Category Archives: Criticize

China’s Fast-Growing WeChat Shakes Up Weibo. Could It Jump to the U.S.?

Move over, Weibo. Here comes WeChat. Weibo, China’s microblogging platform that’s a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, was the hot place to be as recently as last year. Now, marketers are clamoring to engage with WeChat and the 300 million users it’s amassed in just two years.

“Everyone is using WeChat, so marketers are wondering how can they use it in their communications,” said Sophia Ong, the executive at WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, who helps marketers navigate the internet giant’s myriad platforms. “They know it’s very influential, everyone is using and sharing it. And slowly some brands are coming out with official WeChat accounts.”

China’s newest digital darling is a mashup of several existing applications, with a few fun features like “Shake Shake” and “Drift Bottle.” WeChat users trade text, audio and video messages with friends over mobile-data networks. There’s a popular group-messaging function and newly unveiled live-chat capabilities. Photos can be posted on an Instagram-like “Moments” page, while “Look Around” identifies other WeChat users nearby. There’s also a QR-code reader.

“We love to use all the social connections because different people want to connect with us in different ways,” said Ben Wilson, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser in China, talking about Durex’s online-communication strategy. “On WeChat, you can be a little more personal.”

One big reason for WeChat’s stellar growth is that contact lists are linked to Tencent’s QQ instant-messaging platform, which has more than 700 million active accounts. But users can also make friends through Drift Bottle — picking (and sending) notes at random from mobile cyberspace. Shake Shake connects users who happen to be shaking their smartphones at the same time. It’s a quick way to swap contact details. Pete Blackshaw, global head of digital at Nestle, recently tweeted about having a major WeChat “shake-fest with friends and colleagues.”

Should Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype and others be worried? Considering that WeChat’s stellar growth has come in large part from QQ, maybe not. But Mark Natkin, a technology analyst in Beijing, says the West can learn a thing or two from WeChat.

“They can be a little more aggressive in adding more social features more quickly,” he said. “In the earlier stages, any user you mentioned WeChat to would say, “Oh, Shake Shake! I can go out and meet people I don’t know.’ It was something interesting and unusual. And that got a lot of buzz going, getting people to try it.”

Out of all the Chinese digital products, WeChat is perhaps the best positioned for global expansion. Launched in January 2011 as Weixin (“way-sheen”), it was rebranded in April 2012 with the globally palatable moniker WeChat. It’s offered in languages from English to Turkish to Arabic. Tencent says WeChat is Apple’s No. 1 social-networking app in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, but also in Saudi Arabia. It’s being promoted in Indonesia, India, Argentina and Australia.

Blog TechNode quoted WeChat Product Director Zeng Ming as saying that Europe and the States is its next challenge.

Tencent has been picky about who’s allowed to do WeChat marketing. “Every time we talk to clients, we say you have to commit to doing social CRM,” Ms. Ong said.

China state media’s Twitter account excites Sina Weibo users

China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency has recently been teased on China’s largest microblogging platform for its Twitter account being discovered by users.

Xinhua’s official Twitter account was discovered by Sina Weibo users on Dec. 5 and soon attracted a lot of attentions.

With 3,000 posts and over 6,000 followers, the account @XHNews describes it “a multimedia group,” and “delivers the most authoritative China news as well as fast and objective global news.”

It has been established on Feb. 9 this year and started posting reports from Xinhua English news website since March.

Many Weibo users teased it by asking “why don’t allow us to open the website of Twitter” or “I am wondering how Xinhua ‘climbs over’ the ‘Great Fire Wall’.”

China has long blocked websites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube through the “Great Fire Wall,” for the fear of free information circulated online which the government thinks would threaten social stability.

@XHNews has been not interactive with others, as it only retweets ten posts by other accounts including Media tycoon Keith Rupert Murdoch, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

@XHNews has once followed over 400 accounts, however, Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported, it has gradually unfollowed them since October. Now it has follow no accounts.

Actually during the party congress last month, Xinhua’s English news site promoted @XHNews with an article “Xinhua tweets changes in China.”

The article argues that “China’s attitudes and moves attract global eyes.”

“@XHNews reminded @BarackObama and @MittRomney of the fact that both presidential candidates distorted for earning favor from voters in the October 22 debate,” it says.

How to set a default view for Google Calendar

Google offers lots of useful, and free, Web tools that you can use from anywhere — with Internet access being required at only some points to save data to the cloud. The best part about these services is that you can customize many of them to your preferences, like Google Calendar.

Suppose you don’t want to load your calendar to the monthly view every time you open it. What if you want to only look at the next two to three days at a time, and not the whole week? If you find yourself resetting your calendar view every time you log in, you can save yourself a little time by adjusting a quick setting to make your preference stick. Here’s how.

Before you leave the page, make sure you click Save or your changes will be lost.

What other adjustments have you made to Google Calendar to make it perform to your liking? Also, you might be interested in seeing how to add a birthday calendar to Google Calendar or, alternatively, learning how to import Facebook birthdays to Google Calendar.

Microsoft’s best Windows 8 apps

Microsoft’s Windows 8 apps are a decidedly mixed bag so far. But one group of apps shows how the new environment can shine with the right software.

