Students hack Siri to do more using Googolplex

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 18th, 2014, 08:33
Category: Apple, Google, Hacks, iOS, iPhone, Services, Siri

Screenshot 2014-04-18 02.38.02

Do you ever feel like Siri is just not living up to its potential? Do you wish there was more that Siri could do? Well, you aren’t alone. Some students at the University of Pennsylvania felt the same way and decided to do something about it, and the result was Googolplex. The four students, Alex Sands, Ajay Patel, Ben Hsu and Gagan Gupta, entered their creation into a hackathon and won third place. So, how does this work? Keep reading and we’ll tell you.

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Death knell is coming for Google Voice

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Date: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014, 08:42
Category: Android, Apps, Google, iOS, iPhone, News, Services, Software, Telephony

GoogleHangVoiceAfter five years, it looks like Google Voice is going away…at least as an independent service and app. In 2007 Google acquired GrandCentral (started in 2005) and eventually rebranded it and launched it as Google Voice in 2009. Very little was done for the switchover, from a user standpoint, other than to incorporate the service into Google’s infrastructure. I had a GrandCentral account and it was nearly identical to how Google Voice works and looks today. According to 9to5Google, sometime in the coming months, Google plans to depreciate and eventually phase out the service with its features to be rolled into the Google Hangouts app.

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Uber introduces Surge Drop to iPhone users

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Date: Tuesday, March 4th, 2014, 08:53
Category: Announcement, Apps, Features, iOS, iPhone, Mobile, Services, Software

Uber appUber is a great service and can be vital in a big city, even if the public transportation is good. I frequently use it to shave time off my travel between clients, and occasionally when I’ve been out having a good time all night and want a quick trip home so I can get to bed and try to function the next morning. Naturally, these kinds of services get really busy on holidays and during special events, and Uber takes advantage of the high demand with “surge” pricing. That means that during those busy times, Uber will raise the rate of a ride and later drop them back down again. This can end up being a real hit to the wallet, as I found out one New Years, if you aren’t aware that the surge pricing is in effect, or if you take a car because you have no idea when the surge pricing ends. With the latest update, Uber has taken care off that with a new feature they announced on their blog called “Surge Drop“.

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If you thought Google+ was a joke, maybe the joke was on us

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Date: Monday, February 24th, 2014, 08:25
Category: Google, privacy, security, Services, Social

google_plus_04Are you an avid Google+ user? Yeah, me neither, but there are still a few people who seem to actively use it, if for no other reason than to advertise their blog posts. I think for me personally, it was just one social network too many, too late. I was already on Twitter, Facebook, Path, and occasionally Instagram and Tumblr. There was no room for Google+ and I think it dropped off most people’s radar for similar reasons. There was also that nasty business shortly after the launch of Google Buzz (now buried under a rock somewhere) where ALL your contact data on Google was automatically shared with everybody. That probably didn’t exactly encourage people to use a new, similar service.

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WhatsApp finally gets its buyout netting a cool $19 billion

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 21st, 2014, 14:26
Category: Announcement, Apps, Business, Mobile, Services, Social, Software

facebook-whatsappLast Spring, rumors were in the air that Google might be buying up the messaging app WhatsApp, the iMessage-like online texting service, but the sale never happened. Honestly, I had forgotten that the Google acquisition didn’t happen, so I was really surprised when Facebook announced it was snapping it up. Yes, that number is correct, $19 billion. Who knew they had that much lying around? Ok, it wasn’t a straight up $19 bil, it was $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in shares, and $3 billion in restricted stock for the founders and employees that’ll divest over the next 4 years. Pretty good take overall.

