Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Both Amazon and Google are thinking about turning their respective home speakers — Echo and Google Home — into home telephones. Knowledgeable sources say the tech giants could introduce the feature this year, with the goal of gaining yet more control over consumers’ home lives. But the companies are also finding that it’s not so simple, facing issues related to privacy, telecom regulations and emergency services — as well as the potential that consumers will be wary that their conversations are being recorded. Continue reading Amazon and Google Look to Turn Home Speakers into Phones

Facebook Bot Recommends Movies Based on Your Interests

While Facebook’s bot platform remains in its early stages as developers test potential apps and the challenges involved with natural language processing, a company named And Chill has created a movie recommendation engine that may be ideal for the social platform. Going beyond the basic like/dislike model, the new bot can be accessed through Messenger or SMS and asks each user for specific reasons why he or she likes a given movie. The information is then analyzed by And Chill to provide appropriate recommendations of similar films and links to YouTube trailers. Continue reading Facebook Bot Recommends Movies Based on Your Interests

Twitter Character Update Makes Room for Interactive Content

Twitter is planning a series of changes designed to make communication easier via the social platform, hopefully without alienating its loyal base (earlier proposed changes led to public outcry). Notably, Twitter will modify the 140-character limit of a tweet, which often frustrates some users, but in many ways has come to define the service. “Under the rule-bending, tagging users by their handles at the beginning of replies and adding photos, GIFs and videos will no longer count against the 140-character limit in tweets,” reports The New York Times. “Twitter users will also be able to quote and ‘retweet’ — or rebroadcast — their own older tweets, which was not possible before.” Continue reading Twitter Character Update Makes Room for Interactive Content

Pandora Unveils AMPcast Social Audio Messaging for Artists

Pandora just launched AMPcast, which lets a musician communicate with his fans via audio messages that he can record on his mobile phone and post to run in conjunction with his music streams. Pandora, which has 80 million users, is competing in this space with Spotify, which has acquired startups to expand messaging and social networking. AMPcast also competes with Superphone, a new service from musician Ryan Leslie that uses SMS and users’ phone numbers to directly message fans. Continue reading Pandora Unveils AMPcast Social Audio Messaging for Artists

WhatsApp Nears One Billion Users, Explores New Applications

Now reaching nearly one billion users, WhatsApp, the mobile messaging startup Facebook purchased for about $19 billion in February 2014, is looking at ways to make money. Until now, it’s been free for a year, and $1 per year thereafter, making it very popular for users outside the United States. In the process it’s become a social network and a way for businesses to communicate with the world. Now, chief executive Jan Koum dropped that $1 fee and has begun to experiment with how to create revenue. Continue reading WhatsApp Nears One Billion Users, Explores New Applications

Twilio Aims to Help Businesses Send Photo, Video Messages

The company behind Uber’s driver calls and Airbnb’s text messages is now offering multimedia messages for businesses that want to reach their customers with photos and videos. Twilio’s API enables businesses to run call centers and send voice and text messages through Amazon Web Services for mere pennies. The new multimedia offering will work via MMS, or multimedia messaging service, through contracts with phone carriers in the U.S. and Canada. Continue reading Twilio Aims to Help Businesses Send Photo, Video Messages

Marvel Comics Launches API Featuring 75 Years of Content

Marvel Comics is launching a beta version of an API and developer platform, which will give developers and fans access to its massive library of comics for building apps. The API will include artwork, character bios, expanded stories and more from the original creators spanning 75 years. There are more than 30,000 comics, 7,000 series and 5,000 creators in the database, and developers can even build mini-apps around their favorite characters, titles and creators. Continue reading Marvel Comics Launches API Featuring 75 Years of Content

Google Unveils New Google+ “Auto Awesome” Photo Features

During a recent live-streamed conference, Google announced new Google+ photo features, including Action, Eraser and an iMovie Trailers-like Auto Awesome Movie tool. The company announced that the Google+ Hangouts app for Android now offers location sharing, animated GIF support and SMS integration. There have also been changes to Google+ Hangouts On Air, including a new Control Room menu. There are currently 540 million monthly active Google+ users. Continue reading Google Unveils New Google+ “Auto Awesome” Photo Features

