Thursday, February 24, 2011

Interactive Shopping Barcodes

Last year we wrote that the advent of online shopping was really taking off, and that consumers were conducting much of their shopping from their Smartphones either through outright purchases or to comparison shop.

Since then, 2011 has brought about the use of 2D codes -  square, black and white bar codes that can be used to store various bits of information. These fancy little codes were first introduced through BlackBerry Messenger, where users could add contacts by scanning the bar code of another user with the device's camera. This was essentially a mini-revolution for BlackBerry users - not having to ask for a PIN or even find your own was a great time saver, and made Messenger even more popular.

Now, the knowledge that these 2D codes have the ability to store all kinds of information - essentially anything a retailer or advertiser might want. Some of the ways that the codes have been used so far are:

  • "Hello, My Name Is" tags - this allows new people to learn more about you, what you do, background information, and other general information
  • Business Cards - a quick and easy way for people to download all your contact information simply by scanning a code with the camera on their phone
  • Outdoor Billboards - consumers can walk up to an advertisement and scan a bar code which then takes them to the campaign page for the ad, rather than a company web page. This is particularly awesome for movie advertisements - readers can scan a code and be taken right to the movie trailer or the nearest theater to order tickets
  • Websites - companies can add 2D codes to their "Contact Us" pages to allow visitors to dial in immediately, without having to search for information
  • Webinars - adding a 2D code to online presentations can encourage audience involvement, e.g. small contest to test learning
  • Social Media Sites (LinkedIn, Facebook) - position yourself as a tech-savvy professional, and make it easy for those searching you to find more information about you, or even download your resume
  • T-Shirts - great for prizes and product giveaways
  • In-store posters with coupons - instead of having customers find promotional coupons throughout a store when purchasing products, scanning a bar code right at the product can give instant rewards to be obtained at check out
  • Dial a Phone Number - by using a 2D code to store a phone number, users can simply scan and dial right through to order a product or service
  • Books, articles and eBooks - direct people to social media related to publications, such as websites for more information, related reads, blogs, forums etc.
One of the up-and-coming companies to work with this technology is Gauge Mobile - a new company that has realized the potential that these codes have in connection with the increased use of Smartphones. This is great for consumers and retailers, no matter who they are or what they sell, due to their ability to "deliver relevant content to an audience at the most opportune time - on their Smartphone" and the fact that they are extremely cost effective, and efficient.

Keep an eye out for these little codes - they seem to be popping up just about anywhere!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Devices To Watch Out For In 2011

With CES 2011 having taken place recently, there is much talk about all the new devices coming to market this year. At this time it is hard to determine which carrier will be responsible for which device, but here are a few to keep your eyes open for as we move into 2011:

Motorola Atrix
This much-hyped device is set to directly compete with the iPhone, with its 4G connectivity and dual-core processor. 1GB RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 5MP camera and a super wide screen, as well as the latest Android software make this a phone to watch out for. The only sad thing for us at Rogers....this is going to be exclusively available to Bell Canada customers.

Samsung Infuse 
Another Android submission as a follow-through from the current Samsung Galaxy S - it's hard to believe that a device could get even more impressive, but it appears that Samsung has done so! A single core processor and 512MB RAM seem at first glance to make this inferior to the existing Galaxy, but take note - 8MP camera and a 4.5" Super AMOLED screen. Not only is the camera comparable (if not better) to most standard digital cameras, but the high resolution, top quality screen will make your pictures crystal clear.

This device is listed as 4G so might not be around until Rogers has fully implemented its LTE network, but definitely one to watch out for. Telus is also likely to carry this model.

LG Optimus 2X
This device is a close competitor for the entire Samsung Galaxy line-up across all carriers, but with a smaller processor. On the plus side, the screen is high quality (800 x 480) and shoots 1080p video - now that beats most digital cameras to the punch. Finally, for those who want a face-to-face experience using applications like Skye, or Qik, there is a front facing camera standard on the device. This is set to be released on all Canadian carriers.

