It’s been a while since I have evaluated a mobile device. As a matter of fact, it has been just over 2 years since I had a loaner Nokia E6 from Nokia Connects. My, how times have changed! Today Nokia’s mobile division is all about Windows Phone, and not to forget soon will be part of Microsoft. So I felt it was time to reconnect with the Nokia crew and they have lent me a Nokia Lumia 925 to evaluate.
As you may have noticed, I am new to the Windows Phone ecosystem, and what is the first thing I do? I deleted an icon! Hopefully my experience will get better as I learn my way around the device over the next couple of weeks, especially using the Carl Zeiss lens on the PureView camera.
Let me know if there’s anything in particular you would like me to try on the 925, as well as any other thoughts on it, and you can add them to the comments to this post.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
Build • Technology • Mobile Technology • (0) Comments • Permalink
When I think back to all of the "smart" devices I have owned, going back almost 15 years with my original Palm Pilot, they always came with a cradle – a stand / holder that served multiple purposes from presenting the device to charging it.
With today’s smart devices, they do not come with any form of cradle from the manufacturer, and any cradles I have seen are more for charging them rather than their presentation or protection on your desk. I find this odd, especially with the escalating cost of these devices. However, there is an alternative that may bring the cradle back – the Wedge by Toddy Gear.
The Wedge is a pyramid-shaped bean bag-like item item with a lip for holding a mobile device into place as it rests on the shape. As a result of its flexible shape, you can place almost any device in it and at a comfortable viewing angle. The Wedge is made from the same material as cleaning cloths that Toddy Gear, a Chicago firm, creates for cleaning and polishing mobile devices, thus allowing you to do the same thing with the item you support the device with. As a result you have a highly functional and attractive item on your desk for holding your highly functional and attractive mobile device.
I have taken some pictures of the Wedge I have been using for the past several months along with my Nokia E7, my past device. Below is an embedded slideshow of the pictures of it on my Flickr account and you can also view the set of pictures by following this link.
As you can see, I can orient the device however I want. Though these pictures don’t show the power cord, I can also place the device however with it, or with headphones, and it holds it fine, especially as no cords actually go through the Wedge itself, just go out the sides of the device, so it is not in the way of them. The Wedge is also small and lightweight enough that I can throw it in my computer bag and take it with me to other places or even on vacation without taking up much room.
When device manufacturers today talk about "ecosystems" of mobile devices they often are referring to the device itself, its operating system, apps and maybe an accessory or two. There was a time when ecosystem included all of the main accessories you would use with a device. When I think back to even my Palm smartphones they came with a cradle for holding and charging the device and even charging a spare battery. Sure there were third-party or aftermarket accessories, but the main ones from the manufacturer were ones you would always want and get. The Toddy Gear Wedge is filling that gap for me, as well as the physical gap between my devices and my desk.
For full disclosure, I was given the Wedge by the brother of the founder of Toddy Gear, whose son used to go to school with my daughter! That being said, I was not asked to write this – the device itself compelled me to share my experience with this great item with my readers.
So what do you think? Do you own one? Do you want to own one? Is a flat surface enough for you? Share your thoughts in the comments of this post.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
Technology • Mobile Technology • Thrive • (2) Comments • Permalink
Where you’ll rarely find a retail merchant who doesn’t accept credit cards, you’ll find plenty of professionals – from painters to physicians – who do not. Whenever I ask one why they don’t, whatever reason they give me is almost predictable to me, especially as I am a small business person who didn’t always accept credit cards. Despite this, I look back on my decision to do so as a wise one. Rather than counter common reasons, I’ll present it by benefits, as well as how to decide how to accept them.
Credit – AND Debit Cards
Today most all debit cards are branded with a credit card company logo, so automatically when you accept credit cards, you are able to accept debit cards too. This is not only good to know as some people only have a debit card rather than a credit card, but also for the various “sources” of debit cards, including:
- Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts – Most FSA or HAS accounts provide their insured customers with a debit card, and not checks, so the only other way to draw from the account is to pay in cash or check, then submit a claim for reimbursement. As a result, patients would prefer to pay by debit card and not have to front the money and wait for it to be reimbursed to them.
