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Showing posts from 2012

What's your usage of free vs. paid apps?

When I read reviews of free apps in tech publications, they often have a line to the effect, "There is paid advertising which is/is not intrusive. I would gladly pay a dollar to turn the ads off".

There is a line of thought that subscriber payment can support the app developer and also provides an alternate business model to ad-funded apps. It is an extension of the ad-free model of paid television - subscribe to the channel and we will turn off the ads.

In practice though, it does not work  that way for consumers, or for businesses. 

I presume that in the course of a customer life cycle, showing ads will earn more revenue than the $1 or 2 that I pay one time to remove  them. The scale increases exponentially when we talk of hugely popular free  apps with  millions of downloads. 

Also, strangely, I do not mind it if mobile apps display ads. I do not find them obtrusive, I don't worry about how much data they consume and I would not find it a value proposition to pay purely t…

The war of the social networks has begun!

If you are a user of Twitter and Instagram, you must have noticed the controversial clash between the two companies which has been widely reported in the media, and escalated after Instagram rejected a buy-out bid from Twitter in favor of being acquired by Facebook. The latest episode involved Instagram revoking the ability of users to see photos in their Twitter Stream, and Twitter retaliating by launching their own  photo filters which compete directly with the photo sharing apps' functionality.

Twitter has been in the news for other hard hitting decisions notably increasing restrictions placed on developers of third party Twitter applications like Tweet Deck and Twitterific. Twitter's new policies appear to be directed towards creating and owning the unique user experience of Twitter rather than leaving it to competition. Instagram has made a similar move with the launch of web profiles, which make pictures taken with the app publicly viewable and searchable. 

I am not a heav…

Why Android Jellybean has overtaken iOS

Over the weekend, I have been using Jellybean 4.2.1, the newest Android OS update from Google, on my Galaxy Nexus. I have been using iOS 6 on my iPad since a month as well. After comparing the latest operating systems from Apple and Google, I have to give it to Google - in a remarkably short time span, Android has surpassed iOS in terms of features, user experience and sheer future potential. It is clearly the most dynamic operating system in the market now, and competition will have its work cut out to deliver something more compelling.
Here are my reasons why Android has pulled ahead of iOS with this update
1. Google Now - the future lies in telling you what you need, before you search for it
Google Now represents a huge breakthrough in search interface and technology innovation. Search till now has been a passive  tool - as a user, you have to type a search query - and the search engine uses algorithms, a knowledge of your profile, and an understanding of what other users searched for…

Wearable tech and the future of health

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Last week, I started using the Fitbit wireless activity tracker. Of course, fitness and activity monitors have been around for years - the Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up and Fitbit are just some of the products that come to mind. Till today, all the activity trackers are basically pedometers/altimeters, with some (like Fitbit) offering an additional functionality of tracking sleep, linking with inputs from other mobile apps etc. 

The real differentiation apart from design and looks comes from the software interface and the way it presents statistics and graphs of your activity level to help you understand and modify your lifestyle to be more active. For example Nike Fuel is designed to share data and competitively motivate each other to perform better. Fitbit is more oriented to people who like to monitor their own stats personally

I really like the Fitbit for a simple reason - as a researcher, I believe that data empowers us to change. At work, I deal on a regular basis with customer data a…

From data privacy to digital profiling - the new age of the Net

For the past couple of days this viral Facebook privacy hoax was circulating on my FB network. It is not a virus and did not cause any harm, but it led me to wonder why people get so wound up about their privacy in social media.More than two years ago, I said that social networking and privacy are by very definition contradictory terms. Media and privacy are by definition contradictory terms. If you gave an interview in mass media (TV, radio or newspaper) you would be very careful about what you say. You certainly would not dream of demanding that the news channel or TV channel expunge all copies of the interview and return all recorded matter to you because it's your property. It helps to think of social media the same way. 

What you say in the public domain, will stay in the public domain. No matter how many privacy controls you are given, you must assume that anyone would be able to see your information, now, later on, in perpetuity. Armed with this knowledge, it's up to us …

The confusing, flooded Indian feature phone market

A few days ago, I did some digging into the Indian feature phone market and came up with some interesting nuggets based on an analysis of brand websites:

1. Between four top brands (Nokia, Samsung, Micromax and Karbonn) there are no less than 
    200 models of feature  phones in the market. If I as a market watcher find that confusing, think 
    how overwhelmed the first time phone buyer will be.

