderful article from CNN on how cultural differences affect mobile use.

quotemarksright.jpgIn Japan your phone shouldn't be a nuisance to others," she says. "This means generally keeping it on manner mode when out of the house, and not taking calls in cafes and restaurants. If somebody's phone rings, they will be flustered and silence it or take very quick call," Ito explains.

In Spain and Italy, in contrast, mobiles are used everywhere and people discuss their personal lives loudly in public.

Smartphones are the new wingman

The Spanish, like the Italians, happily answer calls in restaurants, during business meetings, conferences and even sometimes during concerts. Discreetly texting or instant messaging under the table during meetings is also commonplace, Dr. Amparo Lasén, Professor of Sociology at the University Complutense de Madrid, says.

In parts of India and Africa, there is also a culture of split-second calls known as "flashing" or "beeping." Jonathan Donner, a researcher at Microsoft India who published a paper on "The Rules of Beeping," said: "Beeping is simple: A person calls a mobile telephone number and then hangs up before the mobile's owner can pick up the call."

The mobile owner can then phone them back, thus picking up the tab for the call. Donner first came across "beeping" in Rwanda and tracked it's use across Africa. He said the practice has many different meanings from "Come and pick me up", to "Hi", to "I'm thinking of you" to "Call me back."quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:26 PM | permalink

Syria regime tells public in mass-text message that it's "game over" for rebels

damascus_military_hq_152783067_620x350-1.jpeg Syrian authorities on Thursday sent text messages over cell phones nationwide with a message for rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's regime: "Game over." CBS News reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army also urged the rebels to surrender their weapons and warned the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun. The texts appear to be part of the regime's psychological battle against the rebels, but are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Assad.

People with cellular subscriptions received the messages while those with prepaid phones did not, residents in the Syrian capital said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

Related articles on psychological warfare using text messaging and cell phones:

-- Cell Carriers Bow to Taliban Threat’

-- Mobile Phones Combat Taliban’s Afghan ‘Information Wastelands’

-- Lebanon. Psychological warfare on phone

-- British Intelligence bomb Taliban with SMS in psychological warfare

-- SMS text messages urge Chechen rebels to surrender in exchange for a fair trial

emily | 8:10 PM | permalink

Kenyan courts now let traffic offenders pay fines via mobile money

FainiChapChap.jpeg Integrated mobile service provider Safaricom has partnered with the Kenyan judiciary to launch Faini Chap Chap, a mobile payment solution allowing traffic offenders to pay fines using M-Pesa. The Next Web Africa reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe new initiative should improve service delivery to law breakers on Kenyan roads by offering faster services.

Faini Chap Chap will enable prompt clearance of fines, thus saving on time and congestion from long queues.

The system was piloted for three months in Nairobi’s Kibera estate and Kilimani law courts.

Users registered with M-Pesa can access the service by selecting Paybill on the M-Pesa menu before entering the law court’s account number. They can later key in the amount the of fine in Kenyan shillings and make payment. A confirmation text message will indicate if payment has been successful.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 6:30 PM | permalink

Bank of America tests technology to pay with phones

topics_bankamerica_395.jpeg Bank of America Corp is testing a technology that allows a customer to pay at a store register by simply scanning an image with a smartphone, such as Apple Inc's iPhone or Google Inc's Android devices.

quotemarksright.jpgThe pilot program is being tested in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the second-largest U.S. bank is headquartered, and marks the latest effort by a financial institution to come out on top in the race to determine how people will pay for things in the future.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via Reuters]

emily | 10:44 AM | permalink

AT&T Trials Text-Message Translation

at&t2.jpg Phone users can sign up to have incoming messages automatically translated from one language to another. Real-time voice translation could follow. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpgAT&T is trialing technology that lets customers send and receive text messages that are automatically translated from English to Spanish and back. A person simply registers a phone number as having a preferred language. Messages sent to that number in a different language are then automatically translated before being relayed to the person's phone.

The current version of the technology only handles translation between English and Spanish, but AT&T is working on six more languages that could easily be added to the text message translation system.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:26 AM | permalink

Is political text message spam legal?

Although the FCC has clearly stated that unsolicited automated text messages are against the law, some political advertising firms have found a way around the ban. The Los Angeles Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpg...Instead of sending text messages the traditional way -- from one phone number to another -- these firms send emails to people's cellphones, which produce messages that appear much like text messages.