Glass Updates Hint at Monetizing Opportunities for Google

Google recently released a software update for its Glass device. It is a preview that suggests how Google plans to monetize its wearable technology. The update now allows backwards swiping on Glass’ side touchpad and voice command control. These updates give users more information options, along with its contextual search service, Google Now, to make restaurant reservations, book hotels, order concert tickets and find nearby movies. Continue reading Glass Updates Hint at Monetizing Opportunities for Google

Social Media Photo Apps Creating a New Internet Language

Photo sharing and social media are paving new ways to communicate, simply and without words. They are forming a new online language, one that is universal and overcomes language barriers. Most major social media platforms offer photo and new video sharing services, and they are receiving major investments to do so. These new services are starting to chip away at established text messaging, but some are concerned of this new communication’s effect. Continue reading Social Media Photo Apps Creating a New Internet Language

Snapchat and Fleeting Messaging Apps Grow in Popularity

Led by the popular photo-sharing app Snapchat, a number of startups are challenging the belief that everything one posts online is destined to be online for eternity. Even social networking giant Facebook recently released a Snapchat-like feature called Poke, which enables users to send notes, pictures and videos to their friends that dissappear after an allotted amount of time. Continue reading Snapchat and Fleeting Messaging Apps Grow in Popularity

Will Mobile Messaging Apps Replace Our Social Networks?

In addition to using the major social networks to create personal profiles, build networks of friends and other connections, share photos, videos and music, many tech-savvy young people are turning to smartphone-based messaging apps for these functions. Popular apps such as Kik, Whatsapp, KakaoTalk, LINE and WeChat are growing in popularity throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia. Continue reading Will Mobile Messaging Apps Replace Our Social Networks?

Commerce: Will 2013 Finally Be the Year of Mobile Payments?

Will this actually be the year during which mobile payments take off? “Both Gartner and Forrester have made strong predictions of mobile growth, with Forrester recently saying that the U.S. mobile payments market will hit $90 billion by 2017, a 48 percent compound annual growth rate from the $12.8 billion spent in 2012,” reports ReadWrite. The article highlights four indicators that suggest this might really happen. Continue reading Commerce: Will 2013 Finally Be the Year of Mobile Payments?

Is Carrier IQ, Samsung and HTC Violating the Federal Wiretap Act?

  • After an Android security researcher discovered that CarrierIQ was capable of collecting personal information from SMS, emails, photos, keystrokes and URLs, the company has been the target of severe criticism.
  • Now, CarrierIQ faces a class action lawsuit — as do Samsung and HTC — for violating the Federal Wiretap Act.
  • Plaintiffs are demanding millions of dollars in penalties paid to users with the logging software on their devices.
  • The company vehemently denies the charges, restating that the software is used solely to help wireless operators provide optimal service by logging information concerning dropped calls and failed messages.
  • TechCrunch notes that no carriers face charges as of yet, but are likely to in the near future.

Carrier IQ Responds with Claim its Software Only Monitors Service Messages

  • Earlier this week, ETCentric featured a PC World article that claimed “an app called Carrier IQ is logging literally everything you are doing on your smartphone including keystrokes, SMS messages and HTTPS sessions.”
  • The network diagnostic tool maker has since told AllThingsD it does not log or understand keystrokes but only monitors them looking for a specific code that support technicians use to cue appropriate diagnostic information.
  • CIQ also noted that it does not read SMS messages or content associated with website URLs even though it can see messages come in or capture URLs.
  • “Okay. Then what information is being captured and passed along to the carriers who use Carrier IQ?” asks AllThingsD. “Data related to call quality, battery life, device crashes — everything you’d expect, really.”
  • Andrew Coward of Carrier IQ explains, “If there’s a dropped call, the carriers want to know about it. So we record where you were when the call dropped and the location of the tower being used… Similarly, if you send an SMS to me and it doesn’t go through, the carriers want to know that, too. And they want to know why — if it’s a problem with your handset or the network.”
  • According to a related Ars Technica article, Apple has issued a statement hoping to curb fears about tracking via the iPhone and iPad: “We stopped supporting Carrier IQ [a piece of software that tracks user activity] with iOS 5 in most of our products, and we’re going to remove it completely in a future software update.”

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