Tag: backend as a service review

Google’s just done an Apple

7-google-new-nexus-7-240713-300x200

So yesterday Google had the breakfast meeting that it had announced a couple of weeks ago. It was heavily rumoured going into the meeting that we’d be seeing the new Nexus 7, and lo and behold, there it was for the whole world to see. Sleek, sexy and a strong upgrade to the older model 7.

New 7

The new Nexus 7 has had a modest upgrade to its processing power, now sporting the exact same Snapdragon S4 Quad core and 2 Gb of RAM set up that the Nexus 4 has; which anyone who’s used an N4 will tell you, is more than enough for today’s current app demands. The most notable upgrade however has to be the screen. Moving from a fairly “meh” 1280×800 to a stunning 1920×1200 and keeping the same 7” form factor means that you have one of the highest pixel densities of any tablet screen, including the retina displays in the iPad. The colour capability of the screen has been upgraded which has given the screen a much more vibrant look, something that was a small problem in the old Nexii which tended towards looking a little dulled and greyed out. Connectivity wise, there’s a wifi version and a 4G LTE version, although currently the 4G is only available in the US (here’s hoping it comes over here soon), and there’s also NFC to back it all up and Wireless charging to boot.

 

The basic 16Gb version will go on sale in the US on the 30th of July priced at $229 (£149).

chromecast_dongle

 

Bait and Switch

The other announcement though, took us all by surprise. The Google Chromecast dongle seems like a fairly innocuous piece of tech, but it’s been making big waves. For just $35 you buy the Chromecast, connected it to an HDMI port on your TV and then you have instant access to Netflix, Youtube and Google’s Play services (in the US they also have access to Pandora). It runs Google’s own Chrome OS and you control the dongle with your phone. Google announced that for a limited time, buyers would get 3 months free Netflix, even if they already had a subscription. So obviously they were selling like hotcakes, so fast in fact that Google had to pull the deal because people were buying the ever loving crap out of it.

The most interesting thing about these two releases is how… Apple like they are. Here’s a premium upgrade to an already great product, and a little piece of innovative tech that people want. In a year where Apple have been almost suspiciously silent, Google have clearly been watching Cupertino’s moves and then are looking to copy them. With Google Glass on its way and with rumoured upgrades to more of the Nexus line, this could be an interesting year if you’re an Android fan.

UK porn blocks to go ahead; internet’s reaction predictably furious

uk-porn-block

After much discussion, threatening and harumphing the UK’s Tory party have decided to push a bill through parliament that will require ISPs to filter all porn automatically, with citizens who want to get their share of skin having to “opt-in” to get the filter turned off.

In a speech Cameron said:

“I want to talk about the internet.The impact it is having on the innocence of our children. How online pornography is corroding childhood.”

“And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.

“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”

This line from the Simpsons comes to mind.

It’s comforting to know that in this time where our economy is only just starting to show signs of recovery after a triple-dip recession and we’re still entangled in 2 wars that our government is focusing on the important things. It’s also comforting to know just how out of touch your government is where they think something like this even has a hope in all hell of working. Anyone remember SOPA? Yeah, us neither.

But they at least managed to stop people accessing torrent sites right?

Course they did.

Overall this move just smacks of a government and moreover a general society completely out of touch with how the online world works. Blocking access to torrent sites did exactly zero to stop people downloading illegally because they’re like the Hydra, for every head you defeat, 3 more replace them. It will be the same for porn, only perhaps worse because we’re not just talking about people being denied some movies they want to watch, we’re talking about their fix of sexy time with their five digit partner (and yes we mean everyone here.

In addition, most of us grew up with the internet, sans filters, and you can bet your arse that we all went on illicit missions to find porn on our 56k modems when we were teenagers. Did it turn us into slobbering perverts, screaming through the streets raping and kidnapping uncontrollably? No, no it did not.

Essentially it comes down to this, those who want porn, including teenagers, will access it regardless of what restrictions are in place. The internet is too nebulous, its users to numerous and its nature too chaotic to pin down and control. The real issue here is that this is further pushing the idea that sex is bad, that it’s something to be ashamed of and that we should only do it if we’re wanting to make babies.

