John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!

John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting — linguistically, culturally — than it seems, and it’s all good news.

Texting is not a blight on the English language, says linguist John McWhorter in a February talk, given at TED2013. Rather, texting is a “miraculous thing”: a novel linguistic mode that’s redefining the way we communicate with each other — for the better.

McWhorter points out that texting shouldn’t be categorized as written language –but as speech. This shift makes the apparent problem of grammatical errors seem misplaced and unimportant.

If we think of texting as “fingered speech,” as McWhorter puts it, it also opens our eyes to texting’s distinct linguistic rules, structures and nuances. McWhorter dives into the example of “lol,” which originally stood for “laughing out loud.” But over the past few years, “lol” has “evolved into something that is much subtler,” signifying empathy and accommodation.

As the mediums through which we communicate quickly multiply, our modes of communication are following suit.

How People Really Use Mobile

mobile usage

To marketers, the prospect of reaching shoppers through their smartphones is tantalizing. But mobile doesn’t always mean on the go. New data show that 68% of consumers’ smartphone use happens at home. And users’ most common activity is not shopping or socializing but engaging in what researchers at BBDO and AOL call “me time.”

The reasons consumers use smartphones can be broken down into seven categories: self-expression, discovery, preparation, accomplishing, shopping, socializing, and “me time.”

More on HBR.

The NHTSA reports that “in 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010.” Of those 3,331 people, 12 percent were reported to have been using cellphones, and over half of the drivers in those crashes were between 15 and 29 years old. Via.

U.S. teens’ passionate embrace of smartphones

Long Shorts by garryknight

Long Shorts by garryknight

Fully 95% of U.S. teens are online, a percentage that has been consistent since 2006. Yet, the nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically during that time — from stationary connections tied to desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day. In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population. Teens are just as likely to have a cell phone as they are to have a desktop or laptop computer. And increasingly these phones are affording teens always-on, mobile access to the internet — in some cases, serving as their primary point of access. According to the latest Pew Research on teens and technology:

  • 37% of all teens have smartphones, up from 23% in 2011…
  • 25% of those aged 12-17 access the Internet “primarily” via a cell phone or smartphone…
  • Among teens with a smartphone, however, 50% access the Internet primarily via the mobile device…
  • Girls are more likely than boys to rely on their smartphone as their primary Internet access device…
  • Older teen girls represent the leading edge of cell-mostly internet use; 34% of them say that most of their internet use happens on their cell phone…
  • 23% of teens have a tablet computer…

Pew Research: A Quarter of Teens Mostly Access the Internet Using their Cell Phones

In defense of my stupidphone

Some people find non-smartphones challenging enough and don't want to upgrade.

Some people find non-smartphones challenging enough and don’t want to upgrade.

Jessica Ravitz coming from a long tradition of technological Luddites, tells the story of how she is among a quickly shrinking slice of Americans who have yet to step foot in smartphone land.

As of July, Nielsen reported that 55.5% of mobile subscribers in America owned smartphones, a significant jump from 41% a year earlier. This pre-dated the release of the iPhone 5, which has surely swayed that percentage further.

The numbers don’t lie. People like me are losing relevance. We’re going the way of the VCR I still own but never learned how to use.

This fact alone might tell you all you need to hear. Sure, I may not be confident that I can understand your smartphone, but the truth is I don’t really want to.

I hope anyone who drops hundreds of clams for a phone already gives to the needy. But if the 2 million junkies who snatched up the iPhone 5 within 24 hours gave a mere $10 extra to hungry children on that day, or to any cause for that matter, then I’d cheer on their enthusiasm.

But first I’d like to ask those people who park themselves outside Apple stores: Will you to line up this way when it comes time to vote next month?

In defense of my stupidphone

Cell phone culture: How cultural differences affect mobile use

On the phone | Ginza, Tokyo by jamesjustin

On the phone | Ginza, Tokyo by jamesjustin

Part of an excellent series on CNN that examines how cell phones and tablets are changing the way we live.

It is a device that three quarters of the world’s inhabitants have access to, according to the World Bank, but the words to describe it and etiquette of how to use it differ starkly across cultures.