2. Nokia and Micromax have the maximum models and ranges in feature phones. Micromax 
    has 70+ while Nokia has around 50. To understand the Nokia (Symbian range) you can refer
    to my Handy Guide to buying a Nokia phone. The categorisation I observed last year still 
    seems to hold for Nokia. Though some new ranges have since been introduced, notably 
    Asha.

3. Samsung is currently market leader in India, expected to close 2012 with 60% share, yet the 
    company has a relatively small set of feature phones (just 30 compared to other players). 
    Clearly, some of these models like Star D…

Creating your own website for a small business

When my partner and I went about setting up our digital consultancy Bright Angles, one of our big discussions was around our digital strategy. We are not a digital execution firm and neither of us can code, but we wanted a good, simple, professional looking website and blog. And being a start up, we did not have a huge budget for this. I wrote a few months ago about taking your business online for $10, which is easy to do thanks to Google Apps for business. Initially our website was hosted on blogger, but we soon hit a lot of limitations in terms of modifications we could make. It was time to move to a 'real' site and the next step was to look for a website editor and host.

I identified three options that make the task of site design quick, easy and not too expensive -  WixWeebly and Jimdo.

All three website builders offer entirely free tools to create your website and also give you an option to publish your website free on their domain (eg. brightangles.wix.com). You obviousl…

Nostalgia trip - my 30 year old model train set

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I have come to visit my parents for the Diwali holidays and I was amazed and touched to see that they have still preserved many of my childhood toys (my childhood is way behind me, we are talking of toys that are 30 years old or more). Dad said hopefully that hey have antique value and we might make a fortune selling them on ebay. I don't know about that, but I know that it was priceless for me to see the Scrabble, Monopoly and Meccano sets that I grew up playing. Pat on my back as well - I clearly looked after my toys well because they are all in perfect condition.
What I was most excited to see was the model train set that Dad got me as a kid. Railway modelling was a HUGE hobby in the 70s - while the popularity has dwindled with the younger generation today, it still has some very serious and passionate fans, and dedicated online forums.
I have one model set - a Lima British Rail model set which Dad thinks we paid 20 GBP for, way back in 1978. I was delighted to find it sitting sn…

The new Sony Handycam series is a mixed bag

Just yesterday, I bought a Sony Handycam for official and personal use. Sony has unfortunately followed a strategy of increasing price while reducing the functionality and build quality. 

For example, they have done away with Hard Drives altogether in the lower end models - the minimum you need to pay for an HD is Rs. 44,000 for the HDR-XR260VE. The older and cheaper hard drive models which costed within Rs. 30,0000 like the HDR 160 series have been discontinued and are no longer found in the market.

I also found the LCD touch panel to be smaller, less easy to operate even with my (small!) fingers and the large touch buttons that surrounded the LCD touch panel have disappeared.

I don't find a built in projector to be a useful feature in a handycam - unless you are displaying home video to a home audience, you would always check and edit video clips before playback to an audience. However, it would be a great feature in a digicam since people are always dying to show their photos to e…

iOS 6 vs. JellyBean - is there really a difference?I

Today, I posted on Facebook that I am a happy camper and with good reason. I finally got  to download Android JellyBean on my Galaxy Nexus as well as iOS 6 on my iPad. It's great to receive two major operating system updates at the same time. Since yesterday, I've  been like a kid in a toy shop, juggling my phone and iPad to figure out what's new. After several hours at play, it occurred to me that we have finally reached the horizon where there is very little to choose between the two operating systems. We will continue to have our preferences between the two, and we may become comfortable with one of the two because it is better on certain functionalities than the other, but if I were to compare now, it's really 50 of one, half of the other.

The two biggest smartphone platforms are reaching parity. Part of the credit goes to constant innovation and upgradation by both companies, especially Google, which has played a remarkable game of catch-up in the last three years.…

Do you like 'Live Chat' based customer service?

