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by Emma Dibdin

What a ludicrous question, I hear you cry. It would be as though I’d lost a limb! Or at least a finger! The very idea that I wouldn’t realise my beloved digital companion had left my side is a fallacy!

Or maybe that’s just what I shouted at my own screen. Just now. On my own.

Either way, PC World reports that the good folks over at YouGov have dared to ask the question, and they’ve come up with some pretty surprsing results.

Their survey of 2,000 mobile phone owners revealed that only a third would notice within 15 minutes that their phone was missing. Men are likely to notice sooner than women – 40% of men said they would notice within 15 minutes compared to 29% of women. Writer Tony Bradley makes the very good point, though, that this could be down to storage – men tend to stow their phones in a pocket where its absence is more immediately obvious, where women are more likely to keep theirs in a bag.

Other interesting figures from the study include the unsurprising fact that younger owners are more likely to feel the absence of their phone – 18% of 18-24 years olds would notice it missing within five minutes.

Bradley also points out that the survey should be taken with a grain of salt, given that the company behind the survey, SecurEnvoy, are in the business of mobile data security. Nonetheless, food for mobile thought.

How long do you think it would take you to realise your phone was missing?

Anti-cuts march: Mobile Journalism in Action

Posted: March 30, 2011 by Emma Dibdin in News, Opinion
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by Emma Dibdin

If there’s one thing better than a friend, it’s a friend with chocolate. So the old adage goes. For the purposes of this blog, though, the only thing better than a friend is a friend who provides you with handy, colourful everyday examples of mobile journalism.

Five days ago, on Saturday 26 March, around 500,000 people marched through Central London in protest against the coalition Government’s public sector cuts. You may have heard about it.

I’m not going to get into a debate about cuts, or the definition of peaceful protest, or the conduct of the police force. What I am going to do is talk briefly about my friend Sophie Monks Kaufman, who was on the march, and later sent me the following report via the noble media of MMS:

Aside from being angry, articulate and politically active, Sophie is also something of an ace reporter. And like any ace reporter, she knows her smartphone is her best friend. On one level, this is just one friend texting photos to another to illustrate an anecdote. On another, it’s a mobile journalist sharing photos with their audience in order to back up a story.

Do you have any examples of everyday mobile journalism? Let us know with a comment!

by Emma Dibdin

thanks to osde8info on flickr

Mobile forecasters anticipate that Android will continue to lead the smartphone market over the next few years, the Guardian blog reports today.

The 2016 predicted stats from business forecaster Ovum are as follows: they expect Android to take a 38% market share, with Apple second at 17.5%, Windows Phone at 17.2% and BlackBerry OS at 16.5%. Other developing OS such as MeeGo will account for the remaining 10.8%.

As the Guardian’s Stuart Dredge points out, one of the most interesting aspects of these forecasts is their assertion that the Windows Phone won’t be the flop many are predicting.

It’s also notable that Android is predicted to lead by a wide margin, with the other three OS coming in with very comparable figures.

But the second set of predicted figures, from forecaster IDC, are even more surprising. They predict that Microsoft won’t only succeed with their smartphone, but they’ll even overtake Apple by 2015. They expect Android to lead with 45.4%, with Windows second at 20.9%, and Apple trailing well behind both at 15.3%.

To an Apple devotee such as myself, this is near blasphemy. Android’s lead is hardly surprising, as they took first place last year, but the idea of Microsoft’s much-derided Windows Phone outselling the iPhone is a much harder pill to swallow. But I’m far from a tech expert, and even further from a market analyst. Of course, these are only projected figures, and a lot will depend on whether the race continues to be a four-horse one, or whether a fifth major smartphone platform emerges.

What are your predictions for the smartphone future? Drop us a comment!