- Unemployment Benefits – Some states, including Illinois, pay unemployment benefits by addingto the balance of a debit card rather than sending a check. Thus, this may be the best – of not only – way for someone to pay you.
- Gift Cards – Just because it was given as a gift it doesn’t mean it has to be spent that way.
- PayPal – You can draw on your PayPal account balance by debit card to a merchant or even at an ATM, and many people choose this rather than transferring the funds to their bank account.
Credit Card Fees Vs. Getting Paid Sooner
The fees, the fees! Yes, credit card processing involves fees, where depositing a check usually doesn’t. The best argument I can give in justifying the fees is getting paid sooner when someone pays with a credit card than with cash or a check. Why? In order to pay by cash or check you need to have the money on hand (not considering overdraft protection on your account or just overdrawing your account) where a credit card, providing they have credit available, someone will let you process it right away or sooner than the terms you have offered them. If there is any delay, it may be to wait until after a billing cycle closes so the charge appears on a statement in 2 months as compared to the next one.
My personal experience with my Web consulting business has shown me that clients who pay by credit card typically pay me in HALF the time of my terms with them, which are net 30. Some of them have asked me to pay them when I generate the invoice. For me, that’s huge!
Credit Card Fees Vs. Not Getting Paid At All
Earlier I mentioned I didn’t always accept credit cards. The catalyst for me was when I presented a proposal to an existing client for a new Web site project. They said they didn’t want to proceed right away as they did not have the cash on hand, but if they could charge it they could. I wanted the project to happen and I also realized that at some point I would have to accept credit cards, and there’s no time like the present! By the end of the day I was setup to process cards and ran theirs, and the project began the very next day.
The Magic Numbers For Determining Credit Card Fees
There are many ways to process credit cards, and I will get to that next. Before you inquire you need to know 2 key inputs to how credit card fees are calculated – the number of transactions per month and the average transaction dollar amount.
Any processor that can provide customized rate plans will use these values to determine what they will charge. As you can guess, the higher these numbers are the less your fees may be. Where you may be able to accurately calculate these values, others may not, especially if you have never processed credit cards before. If not, you can survey your customers to see if they’d prefer to pay you by credit card. If you still have no idea – no worries, as that can help narrow the choices for you initially.
Choosing A Credit Card Processor
Below is a list of some credit card processors and is not meant to be an exhaustive list. In addition to these, talk to colleagues or other business owners for ideas on who they may use.
- PayPal – The pioneer in person-to-person is ideal for business as well, especially if you don’t know your transaction volume, or if you do and it is sporadic. PayPal charges per transaction only and has no monthly fees, though the per transaction fee may be higher than others. PayPal offers Web online payments as well as a smartphone card reader.
- Square – The newcomer introduced the smartphone card reader and now others are adding it to their feature set like PayPal and Groupon. Square offers per transaction as well as flat monthly fees. Soon you will be able to buy a Square at Starbucks stores.
- QuickBooks - Intuit’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online integrates credit card processing right into their software and Web site functionality. This reduces extra steps – and vendors – and provides a 1-stop shopping with a quick turnaround on setup. Their fees may be higher than what you can get from a bank, and they do charge a monthly fee even if there are no charges for a month.
- Your Bank - The bank where you do your business banking may go the extra mile to keep credit card processing under the same roof as your bank accounts. They can provide custom rates by volume and can waive setup fees. They will charge a monthly fee but it could vary by volume. I’d suggest looking into all options first and presenting all of this to your bank to see if they can match or beat it.
Note no matter which way you can start, you can always change if your volume changes.
I’d welcome your feedback and comments on this, and even if you’re still not convinced to accept credit cards.
Business • Mobile Technology • Thrive • (1) Comments • Permalink
A story that received little press, even tech circles, was how a blogger was flown to Berlin, Germany to attend and objectively cover the IFA 2012 conference by technology firm Samsung. When the blogger, Clinton Jeff, arrived there from his home in India, he was told instead he was to be a rep for Samsung and demo their technology to attendees of the conference. When he refused, Samsung threatened to strand him there and would not pay for his hotel or return flight. In the end, rival mobile technology firm Nokia paid for Jeff’s stay in the German capital and his return flight home, allowing him to cover it as he saw fit. This was first reported on The Next Web in this post.
