reDesign

August 5, 2012

eBay Now offers same-day delivery from local retailers

Filed under: mobile — Rakesh Agrawal @ 7:48 pm

[Note: I will be adding screenshots. Check back in about an hour.]

eBay is trying to revolutionize local commerce. eBay’s new product, eBay Now, allows consumers to have same-day delivery of products found at local retailers. It weaves together eBay’s acquisition of Milo.com and its launch of PayPal Here in a way that makes ordering a hard drive much easier than ordering a pizza. And it arrives just as fast.

I received an invitation to an early beta of eBay Now currently under way in San Francisco. The beta includes “all eBay shoppers who have SF addresses on file and opted to receive emails,” said Lina Shustarovich, an eBay spokeswoman.

I ordered a hard drive and had it within an hour. Although services like TaskRabbit and Postmates offer variations of local delivery services, eBay Now seems focused on chain retailers. With Postmates, I can order from any business. What makes eBay Now particularly interesting (and a stronger competitor to Amazon) is that it incorporates real-time inventory data from eBay’s Milo.com acquisition. eBay has partnered with marquee local names like Nordstrom, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s and Bloomingdales.

The experience starts off with some use cases; that’s especially important in launching a new concept.

You can search by product or see items at one of the featured retailers. I placed an order for a Toshiba portable hard drive. (I figured out that my hard drive was coming from Best Buy based on the map.) This could either be an omission or it could indicate an intention for eBay to use local retailers as warehouses and own the customer relationship. If there’s substantial demand, eBay could then figure out which products it should warehouse itself and which to source from local retailers. It would make logistical and economic sense to warehouse products like iPhone batteries, condoms and beer and to use local retailers for long-tail items.

“I wouldn’t say we’re trying to use stores as warehouses,” Shustarovich said. “As you know, on ebay.com/local, RedLaser, and Milo, we send people from the Web/mobile phones and into stores to buy. eBay Now is our way of making local shopping more convenient and easier than ever before. It gives shoppers choice and another option for local.”

Placing the order was almost too easy; there was substantially less friction than most mobile apps. Within a minute or so, John had accepted my order. I could see the location of John’s car as he drove to Best Buy. The app kept me updated on the fact that he had picked up my order and was on his way. The estimated delivery time moved up and down as he made his trip.

The final leg of the delivery was longer than necessary because John didn’t have my apartment number, despite it being stored in my account. When he arrived, I paid with the PayPal Here app on his iPhone.

I didn’t receive a receipt from Best Buy; my only receipt is from eBay Now. Again, this provides for some interesting speculation on where eBay may be trying to take this.

John said he’s been working with eBay Now for about a week and has made four deliveries. He found out about eBay Now through a friend who encouraged him to apply. He had also been trained to ask me some questions about my eBay Now experience, including how I found out about it (by email) and whether I’d use it again (probably).

In this case, Best Buy’s price turned out to be the same as what Amazon is charging, $54.99. Coincidentally, while I was waiting for my hard drive, I received a shipping notice for an Amazon order I placed last Tuesday. That’s due to arrive tomorrow.

Although not incorporated in the current product, I can imagine that small businesses who use PayPal Here would have their inventory loaded into the same database. That would give small businesses a big reason to choose PayPal Here over Square.

For the beta, eBay is waiving the $5 delivery charge for the first 3 orders and also taking an additional $15 off the first order.

There were a few hiccups along the way, which is to be expected of a product this early:

  • The app didn’t have my apartment number in the correct spot. On my screen it showed up in front of the street address. According to the courier, he didn’t see it at all. Given that high density areas is where eBay Now will work best, having that fixed is critical.
  • The pricing shown in the app didn’t reflect the promotional credit, but it was correct in the final tally.
  • The first credit card I used didn’t work. There’s no reason it shouldn’t have worked.
  • The app doesn’t accept SMS. (But it is smart enough to have an auto responder to that effect.)

One other thing that is unclear: I have no idea how to return the unnecessary hard drive I just ordered. Maybe I can sell it on eBay.

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December 13, 2011

Scanning bar codes seems to be a popular holiday pastime

Filed under: local search, mobile, mobile search — Rakesh Agrawal @ 9:53 am

IDC’s 2011 shopper survey shows shockingly high usage of smart phone scanning tools to scan bar codes and QR codes.

