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Original author: 
Kara Swisher

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Earlier today, Yahoo said it had acquired the trendy and decidedly stylish news reading app Summly, along with its telegenic and very young entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.

Yahoo said it plans to close down the actual app and use the algorithmic summation technology that the 17-year-old D’Aloisio built with a small team of five, along with a major assist from Silicon Valley research institute SRI International, throughout its products.

While Yahoo did not disclose the price, several sources told me that the company paid $30 million — 90 percent in cash and 10 percent in stock — to buy the London-based Apple smartphone app.

And despite its elegant delivery, that’s a very high price, especially since Summly has been downloaded slightly less than one million times since launch — after a quick start amid much publicity over its founder — with about 90 million “summaries” read. Of course, like many such apps, it also had no monetization plan as yet.

What Yahoo is getting, though, is perhaps more valuable — the ability to put the fresh-faced D’Aloisio front and center of its noisy efforts to make consumers see Yahoo as a mobile-first company. That has been the goal of CEO Marissa Mayer, who has bought up a range of small mobile startups since she took over nine months ago and who has talked about the need for Yahoo to focus on the mobile arena above all.

Mayer met with D’Aloisio, said sources, although the deal was struck by voluble M&A head Jackie Reses.

Said one person close to the deal, about the founder: “Nick will be a great person to put in front of the media and consumers with Mayer to make Yahoo seem like it is a place that loves both entrepreneurs and mobile experiences, which in turn will presumably attract others like him.”

Having met the young man in question, who was in San Francisco in the fall on a fundraising trip, I can see the appeal. He’s both well-spoken and adorkable, as well as very adept at charming cranky media types like me by radiating with the kinetic energy of someone born in the mobile world (you can see that in full force in the video below with actor and Summly investor Stephen Fry).

Still, D’Aloisio is very young and presumably has a lot of other entrepreneurial goals and that’s why he agreed as part of the deal to only officially stay 18 months at Yahoo, multiple sources told me. In many cases, startup founders strike such short-term employment deals with big companies, agreeing to stay for a certain determined time period.

He will also remain in England, where he lives with his parents, said sources. In addition, only two of Summly’s employees will go to Yahoo with D’Aloisio.

That’s $10 million each, along with a nifty app Yahoo will not be using as is (too bad, as it would up the hip and fun factor of Yahoo’s apps by a factor of a gazillion if it were maintained).

“It works out on a lot of levels,” said another person close to the situation. “Nick is a founder that will make Mayer and Yahoo look cutting edge.”

Cue the parade of PR profiles of the young genius made millionaire, helping Yahoo become relevant again.

I have an email for comment into the always friendly D’Aloisio. But I don’t expect a reply, since he has apparently been specifically instructed by the martinets of Yahoo PR not to talk to me any longer — well, for 18 months at least! (Don’t worry, Nick, I don’t blame you and will still listen to whatever you are pitching next, since you are so dang compelling and I enjoyed using Summly!)

Until then, here’s the faboo Summly video, with the best chairs ever:

Summly Launch from Summly on Vimeo.

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[ See post to watch video ]

I’ll admit it: I still use a BlackBerry. I also use an iPhone and an Android phone, but I don’t mind being teased by friends when I need to crank out a long email in seconds, because the BlackBerry keyboard is still the best. My thumbs can speed along on its tactile keys without forcing me to look down as I walk, and it never makes an embarrassing word change using autocorrect.

But really, typing on glass keyboards — like those found on iPhones, Android phones and Windows Phones — should be much easier by now. This week I took a look at a few technologies that gave me hope.

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BlackBerry 10 | The keyboard on RIM’s newest smartphone will suggest words right on the keyboard; swipe up on a word to add it to a sentence.

I tested two apps for Android phones that use very different approaches: the $3.99 SwiftKey 3 by TouchType Ltd., which is available now, and Snapkeys Si by Snapkeys Ltd., which will be available free in the Google Play Store Jan. 16. (Apple doesn’t allow third-party companies to take over core features, like the keyboard, on devices running its iOS mobile operating system.) I also got to briefly try out the smart predictive keyboard technology on Research In Motion’s upcoming BlackBerry 10.