Top 3 Built-In iPhone Apps for Journalists

Posted: March 29, 2011 by Emma Dibdin in Apps
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by Emma Dibdin

There’s already plenty of articles out there listing the best downloadable apps for mobile hacks, including a particularly fine Android-specific list from our very own Daniel Masoliver. But it struck me that a significant number of the apps I use most often for everyday journalist-ing are the basic spec ones that come as standard with the iPhone 4. It’s about time these old reliables got some love. So here, in no particular order, are a few of my most-used vanilla apps on the iPhone, interspersed with the odd anecdote illustrating a time when my trusty Apple buddy has swooped in to save my professional bacon.

1) Maps

Whether it’s a last-minute interview or an assignment in foreign lands, any journo will sooner or later end up in the position of needing desperately to be somewhere, and not being entirely sure how to get there. Enter the iPhone Google Maps app.

Enter a Start and End location, and the app will calculate how many miles you are from your destination and how long the journey will take by foot, car and public transport. It also draws a Sat Nav style line from one point to the next, so that even if you’re absolutely lost, all you need to do is follow the blue dot on your screen. Admittedly, you look like a bit of a knob as you walk along the street, but at least you’re a knob who knows where you’re going. I very rarely bother looking up directions to anywhere before I leave any more, because I’ve become so reliant on this little beauty. Over Christmas, I was in New Orleans for a journalistic trip and, on my last day, managed to get staggeringly lost in the narrow, time-warpy streets of the French Quarter. Had it not been for my beloved iPhone, I would have missed my flight. Thanks, Steve.

2) Voice Memos

Unless you happen to be AA Gill, a dictaphone is perhaps the number one must-have for any working journo. Even if you’re a shorthand whizz, recording interviews is essential both for accuracy and for insuring yourself against being sued. Nothing can replicate the functionality of a real dictaphone, and I would always recommend one of those over an app. But if you find yourself in a jam (or an off-the-cuff interview) you can turn your iPhone into a dictaphone using the Voice Memo app.

Once you finish a recording, the audio is saved to your iPhone’s hard drive and will sync automatically into your iTunes library next time you connect, making backing up your interviews a breeze. One time, I spilled sparkling water on my dictaphone half an hour before I was due to interview someone. No lie. It was busted, and I was screwed. Or I would have been, without this bit of iPhone functionality. Thanks, Steve.

3) Notes

Not fancy, this, but it does what it does very well. A journalist is always thinking – poring over story ideas, deciding on which contact to call, trying to come up with the perfect intro. Mental notes never last, and while in theory I love the romantic idea of carrying around a notebook to scribble down musings and ideas as they come to me, getting out an actual pen and paper when you’re laden with bags or sardined between commuters on the Tube just isn’t practical. Instead, I make my notes on Notes.

The functionality of this app really isn’t great, if we’re honest. You start a new note, you type it up using the normal virtual keyboard, you save and it’s added to your list of notes, which is organised by Last Modified. That’s about it. You can’t sync these notes with your laptop, which seems to me a pretty obvious area for improvement on the iPhone 5, and you can’t even change the colour from that vaguely nauseating post-it yellow. Still, I use it constantly, for to-do lists, for planning out articles in bullet point form, and for that it deserves the number three spot.

Do you have a fave built-in app that hasn’t been mentioned here? Do you love the Stocks? Are you mad about the Weather? Drop us a comment below.

by Emma Dibdin

Is there anything more irritating for a journalist than needing desperately to make a crucial phone call, or file that copy before end of play, and being held back by something as petty as altitude? It’s a common pitfall of the professional globetrotting lifestyle, but US company Aircell may just have found the solution.

As reported in the Independent today, the new Aircell Smartphone offers all the features of a smartphone, but is specifically designed for use onboard an aircraft. The phone’s features include:

- Android operating system

- Access to apps

- 3.8″ diagonal touch screen

- Bluetooth access

The device is designed for business travellers, which according to the Indy may means it’ll be a while before it’s available anywhere other than on a private jet.

In-flight wifi access is still something of a rarity, particularly for international flights. Most airlines currently only offer internet access via a GPS connection, which can’t cater to the high-bandwidth demands of a smartphone.

