How to Text a Landline

The next time you are in Middleton, Wis., the police department wants you to text them if you have a problem. Anyone with a text message-enabled cellphone can type out nonemergency questions or complaints and send them to the same phone number that dispatchers at the station use to answer voice calls. The text is delivered to computers used by the dispatchers, who can then reply or direct assistance as needed. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the story.

How is it that residents can now send SMS messages to a phone number that is not connected to a cellphone?  Zipwhip Inc., a cloud-based text messaging service, directs text messages sent to users’ landline phone numbers to the users’ computers, tablets or smartphones

This might be a fun or convenient product for some consumers, but the technology really shines in business applications. Most companies still have landline telephone service, and their phone number might be part of their brand. Using Zipwhip combines a form of communication customers are familiar with – text messages – with phone numbers customers already use. In other words, customers can contact the businesses with text messages through a point of contact that they already associate with the business. Read more

Glued to the Small Screen

Apparently, more and more of us are watching video in the palm of our hands: according to a new report from international research firm IDG Global Solutions, 75% of online viewers surveyed reported using a smartphone to watch online videos. That’s a 22% increase from the 61% who indicated they did so in the 2012 survey.

According to IDG’s 2014 Global Mobile Survey report, mobile is also displacing more traditional media: 50% of survey respondents use a tablet to read newspapers and 40% have replaced either their laptop or desktop with a tablet device.

New technology has allowed more people to bring their work home with them: 80% of survey respondents said that they use their tablets after hours to research business products or services.

And while mobile devices continue to generate e-commerce revenues, many consumers balk at the idea of making purchases via their smartphone. The top barriers cited by survey respondents were the lack of mobile enabled websites and security concerns.

“Mobile is disruptive–affecting how we live, shop, do business and consume media,” IDG notes. “Every minute of the day we are constantly interacting with brands at a conscious and unconscious level, and this is having a profound impact on the way that businesses are now communicating with their audience.”

Report: iPhone “Kill Switch” Serves Intended Purpose

A recently released report by state attorneys general, prosecutors, police and other officials, conducted as part of an initiative known as “Secure Our Smartphones,” has concluded that Apple’s addition of a “kill switch” in its iPhone handsets has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of thefts.

The kill switch allows the phone’s owner to render the phone unusable should it be stolen, thus eliminating any possibility of resale.

Consumer Reports estimated that 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in 2013, twice the number reported in 2012.

Dramatic declines were seen across the country—robberies of Apple products in New York City fell by 19% in the first five months of 2014 compared to the previous year. Similar decreases were reported in San Francisco and London. Over the same time period, thefts involving Samsung smartphones increased by 40%. (Samsung introduced a kill switch feature in their phones in April.)

In response to these numbers, Google and Microsoft have announced that they will incorporate a similar feature into the next version of their smartphones’ operating systems.

“The statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “The commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety.”

Amazon Reportedly Set To Release a 3D Phone 

Speculation floating around the Internet and the trade press this week says that Amazon is planning to release a 3D smartphone on June 18. The pending release of the phone has been rumored for six months, but now an Amazon launch event has been scheduled for June 18.

Not too many details are available yet. A YouTube video shows users’ faces and their reactions to the phone, but does not show the device itself.

To be clear, this is all speculation since the phone has not been released. However, reports are that the phone will use Omron’s Okao Vision face-sensing technology. The phone will have a number of front-facing cameras to track the users’ heads and enable 3D effects.

There is also speculation that Amazon is looking into AT&T’s “Sponsored Data Plan.” Under that wireless plan, any data consumed by an AT&T customer using the Amazon phone or any other Amazon device to connect to AT&T’s wireless network would not count against their data cap. Again, it’s just speculation at this point.

As for the concept of a 3D phone, well, it sounds great in theory. But then, so did 3D TV, and as I wrote last summer, that was a bit of a commercial flop. Maybe Amazon knows something that the 3D content providers did not. I can’t wait to see the phone myself.

Cincinnati Bell Sells Wireless Arm to Verizon

There is a “thing” going around the Internet these days that is intended to illuminate aspects of reading ability. The “thing” (I am not sure what to call it) is a paragraph of horribly misspelled text, but with each word containing the approximate number of correct letters, and the correct first and last letters of each word. The “thing” attempts to demonstrate that the mind reads words as images, and that so long as the borders are correct, the brain fills in the blanks and providers the proper words.

I was not really surprised that I could read the paragraph, since my brain has a funny way of transposing letters and numbers and tricking me into reading things that actually don’t exist. Like the sign that encouraged people to “club and gutter” their pets (it really said, “curb and gutter” in an attempt to maintain clean sidewalks). Or phone numbers that are perpetually out of order – mostly because I have flipped some of the numbers and am calling people or places that don’t exist. Read more

HD Voice To Launch Nationwide In July, Says Sprint

Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse announced last week that high definition (HD) wireless voice service will expand beyond limited markets and be available nationwide this July. In order to function, HD voice must be supported from one end of a call to another, and at all points in between. With other wireless carriers working on their own HD voice and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services, the underlying network support (in addition to compatible handsets) needed to deliver HD voice in the marketplace appear to be on the verge of materializing.

For many years, it has been widely accepted that wireless consumers are willing to sacrifice voice quality in exchange for mobility, and that landline calls were generally clearer and more reliable. However, if wireless HD voice does become commonplace, that notion could be turned on its head. Properly executed, and depending on the path a call takes, HD voice calls can be of such high quality that it can nearly sound as if the person you are speaking with is in the same room. Consumers, who today are accustomed to a generally lower quality experience from wireless calls, may soon find that wireless HD voice service can sound better than traditional landline calls.

As mentioned last fall, landline HD voice also is feasible. Landline HD voice faces the same barriers as wireless HD voice in terms of the need for consistent quality and end-to-end support. Depending on how well the nationwide rollout of wireless HD voice goes this summer, it could be another competitive factor facing terrestrial voice providers.

What’s in Your Digital Wallet?

For the last few years, you may have heard about (or you may have already used) a “digital wallet,” which is basically a smartphone designed to replace your credit/debit card. A consumer uses their digital wallet by simply tapping their phone or waiving it near a mobile payment-enabled terminal at a checkout counter. One example you may be familiar with is using your iPhone as a boarding pass, that is, instead of printing out a hard copy of this official document, you wave an image of your boarding pass bar code under a scanner at the gate. Credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and store loyalty cards can all be accessed via a digital wallet.

This article has a great discussion of all the different versions of the digital wallet, including the benefits and limitations of each. Unfortunately, only a limited number of stores accept this new form of payment. As for benefits, a digital wallet, like a chip-enabled credit or debit card, is designed to be counterfeit-resistant. Read more

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