In the UK, it is called a mobile, in the U.S. cell phone, in Latin America celular, in Japan keitai (portable), in China shou-ji (hand machine), in Bangladesh muthophone (phone in the palm of your hand), in Sweden nalle (teddy bear), in Israel Pelephone (wonder phone) and in Germany a handy.

In Japan, train commuters receive a barrage of recorded announcements telling them to switch their mobiles to silent or vibrate, referred to as “manner mode”. Using a mobile in public is frowned upon in a land where collective needs are put above the individual’s.

“Japanese culture highly values social harmony and social disturbance is heavily sanctioned,” explains Satomi Sugiyama, associate professor at Franklin College Switzerland.

If someone tries to board a bus while taking a call, the driver will not let them on, adds cultural anthropologist Mizuko Ito. “In Japan your cellphone shouldn’t be a nuisance to others,” she says. “This means generally keeping it on manner mode when out of the house, and not taking calls in cafes and restaurants. If somebody’s phone rings, they will be flustered and silence it or take a very quick call,” Ito explains.

Cell phone culture: How cultural differences affect mobile use

Text Message Activated Solar-powered Cellphone Charging Stations in Uganda

Text message activated solar-powered cellphone charging station in uganda

Text message activated solar-powered cellphone charging station in uganda

People living off-grid can now pay for electricity to power their phones simply by sending a text message – the cheapest method found so far.

As the absence of proper power grid infrastructure becomes more of a problem in rural areas in the developing areas of the world – in particular africa and asia, where cellphone usage continues to grow at a steady rate – an estimated 650 million cellphone users rely on off-the-grid charging to provide information such as water point mapping, or other mobile services that help improve banking, health and farming. with typical charging costing around 500 ugandan shillings, or about 0.20 dollars – the ability to maintain a full battery for those making less than a dollar a day can sometimes be difficult, or at times impossible.

In response to the growing dilemma, london-based buffalo grid have developed a text message activated solar-powered cellphone charging station to help cut electricity costs. the technology utilizes a 60-watt photo-voltaic panel, which charges a battery that is then taken to the village on the back of a bicycle. the portable micro generator extracts power from the harvested solar energy using a technique called maximum power point tracking (MPPT) – providing on-demand mobile electricity. the system is activated when a customer sends a text message to the device. once the message is received, an LED above a socket on the battery lights up, indicating that it is ready to charge a phone.

Read more.

It’s Harder to Tune Out Cell Phone Talkers Than Regular Human Conversations

Because our brains try to fill in the gaps? When trying to concentrate on a test, students found that overhearing someone talking on the phone was more intrusive than a two-sided conversation.

About 150 college psychology students were given anagram tests. They weren’t told that the study’s purpose was to measure how distracted they became when others started talking during the test. Some of the students heard two-way conversations between people pretending to take the anagram test, while others heard one end of a cell phone conversation. After the test, researchers measured the students’ self-rated level of distraction, how much of each conversation they correctly recalled, and how well they did on the anagram test.

Read: It’s Harder to Tune Out Cell Phone Talkers Than Regular Human Conversations

5 ways to avoid excessive roaming charges

roaming fees

Back home after a vacation in Mexico, a B.C. dad is still getting over the shock that his 11-year-old son mistakenly racked up $22,000 worth of data charges on his father’s phone.

Matt Buie, a financial planner from Burnaby, has a Fido account, which is owned by Rogers. Although Buie switched his iPhone to airplane mode before the trip, as advised by Apple store representatives, his son was allowed to play with the phone after a sunburn.

“I made a mistake here — as his father — and he made a mistake. He turned off the airplane mode and was watching YouTube videos,” Buie told the CBC.

“I should have taken the SIM card out … or not let him use the phone. That’s guilt that I have to live with. I clearly should have known better.”

As spring breaks are fast approaching for schools across Canada, both parents and travellers can enjoy a shock-free vacation with some digital prudence.

$22,000 ouch! I just turn everything off when travelling but read on for some specific tips.

