Tag Archives: smartphones

No Escaping Ads: Instagram Stories Allows Full-Screen Advertising

Check out this article from adweek.com to learn more about the full-screen advertising coming to Instagram’s new stories section:

Instagram stories photo
Photo courtesy of Instagram

Instagram Is Dropping Ads Into Its Stories Feature, Now 150 Million Daily Users Strong

Airbnb, Nike and Buick are on board

By Christopher Heine

Instagram is starting to let brands advertise in between its 24-hour video stories section even though the feature just launched in August.

Why already? Why not? The scale is there—the Facebook-owned app is revealing today that 150 million people have been using Instagram stories daily. That represents a 50-million-user increase in just three months.

Around 30 brands are trying the new full-screen ads. That includes Capital One, Asos, Nike, Buick and Airbnb. The promos will first be measured solely by the number of people reached. In the coming months, the mobile player plans to expand to site visits and other metrics.

“I think [marketers] are excited about the pairing of this format with the advertising capabilities that we’ve built over the last couple of years,” said James Quarles, vp of Instagram Business. “They can target people that matter to them. They have the ability to reach as many as efficiently as possible. And they have access to a suite of measurement tools to see what worked.”

Instagram stories ads will be sold on the platform’s auction-style, automated system that charges cost-per-thousand-impressions rates, which are based on a number of demographic factors such as age, gender and location. It will be open to the platform’s 500,000 worldwide advertisers. When Quarles was asked about how often Instagram stories viewers would see the ads, he said the system will work to ensure relevance.

“It will look at interactions, liking, time spent, exits,” he said. “Did someone move onto the next story, or did they leave the stories tray entirely? All of those are great signals and give us a great sense of people’s behavior and the relative performance of the ad.”

In the coming weeks, companies that use Instagram business tools will be able to view data from the stories channel. “One-third of our top stories have been from businesses,” Quarles said, adding that Mercedes-Benz has been using the feature this week to take viewers behind the scenes at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“There is a pace and an acceleration in that part of the product,” he added. “It shows a new side of what people share on Instagram.”

The stories let the digital platform’s 600 million monthly users curate daily moments in a format that disappears after 24 hours. They are similar to Snapchat’s stories, which offer users a personalized way to share photos and videos with followers, and the mobile app was a pioneer in disappearing content.

Separately, Airbnb’s ads appear to be an extension of a campaign that launched last week. The home-rentals brand used livestreaming on Twitter and Periscope to inspire vacation-minded consumers to travel to Hawaii and Detroit while stirring their interest in Cameroonian cuisine. Check out more details from the campaign here.

Click here to see more from adweek.com.

Everything You Need to Know About Google Duo

This article from theverge.com discusses the ins and outs of Google Duo, the latest and greatest FaceTime-rivaling app. Read all about it here:

Device Pitstop Google Duo on smartphones

Google Duo arrives to take on FaceTime

A relentlessly focused mobile video chat app

By Dieter Bohn

Google Duo, a new video chat app that works exclusively on phones, is getting released today. I’ve been using it for about a week and I can tell you that it’s fast, easy to use, and devoid of complicated bells and whistles. You tap on the face of the person you want to call, they answer, and you have a one-on-one video chat going. Nobody who uses this app can say that Google didn’t achieve its goal of creating a video chat app that’s relentlessly, explicitly designed solely for phones.

That effort is so single-minded I can’t decide if it’s timid or bold.

First, a bit about how Duo works. It’s available on both Android phones and iPhones. When you sign up, the app checks your phone number from your SIM and then sends you a confirmation text. That’s the whole setup process — there are no accounts to create nor friend lists to maintain. It’s tied directly to your contacts list and your phone number.

That’s great for simplicity, but bad if you want to use Duo on anything other than your phone. It’s also unable to make conference calls, put Hangouts-style funny pirate hats on your head during a call, or offer just about any other fancy feature you might expect from a video conference app.

Duo’s radical simplicity is by design, says vice president of Google’s communications division, Nick Fox. “By being laser-focused on mobile,” he says, “it enables us to just make sure that we were doing a great, wonderful job on that case. … For us, we thought ‘amazing on mobile, nothing on desktop’ was the better approach.”

There is one feature in Duo that feels genuinely new: it’s called “Knock Knock.” When you receive a call on Android (it doesn’t work on the iPhone), your entire screen starts showing the live video from your caller before you even answer. It lets you see who’s calling — and lets the caller make funny faces to try to entice you to answer. Google’s promo video for Duo emphasizes it heavily:

In my testing, Knock Knock worked very well — and it has the added benefit of making the call start immediately. The video call is already running the nanosecond you swipe up to answer it. “Instead of the call starting with frustration and confusion,” Fox says, “you start with a smile because you know it already works.” I don’t know about the smile, but I do know that Duo calls started without all the “Hello, are you there?” that I typically experience with most other video and audio calls.