The messages may originate as emails, but the phone companies consider them incoming text messages, which can come with a charge if the cellphone owner does not subscribe to a text messaging plan.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:21 AM | permalink

Why Text Messaging Still Thrives Despite Smartphones, Twitter and WhatsApp

full-length-of-young-men-and-women-holding-cellphone.jpeg Many experts have already declared the death of SMS but companies waiting for the death of SMS will wait for a lot longer than they expect. ZDNet reports.

quotemarksright.jpg7.8 trillion SMS messages were sent last year, according to Portio Research. Another firm, Informa, counted 5.9 trillion text messages worldwide last year, comprising 64% of mobile messaging traffic. You also have research showing that in developed countries, texting has just become more popular than voice calling.

Not only is SMS on top, but it's still growing substantially. Portio predicted earlier this year that it will increase 23% this year to 9.6 trillion SMS messages.

According to Portio: "SMS is not dead. SMS is still the king and will remain so for some time to come."

.. .Only 16% of mobile phones in use worldwide today are app-enabled. AT MOST.

"The media tends to overegg the importance of smartphones and Apple in particular," wrote MobiThinking. But "businesses that ignore featurephone customers do so at their peril."

Put another way: "If you’re a major global brand and all you use are apps for marketing, you’ll miss out on 70-80% of your customers," Howard Stevens, a senior vice-president at SAP division, Sybase 365, told me in a recent interview.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:12 AM | permalink

September 26, 2012

Even Sleeping Smartphones Could Soon Hear Spoken Commands

Speech recognition software company Nuance is working with chipmakers on technology that would enable "persistent listening" apps. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... Vlad Sejnoha, Nuance Communications' chief technology officer, believes that within a year or two you'll be able to talk to your smartphone even as it lies idle on a desk, asking it questions such as, "When's my next appointment?" The phone will be able to detect that you are speaking, wake itself up, and accomplish the task at hand.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 5:34 PM | permalink

Cellphones are eating the family budget - eclipsing what they pay for cable TV and Internet

Families across America have cut back on food, clothes and entertainment to make room for ever-higher phone bills. Now, carriers are betting that they can push that bill even higher, as Anton Troianovski explains in The WSJ.

quotemarksright.jpgThe average household's annual spending on telephone services rose to $1,226 in 2011 from $1,110 in 2007, when Apple Inc.'s iPhone first appeared.

Families with more than one smartphone are already paying much more than the average—sometimes more than $4,000 a year—easily eclipsing what they pay for cable TV and home Internet.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:21 AM | permalink

Winner of TNW Startup World Competition, SMS ticketing service Safari Yetu

bus-travel-Tanzania.jpeg

The winner of Tanzania's Startup World, The Next Web’s global startup competition held in Dar Es Salaam was Safari Yetu.

quotemarksright.jpgSafari Yetu changes how consumers buy bus tickets in Tanzania; currently buying a bus ticket for travel means going to a bus station a day earlier than the expected travel date, spending two to five hours in traffic just to get your ticket and then do the same the day you are traveling.

With Safari Yetu, you pay online or via mobile, receive an SMS reservation or ticket and go to the bus station once; the day you are traveling.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via The Next Web]

emily | 8:24 AM | permalink

September 25, 2012

Cellphone addiction is now on the rehab menu

nomophobia.jpeg According to Fox News, a leading drug and alcohol recovery center has founded the first recovery group for people suffering with nomophobia.

quotemarksright.jpgNomophobia is a term first coined by British researchers during 2008 to denote people who experienced anxiety when they had no access to mobile technology—such as their mobile phones.

The group, the brainchild of Dr. Elizabeth Waterman of Morningside Recovery Center in California, helps people recognize the signs and symptoms of their over-reliance on mobile technology, explore the psychological roots of their vulnerability to becoming addicted to it and master emotional, cognitive and behavioral techniques to regain their autonomy.

Hopefully (!), Morningside Recovery Center’s program will motivate others to take its lead in actually putting an addiction to mobile technology—including cell phone messages and Facebook updates—on par with tobacco and alcohol dependence. Because people really do need help overcoming it.