Nearly 1/3 of those surveyed said they had scanned a bar code. A common use of this technology is to compare prices when at a retailer. That presents a significant threat to brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, who now have to compete more aggressively with online retailers. This could put a lot of pressure on high-margin items like cables, which cost $80 in store when comparable cables online are $4 or less.

Although more than half hadn’t used the scanning feature, I consider these strong numbers for the technology’s adoption.

There was also high overlap among the scanners: 61% of bar code users have also scanned a QR code; 70% of QR code users have also scanned a bar code.

via Jonathan Gaw

IDC shopper survey

June 24, 2011

Sam Altman will clean your house for $5

Filed under: mobile, mobile search — Rakesh Agrawal @ 5:57 pm
A screenshot of fake Loopt deal for Bi-Rite Creamery

A screenshot of fake Loopt deal for Bi-Rite Creamery


That’s right, the CEO of Loopt will personally clean your house for $5.

But only if 1,000 people sign up.

Only, I haven’t told him about the deal yet. He may not agree, but I’m using his name anyway. Hell, he doesn’t know I’ve put this offer out there.

Sound ridiculous? It is.

But that’s what Loopt is doing to popular San Francisco businesses. This “offer” came to me in a Loopt deal email.

In its bizarre reverse-Groupon model, they are trying to collect demand for businesses.

It would be sketchy but sort of acceptable if this were done behind the scenes. But they’re doing it out in the open using the businesses’ brand names with discounts the businesses didn’t agree to.

I wrote about the Loopt model the other day. One of the many challenges with Loopt’s u-Deals is that people would want discounts at popular places. Every time I’ve been to Bi-Rite Creamery, there’s been a long line out the door. They don’t need to discount like this.

Loopt is using the Bi-Rite name to build its mailing list. They are collecting people’s credit card numbers in conjunction with this purported deal. That is bordering on fraud. I would also consider it trademark infringement.

This has a lot of negative effects on unsuspecting businesses:

  • Having to deal with consumers who view it as a real offer. I called Bi-Rite and they said “We have nothing to do with that.” While the fine print implies that it’s not a real deal, to the casual reader it’s very confusing. Bi-Rite reported having turned away other consumers who referenced the deal.
  • Bi-Rite is a premium brand. Being associated with daily deals can dilute that.
  • Long term SEO impact. If “deals” like this manage to rank in search results, it further affects the brand and their ability to charge full price.

This is so wrong on so many levels. As readers of this blog know, I think Groupon does a lot of things that are bad for businesses. But they do get the business’s consent beforehand. The Groupon merchant agreement specifically includes a license of the business’s brand. (Section 1.6)

Update: Loopt has since removed this “offer.”

See also:

August 20, 2010

Facebook Places is at the beginning of a long road

Filed under: facebook, foursquare, geotagging, lbs, maps, mobile, twitter, wireless — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 8:39 am
Facebook Places on the iPhone

Facebook Places on the iPhone

Facebook’s much awaited Places product finally launched this week. It’s the first step toward bringing friend finding to the masses.

People have been using Facebook to do this for years; posting their location in freeform status updates that their friends can read and comment on. (e.g. “heading to Cambridge for dinner.”) By turning that freeform text into structured location data, Facebook can make that data more useful.

From an iPhone or HTML5-capable mobile device, you can check in to a place, such as a restaurant, bar, movie theater, airport. You can also leave a message with the check in. The check in is posted to your wall and may appears in friends’ news feeds. On the mobile side, you can see a list of your friends and where they’ve checked in. Clicking on a place will show you details of the place, including a map and who has checked in.

The initial release is fairly simple. In fact, it’s not that much more useful than the freeform status updates.

Facebook is entering a very crowded space with competitors such as foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, Google Latitude, Whrrl and Twitter. Many of those products are much more robust. Facebook’s key advantage is the size of its social graph: within the past 24 hours, 18 of my friends have checked in.