Of the two new apps, I had an easier time adjusting to SwiftKey 3, which uses a traditional on-screen keyboard and guesses what you’ll type next by using a predictive language algorithm. It also incorporates touch gestures, like a right-to-left swipe across the keyboard to delete the last word and left-to-right swipe from the period button to insert a question mark.

Snapkeys Si was a tougher adjustment: It abandons the traditional keyboard altogether, forcing users to type on just four squares that hold 12 letters; all other letters are produced by tapping in the blank space between these four squares. Like SwiftKey 3, it uses some swipe gestures, like a right-side diagonal swipe down to create a period. Snapkeys Si aims to solve fat-finger syndrome, giving people’s fingers bigger targets and guessing the words they mean to type.

The BlackBerry 10 is scheduled to be launched on Jan. 30. I got some hands-on time with its on-screen keyboard, and was impressed by its suggested words, which users can swipe up to throw into sentences. This is designed to make the device easy to use with one hand. The BlackBerry 10 keyboard also reads and learns exactly where a user taps each key to better predict which letter to type, so clumsy fingers make fewer mistakes.

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Snapkeys Si | The traditional QWERTY keyboard layout is abandoned in this app, replaced by just 12 letters displayed in four squares.

SwiftKey 3 for Android is an app that has a healthy understanding of how language is used in everyday conversation, and supports 54 languages, including variations like American, British and Australian English. Creator TouchType scraped Internet language data from around the world to understand how people speak in real-life situations — not by studying a dictionary. It then used this knowledge to create a predictive algorithm that guesses what you’re likely to type next, suggesting three options above the keyboard as you go.

This app can also detect where you meant to add a space, automatically adding it in for you. I found this feature to be a handy time saver as I typed since I could just keep going rather than stopping to tap the space key after each word.

During setup, SwiftKey 3 users can opt to give the app access to their Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and SMS interactions so that it can study a user’s language to further understand how the person talks. For example, if someone always preferred to spell “thanks” as “thx,” SwiftKey 3 would learn this behavior and add “thx” in as a word rather than continuously trying to correct it. A TouchType spokesman says later this year the company may add a feature allowing users to customize the app to write out complete words when they type abbreviations, like typing “abt” to get “about.”

For privacy purposes, the app only stores this data locally on your phone rather than sending it back to the company for making improvements. And you can erase the app’s personalized data at any time in Settings, Personalization, Clear Language Data.

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SwiftKey 3 | This app supports more than 50 languages, and remembers how you use words, like knowing to type ‘MacLaren’s’ above.

SwiftKey 3 is free for the first month, and then costs $3.99 to continue using it. The app will remember all of your custom language settings when you upgrade, so you don’t have to reteach it.

Snapkeys Si, made by Israeli startup Snapkeys, lets you see more of your smartphone screen while you’re typing by using just four squares containing 12 letters instead of the traditional keyboard. Although these bigger finger targets made it so I never accidentally typed the wrong square, it took me a while to get used to knowing where each letter was and which letters weren’t in squares at all.

Typing words with letters that aren’t in squares requires using the blank space in the middle of these squares. So to type the word “wish,” I’d find the first three letters in squares, selecting each of them. But the “h” isn’t in a square, so I’d tap the blank space between these squares. In the case of “wish,” Snapkeys Si got it right, but other words were more challenging to type, which frustrated me. Suggested words appear on the right side of the four squares, and tapping one of them adds it to a sentence. Once a new word is added to Snapkeys Si dictionary, it will be suggested from then on.

Like SwiftKey 3, Snapkeys Si only saves your personalized language settings on the phone.

The space key is to the right side of these four squares, and the backspace key is to the left. I added periods to the end of sentences by swiping diagonally down from right to left, and added commas by swiping diagonally down left to right.

Snapkeys Si is worth a try if you’re looking for a fresh alternative to traditional keyboards. But I found that it was a lot of work to learn after years of using the traditional QWERTY keyboard layout. The app is still in its beta, or first version, and the company says it will continue to improve.