See related: Dad gets $22,000 data roaming ‘shock’ from Fido

31% of Kenya’s GDP is spent through mobile phones

There are more than 700 million cell phones in Africa, and 70% of the population has one. Coincidentally, 70% of the population also has no access to a bank. The runaway success of M-Pesa can be attributed to the collision of these forces, though it hasn’t been equally successful in every country in which it’s been introduced, notes Vanessa Clark at TechCrunch. For example, M-Pesa never took off in South Africa, possibly because banks there learned a lesson from what happened in Kenya and began offering similar mobile payment services before it even arrived. In South Africa, mobile payments are dominated by Fundamo, which was acquired by Visa in 2011 for $110 million and is now the basis of mobile payment systems being rolled out in India (where M-Pesa is also establishing a foothold) and Rwanda.


In the US and other rich countries, payments via cell phone are still languishing behind a tangle of standards—Near Field Communication, countless apps and various failed efforts at mobile wallets. In Africa, though, the lack of existing banking and other types of infrastructure have propelled many countries into the payments future that smartphones were supposed to enable—despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of phones in Africa remain low-end “feature phones.”

Via Quartz & Yahoo News

Police can look through a password-less phone without a warrant, says Ontario court

Ontario’s highest court has signalled that the right of police officers to look through someone’s phone depends on whether there’s a password. From the National Post:

The Court of Appeal for Ontario says it’s all right for police to have a cursory look through the phone upon arrest if it’s not password protected, but if it is, investigators should get a search warrant.

The court’s ruling comes in the case of a man who appealed his robbery conviction, arguing that police breached his charter rights by looking through his phone after his arrest.

The court says if the phone had been password protected or otherwise locked to anyone other than its owner, “it would not have been appropriate” to look through the phone without a search warrant.

Note to potential criminals in Ontario: password protect your phone.

Portable cathedrals: The Nokia N9

nokia meego
Interaction designer Dan Hill reviews the Nokia N9. I think this might be the best mobile phone or product review I have ever read. It’s something you take with you and not simply scan as you switch between tasks. I found myself agreeing particularly with the following:

The phone is an intimate device, not simply through its ubiquity and connectivity, its relationship with the body. While objects have long been cultural choices and symbolic goods, the mobile phone, being the most personal connection to the internet, is a device for generating symbolic goods, a vehicle for culture, a proxy for the owner’s identities. It is vast business and cultural phenomenon, all at once.

Overall, Meego’s design feels marginally stronger than Apple’s inconsistent designs in iOS, which is both a breath of fresh air and some achievement. Steve Jobs believed that above all his firm had “good taste”, and placed great sway in that; entire swathes of iOS exemplify this belief, with rock-solid interaction design supported by responsive performance, strong accessibility, clear metaphors and big bold buttons.
Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al–all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings–is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

Interaction designer Dan Hill reviews the Nokia N9 and asks: will it be enough to revive the declining fortunes of the Finnish giant?. Via Small Surfaces.

Galaxy Nexus is too big

galaxy nexus is too big
They are too big. Its like carrying a SUV in your pocket.
A phone should feel comfortable in your hand and be easy to carry in a pocket but Samsung (& HTC) seems to be overcompensating. These feel too big to be phones. Though very impressive when on display, I think Apple is on the right track with their higher density displays.
Photo via Galaxy Nexus vs. iPhone 4S comparison photos
You might also want to read: Galaxy Nexus with curved 4.65″ OLED screen

But the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S still lead the pixel race. Some people say they never notice the PenTile pixel structure but it is just like a stain on a carpet; once you see it, it is hard to disregard.

I don’t write or share tech reviews often, nor keep track of the seemingly weekly launches of different Android devices (I do track these topics on my twitter feed @mobilculture). I’m more interested in usage but the direction so many Android devices are taking seems to fit within my topics of Popwuping.

Mobile Tail

Mobile Tail
Designed by Sangwoo Park & Jongwon Park the Mobile Tail holds a mobile device horizontally or vertically allowing for easier viewing and usage of your device while stationary. The suction cap allows for easy removal and attachment. The the idea for the product came from the notion that mobile devices are much like pets – accompanying us wherever we go. Fun. I love it.
Mobile Tail. Available at Designboom shop.