Where I personally don’t know Clinton Jeff, I do read his blog Unleash The Phones and follow him on Twitter, and I do know people who know him and he is well-respected in mobile tech circlers. So if he says this happened, I have to believe it. And from Samsung’s response it reinforces their blunder.
A part of the story that was barely touched on by the reports out there was how Nokia paid for his extended stay and flight home. Where some may say this was simply a smart PR move by a competitor, I agree it is. However this in line with how Nokia works with bloggers. How do I know this? Because about 2 years ago Nokia flew me to Berlin to attend a conference and cover it how I saw fit, and I had no logistics issues at all.
Nokia has a strong word-of-mouth social media marketing program called Nokia Connects, which back when I went to Berlin was called WOMWorld/Nokia. It is facilitated by Nokia and WOM agency 1000heads. The program loans new mobile devices to bloggers and others to evaluate and, if they choose, write about it. I say it this was as in all encounters with Nokia connects for over 4 years now, since I went to Nokia OpenLab, they have never even eluded slightly that I need to write something or what I should write.
If this concept is new to you, a thought going through your head may be – why? Why would a company spend money on an international flight, hotel, ground transportation food, admission to a conference for not just 1 person but 3 to cover an event without any expectation of the quality and quantity of what they write? That’s exactly the point! Granted the people they invite are people that will be writing something. But this is why Nokia’s word-of-mouth program is popular with bloggers and successful for the brand.
Diary From Berlin
To better explain, I’ll share more of the itinerary of the trip to Berlin in November 2010. I attended Microsoft TechEd, an international developers conference for those who work with Microsoft technology. Nokia was an exhibitor and had a keynote address on its collaboration with Microsoft for an Outlook/Exchange email client app on Nokia devices as well as other sync technology. Nokia invited me, Dennis Bournique and Craig Richards to cover the event. It was by no means an earth-shattering announcement, and we had no idea only a few months later Nokia would announce it was moving completely to the Microsoft Windows Phone ecosystem from its own known as Symbian. But Nokia wanted people to cover it, and we were invited.
We had a host in Rhiannon from 1000heads who coordinated travel logistics, getting around Berlin, making sure we were fed and access to Nokia staff. Never at any time were we asked to sign ANYTHING, never told or even hinted at what to do or any. In addition to the conference itself we attended a Nokia social and had a little time to see the city, and I gave a brief tour of the areas of Berlin I remembered from a vacation there a few years earlier. I’ll reiterate there was no expectation on what – and when – we wrote, and I did write a few posts including this one and this one and tweeted form the conference. And neither Nokia nor 1000heads ask me to write this – when I heard of what Samsung did, I recalled my time there and was compelled to write this on my own.
In one tech media account of the drama that Samsung put Clinton Jeff through it closed with, “basically, it's not a great idea to accept "free" trips or gifts from companies.” I disagree. First off, for decades journalists have been receiving free trips and all the trappings and still do. Of course buyer beware and know the reputation of the vendor and their consultants to determine it it’s right for you. If an invite comes to me from Nokia again, I will certainly accept it if it fits my schedule and interests.
When recalling this event I remembered a video I took of the Hotel Berlin Berlin where we stayed. I have uploaded it to my YouTube channel and share it with you below – or click here to see the video.
I welcome your thoughts and comments and discussion on this topic which may be foreign – no pun intended – to many people.
Blogging • Business • Technology • Mobile Technology • Strategize • Thrive • (2) Comments • Permalink
A few weeks ago while going thru my morning routine of catching up on email and news, I noticed something on one of my sources for information, iGoogle, which is Google’s home page product. A box appeared in the header banner as shown below:
The message states, “iGoogle will not be available after November 1, 2013. Learn more.” Upon clicking the link to learn more about this, which you can view at this link, I read the following short message which I am repeating below.
What's happening to iGoogle?
iGoogle will be retired in 16 months, on November 1, 2013. The mobile version will be retired on July 31, 2012.
How did you come to this decision?
We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding down iGoogle on November 1, 2013, giving you a full 16 months to adjust or easily export your iGoogle data.
