Watching for the Smartwatches

As an ISP offering high-speed cable, DSL, satellite, and wireless 4G internet, along of course with basic dial-up access, EarthLink knows how important Internet access is to you.

We even know how much you want to stay connected on the go, based on the success of our new 4G Wireless Internet On-the-Go service.

But do you need it on your watch?

Smartwatches - Samsung Galaxy GearSome of the biggest names in technology seem to think so, which is why there’s been so much news about smartwatches lately. This new kind of watch pairs with a smartphone to provide on-the-go connectivity along with on-the-wrist convenience.

In June, Sony announced its SmartWatch 2, which has a 1.6-inch, 220 x 176 pixel display, Android compatibility, Bluetooth 3 and NFC for connectivity, a projected 3 to 4 day battery life, but no camera, microphone or speakers. The SmartWatch 2 should ship later this month with a price tag of around $260. Cnet has a review of the SmartWatch 2 here.

Just yesterday, smartphone leader Samsung announced that its Samsung Galaxy Gear (shown above) line of watches would be available on September 25.

The Galaxy Gear will have a 1.63-inch, 320×320 pixel AMOLED display, compatibility with new Galaxy smartphones (not older Galaxys or other Android phones), Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, 1 day of expected battery life, 4G of online storage, a 1.9MP camera, 720p video recording, a speaker and two microphones. All for about $299. Engadget.com has a hands-on review with video here.

If you’re curious about either, TechCrunch.com offers a face-off of the Sony and Samsung smartwatches.

Other smartwatches in the works include the Toq from wireless chipmaker Qualcomm, which is expected in October. Cnet has a review of the Toq here.

Looking for a less expensive smartwatch? Or one that’s iPhone compatible? In both those cases, you may want to check out the Pebble, which is currently available for preorder. The $150 Pebble, which was an early Kickstarter success story, is compatible with both iPhones and Androids, has a 144×168 pixel e-paper display, Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0 connectivity, customizable watchfaces, and an expected 7-day battery life.

The most intense and persistent, yet unconfirmed, rumors have been about an upcoming Apple iWatch. TechRadar.com has all the iWatch rumors here.

Think you’ll get a smartwatch? If so, let us know what you’ll be looking for. Not interested? Share your thoughts too. We always like to hear comments from our readers.

Mobile Websites and Smartphone Statistics

Last week, we looked at some statistics that highlighted the importance of having a website for your business.

mobile website for EarthLink Internet & Web Hosting servicesToday we’ll follow up with some additional statistics: this time on the importance of also having a mobile website (you can see the mobile website for EarthLink in the screenshot on the right).

In their June 5 report, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project for the first time found that the majority of Americans now own a smartphone.

The report found that 56% of all U.S. adults (age 18 and older) are smartphone owners. The percentage of smartphone ownership for younger Americans is significantly higher:

  • 79% between 18-24  
  • 81% between 25-34
  • 69% between 35-44

Not surprisingly, smartphone ownership also skews towards higher household incomes:

  • 61% for household incomes between $50,000-$74,999
  • 78% for household incomes $75,000 and above

So, what does that have to do with having a mobile website?

Well, one of the defining characteristics of a smartphone (one of the things that makes them smart) is the ability to use the phone to access the Internet and browse the web. While a smartphone browser can show a regular website in its browser, a mobile website is much easier to access and use for most smartphone users.

And shopping online is one of the things that quite a lot of smartphone owners use their Internet access for (remember, they have the highest household incomes, so they have more to spend).

According to a September 2012 study of mobile commerce by comScore, 4 out of 5 smartphone owners use their phone to access retail content.

Smartphone searches also drive action which can be beneficial to businesses. According to research by Google, after a search from their smartphone:

  • 68% have visited a business (either online or in person)
  • 53% have made a purchase
  • 24% have recommended a brand or product to others

The numbers are not just good news for the largest, national retailers like Amazon, eBay or Wal-Mart. Local search is driving commerce to local businesses.

After accessing local business content:

  • 61% of smartphone users called a business
  • 59% have visited a business
  • 74% have made a purchase as a result of using a smartphone.

Of those who made a purchase, 76% purchased in-store rather than online, so you don’t even need to be set up for ecommerce to see some of the sales benefit of having a mobile-ready business website.

That’s a pretty compelling case for the need to have a mobile website. And the numbers are only going to grow.

So, if you’re a business that’s still offline, get online today. If you’re a business with a website, but don’t yet have a mobile website, it would be smart to get started with that as soon as you can, so you don’t miss out on this accelerating trend.

With EarthLink Web Hosting, you have plenty of choices. Choose a do-it-yourself website plan or professional web design, a standard or premium web hosting plan or ecommerce hosting. All but one of our plans includes a mobile-optimized website, in addition to other valuable web hosting and website marketing features.

Here are all the EarthLink Web Hosting and Ecommerce Hosting plans that offer a mobile website:

Already using a mobile website for your business? Let us know how it’s working for you by leaving a comment below.

New Internet Trends Report

As an Internet service provider, we’re passionate about the Internet and work hard to keep up with what’s new and stay informed about trends that are affecting the direction of the Internet. And we like to keep our Internet access customers informed, as well. So yesterday was a big day.

internet-trends-report-2013On day two of the AllThingsD D11 conference, Mary Meeker, partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, presented her latest annual report on Internet trends.