There are many opportunities for improvement to Facebook Places:

  • Basic UI. Check ins are sorted by time, not distance. A friend checking in 2,000 miles away 2 minutes ago is less relevant than someone checking in 2 miles away 5 minutes ago. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the city isn’t shown. Considering that many people use Facebook to keep track of friends all around the world, this is a significant issue. Foursquare has a separate bucket of “Friends in other cities.” Update: Facebook now has a separate grouping of nearby friends.
  • Map view. Often, visualizing your friends on a map is much easier than scanning a list. Foursquare already offers this.
  • Visiting friends. Out of town friends who are in town aren’t indicated. One of the big potential values of social friend finding is discovering when friends are in town. If a friend from far away is visiting, I’m more inclined to want to get together than someone who lives in town.
  • Pictures. There is no way to associate a picture with a check in. Given the difficulty in typing on mobile devices, often a picture gives a lot more information. These pictures could also be used to build a much more robust Place page.
  • Pushing location. Sending people your location via SMS is tedious. You have to address the message, type out where you are. If they don’t know where it is, they have to pull up a map or text you back for directions. With Places, it would be easy to push a notification to friends with where you are, complete with map. This could be sent as a push notification on iPhones or as an SMS with a URL for other phones.

As with most Facebook product launches, questions of privacy come up. In general, I think Facebook has done a good job with the default privacy settings on Places. You must explicitly check in; there is no background tracking.

Only your friends can see where you’ve checked in. Unfortunately, my social graph on Facebook wasn’t designed with location in mind. When I decided whether or not to accept friend requests on foursquare, I used a tighter filter than on Facebook. Now, I’ll have to go back through Facebook friends and create a list of who should have access to location. (See Post technology columnist Rob Pegoraro’s piece on how he classifies his friends.) Yes, old high school friends have been known to burgle homes based on Facebook updates. If that worries you, watch Rob’s video on how to adjust your privacy settings for Places.

The one big complaint I have with the privacy defaults is that your friends can check you into a location without your permission.

See also:

July 4, 2010

United’s mobile check in not ready for takeoff

Filed under: advertising, airlines, customer service, mobile, ui, wireless — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 8:00 am

On my last trip, I had the opportunity to try United’s mobile check-in and mobile boarding passes. The promise is paper-free check in. It sounds really great, but it’s not quite there. Partly it’s due to United’s horrible user interface, partly the newness that gate agents aren’t accustomed to it.

The user interface rarely misses an opportunity to add extra steps.

  • When online check-in opens up, United sends you an email reminding you to check in. But clicking on the link in the email takes you to the full browser version. (It should automatically redirect you to the corresponding page on the mobile site if you’re on a mobile browser.)
  • When you go to http://mobile.united.com, you have to enter your confirmation number (who remembers these?), e-ticket number (ditto), Mileage Plus number (I don’t remember it despite being a top tier flier for years) or email address (long to type). There’s no way to just cookie your email address or MP number for all future check ins.
  • You’re presented with upsells, including the ridiculously overpriced Award Accelerator. (No way to say “I never ever want this.”)
  • After you finally check in, you’d think you get a boarding pass. But now you have to enter an email address to send the boarding pass to. (Never mind that you just logged into your account with an email address; it’s not prepopulated.)
  • You’d think, “OK, now, I’ll get an email with the boarding pass.” Nope. You get an email for each segment. Neither of which contains a boarding pass, but a link to a boarding pass.
  • Instead of using one link tied to your record, there is a link for each flight. If you click on the email for the wrong flight, you can’t just flip to the other flight. You have to go back and open a different email.
  • When you finally get to the boarding pass, you see a 2D bar code read by the scanner, along with your flight and seat information in text.

After doing all of this, I went to the airport without any paper. First step: security. The TSA agent looks at my ID and phone to compare names. He then has me hold my phone over a reader. It beeps and lights up in green. Good to go. At the gate, I hold my phone over the reader. Beep. Green. Board.

At the gate for my connection in Denver, I get paged because the agent wanted me to swap seats with someone else. She asks for my boarding pass. When I say I’ve got a mobile one, she prints out a boarding pass with a new seat assignment. Being a geek, I refresh the screen and see that it shows the new seat and ditch the paper. Unfortunately it doesn’t scan and she has to board me manually.