Read more.

emily | 5:55 PM | permalink

Amusement ride operators reading their phones, ignoring kids

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001.jpg Ride operators from four different Texas amusement companies were using their cell phones at four different festivals. KVUE.com reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... In one case, an employee at the top of a giant slide was caught on camera using his cell phone as he helped kids prepare to slide down.

In another, the operator of a train ride designed for young children was seen staring at his phone as cars full of kids rolled past him.

Ride managers said workers should know better. Each company we talked with said operators are banned from using phones while running the rides.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 5:42 PM | permalink

Mobile Phones, Email Destroying Penmanship

kanji.jpeg According to International Business Times, the profusion of mobile phones, tablets, email software and other electronic communication devices is being blamed for the gradual disappearance of Japanese people who can properly write in kanji, the characters used in the Japanese language.

quotemarksright.jpgAccording to a survey released by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese Ministry of Education, two-thirds (66.5 percent) of respondents said they are losing the ability to hand-write in kanji since communication devices automatically generate kanji characters.

A similar survey conducted 10 years ago put that figure at only a quarter (25.2 percent) -- suggesting that the omnipresence of mobile devices has rapidly eroded peoples’ ability (or even willingness) to hand-write the beautiful characters of the Japanese tongue.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 5:32 PM | permalink

September 24, 2012

How much mobile phone airtime street vendors earn a month: $ 4,550

jessica-kokerai.jpeg Interesting insight from Tech Zimbabwe on airtime sales figures from a lady who is currently operating one of Econet Green Kiosks. [via @mobileacitve]

quotemarksright.jpgAmai Blessing is not a street vendor anymore. She’s an authorized Econet dealer.

“I was a vendor, selling at the shops, but now things have changed. My business is growing” she told us. From selling an average 400 airtime cards a day as a street vendor, Amai Blessing says now she sells between 3,000 and 4,000 cards a day.

If we take 3,500 as the average number of cards she sells a day, this means she makes about $175 a day (3,500 cards x 5 cents). which gives her give us a monthly figure of $4,550.

To put her income in context, for a tech manager for a very large international NGO in Zimbabwe, gross salary wasn’t even half of her airtime business.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article

emily | 9:21 PM | permalink

West Africa's technological revolution driven by mobile phones and SMS

SlimTrader.jpg Using text messaging for technological advances makes sense in a continent where hi-tech sits cheek-by-jowl with fading technology. The Guardian reports.

quotemarksright.jpgOne service, SlimTrader, allows customers to use their phones to get information and availability, and to pay for services ranging from airplane tickets to bags of fertiliser.

While in many parts of the world, such a service would use the internet, this option was not available for a large majority of Nigerians using basic feature phones. Instead, SlimTrader can be used entirely by text message. "We took the idea from what it could be in the western world to what it really has to be in the developing world. We went a step further, and said let's make SlimTrader useable on any phone," Femi Akinde, founder of Slim Trader said.

Innovations like SlimTrader are a small part of a new technological revolution in sub-Saharan Africa. In west Africa, which has lagged behind its eastern neighbours, a new breed of home-grown entrepreneurs is adapting technology to local challenges.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:32 AM | permalink

September 22, 2012

Cambodians fighting malaria with SMS and Google Earth

Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, but the National Ministry of Health in Cambodia is trying to do something about it. In an effort to wipe out malaria by 2025, they're using technology to help them out. [via Google Earth Blog]

quotemarksright.jpgThey have 230 volunteers in four proviences that send text messages to regional malaria workers so they can help the patient get intervention and treatment quickly. In addition, the system maps cases in Google Earth so they can map trends and respond appropriately.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Watch their video on YouTube, which explains the entire process.

emily | 8:43 AM | permalink

Smuggled iPhone 5s Sell for as Much as $3,700 in Moscow

Apple does not have a store in Russia and the company has not announced a release date for Russia. but as the new Apple iPhone 5 went on sale around the world yesterday, enterprising individuals from purchasing them elsewhere and bringing them into the country. ABC News reports.

quotemarksright.jpgA 16 gigabyte iPhone 5 is going for around 70,000 rubles, or about $2,200. Other vendors are quoting prices up to $3,700. That's several times what it will cost you in an Apple store in the United States, where an unlocked version retails for $649.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:11 AM | permalink

