Could Voxer Be the Future of All Mobile Communication?

If you’re young and American, you’re likely already answering texts more often than phone calls. According to Jeffrey Kluger of Time, “Americans ages 18-29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls.” Silicon Valley startup Voxer is betting that it knows how people will want to communicate in the future…

The app does not currently include a conventional call function, it does utilize a PTT (push to talk/transmit) technology–which is essentially a “walkie talkie” or “talking text” feature. Voxer’s reasoning is that users would rather not receive so many phone calls.

“We believe there’s a time and a place for every form of communication–but every form of communication also has its drawbacks,” said Nicole Strada, the Director of Marketing at Voxer. “Everyone knows how annoying it is to get called when they’re in the middle of an important meeting or conversation. If that happens they have two choices, pick up the phone and be rude to people in the room, or let it go to voice mail which people hate checking.”

Given the obtrusive nature of phone calls, Voxer perhaps addresses this by prompting users to listen to the message live, or just keep it for later. There’s no longer the guilt associated with screening calls, or the immediacy of taking a call either.

In addition to the PTT function, users can also send normal texts, photos, location messages, and even start conversations with groups of friends. But unlike most texting, which access your cellular carrier, Voxer can be accessed with a simple WiFi connection–and there’s no expensive roaming or international charges.

“We’ve heard stories of people from all over the world entering in a group chat through Voxer,” said Strada. “[This] allow[s] them to connect with their friends who are in other countries simply and easily because Voxer works on either 3G, 4G, or WiFi. [For instance], soldiers in Afghanistan are connecting with their family members stateside and college friends are reconnecting with past classmates scattered all over the world.”

Yet as interactive as Voxer appears to be for the average user, the app company is also actively looking to attract small, medium, and larger businesses to make the switch.

“Voxer Pro (the ‘business account’ version of the app) works on iOS and Android phones, providing live and recorded voice, multimedia messaging, location stamps, and administrative control,” said Strada. “[The] unique admin portal [...] makes it easier for businesses to keep control of who is using their system, [and] to communicate with employees or customers. [...] Other PTT solutions only work in limited geographical areas, and as WiFi and data networks become more ubiquitous this will improve Voxer Pro accessibility even more.”

It’s a far easier sell for the average user to integrate Voxer into their daily communication routine, but attracting businesses will certainly present the larger hurdle. Even though Voxer has “considered” adding a VoIP feature into the fold, the app company is content with how they’ve currently presented a new, more creative way to interact with friends, employees, and even prospective clients.

Voxer is a free app that can be downloaded in the iTunes Store or Google Play Store.

 

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Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – May 28

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features a shirt that cleans itself, a bigger Kindle Fire, and a keyboard for people prone to spilling drinks. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

How to Build a Movie Theater in Your Backyard Without Going Broke

Open Air Cinema

With the warmer weather rolling around, wouldn’t it be nice to have an open-air movie theater in the backyard? The idea seems a little far-fetched for those without deep pockets, but with the right hardware it’s probably less expensive than many people would think. Rick Broida of CNET explains how an outdoor cinema can be created for about $1000. Components needed for the setups include a projector (approximately $700), a blue-ray player ($40-$50), a screen (around $170), and a sound system (around $200). Many of the items can be found for less (especially if purchased used or refurbished ones) and some can even be built.

New Kindle Fire will Have 10-Inch Screen

Amazon is preparing a new Kindle Fire that will be 10 inches, increasing more than an inch in size from last year’s 8.9 inch model, says Brandon Russell of TechnoBuffalo. Other features will include a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution screen, and an affordable price tag. The device is expected to help Amazon continue to compete in the tablet market with big guns like Apple and Nexus. Amazon also plans to release newer versions of its 7-inch and 8.9-inch models.

Logitech Creates iPad Keyboard Folio that Protects Against Spills

Attention spillers: Logitech has created a new keyboard folio that may protect your iPad from your clumsiness. Engadget reports that the company’s new FabricSkin model has a liquid-repellent coating.The Bluetooth keyboard also doesn’t have any openings, meaning no liquid can get inside. The product, which costs $149, is set to be released this month and can be pre-ordered on the Logitech website.