Leaving SFO, I had to standby for an earlier flight because of weather. Although the boarding pass initially showed my standby status, somewhere along the way that disappeared. (Causing me to panic and race to the big screens in the gate area to verify that I was still on the list.) When I cleared standby, the agent called me up and issued a paper boarding pass. The link I had showed no boarding pass.

In a future ideal world, my phone would beep when I cleared the standby list, I’d click to accept and the screen would show the updated boarding pass. It would free up the mob around the gate, let me get a drink or food and get the plane out faster.

In Denver, my original mobile boarding pass was still valid. It took some fiddling to get it to scan. I thought 2-D bar codes could be held in any direction, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Note that although the boarding pass is generated dynamically, the information is static. If your flight is delayed, you won’t see that reflected. You’ll have to go back to http://mobile.united.com and enter your flight information. It also self destructs after a flight, so if you need documentation for business purposes or making sure you get your frequent flier miles, you might want to stick with paper. (In theory, it shouldn’t be needed for miles purposes, but I don’t like to rely on theory when it comes to airlines.)

More on: airlines

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June 24, 2010

Checking in with foursquare at SFO

Filed under: audio, foursquare, geotagging, lbs, local search, maps, mobile, social networking, twitter — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 12:57 pm
SFO is a hotbed of foursquare activity

SFO is a hotbed of foursquare activity. Creative Commons image by Håkan Dahlström.

With the increasing use of mobile applications such as Yelp and foursquare, it’s becoming possible to pull ideas from thin air. Users of these apps can leave tips for others to find that are linked to a specific location.

In most places there aren’t enough tips yet to make filtering an issue. San Francisco International Airport, with more than 57,000 checkins on foursquare, is an exception. It offers a glimpse of what we can expect as these services become more popular. The airport is the perfect petri dish for tips: it serves a technically savvy audience and people often find themselves there with plenty of time on their hands.

The SFO tips page contains dozens of notes including places to eat, complaints, ground transportation, wifi and power availability. Mixed in to all of this are ads, other spam and random observations. Some examples:

have a corned beef sandwich at max’s if you’re flying southwest. the best! well, really good

When you enter short term parking do it as far to the right as you can (lvl 2) & then immediately head to lvl 1. There is always parking next to gate and that is the lvl that connects to the terminal

Free wifi at the Continental lounge in Terminal 1- be warned, it’s located outside Security

Smoking hot brunette woman at gate 20. Stop by and smile at her. She is so lovely!

Bart to Millbrae gets you within 1 block of an in n out burger. Great for 3+ hour layover!

Heading to wine country? Take a moment to stop by St. Supery in the heart of Napa on Hwy 29. Mention this to get a 2 for 1 tasting.

Sorting through the volume of tips can be overwhelming. As the volume increases, we’ll need ways to filter them. Among the ways to filter:

  • Timeliness. Some of the tips, such as wifi at the Continental lounge, are evergreen. Others, like the smoking hot brunette are very timely. Tipsters should be able to flag their tips to self destruct. As I wrote earlier, being able to identify tips by timeliness would allow for new applications, such as sharing rides. (“Anyone want to split a cab to Moscone?”)
  • Social network. Among the tips were tips from people I follow on Twitter, including Danny Sullivan and Adam Lasnik. Being able to surface these would increase relevance.
  • Ads vs. not ads. Sometimes people want ads, especially if it can save them money.
  • Keyword search.

Places like airports are especially complex because they’re really collections of places, sometimes with other groupings and physical restrictions. Being able to filter tips by terminal would also be useful. But then maybe that’s best left to GateGuru.

June 16, 2010

Now we’re going Places

Filed under: geotagging, gps, lbs, local search, maps, mobile, social networking, twitter — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 1:59 pm

I’ve been writing about Twitter and location since my first post about Twitter in 2007. This week, Twitter launched Places, which allows users to add their location to a tweet.

Here’s a screenshot from 2007:

Twitter location 2007

Embedding location in a tweet the hard way in 2007

and today:

Embedding location in a tweet in 2010

In 2007, I used a third-party application from Where to include my location. Clicking on that link would take you to a map on Where’s site showing the address. (The link in the original post no longer works.)

With the launch of Twitter Places, the search is done within the Web browser (and soon in Twitter’s mobile applications). You can select where you are from a list of nearby places. Clicking on the place name brings up the map above and the option to view tweets about that place.