Because that attitude doesn’t cause major issues later in life…

After much discussion, threatening and harumphing the UK’s Tory party have decided to push a bill through parliament that will require ISPs to filter all porn automatically, with citizens who want to get their share of skin having to “opt-in” to get the filter turned off.

In a speech Cameron said:

“I want to talk about the internet.The impact it is having on the innocence of our children. How online pornography is corroding childhood.”

“And how, in the darkest corners of the internet, there are things going on that are a direct danger to our children, and that must be stamped out.

“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralise or scaremonger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”

This line from the Simpsons comes to mind.

It’s comforting to know that in this time where our economy is only just starting to show signs of recovery after a triple-dip recession and we’re still entangled in 2 wars that our government is focusing on the important things. It’s also comforting to know just how out of touch your government is where they think something like this even has a hope in all hell of working. Anyone remember SOPA? Yeah, us neither.

But they at least managed to stop people accessing torrent sites right?

Course they did.

Overall this move just smacks of a government and moreover a general society completely out of touch with how the online world works. Blocking access to torrent sites did exactly zero to stop people downloading illegally because they’re like the Hydra, for every head you defeat, 3 more replace them. It will be the same for porn, only perhaps worse because we’re not just talking about people being denied some movies they want to watch, we’re talking about their fix of sexy time with their five digit partner (and yes we mean everyone here.

In addition, most of us grew up with the internet, sans filters, and you can bet your arse that we all went on illicit missions to find porn on our 56k modems when we were teenagers. Did it turn us into slobbering perverts, screaming through the streets raping and kidnapping uncontrollably? No, no it did not.

Essentially it comes down to this, those who want porn, including teenagers, will access it regardless of what restrictions are in place. The internet is too nebulous, its users to numerous and its nature too chaotic to pin down and control. The real issue here is that this is further pushing the idea that sex is bad, that it’s something to be ashamed of and that we should only do it if we’re wanting to make babies.

Because that attitude doesn’t cause major issues later in life…

UPDATE 2017: The porn bill is still being finalized in the UK. Here’s some of the latest information from November 2016.

The non-Nexus S4 and HTC One Are Almost Here

htc-one-nexus-backend-as-a-service-300x162

So a short while ago at I/O, we all waited in tense anticipation of a new set of Nexus devices, and the blossoming of demand for Android Backend as a Service. With Apple announcing big things at the end of the year, could we perhaps see a Nexus device arrive early to snap up the (relatively) bored tech loving hordes? Well, turns out no. I/O came and went and we exactly squat to satisfy our Nexus lust. However, all wasn’t lost, as we did instead, get the announcement of the Galaxy SIV Google Play edition. An SIV, with all the power that that allows, without the piles of stuff that Samsung likes to pile in on top of Android. Shortly after that, HTC announced they were also doing a Google Play edition of the One.

Android fans rejoiced.

Now, it’s important to note that it isn’t a Nexus edition. Why is that? Well, aside from being Google’s own brand of phones, the Google Play editions aren’t running pure stock Android because these phones have features that won’t really work without the specialist manufacturer software. So, it’s almost stock, with a couple of little additions to keep the gears turning. That said though, both of these phones are big hitters in terms of performance and feature lists, and being able to grab them unlocked means that you can have them without ever worrying about getting tied into long and/or expensive carrier contracts.

So how much are these super phones up for sale for?

Well, the SIV is going for $649 and the One is just behind it at $599. So Nexus prices these are not, however if you’re planning on keeping the phone for a while they could very well still be the best deal in terms of long term value for money. There’s also some speculation that as these phones won’t be running the *ahem* “Manufacturer software” (read mostly bloatware), their already impressive performance will improve even more.

That remains to be seen however, as they’re not out yet but they’re set to ship starting July 9th.

Until then, well, there are always pictures.