The World’s First Curved OLED Television is Here

LG1

LG has created the world’s first 55-inch OLED television which is designed to bring ”IMAX-like” experience, with the entire screen surface being equally distant from the viewer’s eyes. The television is currently available for pre-order in South Korea and should be available in other markets in “the months ahead”, according to Mashable’s Stan Schroeder The TV is 4.3 0.17 inches thin, and weights just over 37 pounds. It features LG’s WRGB and Color Refiner technologies, and its clear stand doubles as speakers due to its baked-in transparent film speakers. The current price in South Korea is 15 million KRW, roughly $13,500, but prices have yet to be announced for other markets.

Never Do Laundry Again; The Shirt that Cleans Itself

An entrepreneur has come up with a button-down shirt that never wrinkles and stays odor free–so it can be worn over and over without being washed. The “better button-down” is made of wool that’s three times thinned than a human hair, CNET reports. The founder claims that the thin wool makes the shirts extra resistant to moisture. So far on Kickstarter the shirt has been a huge success, as $290,000 has been raised in just over a week.

 

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New ‘Bondsy’ App Aims to Create Trade Marketplace / Social Network Hybrid

The Bondsy AppGrowing up, many people had hobbies focused on collecting, whether it was stickers, sports cards, pogs, or even Beanie Babies. But arguably the most important aspect of a hobby was the ability swing trades with friends. The objective, of course, was to acquire a coveted collectible– the thrill was in the hunt.

The new app Bondsy is the grown-up version of this. The iPhone app is a unique, user-friendly marketplace-meets-social -network that enables users to list unwanted items (e.g. a pair of pink headphones) to a trusted environment of interested people.

There doesn’t appear to be much competition either. Craigslist, the internet’s reigning place to quickly (and cheaply) pawn off unwanted goods, is often too seedy for even the most genuine transaction. And while Facebook’s “Marketplace” is certainly a more friendly online community, any “available items” status would inevitably get lost in the mix with the incessant influx of Buzz Feed links, funny cat videos, and ex-girlfriends’ tropical vacation photo albums.

The app itself is simple to use. To get started, a user just needs to snap a photo, write a caption, and add one or more price tags. Price tags are completely free form, allowing users to ask for whatever they might want (not just money). In addition, users can also set different price tags for friends, and even friends of friends.

But perhaps the most interesting feature of Bondsy is its “trade” option. While people can use Bondsy to sell items, the app encourages users to make a trade. To help facilitate this, users can create a list of “wanted” items as a potential return. This truly brings everyone’s childhood full circle in the mobile age.

Bondsy’s origin only adds to the genuine nature of the transaction-based social network. Diego Zambrano, the co-founder of Bondsy, accidentally came up with the app idea out of personal necessity.

“In 2007, I was moving from Brazil to New York and I didn’t want to bring anything with me. So when I decided to get rid of all my stuff, I had an insight. There were a lot of marketplaces out there, but I wanted to offer my things to my friends first. So, I came up with a hack.”

Zambrano used Flickr to upload photos of his unwanted items, and then emailed all his friends a link to it. However, instead of responding to his email, Zambrano noticed that people were directly commenting on the photos. At that moment, he knew he had created a new social experience.

The proud co-founder believes that Bondsy will be a success since users are naturally more comfortable transacting with friends, but also because there are more layers to the app than people think.

“You stumble upon things you might need and want, but didn’t know it. You can get to know more about your friends and their taste. It sparks conversations.”

 

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Technically Speaking: Stories of the Week – May 10

Each week we scour the internet to find the best stories on technology, digital living and news of note. This week features the tenth birthday of the iTunes store, pajamas that read to kids, and an app that keeps tabs on man’s best friend. All that and more in this edition of Mozy’s Technically Speaking.

iTunes Store Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary


It may not seem like it, but the iTunes store has now officially been around for 10 years. With iTunes, Apple forever changed the music industry, providing fans a way to legally access and own music online, says Megan Gibson of Time. In a time where many companies were trying to fight off illegal downloads, Apple developed an alternative that stuck around. This marked the birth of a digital music revolution, which later led to advancements and other services like Pandora and Spotify. iTunes continues to thrive 10 years later and there’s no sign of things slowing down anytime soon.