So while this is a step in the right direction, it looks as though it’ll be a while before the common man – or journalist – gets their hands on one of these airborne smarties.

by Emma Dibdin

Ever been torn between an iPhone and an Android? Ever gazed lovingly over the pillow at your smartphone of choice and wondered what your choice of technological life partner says about your character? Well, wonder no more.

May Chua over at Today has written a fabulous article which outlines exactly what your chosen smartphone says about you.

I should say at this point that I fundamentally disagree with Ms Chua’s assertion that iPhone users simply “want to be seen as part of the in crowd”. Maybe I’m in denial, but I firmly believe that my devotion to Apple is motivated by the simple fact that their products are genuinely the best on the market, rather than some sheep-like desire to be seen as one of the cool kids.

Then again, I do get that tiny thrill of smugness every time I pull out my iPhone on the tube and run my finger lovingly over its smooth, cold, steely frame, so possibly there is something in her theory. Possibly. Possibly I need to stop blogging at this hour of the night.

What do you think your  smartphone says about you?

by Emma Dibdin

An Ofcom executive has warned that unless threats to Britain’s digital infrastructure are resolved, our access in the UK to high-speed mobile internet will be delayed, the Guardian reports today.

Earlier today, Ofcom announced plans for a 2012 4G auction, their largest ever auction of mobile phone spectrum. In simple terms, what will be auctioned off are the rights to fourth generation (4G) radio spectrum, which would allow networks to offer customers connections that are around 25 times faster than their home broadband connection. The aim, Ofcom said, is to enable high-speed mobile internet access throughout the UK.

As it is, customers in the UK may have to wait until 2014 or later to enjoy this high-speed access, because the infrastructure that needs to be built is both expensive and time-consuming. But Ofcom executive Ed Richards suggested that this delay could be increased if UK mobile operator Everything Everywhere continue with their planned legal challenge to the new proposal.

Everything Everywhere, made up of a merger between Orange and T-Mobile, are challenging Ofcom on the grounds that their new strategy provides only “partial solutions” to long-standing problems.”The proposals,” said spokesman Tom Alexander, “do not significantly reduce the dominance” of Vodafone and O2 over current mobile coverage. No further details were offered.

Richards called the debate one of “huge economic importance to a lot of very powerful companies and of huge importance to the country…I hope that all [operators] recognise that the UK needs to move on with this now and accept that a judgment’s got to be made.”

Given that several countries including Germany, Russia and the US either already have 4G networks or plan to introduce them soon, it seems as though the UK has fallen far enough behind already.

If the legal battle continues, Richards said, then “there is only one loser – the British consumer.”

What do mobile journalists out there think? Are you eager for some 4G action, or content with good old 3G? Are Vodafone and O2 becoming the Rupert Murdochs of the mobile world?

by Emma Dibdin

Internet traffic on mobile devices in Japan increased hugely in the aftermath of last week’s earthquake and tsunami, digital data monitor ComScore reports.

Astonishingly, with landlines and broadband internet connections down, logging onto social networking sites via mobile internet was many people’s only means of confirming their safety to friends and family.

ComScore reported that the rise was particularly significant in comparison to internet traffic from computers, and that the surge continued for two days after the initial quake.

Japan has one of the highest rates of mobile data consumption worldwide, with 75% of mobile phone users consuming media via their phone.

Graphs from ComScore showing the spike in mobile traffic are below:

Apple launches iPad 2

Posted: March 3, 2011 by Emma Dibdin in News
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by Emma Dibdin

If there’s one thing Apple knows how to do, it’s build serious hype. The launch of the second generation iPad, much like the iPhone 4 and the new Macbook Air and the first generation iPad before it, generated a flurry of online speculation in the days leading up to the event, with bloggers and tech journalists racing to weigh in with their predictions.

