UNTETHER.talks: The TEDx of Mobile

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talks, founded in 1984 by private non-profit Sapling Foundation, were created as an outlet to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Speakers address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture and are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

As the years have passed, the conference has grown considerably and, as of last June, 2011, the videos of the talks – which are free for viewing online – have been viewed more than 500 million times by viewers all over the world.

What these talks haven’t touched on is the state of mobile, the it-never-stops-moving industry that has changed the way we communicate with each other on a regular basis.

Let us introduce you to the first annual UNTETHER.talks coming up in a week and a half in Toronto, a notable event that plans to fill that void and shed some light on the fast-paced industry.

With the potential to become the TEDx for Mobile in Toronto, the two-day event will bring together some of the brightest industry minds to discuss the future of mobile and how we, as a connected society, will get there. Scheduled speakers include: Amber MacArthur, Damien Patton, Rob Woodbridge, and Kunal Gupta. All extremely accomplished and respected in the industry, they will discuss their ideas and their predictions for the next five years in the mobile space.

So, why should you be there? And what makes it different?

Herbert Lui of TechVibes said it best:

“For those of you who manage businesses, you will need to keep up with the trends happening in mobile technology; they will affect your business regardless of your industry. This event is all about mobile technology—and how this force is not an industry, but a revolution that will seep into every organization and company we know of today. Every one of us saw a few years ago how the words “social media” began circulating around every entrepreneur, small business owner, and C-suite executives’ repertoire of jargon.”

Nowadays, everything is mobile. Everything. From the iPad that takes your order from your local coffee shop, to the digital menu housing entrees at a forward-thinking restaurant. Whether we are ready or not, mobile will seep its way into our day-to-day and UNTETHER.talks aims to explain this phenomena and enable us to understand and embrace it, rather than be confused and avoid the topic.

UNTETHER.talks hits Toronto on June 26th and 27th at Glenn Gould Studio.

Now, here’s the advantage of being a Notable reader: Use the coupon code ‘Notable’ (case sensitive) and save 25% off the full price. 

Click here to register for tickets.

Toronto’s Yorkdale Set to Welcome Microsoft Store

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

This past week was a big one for Microsoft. During their conference last week they announced (and revealed) their forthcoming OS iteration, Windows Phone 8, which is said to be a huge milestone for them – both handset and performance-wise.

But that’s not all the news coming from the Redmond, VA-based tech giant.

Microsoft has announced that they, too, following the footsteps of Apple and Samsung, will be opening their first retail store in Canada. Even better? Building permits have popped up online confirming Yorkdale Shopping center as the home for the store.

An official launch date and an exact mall location are both masked in secrecy and, as expected, representatives for both companies are declining to comment.  One can assume, however, that Microsoft would intend on having the store open for Q4 coinciding with both the holiday season and of course the launch of their forthcoming Windows Phone 8 and long-awaited “Surface” tablet.

So, what are my thoughts on Microsoft making the jump to retail?

To be blunt: mixed emotions.

It would be great for competition, considering Apple owns the one-stop-OEM-shop in Canada. But, it could also mean inevitable doom for the big box shops like Future Shop and Best Buy. Currently, if a consumer is on the market for a new gadget, non-Apple, they generally hit one of the aforementioned stores for advice. Then you have the buyers (like me) who are swayed from doing this solely based on the knowledge of overbearing commission-based sales guys who are eagerly awaiting my credit card (to be fair, Best Buy is not commission-based, only Future Shop is).

Having focused stores like Microsoft and Samsung (this summer) open up alongside the already-popular Apple and Sony could prove to be a breath of fresh air. Knowing beforehand that you will receive completely educated, non-forceful help could be the catalyst in driving both relationships and sales, especially in the cut-throat industry that is the current state of mobile right now.

At the end of the day, these brands all bring their loyal following of die-hards, so anything they offer will prove to be successful. This, mixed with the highly anticipated launches coming at the end of the year, and Q4 is going to prove to be both busy and very expensive!