For those worried about people hijacking their screen with a video feed while they’re at dinner or a meeting, a few notes to ease your mind. First, Knock Knock only works with people you already have saved in your contacts — so random people won’t show up. Second, you can block a caller if you like — but take note that since Duo doesn’t have its own independent friends list, blocking a caller on Duo blocks them everywhere. Last, you can turn the feature off entirely if you don’t like it.

Google also has done a lot of work on the back end to make things feel immediate. It’s based on WebRTC, with some added technical underpinnings to make the call automatically ratchet the quality up or down depending on your connection quality. It’s even able to maintain the call when you switch from Wi-Fi to cellular. After a very brief hiccup, the call just keeps on going.

I mostly tested Duo on a Nexus 5X (running the latest Android Nougat Beta), where call quality was mostly good — better on Wi-Fi, but never so bad that it dropped completely. On the iPhone 6S, call quality was equally good. However, because Google doesn’t have the same ability to integrate on iOS as it does on Android, there are a few hassles: no Knock Knock, and you have to unlock the phone before you answer the call.

Duo is the second of the two apps Google announced at its developer conference this past May. The other is the AI-enhanced text messaging app Allo, for which Google hasn’t yet announced a release date. That’s odd enough, but perhaps not as confusing as Google’s overall strategy with communication apps: instead of fixing its unified solution, Hangouts, Google has opted to release two different (but slightly related) messaging apps: one for video and one for text.

Neither app is designed to replace Google’s other video and messaging app, Hangouts. Instead, Hangouts will continue to exist with a more tightly focused mission: serving enterprise users, where Fox says we can expect “it will increasingly be more integrated with Google Apps suite.” It will still be available for consumers, of course, but those users won’t be the focus of future product development.

And Fox is also not especially concerned that Google is offering a multiplicity of communication apps. He sees Google’s products as split broadly into three bands: Allo and Duo for consumers; Hangouts for the enterprise; and services that are more carrier focused — like SMS, RCS, and even the Phone app. Fox believes that consumers simply aren’t confused by a multiplicity of messaging apps — whether they’re made by Google or not — “People use the apps that their friends are using,” he says. And he’s excited to see Duo (and, later, Allo) compete with all of them head-to-head.

How Duo will actually compete was (and is) one of my biggest questions. Why use Duo when Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, FaceTime, Hangouts, and any number of other options exist? Is Google going to leverage the massive power of the Android install base somehow? Will Duo be part of the standard suite of Google Play apps preinstalled on the vast majority of Android phones (outside of China)? “We haven’t made decisions on that yet,” says Fox. “We want to get it out there, see how it does, and then I see distribution as the next step rather than the first step.”

When I said up top that I couldn’t decide whether Google’s strategy with Duo was bold or timid, this is what I was referring to. It’s not going to be the automatic default for all Android phones, replacing phone calls in the way that iMessage replaces SMS. Google isn’t ready to go there just yet, which feels timid.

But it’s also bold. In this incredibly crowded marketplace, Google is forcing Duo to compete on its own merits. You can invite somebody to use it by sending them a text from inside the app, but otherwise the plan seems to just be to see how it is received in the marketplace. I asked some variant of “how are you going to get users for this thing” no fewer than four times in my hour with Fox, and every time the answer boiled down to this: “We’re focused on building great apps that people love and distribution will follow that.”

I have no idea if that plan will work: sometimes boldness is just naiveté. But I can’t help but respect the clarity of purpose behind the creation of Duo. It’s aggressively, obsessively focused on making the best possible mobile experience for video chat, at the expense of all else. He said no to desktop, no to conference calling, no even to allowing the same account to work on multiple devices. For the Duo team, getting “mobile first” right meant demanding it be “mobile only.”

Duo does one-on-one video chat very well, which is what Google set out to make it do. The question now is whether or not that’s enough.

Click here to see more from theverge.com.

Don’t Leave Your Phone Charging Overnight!

This article from businessinsider.com explains several ways that we’ve been charging our smartphones wrong. See what businessinsider.com says you should do instead to preserve your smartphone battery.

You’ve been charging your smartphone wrong

Device Pitstop photo of smartphone charging
Photo by r. nial bradshaw/Flickr

By Antonio Villas-Boas, Tech Insider

Yes, we know. Our smartphone batteries are bad because they barely last a day.

But it’s partially our fault because we’ve been charging them wrong this whole time.

Many of us have an ingrained notion that charging our smartphones in small bursts will cause long-term damage to their batteries, and that it’s better to charge them when they’re close to dead.