You can find the full Internet trends presentation (117 slides) on the KPCB website or watch the full video of the D11 presentation (about 24 minutes). But we’ll save you some time by giving you the highlights.

  • The Internet is still growing – fast. EarthLink has been in the Internet access business almost 20 years, so to us it often seems such a mature, established industry. But it is still growing 8%, driven by emerging markets such as China, India, Indonesia, Iran and the Philippines (see slide 4).
  • The U.S. still dominates the Internet. Of the top 10 global Internet properties (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.), eight were “Made in the USA.” Interestingly, while 80% of the sites are U.S.-owned, traffic to them is 81% international users. On the mobile side, 88% of smartphone operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) are U.S.-made (see slides 6 & 7).
  • Sharing is skyrocketing. The amount of content created and shared has grown by 9x in five years and shows no sign of slowing down (see slides 11- 23).
  • Facebook still rules…but for how long? The top social media sites were Facebook (#1 by a significant amount), YouTube, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn (see slide 27). Facebook’s users, however, were reported to have declined from 2011 to 2012.
  • U.S. smartphone users are pretty darn happy. Users report feeling “connected,” “excited,” “curious/interested,” and “productive” about social and communication activities on their smartphones (see slide 31).
  • Mobile Internet traffic is growing and growing and… In some countries (notably China), mobile Internet access has surpassed desktop/PC access. Mobile is growing for both commerce and social sharing sites (see slides 32 – 37).
  • Tablets have grown even faster than smartphones. Global shipments of tablets actually surpassed desktop PCs and notebook/laptop computers in Q4 of 2012 (see slides 44 – 50).
  • Wearable tech devices with sensors are next in line. Expect hands-free, wearable devices such as wristwatches, bracelets, glasses and more (see slides 52 – 55).
  • China: the case study. Sure, they’re growing because they’re the biggest country. But they are also innovating in some interesting ways (see slides 67 – 73).
  • Immigration fuels U.S. tech … but not enough. Sixty percent of the top 25 tech companies in the U.S. were founded by 1st or 2nd generation Americans. But immigration policy means there’s a shortage of high-skilled technology workers needed to grow the industry (see slides 84 – 90).

Let us know what Internet trend you are most excited about, or if you see other trends.

Facebook Home – the Not-Quite Facebook Phone

For months now, the Facebook rumors and speculation have been flying:

  • “Facebook is thinking about launching a phone.”
  • “Facebook is going to launch a phone.”
  • “What will the Facebook phone look like?” 
  • “Will the Facebook phone be a Google killer or an Apple killer?” 
  • “When will Facebook finally unveil its phone?” 

New Facebook Home for Android smartphonesWell, the when question has been answered. But what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled last Thursday wasn’t exactly the long-rumored and now-expected Facebook Phone. But neither was it just another Facebook mobile phone app. It’s really something in the middle. Something called Facebook Home.

Facebook Home is a kind of super-app that takes over your Android phone’s home and lock screens and fills them with live updates from your Facebook account with a feature called Cover Feed.

With Facebook Home, you’ll not only be able to see your Facebook news feed, including full-screen photos, but you’ll also be able to Like things, comment on posts, or initiate Facebook Messenger Chats. New messages, by the way, will pop up a round icon showing your friend’s face. It’s a new feature called “Chat Heads” that will allow you to chat even while using other phone features.

As Facebook describes it, Home is “the family of apps that puts your friends at the heart of your phone.” Visit the official Facebook Home page for their overview and highlights. There’s also a brief FAQ that covers the basics of using Facebook Home.

But what about some more objective opinions?

Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg wrote that he “found Facebook Home easy to use, elegantly designed and addictive,” noting that it prompted him to interact with Facebook more than ever. For big Facebook fans, he added, this could be “a big win.”

The New York Times’ David Pogue had a more mixed response, mostly noting the tradeoffs Home users will have to make (loss of easy access to other apps) and some “confusing” aspects of the user interface. In summary, he wrote “everything in Home is attractive, smooth and quick. At the same time, there’s something vaguely incoherent about the whole operation.”

On Mashable, Lance Ulanoff writes that he found the scrolling Cover Feed “undeniably compelling” and that Facebook Home may “suck you back in” if you’ve been drifting away from Facebook. He said in just 36 hours, it prompted him to spend “more time on Facebook than I  have in the past three months.” But, he reminds us that the Cover Feed is expected to get ads at some point in the near future, a feature that “may annoy some people.”

Facebook Home is scheduled to be available tomorrow, April 12, as a free download from the Google Play store on these four Android phones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • HTC One X
  • HTC One X+

Other Android phones will follow. No iPhone, however. Apple’s iOS doesn’t allow the same kind of Home screen takeover that Google’s Android OS does.

And speaking of phones, there is one new phone that’s being called, informally at leaset, the Facebook Phone. It’s the HTC First — as in the first phone to have Facebook Home preinstalled, which Facebook claims is “the best Home experience possible.”

Reviews of the HTC First and its Facebook Home integration were mixed. TechCrunch called the new phone “an impressive first try” and did a nice round-up of other HTC First and Facebook Home reviews.