AT&T Launches App-Based Home Security System

AT&T has jumped into the home security market with its new “Digital Life” a wireless, personalized, app-based home security solution, according to eWeek. The solution allows users to remotely check in on their homes in real time, receive emails or texts alerting them to an issue, and remotely unlock or lock doors and windows. It’s an all-IP solution, running over AT&Ts 3G network. The company is offering several different packages ranging in price from $29.99 a month with a $149 setup fee to $39.99 with a $249 setup fee. There are also a variety of add-ons available. Digital Life is currently available in 15 markets and should be in 50 by the end of the year.

Is Your Dog Too Lazy? This New Tech Product Will Help You Find Out

A new product known as FitBark is a small device that attaches to a dog’s collar and keeps track of all activity, allowing owners to keep tabs on how active their pooch is. Emily Price of Mashable reports that data from the device is transferred to the cloud either through the owner’s smartphone, or a small “home base” station placed in the house. At the end of each day FitBark provides a “Bark Score” letting owners know how much exercise their dog got over the 24 hour period. The objective is to help make sure dogs stay active and healthy. It can also be useful when taking the dog to the vet because exact details can be given about recent lulls in activity.

Father of Six Invents Pajamas That Tell Stories to Children

Pajamas Read Books to Kids

Keeping one child entertained can be quite a task. Taking care of six? Now that’s quite a handful. Juan Murdoch, an Iowa father of six, has come up with the idea for smart, storytelling pajamas, reports Wilson Rothman of NBC News. There are 47 unique dot patterns on the pajamas, and each triggers a story or an animal lesson when scanned with a smartphone or tablet. There are free apps that go with the pajamas, one that has readings of Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen classics; and a second that has pictures and information about 47 different animals. The inventor says he hopes to have at least three more apps out by Christmas. The pajamas can be purchased for $25 a piece.

 

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Mozy at EMC World 2013 Recap

Mozy had a great time in Las Vegas at EMC World 2013. We’re grateful to everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi, pick up some swag and talk cloud backup with us.

We also gave away hundreds of our famous “Back the F:\ Up” t-shirts, and had a lot of fun with our “Don’t Gamble With Your Data” social media contest as well.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights (via Twitter):

 

We’re already looking forward to EMC World 2014 – we’ll see you there!

My name is Tony and I work for Mozy

To continue our series “My name is ____ and I work for Mozy” – we’d like to introduce you to Tony Patrick, PR Manager-extraordinaire. Tony is based in our London, England offices and he is the shepherd of Mozy Public and Analyst Relations and social media for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Side note from author: I should warn you that since Tony is a sophisticated Englishman, he’ll have all kinds of spelling mistakes in his English ;) … needless to say, since Tony is one of my personal favorite people at Mozy, I have to grab at every chance to razz him!

My name is Tony and I work for Mozy

I define my workspace as …
A sophisticated city desk / A posh bus stop

A device I can’t live without …
A pen – I listen with my pen and think with it too

When I arrive at work, I typically start off by …
As the majority of the team is in a different time zone, I start the day with a full inbox. By the time I get to work, I’ve gone through everything on my iPhone, replied to anything quick and prioritised what needs urgent attention. I’ll also have gone through the major news stories for the day and worked out where we should be commenting. The first couple of hours in the day are all about actioning that – and drinking tea!

My work routine is …
I really don’t have one. In PR every day is different depending on what’s happening in the world and in our business.

I do/do not listen to music at work and it helps me work better because …
I’m more likely to be listening to the news than to music during the day. I start with BBC Breakfast and Daybreak for the TV agenda first thing in the morning and then spend an hour or so on each of the major radio stations during the day. I have to turn it off when I write though or stray words from the announcers can creep into what I’m writing.

The best advice I can give a recent college graduate looking to do what I do is …
1) Start early! Take as many work-experience placements as you can whilst you’re studying, it saves you time when you’re ready to start work properly.
2) Take as many opportunities to write as possible – try blogging on a favourite topic and get a feeling for what it’s like to write to a schedule.
3) Don’t send out boring CVs – this is your chance to demonstrate your creativity.