Although the difference between the two may seem subtle, they are significant:

  • Because the place is metadata, it doesn’t count toward the 140 character limit.
  • Place names are human readable, unlike addresses and latitude/longitude. Knowing the name of a place makes it much easier to find than just a street address, especially in dense metropolitan areas.
  • Places are unique to a specific venue. Doing a pure location-based search would return tweets from surrounding businesses or businesses that have since disappeared.
  • Integration in to the main Twitter experience means broad exposure and eventual standardization of place identifiers. That has been a longstanding challenge in the local space.

Twitter’s geo APIs have been available for several months and third parties like bing have created interesting applications like Twitter Maps. With the availability of places across the Twitter platform, we can expect to see more interesting applications including both real-time applications (ride sharing and ticket exchanges) and historical (restaurant reviews, past events).

Once Twitter allows owners to claim their Place and associate it with a Twitter account, we could see official tweets of announcements and offers incorporated into a Place’s search results.

When pictures are tagged to a Place (instead of a lat/long), we’ll have the ability to visually browse a venue in Twitter.

June 14, 2010

iPad puts on its business suit

Filed under: apple, foursquare, ipad, iphone, local search, mobile, social networking — Rakesh Agrawal @ 12:40 pm
An iPad used in place of a cash register at Sightglass Coffee. Photo courtesy Tony Conrad.

An iPad used in place of a cash register at Sightglass Coffee. Photo courtesy of Tony Conrad.

Most of the discussion around Apple’s iPad has been about what a great consumer device it is. It’s a book reader, movie player, newspaper, photo viewer, RSS reader and more.

But the iPad has a lot to offer businesses as well. Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco is using an iPad, with Square’s payment system as a point-of-sale system. A restaurant in Australia is using iPads in place of printed menus and wine lists. Patrons can drill down on items that interest them for more information. Mercedes Benz is using iPads to allow customers to start their credit application while still intoxicated by the new car smell. The Plaza hotel in NYC will soon use them for concierge services and room service ordering.

As companies like Twitter, Groupon, Living Social, foursquare and Yelp focus on the small business market, it’s easy to see the iPad becoming an essential tool for small businesses.

I cringe every time I go to a business with a Groupon and see the clerk pull out a binder and manually cross out the Groupon on the list. An iPad app would reduce the transaction time and provide the business key metrics such as how many redemptions are outstanding and how much people are spending beyond the Groupon value. It would also reduce mistakes and fraud.

Other possible applications:

  • Reputation management with live feeds from Twitter and Yelp, with the ability to quickly respond to applications.
  • Check in information from sites like foursquare to show who is visiting right now and keep track of frequent customers. An alert could appear when the mayor/duke/etc. checks in.
  • Frequency programs to replace traditional punch cards.
  • Real estate agents could use iPads to show off alternative properties and keep track of reactions from buyers.

iPads could also interact with mobile devices such as iPhones to receive payments.

Of course, all of these things can be done with a computer. But the iPad offers a number of advantages:

  • It takes less space. All of this power takes less space than a computer monitor, much less a PC.
  • It doesn’t create a barrier between you and the customer. The tablet feels more collaborative versus using a laptop.
  • Fewer maintenance headaches due to viruses and malware.
  • It shows innovation and forward thinking.

See also:

June 9, 2010

EVO vs. iPhone

Filed under: android, apple, facebook, flickr, google, iphone, mobile — Tags: — Rakesh Agrawal @ 10:21 am

I’ve been using an HTC EVO since last Friday. As an iPhone user for the last two years, this is the first Android phone that has appealed to me.  CrunchGear has a good comparison of the technical specs of the iPhone and the EVO.

The two biggest complaints others have voiced about the EVO are bulk and poor battery life. Yes, it is bulky. It’s the heaviest phone I’ve had in at least 5 years — at 6 ounces, it’s 25% heavier than the iPhone 4G. It’s width makes it more awkward to hold than an iPhone, but not uncomfortably so. But it also has a big, beautiful screen. Life is a tradeoff.

I haven’t had issues with battery life, but then I don’t talk a lot on my phone. Unlike with the iPhone, you can carry around a spare battery.