Is the Prepaid Market in Canada Doomed?

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

This past week was a big one for telecom in Canada. Not based on actual announcements, but more because of the annual Canadian Telecom Summit that took place here in Toronto. More specifically, the charismatic, powerful keynote from WIND CEO Anthony (Tony) Lacavera; the man just knows how to keep a crowd engaged.

Among the many topics (spectrum) that were discussed during his keynote, he touched on something that has been an interesting point of discussion: prepaid vs. postpaid cellular plans and the struggle WIND has had with their previous prepaid strategy. Tony made no qualms about his feelings, going on the record with a very bold statement in regards to the current prepaid market in Canada:

“The prepaid market in Canada is doomed.”

A bold but fair statement.

Remember when WIND launched their service late 2009? They came out swinging with unlimited plans, offering customers no choice but to purchase a device outright. At the time it worked, as customers were disgruntled with the big 3 and needed an alternative. Looking back at this strategy, Lacavera stated, “In 2011 we determined that our original business plan of Metro PCS-style prepaid was doomed and have since shifted virtually all of our customer acquisition efforts to contract-free handset financing driven post-paid. We have all but abandoned any aggressive customer acquisition in the prepaid market.”

Interestingly enough, since shifting their focus from prepaid to postpaid, WIND has experienced a 7.7% national market share of postpaid in their current coverage footprint in Q1, 2012, up 116% from the previous year. Even more interesting is that Mr. Lacavera gave a bit of insight into their ARPU (Average Revenue Per User), stating, “WIND post-paid ARPU has now passed $34, while prepaid lags at $23.”

The only thing that Canadian consumers are lacking (other than a prepaid iPhone) now is an affordable roaming option, prepaid and postpaid wise. This is another topic WIND has touched on, and since launched. WIND now offers a flat-rate European add-on, which offers customers the ability to make calls from anywhere in Europe to Canada or the US for $0.20/minute (no long distance fees) and data will cost $1/MB. Texts messages are still $0.15 each.

In regards to my iPhone statement in the last paragraph, I touched on this topic not long ago on my personal blog. Canada won’t see a prepaid iPhone for a number of reasons, the largest being the population: we don’t have a fraction of the users the US does. The other, until Apple launches an AWS iPhone (compatible with WIND or Mobilicity), it just doesn’t make sense price-wise.

What are your thoughts on the prepaid market in Canada? Should it be phased out? Restructured? Weigh your thoughts below.

TELUS Not Planning to Turn Off Aging iDEN Network

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

If you’re reading this post, chances are you should have some recollection of what the title refers to.

Remember back in the day, around the same time PCS was making its way into the cellular market, the craze was push-to-talk communication? You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing one protrude from the hip of a belt. Those fat, Motorola “i” series phones, that had a never-ending battery, didn’t drop calls, and could take more than just your average beating – yup, incase you’re wondering, they’re still around to this day, giving the old “beep beep” notification on a construction site near you.

Well, as our phones have evolved, so has the network that powers them. iDEN, the network that the aforementioned phones run on,  operates on much narrower frequencies than current HSPA and LTE networks. It was initially developed to connect devices quickly using compressed audio, which worked seamlessly for the push-to-talk functionality and TELUS has kept this network (marketed as the Mike Network) running for an ever-fading number of business users.

News this week came from TELUS’ iDEN partner in the United States Sprint – whom they have a roaming agreement with – that they (Sprint) would be shutting down their 2G iDEN network on or around June 30, 2013, thus discontinuing their push-to-talk network.

So what does this mean for existing TELUS users rocking the old push-to-talk bad boys?

Jim Senko, Vice-President of Small and Medium Business Marketing at TELUS sent the following letter over to our friends over a MobileSyrup:

“Today’s Sprint announcement is as expected and we have received a 12 month notice to this effect from Sprint-Nextel. The Sprint iDEN turndown has no impact on the vast majority of our Mike base, and we are confident that our U.S. and international roaming capabilities on HSPA/LTE offer a great alternative for clients for whom roaming is an important business need.