Video To Account For A Huge Majority Of Mobile Traffic In The Future

video-mobile-ss-1920

The spread of mobile has been something quite amazing in the last few years. We went from a world where no one had an internet capable phone to one where around a quarter of the world’s population are regularly accessing the internet from their mobile devices. Already one of the biggest parts of mobile bandwidth is video. With youtube being heavily mobile optimised and more and more sites embedding videos as broadband and mobile internet connection speeds constantly climb, and our insatiable appetite for cat videos, mobile video is only set to grow.

Network equipment maker Ericsson have just published their latest report on the state of mobile and according to them, mobile video is on its way to total domination in about four years time. According to the report, mobile traffic for voice has remained about the same, but mobile data has in the space of 2 years grown four times the numbers we were seeing in Q1 2011.

The numbers for video are even more impressive, with Ericsson estimating that by 2018 video will account for over half of all mobile traffic:

Social networking and web browsing are looking to even out in their share of mobile traffic and music streaming, whilst small now, is set to grow as well.

Of course, all of this is driven by the rollout of LTE (4G) and the promise of the versions of mobile internet that will follow being even quicker. Ericsson estimate that by 2018 around 60% of the planet will be 4G capable and this will contribute to the massive amount of video being consumed. And with the rise of Vine, Snapchat, and other short video and image sharing platforms, this is a part of the industry that is about to explode; even if Vine can apparently be Rick Rolled.

All of this points to one thing, that apps in the future will benefit from including more and more video options as standard. Mobile networks are getting to the point where they are viable alternatives to broadband at home (non-fiber optic of course), and the mobile app development world would do well to keep up with these changes.

UPDATE 2017: Cisco is now expecting that by 2020, over 75% of mobile traffic will be video

Turns Out Leaving Your Facebook Profile As Public Was A Bad Idea, Who Knew?

facebook-privacy-backend-as-a-service-225x300

There’s been a lot of debate and furore about the internet privacy issue in the past month or so, and with the latest new leaks from Facebook, that’s not looking to stop any time soon. In a perhaps predictable story, using a vulnerability in the graph search there have been 2 separate cases of hackers scraping personal data from Facebook, totalling up to somewhere around 8.5 million users having some form of contact details being pilfered straight from their profile.

Now, there are a couple of sides to this story, one that’ll make you relax, and one that’ll probably make the more privacy minded amongst you pucker up uncomfortably.

On the one hand, as it would turn out, the data taken wasn’t private. All of it was swiped from profiles that had the user’s contact data already made public by the user’s choice. All that happened was that the hacker took a lot of the data in one go. So, if you don’t want that to happen, setting your Facebook profile to private and maybe not including your phone number and other contact details in your profile will go a long way to making sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you. Facebook has also jumped on the exploit and say that they’ve disabled the code that allows it to happen until they can fix it.

On the other hand though, this hack has shown something a little more insidious going on in the Facebook world. Have you ever heard of Zombie profiles? Or perhaps, a more accurate metaphor would be Frankenstein profiles. Even if you don’t have a Facebook profile, your friends who do will be, unwittingly, building one for you through casual mentions, uploading of their contact data and connecting with other social networks. Facebook absorbs all this data about you and begins to corrolate it into a stitched together, not yet alive but still there set of background data about you. So, if and when you decide to make a Facebook account, all that data is just sitting there waiting to embrace you with its cold, reanimated fingers.

This is a certain issue with Facebook now apparently. Even if you’re the most ghostly of online presences, if your friends are more non-chalant about their privacy, you’re probably going to get dragged into the light as well just through proxy. You could spend your whole life not releasing your phone number into the internet and it’d probably still end up there thanks to your douchebag friends and their lack of data control.

What can be done about it? Well, there’s always the tin-foil hat we guess.

Mobile Advertising: The Cresting Wave

Mobile-ad

When someone says the word “Advertising” what do you think of? TV ads, billboards, posters, radio ads, internet ads; all of these are the traditional fare of the advertising world. But there is another medium out there that we use all the time, Mobile. Mobile advertising is becoming big, really big. $11.5 billion is the rough estimate of what Mobile marketing is worth this year, that might not sound like too much, but that’s up by almost $3 billion from 2012. The mobile market’s extreme growth is not looking like it’s going to stop any time soon.