Outside of work, I am passionate about …
I got a new puppy about six months ago and a lot of my spare time is taken up either taking care of him or repairing the things that he’s broken. I also do voluntary work and exhibit an unhealthy interest in pop culture.

My eating habits are …
Bad!

If I could be someone for a day – I would be …
Tim Berners-Lee. When I bake something or build something for the house, I get a huge amount of satisfaction from thinking ‘I did that’. I think it would be incredible to be able to think the same thing about something as huge as the Internet.

The “secret sauce” that makes me who I am …
I call it ‘creative pragmatisim’. For good campaigns, you need to think creatively – but you have to keep your goals in mind and make sure that you’re supporting the business – and there’s no room for being precious.

A match made in the heavens – cloud backup for Google Apps

As you may have heard, Mozy recently partnered with Spanning Cloud Apps to offer cloud-to-cloud backup of Google Apps to our valued customers. So why did our two companies join forces? Simply put, we’re both dedicated to providing our customers with best-in-class, comprehensive cloud backup and access solutions.

Spanning and Mozy

With the tremendous amount of data being generated by businesses today, safeguarding that data without compromising on quality or security is paramount. Not only are businesses creating exponentially more data year over year, they’re also migrating toward cloud productivity solutions such Google Apps which provide more flexibility for the workforce. Increasingly, we’ve been hearing from Mozy customers using Google Apps who are looking for a way to back up the critical data they’re creating in the cloud. As you know, Mozy automatically backs up all the spreadsheets, email, photos, videos, and more that are created and stored on desktops, laptops and servers. Spanning offers a similar level of backup for data that is created in the cloud via Google Apps.

The joint partnership allows us to offer our valued customers the most comprehensive set of cloud backup solutions around. And that’s why we’re really excited about this new arrangement. Regardless of where the data is created –in the cloud or on a laptop — Mozy and Spanning have best-in-class backup solutions built specifically for your needs.

Be Safe.
Dave

Pivoting Can Even Work for App Companies

Nokia Cell PhoneIn the long history of innovation, there have been some incredible instances of companies pivoting to a different niche. Perhaps the most startling pivot was Nokia, which despite being the leading mobile phone maker from 1998 to 2012, was originally a small-town Finnish paper and rubber manufacturer.

But while technology companies of today might not so drastically change their infrastructure, even one-beat smartphone apps have successfully overhauled their outlook to adjust to growing tech and mobile trends.

Arguably the most notable example of an app successfully pivoting, is Instagram. Instagram was originally conceived as “Burbn,” a check-in, location-based tool. Unlike Foursquare, its main competitor in this space, Burbn enabled users to share filter-enhanced photos. Co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger quickly realized that users were more intrigued by the photo sharing aspect of Burbn than the check-in function. It was from that insight that Instagram was born. With over 100 million active users, and its historical $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, Systrom and Krieger were wise to pivot.

When Feathr launched in 2012, many people had a similar reaction: I should have thought of that. The app’s original focus was to digitally re-invent the traditional, and archaic business card, while also implementing a social, share function. But co-founder Aidan Augustin decided to point Feathr in a different direction in 2013, repositioning it as an interactive tool for corporate conferences. With Feathr, users are quickly able to access cleanly designed profiles for conference speakers, exhibitors, and other attendees, while also seamlessly connecting via LinkedIn and Twitter. Suffice to say, Feathr has vastly improved its app, and in doing so, could potentially revolutionize the vCard in the process.

Even though Qwiki, which was essentially a “video meets Wikipedia” tool, had been a heralded iPhone app since its inception in 2010, founder Doug Imbruce wasn’t satisfied. Imbruce yearned to compete with video-based social apps, like the Twitter-backed Vine. But instead of implementing Vine’s 6-second, GIF-style approach into his app, the founder went in a slightly different direction. With the new Qwiki, users can create a quick video (or slideshow) sourcing photos from one’s iPhone camera roll, and without any prior editing software knowledge, turn a folder of cute nephew baby pictures into a short video. Users can then share the video with friends, family, and the world (if you really wanted to).