Live chat has been around for ages including on some not-so-savoury online services, so it's surprising that Indian companies are electing to add this to their websites just now. Most e-commerce websites have begun to display a Live Chat option prominently on their home page.

At first glance, Live Chat seems like a win-win option for both customers and companies. Customers save the cost of a phone call and long hold times which raise their blood pressure and keep the phone busy. Also, you can save a live chat transcript in most cases, so you have got an answer in writing from the company which acts as proof in case of further correspondence. 

And companies get to free up busy call centre lines, leaving them accessible for other callers. Most non-urgent queries can easily get handled through live chat especially new product enquiries and requests for information. And it provides easier monitoring of the quality of customer support - I presume chat records are faster to scan through c…

5 innovative ways that entrepreneurs use Facebook

I use Facebook both as a way to connect with friends and to grow my business. I have observed how entrepreneurs and small businesses/ sole proprietorship firms use Facebook, which is very different from the way corporates do. Perhaps there are some interesting nuggets here that are applicable to larger companies and brands. 

Small businesses tend to be single minded and focussed in the way they use Facebook. It is either to get orders and new business or to build relationships with prospects. Seldom do they simply keep a Facebook page because it's required. And this repays them with active dividends in terms of creating awareness, revenue streams and broadening of customer base. Which also explains why they tend to be extremely active on Facebook. This research on SocialMediaToday indicates the growing importance of social media for small businesses
1. Pictures work as eye candy to attract genuine prospects to like and share
Pinterest has demonstrated the success of eye candy! If you…

Should I buy the iPad 2 or the new iPad?

It's a question which is dated till the last stocks of iPad 2 pass out of the market, and of course, there will continue to be sales in the second hand market. But it's a question I get asked frequently, so here is the answer.

Unless you find old stocks, Apple currently only sells the 16GB iPad 2 in India, in two configurations - wi-fi only (Rs.25,000 or lesser) and wi-fi + 3G (Rs. 32,000 approximately). This is approximately Rs. 4000 less than the corresponding new iPad models. In both cases, you need to add on at least Rs. 2000 to the price to purchase a minimum screen protector/ carrying case. 

If your usage is going to be mostly browsing and you plan to do that on the sofa (ie. holding the iPad in your hands) then jump and get an iPad 2 before it's too late. Apart from the price value differential, it is also lighter, less likely to heat up and has a longer battery life - all boons for someone who reads a lot. And it will receive the iOS 6 update this month, so you do ge…

Do you tweet or are you tweeted at?

With a 50 million + user base, which is growing rapidly alongside mobile, Facebook has become an established social media platform in India, overtaking the persistent Orkut in 2012. And with a user base of 14 million, LinkedIn has entrenched itself firmly in the professional space.

The growth story for Twitter has been slower among Indian users. With 15 million users and 20,000 users with more than 500 followers, it's not as if Indians do not use the site. What is more subtle and interesting is the difference in the quality of usage.

Do a qualitative check on the quality of Twitter usage among your peers in office, or your offline friends. You may hear something like this. 

Many will have Twitter accounts but everyone will surely have a Facebook account. 
Those who have Twitter accounts may use them less frequently than Facebook.
Those who are active on Twitter may be passively following rather than tweeting, or at best clicking on some links.
And those who tweet may be re-tweeting more…

Back to the future - from massive hard drives to flash memory

Those of you who browse for MP3 player and camcorders would have figured that in-built hard drive memory is becoming scarcer and scarcer. You can find only a handful of devices with 100 GB+ memory and newer launches (for example Sony's Handycam range) pass up a hard drive in favor of external SD Card storage.  Bad news, if like me, you are a hoarder and want to carry everything on board at one go. But the good news is that flash memory is getting cheaper.

We first saw the trend in high end phones which carry at least 16GB on board flash memory. Now, even 32 GB memory cards are priced at an easy Rs. 1000 on Flipkart and if you check on eBay I am sure you will find it even cheaper. And with ultrabooks setting a benchmark of affordable notebooks with flash memory, it's only a matter of time before the price of flash memory (and the amount of available storage) drops even further.

There are many advantages of flash memory over hard drive - faster read/write speeds, longer life, less…