What will happen to the data stored in my gadgets?
All of your personal data stored in other Google products will continue to be available via those products, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Finance, Google Docs (now Google Drive), Google Bookmarks, and Google Tasks. Other gadgets, like the to-do list, allow you to export your data - look for the “Download all” option under the drop-down menu tied to the title of your list. Most iGoogle gadgets are created and maintained by third-party developers. If you’d like to export your data, you should contact the gadget creator directly.
I really like iGoogle -- are there any other alternatives?
On your mobile device, Google Play offers applications ranging from games to news readers to home screen widgets.
If you’re a fan of Google Chrome, the Chrome Web Store provides a similar range of options like productivity tools and applications to check the weather. In addition, just like iGoogle, you can personalize Chrome with a theme.
Following the Google Product Playbook
This decision by Google, while not initially welcome by me, is not all surprising either. Google is a company that encourages its employees to work on side projects and some of them have become products or services they have publicly offered. However, they have also been quick to shutdown non-performing services or those which don’t have an enormous impact on the enormous company. Compound all of this with their practice of buying companies for people or pieces of their technology then shutting them down, and this move to end iGoogle is in line with how they play – and win - the game on a daily basis.
After reading this short but to the point support document, I had to agree with them – the marketplace has changed, not to mention the types of devices people use. The large-format Web browser home page isn’t as popular as it used to be, especially with mobile and tablet devices, and I have to add myself into that category of someone looking elsewhere for content, as I did say above iGoogle was only “one” place I looked for information.
Say Goodbye To The Web Browser Personalized Home Page
I will go out on a limb and say this is the first of many rings of the death knell for this format of information delivery. The originator of this, Yahoo, is in a new reign of leadership with Marissa Mayer, who after joining them from Google probably has some insight into the business model of this type of product. There are also fewer services out there offering this, as I talked about several years ago when I lamented at the lack of innovation from MyWay.com which looks the same as the last time I saw it back in 2008. I predict the personalized home page sector will end within the next few years.
The idea of the portal home page today may work within a company, but for those of us on the go or using multiple hardware devices – from notebooks to phones to tablets to whatever is next – having one source is a good idea, but it is also easy enough to configure widgets on a smartphone screen to show links or feeds or email messages. But with so much choice for consumers, the ability to get the weather, stock quotes and sports scores easily trumps the desire to get them from one single source, especially when there really isn’t one true cross-platform choice.
It’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it’s time to move on from the personalized home page to the next new thing, whatever that may be. I don’t know for sure, but I will write about it when I come up with it!
RSS To The Rescue
As I said I get my news and information from multiple sources, and their common denominator is RSS, or Real Simple Syndication. If you have ever seen the orange icon to the right, then the content on that Web page can be “aggregated” with other content which offers this same ability using RSS aggregator and subscribing to the “feed” of the content. I use Fever, an extremely robust commercial self-hosted RSS aggregator application by Shaun Inman. Fever replaced Google Reader for me, as I didn’t want the search giant knowing everything I read! There are other feed aggregators out there, including most Web browsers as well as mobile apps.
With Fever, I subscribe to over 200 feeds across all categories, from personal to business and beyond. There is no way I can read everything, and typically scan the headlines to get the gist of what is happening, clicking the occasional article for depth on a topic. I am always trying feeds from media outlets, companies, associations and bloggers, in some cases dropping other feeds when I find a new or better one to replace it. Where it’s not the same layout for me, it brings the content together and I can still pick and choose what to scan and what to read.
So do you agree with me, is the personal home page dead? Do you use iGoogle and will you miss it? Or simply how do you keep up with news and information on the go? I welcome your thoughts in the comments below.
Business • Technology • Mobile Technology • Strategize • (12) Comments • Permalink
You are invited to participate in the following quick poll - do you encrypt your computer or mobile device?
Please make your selection below - if you cannot see the poll question please answer the poll here.
Why am I asking this question? I will follow up with my reason plus the results in a week or so, depending on the volume of responses. Thanks for participating, and please pass along to friends and colleagues. Also, feel free to add any additional thoughts in the comments of this post.