The other issue that has been mentioned regularly is the on-screen keyboard. The iPhone’s keyboard is less complicated, but the EVO let’s you accomplish more tasks (like entering numbers) without leaving the main keyboard. The one issue I’ve definitely noticed is that some keys on the left side haven’t been registering consistently. (e.g. “A” and “S”)

While others have railed against one or the other, the phones are different enough that they’re likely to appeal to different people. I’ve tried to identify those below.

For typical consumers, my recommendation would be the iPhone, provided that you’re in an area where AT&T’s network isn’t saturated. For me? I’ve got three more weeks to decide.

If you…

… have a lot of music or photos and like iTunes.

Go with the iPhone. I haven’t been able to find a decent media synchronization experience for EVO. I used my iPhone frequently for podcasts and those are easy to set up and synch with iTunes. I also synch photos from my computer to my iPhone. Again, not something I can do with the stock EVO.

… want to customize your phone experience.

Go with EVO. You can customize a lot of elements of how the phone operates. You can create themes for different uses, e.g. a work theme, play theme and travel theme. Each theme can have different applications, shortcuts and widgets. It’d be even nicer if you could change themes automatically based on time of day or location. (e.g. work theme while at the office)

… don’t want to know what a task manager is.

Go with iPhone. Ordinary users should never have to see things like com.google.android.apps.googlevoice. It’s difficult to figure out what apps are running on the EVO. That’s problematic because you could easily have an unknown app running down your battery.

… want something that looks pretty.

Go with iPhone. It’s hard to top Apple design. The EVO is bulkier and certainly looks more utilitarian than iPhone. The EVO screen also shows fingerprints a lot more than my iPhone 3G.

… give out your Google Voice number to friends, family and colleagues.

Go with EVO. The Google Voice integration is incredible. Calls you make can be routed through GV automatically. Calls are logged correctly in the phone and on the GV site. Voicemail is also seamlessly integrated. Text messages aren’t integrated into the phone’s messages app.

… want a broad selection of apps.

Go with iPhone. Yes, it’s not open and yes, Apple can arbitrarily reject apps. But iOS has many more apps written for it. While many of the major apps are on both platforms, I couldn’t find equivalents for flickr or Zipcar on Android. Google Voice is the key exception of an app that’s on Android but not iPhone.

For gamers, the iPhone advantage is even stronger. With the gyroscope on iPhone 4, gaming will only get better.

…  like flickr, Facebook and Twitter.

Go with iPhone. The Facebook and Twitter apps for iPhone are much more polished than their Android counterparts. For example, on the Facebook app, clicking on a link someone has shared sends you on an infinite loop between the shared item and the person’s wall.  (Google VP Vic Gotundra recently gave a Facebook intern an HTC Evo in hopes of getting a better experience on Android.) I couldn’t find an official flickr app for Android.

HTC includes some tools for all three networks that integrate them into the phone’s UI. For example, contact lists from all three can be integrated with the phone’s main contact list. This sounds great — and is the right direction for phones — but the software isn’t ready for prime time. I often see the same people listed 3 or 4 times. (You can manually consolidate these for each person, but that’s a lot of work.) If you set up favorite people, you’ll see when they’ve updated their social networks. Background downloading of status updates also takes a toll on battery life.

… have terrible AT&T coverage.

Go with EVO. AT&T’s networks in SF and NY are overloaded and getting data connections or making a call can be a real challenge.

I’ve had few issues with Sprint’s network. Sprint also includes roaming on Verizon’s network.

… want something that “just works” out of the box.

Go with iPhone. The stock EVO is much more customizable than a stock iPhone. With customization always comes complexity. When iPod came out, a lot of techies criticized it for being a dumbed down MP3 player. Other MP3 players of the time had FM radios! They didn’t tie you into one company! But by stripping away all those extra features, Apple created something that just worked for the most common tasks for most people.

Same is true with iPhone. Owning the entire stack gives Apple a huge advantage in creating a user experience that just works across its enormous userbase. Video calling will work the same across all iPhone 4s. Not true with Android.

With HTC’s Sense UI, Android, Sprint customizations and apps all playing a part, the EVO experience doesn’t hold together.