Smart keyboard apps like SwiftKey 3, Snapkeys Si and others make typing on glass less painful and more intuitive. Just beware of the steep learning curve you may have to climb to start using them.

Write to Katie at katie.boehret@wsj.com.

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Many mobile phone owners use their devices for non-urgent purposes like gaming (an addiction to Draw Something doesn’t qualify as urgent). But a huge chunk of U.S. consumers are using their cellphones and smartphones for more pressing needs — something Pew Internet Research is calling the “just-in-time” phenomenon.

A new Pew survey of more than 2,200 U.S. adults shows that 70 percent of all cellphone owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners say they’ve used their phones in the past 30 days to access immediate information, solve a problem or get help in an emergency.

The fact that cellphones and smartphones are being used as need-it-now devices really isn’t that surprising, since they put the world’s trove of information in our pockets. What’s more interesting is how those situations are categorized — something the mobile ad industry might want to pay heed to.

The majority of those surveyed — 41 percent — say they’ve used their phones for the basic task of coordinating meetings or get-togethers.

That outweighs the number of people who say they’ve used their phones to look up a restaurant (30 percent), check sports scores (23 percent) and get transit information (20 percent).

Less than one-fifth of those surveyed said they’ve used their phone in an emergency situation in the past 30 days, which is probably a good thing.

Another interesting tidbit: Despite the fact that slightly more women than men now own smartphones, as my AllThingsD colleague Ina Fried reports, men who own mobile phones are more likely than women to look up information during an argument. Some 31 percent of men admit to doing this, compared with 22 percent of women.

Could this be because women are less likely to experience memory loss? Just saying …

(Image courtesy of Flickr/Brenderous)

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If you're one of those people who tend to lose their phone shortly after putting it down, then you'll want to read this. According to a new study, if you lose your smartphone, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it back. But chances are much higher -- nearly 100 percent -- that whoever retrieves it will try to access your private information and apps.

According to a study by Symantec, 96 percent of people who picked up the lost phones tried to access personal or business data on the device. In 45 percent of cases, people tried to access the corporate email client on the device.

"This finding demonstrates the high risks posed by an unmanaged, lost smartphone to sensitive corporate information," according to the report. "It demonstrates the need for proper security policies and device/data management."

Symantec called the study the "Honey Stick Project." In this case the honey on a stick consisted of 50 smartphones that were intentionally left in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Ottowa, Canada. The phones were deposited in spots that were easy to see, and where it would be plausible for someone to forget them, including food courts and public restrooms.

None of the phones had security features, like passwords, to block access. Each was loaded with dummy apps and files that contained no real information, but which had names like "Social Networking" and "Corporate Email" that made it easy for the person who found it to understand what each app did. Each phone also was loaded with programs to track what finders did with the devices, and to send that information to the researchers.

Among people who found the phones, 72 percent tried to access photos, 57 percent tried to open a file called "Saved Passwords," and 43 percent tried to open an app called "Online Banking." Most of the apps on the phones were protected by passwords, but the username and password fields were already filled out, so that users could simply press a button to access them. Well over half of the people who discovered the phones, 66 percent, clicked those buttons to try and start the programs. The fact that the finders had to click a button to access the apps indicates that their attempts were likely intentional.

"This might be considered to be an unethical access attempt," according to the study. Also disturbing, only half the people who found the phones ever tried to contact the rightful owner, even though the owner's phone number and email address were prominently listed in the phones' contact lists. "This finding highlights the fact that in many cases, regaining possession of lost device may be a losing battle," according to the study.

If this sends shivers down your spine, here are some tips for how to protect yourself:

--Always protect your phone with a password or a "draw to unlock" pattern.

--Use security software designed specifically for smartphones to lock up programs on your phone. Some of these programs can be used to help locate the phone, or to wipe its memory from remote locations.

--Don't lose your cell phone. This falls under the category of "Well, duh." Nobody loses a smartphone on purpose, obviously. But try to make sure you keep it in you pocket or purse when not in use.

--Companies that issue phones to their employees should make sure to train workers on security, and should secure every phone with passwords.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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