Build • Technology • Mobile Technology • (2) Comments • Permalink
(Note the above image of the Ribbit Mobile home page was changed to grayscale by me)
Ribbit Mobile was a service for translating voicemail messages to text and delivering that text message with an audio file of the voicemail message, and those messages would be delivered by email and SMS. For myself, I have used similar services for over 4 years, and having the luxury of reading the text of a voicemail when you don’t have the opportunity to dial in to listen (e.g. when you’re in a meeting), not to mention the ready-access archive of messages, was priceless.And that was just the case with Ribbit Mobile – they were not charging for “beta” this service for the 2+ years I used it. Near the end of last year I recall getting a survey from them on how much I would be willing to pay for the service. Then in January of this year I got an email saying Ribbit Mobile would be shutting down altogether the end of January, and there was no alternative. Ribbit itself as a company would still be around as they offer other services, like an Android app for voicemail and an add-on to Salesforce.com. The service was still running for a couple of weeks after the announced date, and went down altogether on February 16.
As I said, this was a type of service you could get used to. I also have a similar voicemail to text service through Vonage which I use for my business phone. Prior to Ribbit Mobile I was part of the SpinVox consumer beta program which I talked about previously here at The Hot Iron. Interestingly, around the time SpinVox announced they were dropping their B to C service (they power Vonage’s voicemail to text) Ribbit Mobile came on the scene, and I was able to switch over with very little time without this type of service.
In between SpinVox and Ribbit Mobile I briefly used SpinVox through uReach, a company offering virtual voice, email and office solutions used by many small businesses. When Ribbit Mobile went away, I looked into see if it was still offered, and it took a call to uReach to find the “hidden” URL for the service (they offer it, but it’s not linked from their main Web site), and by visiting ureach.com/spinvox one can sign up for the voicemail to text service for $9.99/month plus usage fees for large volumes of voicemail. The uReach offering is not as robust as Ribbit’s, and for some reason breaks up voicemails when sent by SMS into several messages of 30 second lengths. But you can still get an email with the message text and audio file attached.
Am I the only one who will miss Ribbit Mobile? Am I the only one who uses voicemail to text? Please let me know in this post’s comments, as I know nobody else personally who uses, and loves, this type of service.
Build • Business • Technology • Mobile Technology • (5) Comments • Permalink
If you are on Twitter, please tweet the following to help a great charity I support, YouthBuild Boston, win $2,500 from Nokia. All you need to do is click on the following link:
If the link does not work, please copy and paste the text to tweet it.
I’m voting for Entry #15 in the #NokiaCareUSContest! RT and help us win. http://on.fb.me/tyNRR7
By tweeting this, you are entering YouthBuild Boston in a contest run by Nokia Care US, the domestic support arm of the mobile phone giant. There are 15 charities around the US vying for this, and the top 10 charities, as counted by the number of tweets they receive, will make it to the final round, where judges will select the winner of the $2,500 prize.
And I couldn’t think of a better charity to win this prize! YouthBuiild Boston, or YBB for short, is located in the Roxbury section of Boston and daily lives their tagline of “strengthening you, rebuilding communities.” This is the description of YBB which I submitted when I nominated them for this contest:
Since its inception, YouthBuild Boston (YBB) has been dedicated to improving the lives of young people of Boston by teaching skills that will enable them to become both self-sufficient and civically engaged. While YBB promotes the core values of youth development and community service, it stands out as an innovative non-profit by offering young people a hands-on approach to skills training and community building.
Its Theory of Change is predicated on the belief that, “young people, when empowered with the skills and education necessary to improve their quality of life, will realize that they can play a leadership role in strengthening their communities.” From construction to landscaping to design skills to encouraging and supporting young people to get their GED degree, YBB has become a cornerstone for all whose lives are touched by their work. During its 20 year history, YBB has helped more than 1,000 young people develop the skills and opportunities necessary to successfully enter the workforce.
YBB has adapted to the needs of the community over the years and their programs reflect it, branching out from their early programs solely on construction. They also offer the greater Boston community the opportunity to get involved, benefitting the students even more. As a result of what they do and how well they do it, YouthBuild Boston has gained a stellar reputation in the community, and with your support they can only make a greater impact.