TELUS currently has no plans to turn down our own iDEN network, but will evolve from the Sprint-Nextel iDEN partnership to launch a Push to Talk solution on LTE well before any shutdown of Mike.  TELUS is focused on developing LTE as a high speed data network with built-in Quality of Service and low latency perfectly suited for Push to Talk over IP, rather than launching interim solutions currently available on HSPA.”

In all likelihood, TELUS will follow Bell’s lead and implement push-to-talk over their much stronger LTE network as it expands. Nothing as of yet is confirmed, but this lends some reassurance to many a union worker to rely on the service for their day-to-day needs.

Are you still using an iDEN phone? If so, what’s the reason why you haven’t switched yet? Leave your comments below.

RIM Scraps Idea of Licensing Out BBM to iOS and Android

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

For as long as I can remember –  and as long as BBM has been popular –  there has always been the lingering question if the famed proprietary, secure, and most of all fast, BlackBerry messaging system would ever see the UI of a different OS eco-system. Many have argued that it would be the worst thing RIM could ever do, causing over-saturation or, worse, would pull people away from using the BlackBerry OS entirely; while others ‘think’ completing the port could very well be RIM’s saving grace. Regardless, a clear answer was never given, not even at recently passed BlackBerry world in Orlando.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins would only go on record saying, “Licensing of ANY part of the BlackBerry OS would only happen once RIM has proven that BB10 is actually as special as they say”.

BBM currently has over 55 million users and a recent report in the WSJ suggests that RIM was potentially seeking to license the messaging service to other manufacturers and carriers under the codename “SMS2.0”. The reasoning for this was to not only generate revenue for the fledgling tech giant, but also to take on the other players in the cross-platform instant messaging game like Whatsapp, Kik, Hookt, etc.

As mentioned previously in this post, the rumors of a port have been flying around for years, some creative minds going as far as creating unconfirmed mock-ups showing the notorious BBM icon as a widget on an un-identified Android device.

Sadly, this post is confirming only what many don’t want to officially accept: BBM will likely not be ported over to Android or iOS.

Word has it, from a source familiar with the topic, that during the transition from Mike and Jim as co-CEOs to Thorsten Heins, one of Mr. Heins’ first orders of business was to completely shut down any and all talks of a BBM-licensing agreement. It wasn’t even up for discussion. Thorsten did not, however, shut down talks of licensing out other parts of the BlackBerry 10 OS, the make-or-break OS update scheduled to launch later this year.

At the end of the day, I really don’t think BBM is as important (to consumers) as it used to be. With the release of Apple’s iMessage, and the plethora of other usable free apps, I feel as though users are slowly willing to accept taking the plunge and leaving BlackBerry/BBM for more stable, user-friendly, app-centric pastures. I for one can attest that my BBM contact list as dropped significantly in the recent months. I’ve gone from several hundred active contacts, to 150 sporadic users.

What do you think? Are you a recent iMessage-convert? Miss BBM? Leave a comment weighing your thoughts.

Info sourced from The Wall Street Journal

Rogers and CIBC Bring NFC Enabled Payments to Smartphones

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

Not long ago, the future of mobile payments was chip-based; it was a secure, intuitive way to pay, without worrying that someone could copy your information from the magnetic stripe. It was a great, secure and, most of all, understandable way to pay – consumers loved it, banks loved it, boom. There is one little tidbit that is not being mentioned, though: the implementation.

It has taken Canada almost 10 years to fully integrate chip-based payments (debit/credit card) into retail environments (some outlets to this day still swipe). Technology implementation on a large scale takes years to properly develop and implement.  So while NFC, in all its wireless glory, is a great concept, I doubt it will be fully market-ready for Canada by Q4.

Then again, I have been wrong before.

This brings us into the topic of this week’s post: Rogers and CIBC’s joint announcement of NFC-enabled payments coming to retail kiosks in Canada using NFC-capable BlackBerrys.