The excitement factor of the keynote itself was given a boost by the unexpected appearance of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was widely predicted not to attend due to his ongoing ill health. Jobs implicitly slammed his competitors, dubbing 2011 “the year of the copycat” – companies including Motorola and Dell have recently launched tablet devices aimed to rival the first generation iPad.

Thanks to TechShowNetwork

“iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” said Jobs. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing board.”

Even after the details of the iPad 2 were unveiled, Jobs’ appearance remained the biggest surprise of the day. A redesign was predictable, a camera inevitable (it could, and should, have been included in the original iPad), and the extra apps are useful but hardly ground-breaking.

For me, the most exciting new feature is also one of the less discussed, the pretty-yet-practical Smart Cover. This is a genuinely fresh add-on, rather than something we’ve seen before in smaller form on the iPhone, and it improves the iPad’s functionality in an immediate, definable way. The magnetic cover snaps to the iPad’s screen to protect it from wear and tear, and when lifted it can be folded back to form a stand that holds the iPad upright, like an easel, or at a slight tilt like a keyboard. Simple, but brilliant.

Other new features include:

Thanks to Cesar Dominguez on flickr

- A slimmer, lighter design. The device is billed as 33 per cent thinner than the original ipad, weighing in at 1.2 pounds compared to the original 1.5. For journalists on the go, who (since the upgrade did not include the much-hoped-for USB port) will likely also need to carry a laptop with them, this is a definite plus.

- Front and rear-facing cameras, plus Face Time for video chat. The iPad screen lends itself better to face-to-face conversations than the iPhone’s, and it’s far less unwieldy to carry around mid-flow than a laptop, so it’s easy to imagine this as a handy, portable alternative for long distance interviews.

- A new dual-core A5 processor, which translates as a processor that operates twice as fast, and renders graphics several times as fast, as the first generation incarnation.

- Several new apps that previously weren’t available on the iPad, including iMovie and Garage Band.

The full list of iPad 2 features can be found here.

The iPad 2 will go on sale in the US from March 11, and in the UK from March 25. UK customers can register to be notified when pre-orders are available.

Prices will remain the same as for the iPad 1, which means £429, £499 and £599 respectively for the Wi-Fi only model, and £529, £599 and £699 for the Wi-Fi + 3G model. It’s been confirmed that Orange and T-Mobile will stock the iPad 2, while O2 won’t sell it directly but will offer data packages for the device.

Oscars 2011: James Franco tweets fans a backstage pass

Posted: February 28, 2011 by Emma Dibdin in News
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by Emma Dibdin

Of all the bloggers, critics, entertainment journalists, gossip columnists, fashion commentators and bitter fanboys who spent the best part of last night live tweeting this year’s Academy Awards, none attracted as much attention as co-host and nominee James Franco.

Franco, who’s long been steadily carving out a reputation as Hollywood’s finest multi-tasker, took things to another level by tweeting photo and video updates before, during and after the ceremony under the hash tag #OscarsRealTime.

MTV have provided an exhaustive inventory of his updates throughout the day, from bleary wakeup call through makeup and rehearsals all the way onto the stage.

In case anybody’s as curious as I was, judging by the photo above it looks as though Franco’s mobile device of choice is the iPhone 4.

But given that he and co-host Anne Hathaway recieved what can only be called a mixed reception, with Franco in particular being variously described as “disengaged”, “sleepy”, and “apparently stoned”, there may be a valuable lesson here for any aspiring mobile journalists. In short, don’t talk and tweet.

Joking aside, though, Franco has broken new ground here. Sharing candid, real-time updates from behind the scenes of Tinseltown’s most exclusive evening out is an unprecedented move, and might just herald a new era for the notoriously traditional Academy. This year’s ceremony was touted as “young, hip and edgy”, but the choices of winner were anything but – The King’s Speech winning out over The Social Network is the starkest possible example of rewarding convention over innovation. But Franco’s boundary-blurring went a long way to dragging the Oscars into the 21st century.