But we couldn’t be more wrong.

If fact, a site from battery company Cadex, called Battery University, details how the lithium-ion batteries in our smartphones are sensitive to their own versions of “stress.” And, like for humans, extended stress could be damaging your smartphone battery’s long-term lifespan.

If you want to keep your smartphone battery in top condition and go about your day without worrying about battery life, you need to change a few things.

Don’t keep it plugged in when it’s fully charged

According to Battery University, leaving your phone plugged in when it’s fully charged, like you might overnight, is bad for the battery in the long run.

Once your smartphone has reached 100% charge, it gets “trickle charges” to keep it at 100% while plugged in. It keeps the battery in a high-stress, high-tension state, which wears down the chemistry within.

Battery University goes into a bunch of scientific detail explaining why, but it also sums it up nicely: “When fully charged, remove the battery” from its charging device. “This is like relaxing the muscles after strenuous exercise.” You too would be pretty miserable if you worked out nonstop for hours and hours.

In fact, try not to charge it to 100%

At least when you don’t have to.

According to Battery University, “Li-ion does not need to be fully charged, nor is it desirable to do so. In fact, it is better not to fully charge, because a high voltage stresses the battery” and wears it away in the long run.

That might seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to keep your smartphone charged all day, but just plug it in whenever you can during the day, and you’ll be fine.

Plug in your phone whenever you can

It turns out that the batteries in our smartphones are much happier if you charge them occasionally throughout the day instead of plugging them in for a big charging session when they’re empty.

Charging your phone when it loses 10% of its charge would be the best-case scenario, according to Battery University. Obviously, that’s not practical for most people, so just plug in your smartphone whenever you can. It’s fine to plug and unplug it multiple times a day.

Not only does this keep your smartphone’s battery performing optimally for longer, but it also keeps it topped up throughout the day.

Plus, periodic top-ups also let you use features you might not normally use because they hog your battery life, like location-based features that use your smartphone’s GPS antenna.

Keep it cool

Smartphone batteries are so sensitive to heat that Apple itself suggests you remove certain cases that insulate heat from your iPhone when you charge it. “If you notice that your device gets hot when you charge it, take it out of its case first.” If you’re out in the hot sun, keep your phone covered. It’ll protect your battery’s health.

Click here to see more from businessinsider.com.

Samsung Ships the Most Smartphones

Price plays a major role in which smartphone consumers are buying these days. Check out this article from cnet.com to learn more about the brands that ship the most smartphones across the globe.

Device Pitstop woman using smartphone

Samsung, Oppo shine in a weak phone market

While the market flirts with bottoming out, Samsung clings to the top spot, Apple slumps and China’s Oppo rockets upward.

By Lance Whitney

As smartphone shipments sputter and stall, an upstart is shooting forward from the back of the pack.

China’s Oppo saw shipments of its phones more than double — the precise gain: 137 percent — in the second quarter of 2016, compared with the same period a year earlier.

That was good enough to put Oppo into fourth place, according to new reports from market researchers IDC and Strategy Analytics. The company has been aggressively expanding beyond its home base in China to India and other emerging markets.

Samsung held onto the top spot during the second quarter. Its modest rise in shipments kept it well ahead of second-place Apple and third-place Huawei.

Overall, phone makers shipped a total of about 340 million smartphones during the quarter, up no more than about 1 percent from the year-earlier period.

That paltry gain has a lot to do with phone fatigue in established markets, where most people who want phones already have them and aren’t seeing enough pizzazz in new models to spring for them. At the same time, carriers have been putting the kibosh on subsidized plans, confronting consumers with the hard reality of having to pay full price for new phones.

On the plus side, the worldwide smartphone market may have reached a bottom during the first half of the year, according to Strategy Analytics.

“The growth outlook for the second half of this year is brighter due to multiple big new product launches from Samsung, Apple and others,” said Linda Sui, director of Strategy Analytics, in a statement.

Apple is widely expected to unveil its iPhone 7 in September. Samsung is expected to introduce its Galaxy Note 7 next week.

Though Apple’s iPhone shipments slumped during quarter, the company did win people over with its moderately priced new iPhone SE, IDC said.

Samsung remained top dog in large part because of the popularity of its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones. It shipped 77 million phones during the quarter, nearly twice as many as Apple and well over three times more than Oppo.

Price will continue to be a critical factor in reigniting sales among wary consumers.

“Outside of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 flagship, a majority of vendors, including Apple, have found success with more affordable models compared to their flagship handsets,” said Anthony Scarsella, IDC’s research manager for mobile phones, in a statement.

Click here to see more from cnet.com.