With thanks to The Cellular Guru for the review tips

BlackBerry Playbook
This is the highly anticipated BlackBerry response to the iPad. There are almost too many awesome features to describe, but here are just a few to wet your appetite - 3MP forward-facing camera, 5MP rear-facing camera, 1080p HD video recording, 7" LCD display, 1Ghz dual-core processor, and....get this....micro USB and HDMI ports - a first for any tablet device currently on the market. This will be carried by Rogers, but no word yet on whether the other Canadian carriers will have it also. Rumors have it that this will first be available in WiFi only, with the possibility of a 3G+ version later in the year. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Samsung Galaxy HD

Samsung Galaxy S Captivate
This past Christmas I was given the opportunity to try out a new device. Being a BlackBerry user for the past five or so years, I was hesitant to move away from the familiar. But I had to give this sought-after device a try and see what all the fuss was about. Here are my thoughts...

High Points:

  • The Super AMOLED screen and 5MP camera make pictures and even the device's screens itself look crisp and clear. Taking some shots of the family Christmas tree put my own digital camera to shame!
  • The still and video cameras each have multiple settings depending on what you are shooting - the last Canucks game I went to was a great chance to try this out. By selecting the "action shot" feature in the camera, it was as if all the players had posed for their pictures - no blurring from movement!
  • There are literally thousands of applications for almost anything - and they can be accessed right from the device. The one thing that really got me, was the device's ability to download these apps in the background and simply notify me when they were done. There was no rebooting required!
  • Due to access to all the applications, including those to customize the device with live wallpapers, my Captivate looks nothing like anyone else's. Of course the physical device is the same, but once you take a look through it, nothing else looks familiar.
  • The touch screen capabilities are sensitive enough to recognize your touch when typing, but when on the phone, it automatically senses when it is close to my face, and ensures that I don't accidentally press something in the middle of a call. Great to avoid putting someone on hold with my face....
  • It was so easy to add my emails to the phone once I was ready to use it. I have a corporate email that just required a few inputs to get everything active, including all my contacts, and Gmail was even easier, only requiring a few steps to load up. Both emails look just as they do at my desktop which means I can access my messages quickly when I need to - the Gmail account even shows the labels I have added in my online Inbox, and allows me to apply them to new messages right from the phone
  • The device has such a massive on board memory (16GB to be precise) that I was able to load nearly 1000 songs without needing a memory card. And it didn't seem to phase the phone either - everything ran just as smoothly as normal. But even so, adding a memory card into the phone is equally smooth - no configuring required, and the phone will even do its own security scan of the files just to make sure everything is okay
  • Text messaging brings on a whole new way to type - SWYPE technology allows you to slide your finger across the keyboard instead of tapping individual keys to spell a word. This might sound like a strange feature, but when using a touchscreen, you can type as fast as if you had buttons at your fingertips. This is definitely one more thing to get used to, but everyone I know who has tried it, has never gone back to the standard style
  • For such a powerful device, it sure is slim and sleek. Far less bulky than many other Smartphones out there, it amazes me that this phone is capable of so much
  • And on the note of sleek and slim, you might think that as a result, battery size and life is compromised. As with any Smartphone, data is constantly flowing back and forth which consumes battery, but in order to make up for this, the Galaxy Captivate has battery saving features that kick in once your battery starts to wane - features that you don't have to physically ensure are working. The phone just does it!
  • It is a full touch screen device....and there are times when I just want to push a button - new users to the Captivate will need to give themselves at least a couple of weeks to get used to the phone (the same goes for the SWYPE technology - give yourself at least a few messages to become familiar with how it works)
  • There is no flash on the camera - for a device with such a great screen and camera capability, it is a shame that taking pictures at night, or even in a poorly lit room, is pretty much a no-no. Perhaps future versions of the device will incorporate this feature - I hope so!
  • I mentioned I have been a BlackBerry user for a number of years - I miss my BBM! There are many applications designed to go across various operating systems, such as Kick or WhatsApp, but nothing really compares to the first instant messenger that many of us know and love. In fact, if you are a BB user trying to chat with people through WhatsApp, the application just doesn't work as well as it does on the Android or iPhone operating systems
  • Although setting up email was quick and easy, I would recommend not merging your email accounts. The device tends to find any and all email addresses and list them in the address book....rather frustrating when an email has only been used once. In addition, the device has some sort of ability to merge contacts together, which can result in duplicates - and for those that did duplicate, one would have a picture, the other wouldn't, or each would be entirely different! 
Overall, this device is definitely a lot of fun to play with. It is great as a functional, work-based device, but is also perfect for all the fun you want. There is pretty much an app for anything, you can truly make the phone yours, and with the new Android 2.2 software, battery life is far better than it used to be, and there are some small tweaks that just make the phone run a lot more efficiently.

I find that I learn something new everyday with this phone, so I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store!