I haven’t been too impressed with many of the apps Microsoft has created for Windows 8. Some, such as Music and Video, are designed mostly to get you to buy stuff from the company, offering only minimal support for playing your own songs and videos.

Others apps, such as Mail, People, and Messaging, aren’t bad but still seem half-baked and in need of further refinements. Mail, for example, still doesn’t support POP3 accounts. The People app throws all of your social-network contacts onto one single screen with no way to organize or separate them.

But there’s one group of Windows 8 apps that Microsoft got just right. This group includes News, Weather, Sports, Finance, and Travel. Nicely designed, easy to use, and chock full of details, these apps show off Windows 8 at its best. Their purpose is to deliver the news and other updates, much of the info based on your own location and interests. And the apps do that quite well.

Drawing on information from Bing and other sources, all five apps work more or less the same way. Clicking on the Start screen tile displays the latest stories with nice visuals. The News app shows current news stories, the Weather app brings you the weather in your area, and the Finance app tells you what’s going in with the stock market and economy.

From the opening screen, you can scroll to the right to view more information and visuals. For example, the News app breaks down additional news stories by category, while the Sports app reveals the scores and schedules for current season games.

Clicking on any headline, image, or other item displays the full story. So clicking on the scores to last night’s Yankee game brings up a page where you can catch up on all the action. You can search for specific items in each app, such as the weather in Los Angeles or the latest stock price for Apple. Or you can simply wander around each app, discovering all that it offers but never feeling lost.

The apps also make good use of the app bar.

Right-click on any screen in any of the five apps, and icons appear on the bottom and top, giving you access to more features and locations. The app bar in the Travel app points you to pages where you can book a flight or reserve a hotel room. The Sport app’s app bar displays links to different categories of sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. Each app bar also includes a Home button so you can quickly jump back to your starting point.

You can customize the information in each app based on your preferences. The Finance app lets you choose which stocks you want to follow and then add them to a special watch-list. The Weather app pinpoints your location to serve up the local weather, but you can also add other cities to watch.

Taking full advantage of Windows 8, each app can be set up as a live tile, displaying the latest headlines right on the Start screen. Some apps also let you create separate live tiles. Through the Weather app, you can create a live tile for each city you want to monitor. Through the Sports app, you can create a live tile to display the latest scores for your favorite team. And through the Finance app, you can create a live tile of your watch-list, displaying the latest prices of all the stock you follow.

Beyond their usefulness, the apps are visually appealing, relying heavily on photographs. The Travel app displays amazing pictures and panoramas of cities around the world.

These apps all tap into the theme of conveying information. So it’s natural for them to share a common look and feel.

But if Microsoft could apply the design savvy from these five programs to other Windows 8 software, users would face an easier time working with the mixed bag of new apps.

Android 4.1.1 rolls out to Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S 4G via Sprint

Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S 4G owners on Sprint’s network are now getting a bite of Jelly Bean.

As of yesterday, Android 4.1.1, aka Jelly Bean, has been available for Nexus users through an over-the-air update. Owners of the Samsung phone can follow the steps on Sprint’s Galaxy Nexus update page to download and install the latest version if they don’t already have it.\

The Nexus S 4G is also getting the Jelly Bean treatment over Sprint’s network. Like the update for the Galaxy Nexus, this one is available over the air. Users will receive a message asking whether to install the update now or later. Choosing to install it later will trigger reminders once or twice each day until it’s installed.

Hey, Nokia: Time to give your phones real names

Twice now, Nokia has announced new generations of visually interesting, standout “Lumia” Windows Phone smartphones, and then twice dampened the spark by referring to them as numbers rather than names.

I am speaking, of course, about the Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820 revealed today. Now, I know that not all of you will agree with me, but hear me out, and if you still disagree, then we shall have to agree to disagree.

Why isn’t Nokia falling back on numbers to match the phone’s name to the personality of each phone’s design? Surely a device as bold and singular as the Lumia 920, and the Lumias 900 and 800 before it, deserves an identity grander than a series of meaningless numbers.
After all, don’t the numbers confuse customers who already have their heads filled with specs?

Once the average person has gotten past 1,280×720-pixel resolutions, 4.7-inch screens, and 8-megapixel cameras, they then have to distinguish the Lumia 920 from the 820 from the 900 or 710.

Even worse, there’s only a loose relationship among the different numbered devices. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S II and Galaxy S3, which denotes a change in generation, the Lumias 710 and 900 came out after the 800; the 820 has more in common with the Lumia 920 than it does with the Lumia 800. Where’s the logic in that?

Yes, it’s true that “Lumia” is itself a name (and one that got Nokia in a bit of trouble at first).

However, “Lumia” is meant to usefully distinguish the phonemaker’s Windows Phone line from its Asha family of Symbian smartphones, the same way that Samsung is now stamping “Ativ” on its Windows phones and “Galaxy” on its Android set.

And it could be worse. After all, Nokia could have easily called its first Lumia, the Lumia 800, the “Nokia L800” instead.

I’ll also concede that Nokia use of numbers probably reduces its legal headache compared to brainstorming individual phone names like the Lumia Bolt or PureView Vision, and then staking a lasting claim. Manufacturers can’t just use any name they’d like; they have to work around other manufacturers’ rights to certain names.