Here's the first iPhone 5 commercial from Apple

Apple's first TV commercial for the iPhone 5 by ad agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab. [via Business Insider]

emily | 8:05 AM | permalink

September 21, 2012

Pakistan blocks cell phones on prophet protest day

Pakistan has blocked cell phone service in 15 major cities to prevent militants from using phones to detonate bombs during a national day of protest against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. The AP reports.

quotemarksright.jpg... The government has declared Friday a national holiday and has encouraged people to peacefully protest a film that denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:58 AM | permalink

Coca-Cola Sued For Holding SMS Subscribers Hostage

coca-cola-logo.jpeg Coca-Cola apparently doesn’t understand that STOP means STOP, especially when you’re running an SMS marketing campaign. Coca-Cola is now now facing the consequences in a new class action lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that consumers were unable to opt-out of receiving text messages, which is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Tatango reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe Defendant, Shaghayegh Missaghi says that she received the following message from the short code 2653, which spells the word ”COKE”.

“MyCokeRewards: Enter now for your chance to win Coke(R) and Pringles(R) for a year. http://cokeurl.com/mSnacks NoPurNec. Ends 2/29/12 Reply HELP for help.”

After receiving the message, Shaghayegh attempted to opt out of the SMS campaign by texting STOP to 2653, which was unsuccessful. The plaintiff continued to receive unwanted text messages from Coke, regardless of her attempts to opt out and despite their own confirmation that the defendant would no longer receive text messages.

The plaintiff decided enough was enough and filed a class action lawsuit.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 9:40 AM | permalink

Kenya to switch off uncertified, counterfeit mobile phones

Kenya is set to switch off all uncertified mobile phones in the country by the end of September in an effort to curb security threats and halt the illegal trade of counterfeit phones, officials said Wednesday, reports Sabahi Online.

quotemarksright.jpgThe ban will affect devices that do not have an International Mobile Equipment Identity code -- the 15-digit number that identifies each mobile device and facilitates their traceability.

... Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) Director General Francis Wangusi said illegal phones not only pose security threats, but also violate manufacturers' intellectual property rights. In addition, these devices are not subjected to the same safety standards as other handsets, posing undue risk to consumers, he said.

Registering all mobile phones in Kenya will enable better monitoring and tracking of mobile phones, he said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:55 AM | permalink

Apple accused of ripping off famous Swiss clock design

Screen_Shot_2012-09-20_at_12.38.57_PM.png The new look of Apple's clock app on the iPad that came alongside iOS 6 yesterday is ruffling some feathers abroad. C/net reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn a report in Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (by way of Macrumors), the Swiss Federal Railway service, or SBB, has taken offense to the app's design, to which it says it owns the trademark.

The 1944 design by then-SBB employee Hans Hilfiker (which you can see here) is used in station clocks throughout the railway system, which is well-known for its timeliness. It's also licensed to Mondaine, a Swiss watch manufacturer.

An SBB spokesman told Tages-Anzeiger that he was pleased Apple was using the design, but noted that the company was not authorized to do so. The report suggests a legal complaint is being drafted as a result. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:38 AM | permalink

Restaurants and clothing dominate mobile coupons

Of all the options available to consumers, mobile coupons have emerged as bargain hunters’ best friends. Business Insider reports.

quotemarksright.jpgTo quantify the impact, Chitika analyzed millions of mobile search impressions from the Chitika Ad network the first week in September. Clothing and Restaurants make up the lion’s share of mobile coupon searches, together encompassing more than 50% of the market (27.8% and 22.4%, respectively). Retail and Arts & Crafts coupons fall in at third and fourth place, making up 17.7% and 12% of coupon searches. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:37 AM | permalink

September 20, 2012

How Shoppers Use Smartphones to Save Money

KI_Mobile_Coupon.png Smart shoppers are consulting multiple platforms to aid with shopping and to save money, according to recent surveys. eMarketer reports via @StKonrath.

quotemarksright.jpgNot only are they cashing in print and online coupons, but consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to get deals while in the store.

According to a July study by media and marketing services company Valassis, due to rising food and gas prices, 74% of US consumers planned to use more coupons this year.

Mobile coupon usage, in particular, is skyrocketing. According to the Valassis study, use of mobile coupons or apps increased by over 100% in 2011, and 100% again in 2012.

Although trailing online coupons by a few percentage points, the Valassis study showed that 79% of US internet users were using more mobile coupons this year—on par with print coupons and circulars. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 6:01 PM | permalink

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