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Amazon has a plan to get into the mobile payments game

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Date: Friday, February 7th, 2014, 09:32
Category: Amazon, Finance, Mobile, retail, Services

amazon-logo-150x150It looks like Amazon is determined to expand out of the “virtual” retail space to get its foot in the door of brick-and-mortar stores. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, has plans to0 equip retailers with Kindle tablets with credit card readers for accepting payments, possibly in exchange for web site development and data analysis. Trying to push its way into traditional retail spaces means Amazon will be pitting itself against much larger companies that provide checkout and POS (Point Of Sale) systems to large retailers, which may require Amazon to turn to smaller businesses. Even there, they are competing with companies like Square Inc., who have a big head start in that space. Amazon does have the benefit of allowing retailers that partner with them to offer promotions or discounts through Amazon.com or its Amazon Local daily deals offers. Amazon has a steep hill to climb, but Richard Crone who is chief executive of Crone Consulting, a payments advisory firm, makes a good point;

“At the end of the day, a merchant wants to make a sale, to drive up business. And if Amazon or anyone else can help them do that, that’s tough to turn away,”

Amazon will also be in a race with Apple, who is reportedly preparing its own blitz into the mobile payments game, offering the convenience of millions of customers with iPhones with the advantages of the iBeacon system. Even Amazon knows it’s not a sure thing. The WSJ mentions that, “Amazon’s plans remain fluid and the project might be delayed, altered or canceled, they said.”.

Will subscribers of Amazon Prime still think it’s a good value at $119?

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 4th, 2014, 08:46
Category: Amazon, Business, Finance, Opinion, Services

amazon-money1Last Thursday, Amazon reported their holiday quarter earnings and things didn’t look good. Their overall revenue was up 20% at $25.59 billion but analysts expected sales to come in at  just over $26 billion. This sounds very similar to the report of Apple’s earnings, which were good, but given the thumbs down for not meeting analysts’ expectations?  Unfortunately, Amazon’s net income of $239 million missed estimates by a huge margin. During the call, Amazon cited the rising cost of fuel and transportation for the increase, as well as the high frequency of orders from Prime members. As a result, Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak suggested that it may raise the price of Amazon Prime memberships between $20 and $40 per year (currently $79), bringing the total annual cost of the service up to as much as $119.

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Acquisitions and the annoyance of abandoned apps

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 31st, 2014, 13:00
Category: App Store, Apple, Apps, Business, Developer, Google, iPhone, Opinion, Services, Software

pirate_skull_crossbones_square_sticker-r77418cb09c3345e7b8854da982e2526a_v9wf3_8byvr_512Yahoo! has just acquired Incredible Labs, which developed the Donna personal assistant app for iPhone. The latest update on the Donna blog makes it clear what the fate of the app and service will be;

“The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close shortly. Following closing, Donna will be removed from the app store and discontinued as a service.”

No date has been given, but they are likely to follow the model where users will be given a window of a few months in order migrate their data and find a new solution. I’m not personally a user of Donna, however if I was I’d be pretty upset.

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Will the next NSA satellite have an Apple logo?

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 1st, 2014, 08:24
Category: Apple, Consumer Electronics, iOS, iPhone, Legal, Mobile, Mobile Phone, News, privacy, security, Services, Software

geoeye-1-satellite-apple-460Well, perhaps that is a stretch, but Apple’s possible connection with the NSA was revealed in a report dating back to 2008. Reuters explains that the report outlined a system that the NSA was developing, called DROPOUTJEEP, which would be software implanted into an iPhone that allows infiltrators to push and pull and retrieve data from iPhones such as contact lists. The report didn’t actually specify any involvement by or with Apple, although the iPhone is referenced in the report.

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iBeacon rollout in Apple Stores

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Date: Thursday, December 12th, 2013, 08:28
Category: Apple, iOS, iPhone, Mobile, News, privacy, retail, Retail Store, Services, Software

apple-store-ibeaconLast week Apple started rolling out iBeacon, Apple’s location based technology that offers a “better user experience”. What they mean is that when you are in a store with an iPhone, they can track your location to the foot, allowing iBeacon to send you notifications with info on the product you are standing in front of, coupons, sales, or general info on the store. It has been pointed out that Apple use coupons and rarely has sales (except Black Friday), but since the iBeacon technology will be sold outside of Apple, it is sure to be used by the likes of Target and Walmart.

 

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