 

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Reeder App Might Become The Google Reader “Spinoff”

Sometimes spinoffs can be extremely successful. For instance, “Cheers” was one of the most popular television shows for twelve seasons before ending in 1993–but its spinoff, “Frasier,” matched its success, staying on-air until 2004.

Reeder, which is an iPhone and iPad app that was once used in conjunction with the soon-to-be-defunct Google Reader, will now attempt to go solo in an attempt to retain the plethora of shocked and saddened Google Reader users. While it isn’t a “spinoff” in the traditional sense of the word, for Reeder’s sake, the RSS feed-based app can only hope it doesn’t go the way of “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

What makes Reeder’s independence so noteworthy is that there doesn’t seem to be any precedent in app history. Even though it is common for an app or company to pivot, Reeder’s new outlook is more of an unorthodox expansion than a pivot. The near-future death of Google Reader (on July 1, officially) should have, in fact, put apps like Reeder out of business. But instead, developer Silvio Rizzi embraced the market-shattering development.

According to Reeder’s site, Rizzi stated:

“Unfortunately, it’s still too early to have answers to all questions I got the last couple weeks. Probably most importantly, one thing that’s clear: development of Reeder will continue after July 1st.”

Rizzi also mentioned that the updated Reeder app will look to integrate Feedbin as well as support for standalone/local RSS feeds. In addition, Reeder will soon “add more services [that users] can choose from in the next weeks and months.”

Despite the grandiose plans, Reeder’s potential to monopolize on the Google Reader void isn’t clinched quite yet. Even though the app might arguably be in the best position to cash in, they’re not the only tech company throwing their hat into the “Google Reader replacement” ring. Feedly, a similar news aggregation app, immediately saw their own base climb by three million new users within two weeks of Google’s announcement. In addition, Feedly, unlike Reeder, already has an Android app in place. Also, Digg, a popular social news website that averages hundreds of thousands of unique views per month, announced their legitimate plans to compete for displaced RSS-feeders.

Competition aside, if Silvio Rizzi and Reeder follow through on their promises, and turns its app into a the most user friendly, and viable Google Reader replacement, they will not only become a RSS mammoth, but also, become the gold standard for dependent-apps-turned-independent.

Reeder is now a free app for the iPad, but will cost $2.99 for the iPhone. Download Reeder at the iTunes Store.

 

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As Distance Learning Grows, Technology Follows

Online Education

Master Sergeant Eric Madden has been in the Air Force for 16 years. He’s currently stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey as a Health Service Manager in the Medical Group. With a job requiring frequent travel, Eric never thought it would be possible to perform his duties while also pursuing a college degree. But thanks to the technology of distance learning, he’s currently enrolled at Burlington County College.

“The only way I would be able to complete my degree is with distance learning,” Madden explained. “With how much military members move around it would almost be impossible to finish your degree without being able to take classes online. Distance learning makes it so you can stay in one school and meet all your requirements and not have to worry about transferring.”

Madden is hardly alone. According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of students taking at least one online course is now more than 6.7 million.

“The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrollments have shown a decline,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group.

As the demand for online learning increases, higher education publishing companies have been forced to keep up, creating new ideas and technology to make the distance learning process easier for both teachers and students.

Pearson Learning Solutions has created an Online Learning Exchange, which provides teachers shareable and editable course content and materials to use in distance education courses.

“Learning is no longer limited to four walls – learning can happen anywhere – and it already is happening everywhere, everyday,” said Todd Hitchcock, Senior Vice President of Online Solutions for Pearson Learning Solutions. ”The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce.”

Now that he is able to get his degree, Madden feels as though it will help him become better prepared for his everyday duties. He also looks towards the future, and when he retires from the military the degree will make him much more marketable.

Madden encourages other members of the military–or anyone else in a situation where they cannot physically make it to a college campus–to consider distance learning. “This is a huge plus because it gives you education for your job and for your future,” he said. “It is also a big deal for the military. Distance Education helps individuals contribute at a higher level.”

 

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