Although features like social networking integration will be important, what HTC has done with EVO is too confusing for most people.

… want to be able to connect your laptop, iPad or other devices.

Go with EVO. Although AT&T is now offering tethering, they’re charging an extra $20 a month and the usage still counts against your 2GB data limit. For$30 a month, Sprint offers unlimited data and a wireless hotspot that supports up to 8 devices simultaneously. If you don’t need that, you might be able to use an app like PDANet to tether your laptop without paying the $30 a month.

… talk a lot, text a lot, use a lot of data or use navigation and want to economize.

Go with EVO. Sprint’s pricing plans are generally cheaper than AT&T for heavy users. For $80, Sprint includes unlimited nights (beginning at 7pm vs. 9pm for AT&T) and weekends, unlimited calls to any mobile phone (vs. just AT&T customers), unlimited texting (an additional $20 on AT&T) and navigation (extra $10 on AT&T). Sprint also has generous corporate discounts that can knock up to 25% off the bill. Low volume users who can get by with less than 250MB of data a month are better off with AT&T.

… are a world traveler.

Go with the iPhone. With GSM, you’ll at least have the option of international coverage in most countries, even if you have to pay exorbitant roaming rates. Of course, it’s best to unlock your phone and use local carriers if you’re spending any amount of time outside the country.

… are uncertain.

Try EVO. Sprint offers the most generous return policy in the business. You have 30 days to decide whether you like it. If you don’t, you can take it back and you won’t pay anything. They won’t even charge you for the service you used. AT&T will charge you for the service, plus the activation fee, unless you return within 3 days. Sprint’s early termination fee is also lower, $200 vs. $325.

NOTE: Comparisons here are based on a stock iPhone vs. a stock EVO.

May 11, 2010

Geo-enabled Twitter comes alive on Twitter Maps

Filed under: bing, geotagging, lbs, local search, maps, mobile, social networking, twitter — Rakesh Agrawal @ 8:56 am
Bing's Twitter Maps show you what's going on

Bing's Twitter Maps show you what's going on

I’ve been playing with Bing’s Twitter Maps lately and it’s one of the better implementations of Twitter’s geo APIs that were introduced last fall. It shows tweets within the last 7 days plotted on the map. Google Maps recently introduced a similar feature, but it seems to only show items that are fed through Google Buzz (including tweets that people have configured to send to Buzz).

Some future applications of geo-enabled Tweets:

  • Events. For last-minute party goers, a real time view of what’s going on around town, complete with pictures and real-time reactions.
  • Ticket scalping. Rather than walk around for blocks talking to scalpers about what they have, glance at a list of tickets posted. The information transparency would result in a higher price to sellers and a lower price to buyers than what scalpers typically offer. (In my experience at baseball games, scalpers usually ask at least 3x what they paid.)
  • Finding a place to go. When in new cities, it’s often hard to figure out where to go — what are the lively neighborhoods at night. By looking at a map of recent tweets, you could quickly discover where people are still awake.
  • Read reviews from friends. Geo-enabled tweets filtered by those you follow would provide socially relevant recommendations.
  • Offers from local businesses. These could be persistent or distressed inventory. Slow night? Tweet an offer to draw in customers.
  • News. Twitter has long been used for user-generated breaking news. With geo-enabled tweets, breaking news could be aggregated by location in addition to hashtags. The biggest stories could be identified by an increase of tweets from a location (versus normal) and retweet frequency. News from media outlets could also be plotted.
  • Construction and accident information. Avoid bottlenecks by seeing tweets from fellow drivers, DOTs and news sites.
  • Trip sharing. Find others at the airport headed your way, cutting costs and reducing pollution.

And, of course, there’s friend finding, which is the most talked about use of geo-enabled tweets.

So far, the percentage of tweets I see with geo information is tiny (>1% of those I follow). But as more and more geotagged data is put into Twitter, the key will be applications providing the right tools to filter all of that data. At a minimum, we’ll need the ability to filter by time of tweet, people we’re following, hashtag and application (e.g. foursquare).

Unfortunately, bing’s Twitter Maps doesn’t seem to be available where real-time information would be most useful — on mobile devices.

More on: geotagging, social networkingTwitter

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