I have been proud to support YBB for almost a decade, going back to when I lived in the Boston area, helping them with their Web technology over the years. What impresses me most about YBB is not only the amazing things they do, but also how they do it. Their level of professionalism is only matched by their dedication and compassionate service to the youth who are involved with their programs as well as to the community.
The deadline for tweet voting is this Friday, November 18, 2011. One vote per person, but feel free to pass it along to your friends. More information on the contest is available on the contest page on Facebook. As this is a contest sponsored by Nokia, and I evaluate their mobile devices on this blog, I must mention that, but it will have no impact on this contest.
Announcements • Business • Mobile Technology • Thrive • (0) Comments • Permalink
Granted, the talk this week has been on the announcements coming from London at Nokia World about new Windows Mobile devices as well as new devices specifically designed towards emerging markets. However, a few months back I had the opportunity to evaluate a Nokia E6,which is still alive and well and selling in the US and other countries.
Thanks to the folks at Nokia Connects (formerly WOMWorld/Nokia) I was able to use this device for a few weeks. But first I had to open the package, and here’s my initial reaction to the E6 – view the embedded video below or watch the Nokia E6 unboxing video on YouTube.
It wasn’t until I watched the video that I realized the heavy comparisons I made between the E6 and the Nokia E72, which is my primary mobile device, or my “workhorse” as I like to call it. This was due to the form factor, which are very similar. Besides that and the quality of the construction, these devices are different. On the hardware front, it has a touchscreen, something I miss from my days as a Palm user. The camera is a mixed blessing – taking 8 megapixel photos but with a full-focus rather than auto-focus camera. With some of the tests I did – mostly of my kids so I won’t post them here – the full focus worked great when they sat still (rarely) and was a disappointment when they were moving or I wanted to get a close-up shot (usually the case).
In my evaluation period I did not completely switch to using it, namely a time issue for me. But I did carry the 2 devices with me at the same time and tried similar tasks and did put my SIM card in it and used it for calls. I was pleased with its usability and liked the Symbian^3 features that I am still getting used to. The main reason I still use the E72 – the physical keyboard – is also a selling point for the E6. Granted I could probably get used to an on-screen keyboard eventually, but for how I use a device, it’s nice to have the physical keys to bang on.
Where the E6 will fit into the mix of Nokia’s devices is unclear, but I guess its price may drop, which will put a touchscreen, full keyboard mobile device in the hands of many people easily, and no need to go thru a Blackberry service as you can directly connect to POP and Exchange mail!
Below is an embedded slideshow of photos I took of both the E6 and E72 – view it there or on Flickr.
The device has long been returned to Nokia Connects, but I welcome your thoughts and questions on it in the comments.
Build • Technology • Mobile Technology • (0) Comments • Permalink
On the heels of evaluating the Nokia E7, I received a few days later a Nokia C7 mobile device, or the Astound as it’s called here in the US, where it’s exclusively offered by T-Mobile. It was graciously offered to me by the kind folks at WOMWorld/Nokia to use for a few weeks. You can read more about my relationship with Nokia in this previous post.
Rather than create the “same old” unboxing video, where I go to a quiet corner of my office and unwrap the package and give my first impressions of the device on video, I decided to go “on location” this time. I chose to film it in front of the Cloud Gate artwork (better known as “the Bean”) at Millennium Park in Chicago.
Watch the video embedded into this post below, or click this link to view the Nokia C7 Astound Unboxing Video on YouTube.
As I was making the video, both the E7 and my trust workhorse the E72 came to mind. Though the C7 has a little smaller screen than the E7, it also has a much smaller price – it has been as low as free when renewing a contract with T-Mobile. I know this, as this is how I got a C7 of my own after I sent back the evaluation device. Where it is a safe assumption I like the C7 as I acquired one, I don’t want to get too far into the evaluation than this video. Currently I swap between the C7 and the E72 as needed.
I welcome your comments – positive and snarky – on the video, and the device as well. And let me know how obvious it is that I was interrupted by a panhandler when I was making the video! Your comments are welcome here on The Hot Iron as well as on YouTube.
Technology • Mobile Technology • Strategize • (0) Comments • Permalink