At least, according to a report by Gartner that projects by 2016, mobile marketing will be worth more than $24 Bn.

(UPDATE 2017: In 2016, advertising on mobile passed the $100 Billion mark.)

It’s not really that surprising when you look at the evidence; mobile data usage has doubled almost year on year since 2010 and that’s a trend that looks to continue into the foreseeable future as mobile devices penetrate more and more into the global society.

What is interesting though, is that as much as mobile advertising is worth, many businesses and industries are effectively overlooking it in favour of more traditional marketing forms. This is a major mistake.

Whereas with more traditional advertising where the mediums you’re talking to your customers through mediums that you can’t guarantee they’ll be able to see, with mobile it’s a near certainty that they will have their phone on them at all times. You essentially have a captive audience for your ads, all you need to do is target them effectively and you may just find that your revenue will start increasing.

After all, retail businesses that have created mobile apps for themselves have seen an up to 26% increase in revenue just because they were easily reachable through mobile means. 26% is nothing to sniff at in terms of revenue increase, but many businesses are not even considering mobile as an option.

This is evidenced by the vast number of non-mobile optimised websites out there, businesses are currently not considering how powerful mobile is. Google is on a crusade to help this by downrating non-mobile optimised websites in search results, and this is another reason why businesses should get with the times.

If you don’t catch up, you’re very quickly going to be left behind. Mobile is still expanding at a massive rate, and whilst it is guaranteed to slow, by the time it does the world is going to look like a very different place. Just like the .net revolution in the 90s, Mobile is set to change the way we interact with information forever.

Mobile advertising is where businesses should be aiming, and the earlier they get in there the better. Of course this applies to mobile apps as well, although we are assuming that as you’re an app developer, you’re probably aware of mobile advertising. Just remember that marketing is the key to a successful app launch.

Urban Airship Is Waving Goodbye To Its IAP And Subscription Based Services

Urban_Airship_Logo

Urban Airship, the enterprise push notification service has decided to sunset their IAP (in app purchase) and subscription based services as of the 1st of July. This means that if you track your IAPs or subscriptions through Urban Airship, you’ve got less than a month until you have to either migrate out or cancel these services in your app.

The reason, according to UA, for this is due to their messaging products taking off in such a big way that they have been unable to support these services and have now decided that it is better to sunset them rather than have an effectively unsupported product sitting there. This is sadly often the case for companies providing services, one section takes off and the rest gets left behind.

An interesting question is whether this trend is likely to continue throughout the mBaaS industry. After all it’s not unusual to see a business slowly streamline itself over time until they are providing a specialised service that they have been guided to by the market. Could this mean that this may be the start of a migration into more specific service based products for mobile app development? Urban Airship are moving into messaging, but there are plenty of other areas for mBaaS providers to supply a service.

This, on the other hand, seems to be a reverse from the major trend in tech where companies start off specialised and then slowly start absorbing other companies and services until they can provide users with a cross platform and cross service experience. UA’s decision points to them growing faster than they can actually handle at the moment, which shows us an interesting dilemma of modern business, growing too fast.

Like anything, too much growth can cause a business to become overstretched and implode rather than expanding to meet demand. Whilst they didn’t lose control and have instead only folded away a small part of their service in response, it’s worthwhile noting that this could have gone much worse for them.

Meanwhile, here at Kumulos, we’re still offering push notification services that include powerful features such as channels and segments that gives you the power to laser target your app user base.

So if you’re not using Kumulos yet, get started with a FREE trial today!

The SAY Award App and Kumulos’ Role

say-backend-as-a-service

The Scottish Album of the Year Award happened last Thursday night, and aside from being a great night (with apparently excellent cocktails according to the members of our team who went along), it also is a fantastic chance for up and coming Scottish artists to compete and establish their names. At Kumulos, we’re all about helping the little guy get themselves going, that’s pretty much the whole purpose of our Mobile Backend as a Service after all, helping developers get their apps out there.

