Category Archives: Smart Phones

How to save your Instagram photos and then delete your account

In light of Instagram’s new policy to license out user’s photos for ads, without specific permission or compensation, users are canceling their Instagram accounts in droves: Oh My Tech!: How to delete your Instagram account | The Salt Lake Tribune.

Many are switching to the, which now includes an iPhone photo sharing app.

Update: Instagram co-founder wrote a blog post suggesting they messed up their new terms of service and will make unspecified changes.

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Tips for extending your smart phone’s battery life

Unfortunately, the battery life of smart phones, relative to feature phones or plain old mobile phones, is very poor. Whereas my “feature phone” had a battery that typically lasted up to two weeks, most smart phone users re-charge their phone every day, and some times several times per day!

User research on smart phones finds most people use their phone for 4 to 10 hours before they need to recharge the battery. While many users recharge the battery overnight, every night, there are many users that recharge throughout the day, at every chance they get, such as plugging in when working at their desk.

There is not a single magic bullet to fix the problem of smart phone battery life. Batteries improve each year, but only by the low single digit percentages, while power demands rise much faster in new devices. The physical size of a smart phone or tablet also limits how large a battery can be used, putting a constraint on solving the problem by just adding a bigger battery.

It would be helpful if there were a single “Battery Saver” option that would enable a configured set of features for maximum battery life. But on most phones, no such feature exists. Instead, you need to consider disabling unused features manually. But most smart phone users are not going to know which features to select (and personally, I think this needs to be mostly automatic) to achieve best battery life.

  • If your phone or software allows, disable software features that do background checks throughout the day, even while you are not actively using the phone. That is, avoid having Facebook or Twitter update constantly, or continually checking for email. Surprisingly, some studies have found that about half of the battery power is consumed during the nearly 90% of the time the phone is supposedly idle or sleeping!
  • Choose a display theme (if available) featuring a dark background. Lighting up the LCD for, say, a black text on white background, uses much more power than white text on a black or dark background. (Note – this depends on your phone and does not really apply to the newest technology screens but definitely applied to older technology, say 2013 or 2012 and older.)
  • If Wi-Fi is regularly available, say at home or your office, then use Wi-Fi instead of the cellular data link. Not only will your mobile service provider like you, but Wi-Fi reduces the power consumed for data transmission. Even though Wi-Fi uses a considerable amount of power, data transmission is typically 10 to 20 times faster than over a typical 3G link. That means the Wi-Fi transmitter is turned on for a fraction of the time compared to the 3G transmitter.
  • If you know you will not be using Wi-Fi, then disable it. For example, while driving or walking, leave Wi-Fi disabled to avoid constantly searching for available Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Location services can also use a lot of power quickly. GPS, in particular, uses a considerable amount of power. Many smart phones use a variety of methods to determine your location including knowing where a currently used Wi-Fi access point is located, or using the known location of a cellular servicer tower site, or GPS. But if you are not using location services, disabling this feature will cut power needs. However, avoid turning it off and back on frequently as it can take 30 seconds (or so) for GPS to re-acquire location data rather than just referring to a last known, good location reference.
  • Turn off Bluetooth if you are not using Bluetooth.
  • Use audio alerts instead of vibrate alerts.

There is a lot of research being done on ways to improve battery life. This work includes the development of new battery technologies, but also improvements to the radio network and communication protocols, smarter operating system features that attempt to predict when software or hardware can be set for reduced power modes, or which limit big data downloads (such as app updates) to when plugged in on charge or connected to a Wi-Fi network. There are also tricks that app developers can incorporate to reduce their app’s power needs. But for now, these are all for the future.

Future trends in Information Systems and Technology

This past Saturday I attended an IEEE Computer Society-Seattle sponsored seminar on future trends in information systems and technology. Speakers covered a very wide range of topics.  Here is a bullet point list of some key thoughts from the seminar:

  • The fastest growing market opportunities involve the mobile space.
  • Mobile means smart phones, tablets plus literally billions of devices expected in the years to come that communicate wirelessly.
  • Mobile also means cloud computing.
  • Desktop computers have become massive overkill for many businesses with 90% of the desktop resource literally unused (in terms storage, processing power and even unused in time).  These will be replaced with apps running on smart phones and tablets which are with you all the time. Few people carry a notebook computer to meetings anymore.
  • Applications are gradually moving to “simple”.  No one takes a training class to use the search website. Few people need training classes to use their smart phone app. This is what one called the “Consumerization” of business applications. Companies do not want to spend time and money on training and are looking for ways to get out of that.
  • All applications are likely to be developed in iterative fashion (e.g. agile methodology) and will scale upwards as needed to handle larger capacity (cloud computing where more services can just be added as needed, when needed)
  • Applications are becoming “game-ified”. That is, we see even a progress bar on LinkedIn, and we keep track of how many network contacts we have, or how many friends we have on social media websites. Some firms offer “rewards” for achieving goals. All of these ideas come from gaming – and they apparently work and give status recognition to customers.
  • All mobile devices must be treated as untrusted devices within corporate information systems.  Android suffers from malware made possible by Android’s open marketplace. Corporate information security folks are terrified of Android devices on their network, said one. This gives the security edge to iPhone, and either RIM’s Blackberry (shrinking market share) or Windows Mobile Phone (not yet with any market share).
  • Social media is where all the customers are today. Businesses know this and it has many future impacts. Of course, it means advertising on social media; it means engaging customers on social media. Upset customers have a disproportionate influence with social media. Twenty years ago, I heard that only 1 in 27 dissatisfied customers complained to the business; the rest just never came back, but they did tell friends of their bad experience. With social media, all bad experiences quickly multiple.
  • Facebook Stores is going to be a killer application for social media. When people check their Facebook updates constantly throughout the day, this simplifies the online shopping experience – plus sharing and peer pressure can be used to drive sales.
  • Most non-IT businesses (think retailers, manufacturers and so on) will most likely outsource their IT functions. Unless IT provides a competitive advantage (e.g. Amazon), most companies have no business trying to do their own IT and many admit to not doing it very well. Everything will be outsourced. The IT function will be run by “business professionals” and those focused on the business, rather than technology.
  • Corollary: For most businesses, IT is not providing a sustainable competitive advantage, just as having electricity does not provide a sustainable advantage when everyone has it.
  • What happens to the job market for those working in information systems or information technology?
  • One speaker suggested that anyone doing individual contributor work in a cubicle today will not have a job within ten years. All such work will migrate outwards to the lowest cost supplier, which often means offshore. This becomes simpler as IT is treated as a utility (think like electricity).  Few businesses have a Chief Electricity Officer and run their own power systems.
  • Most businesses should outsource their application development.This creates opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs to do 1 or 2 things better than everyone else and sell that capability to others.  On an individual level, individuals should also strive to do 1 or 2 things better than everyone else and work in organizations with lots of smart people. (Corollary would be that the “era of the generalist is dead” and if you are not surrounded by smart people, your career will not survive.)
  • Within business organizations, the IT person who survives will focus on business, innovating, doing data analysis, business development, management functions and outsourcing IT since IT is just a commodity like electricity.
  • Higher education is not turning out information system students with the skills that employers actually want.
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