CIBC Senior Executive Vice-President David Williamson was quoted saying:

“Over 5% of Canadians have engaged in some form of smartphone-based mobile banking, and the bank was the first to launch a mobile app, a mobile trading app and, most recently, an iPad app. Rogers is touting over 250,000 NFC-capable devices on the market and is expecting to power up to 750,000 by the end of the year.”

The idea is very straightforward. The user launches a special CIBC app on their NFC-capable BlackBerry smartphone, and thus enables their device to make low-cost payments with connected MasterCard or Visa cards. As for the security? It comes from a secure Rogers SIM card that will start arriving in new phones in the coming months or, for existing users, by swapping out their existing SIM cards for the “secure” version.

Ok, so you’re sold. But, the next question remains: “Will my device work?” Supported in-market devices include the BlackBerry Bold 9900, 9790 and Curve 9360.  Android and iOS are “in the works,” but no timelines were given.

From one perspective, I totally respect and appreciate what CIBC is trying to do here, bringing Canadians the future of mobile payments ahead of the crowd. On the other hand, however, I worry about the speed of adoption based on both the costs associated in implementing and in-market devices – not everyone has NFC-enabled devices and may not be willing to shell out for a new device based on this one new feature alone.  I guess only time will really tell, as six months is an eternity in the world of technology.

What are your thoughts on NFC-based payments? Excited? Nervous? Weigh in below.

[info sourced from MobileSyrup]

Last Week in Mobile: Instagram Launches for Android

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(Originally published on notable.ca)

Corey Herscu is the Director of Online Strategy and Alliances at Toronto startup ContactMonkey, a service that makes it easy to share your contact information online. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Toronto-based mobile blog TheCellularGuru. Corey is a seasoned salesman with an abundance of tech experience who is passionate about networking, community-building, and Web 2.0 technologies. Find Corey online via TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and ContactMonkey.

A year and a half ago, a phenomena happened: iPhone users were given the ability to add filters to their pictures. Not only did this create a new wave of creativity, but it also ushered in a wave of new camera apps for iPhones that allow on-the-fly edits, filtering, and what-not.

Instagram is very easy to use and brings out the photographic artist in all of us, so it came as no surprise that within two months of launch they had gone viral, boasting a staggering one million users. Within six months (June 2011) they surpassed the five million user mark, and by September hit a staggering ten million. Stating Instagram went viral would be an understatement. Numbers like such are not often attained by any notable app, let alone one that is iOS only.

Award after award, accolade after accolade, Instagram quickly became one of the most popular apps in the App Store. This solidified their stature and allowed them to announce on February 2, 2011, that Instagram had raised $7 million in Series A funding from a variety of investors.

As their popularity grew over the course of the last year, so did the Android community. Yes, there are many Android photo-sharing filter apps, but none were Instagram. This made Android users’ restless, and so the questioning began: “When will Instagram finally be converted to Android?” Burbn, Inc (creators of Instagram) remained hush.

Then March 25th, 2012 came around. Out of nowhere a pre-registration page for the Android iteration of Instagram went live. Despite a lack of concrete information surrounding a firm release date, it was enough to make the Android community happy as 430,000+ users eagerly dropped off their email addresses.

You see, normally one would think months would go by without any more word on this long-awaited app – maintain a keep a “make ‘em wait” mentality, keep ‘em excited and wanting more. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Just over a week later, during the morning of April 3rd, 2012, to be exact, Instagram for Android went live in the Google Play store. Needless to say, madness ensued. Within 24-hours of launch, Burbn announced that Instagram for Android had surpassed 1-million downloads and was still going strong. This was both staggering and unheard of. Never had an Android app of any kind seen such viral growth.

We’re now the first weekend in since launch and the app has already received 3 updates, all geared towards stability. Many have claimed stability issues, something I have not experienced personally on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus; I do however see a difference in image quality between the aforementioned and my iPhone 4S.

Are you an Android user? Have you signed up for Instagram? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.