Kumulos’ Backend is also used by our sister app development company Waracle quite regularly to develop client apps, and one of those was the app for the SAY Awards. Waracle have made the app for the awards for two years now, and Kumulos has been there to support the development process. The app itself is designed to let users listen to the various albums on the awards list, watch the music videos of the artists involved and vote for the albums they want to see in the short list.

Kumulos hosts the lists of which albums to show on the app, and when they should be shown, holds artist and album bios, tracklistings and tracks user votes. Without Kumulos all of this would have to be held on a bespoke Mobile Backend, which, as most developers know, is a pain to create and makes things like upgrading and maintenance more difficult. SAY Award is also cross platform, covering iOS, Android and Windows Phone, which, again, Kumulos made much easier for the folks over at Waracle by allowing the various app versions to reach the same information without having to fight about incompatibilities.

Why App Developers Should Be Paying Attention To The Middle East

dubai-photo

Here at Kumulos we talk a lot about trends in mobile and in particular back end as a service. The markets in the US, Europe and Asia and how they’re driving the mobile world. Emerging markets in India and China are the next wave, ready to break on us at any moment. But there’s another market in the middle of all this that’s got huge potential and numbers. Where? The Middle East of course.

You may or may not know it, but the Middle East is a hotbed for mobile right now. The United Arab Emirates has one of the highest smartphone penetration percentages in the world at 62%:

mobile back end as a service trends

If you look at the graph you’ll see that that’s a substantial amount more than the US and Europe, whilst a little better, isn’t doing much better.  There’s also some interesting numbers that show that mobile users in Egypt use their smartphones for shopping much more than those in the west. How much  more? 80% of smartphone owners say that they’ve used their phone for shopping, compared to 62% in the US and 56% in the UK. Google also have noted that mobile advertising is more effective, with 90% of users surveyed saying that they have noticed adverts and many had also clicked on them.

The demographic in the Middle East that are using smartphones are overwhelmingly young, more than 72% of smartphone users are under 34 and more than 60% are male. When surveyed over half of respondents said that they wanted a smartphone as their primary electronic device, citing the portability and flexibility of the devices as their main reasons.

It’s also reported that in many of the more affluent countries in the area, having more than one smartphone is so common that phones outnumber people; this is an especially prevalent thing in Saudi Arabia apparently.

So with all this evidence out there, why are app developers ignoring this location? Get out there and start bringing your app development skills to the table and tap into this under reported but eager market.

Looks Like Google’s Not Happy About PRISM Either

google-prism-backend-as-service

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the past couple of weeks (and thanks to Google’s new balloons you may have had internet access there), you’ll know that PRISM has been a big deal. The backlash has been almost universal and many have been horrified that such large scale surveillance has been going on. And right in the thick of all of this have been the major tech companies: Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and more have all been linked to this.

These companies between them know more about us than we probably do, and they are being constantly hammered by government agencies for data.

Apple have been making great efforts to step away from the furore by releasing data on what requests they’ve taken from the NSA, but a lot of the data is lumped together. This means that requests for data from law enforcement and such are together with requests from the intelligence agencies so the data isn’t particularly accurate. This isn’t exactly inspiring confidence in these companies and despite their best efforts, suspicion is only growing.

Google are looking to assuage this by refusing to comply with the government deal that Apple took which meant all the requests for data were together in one lump, and then putting in a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to be able to release data on requests not as a lump, but in separate categories which will let users see just how much data has been released to these NSA requests and how many people have been affected.

Google have stated that out of around 8-9k data requests only around double those numbers of users have been affected, so it’s not like one request = 1 million users data gone. There is, however, still the problem of we don’t know what “data” the data given actually encorporates. Is it email? Gchat? Our texts on Android? Search histories? The data supplied could make the difference between people being mildly uncomfortable and horrified (admit it, your search history is the one you’d be horrified about).

It will be interesting to see what comes of this petition of Google’s, but it is nice to know that Google are willing to go out of their way to prove that they are not being frivolous with our data. And considering how much of it they have, that’s probably a good thing. For now though, it’s probably better to concentrate on more important matters, like that app you should probably be developing rather than reading this.