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The Tech Report

As Blackberry Loses Ground, Will African-Americans Shift Too?

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OPINION-EDITORIAL

Even President Obama, one of the most noted public figures with a RIM device, adds Apple to his repertoire

By Corey A. Washington –

RIM’s suite of Blackberry devices were once the smartphone of choice for African-Americans. It’s no secret that these once-highly successful smartphones boasted some of the best messaging features, putting the right amount of emphasis on text, chat and email access.

But things have inevitably changed with Blackberry now dethroned as the touted smartphone of choice as Apple and Android handsets take messaging features to a new level, coupled with multimedia features galore. Apple seems to have a chokehold on the tech media world, with the iPhone taking its spot as the new media darling among smartphones since its debut in 2007. And manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung have released some of the most coveted Android handsets that rival the iPhone in features and hardware specs.

Analysis shows Research In Motion’s market share fell last year to 14 percent at the end of 2010. In 2009, the company held 21 percent of the market. At the end of the first quarter of this year, the company held steady with 14 percent.

African-Americans, however, were faithful through it all to Blackberry as the smartphone market began to evolve, but ownership has recently taken a dramatic drop. According to the Nielsen Company, African-American Blackberry owners have fallen from 38 percent in 2009 to 20 percent as of late 2010.

Much attention was paid to President Barack Obama and his Blackberry after he took office in 2009. While the President hasn’t ditched his Blackberry yet, various media sources have spotted him traveling with an iPad.

Arguably, Blackberry’s greatest appeal to African-American consumers had been the smartphone’s clean approach to messaging with enhanced options that don’t complicate its use. But how consumers communicate has quickly changed, which may have had a large impact on why Blackberry’s relevance among African-Americans is now in question.

Blackberry seemed to define the Qwerty keyboard among smartphones, with its claim to fame being its tactile keys, well-organized layout, and the infamous trackball to help navigate through the OS. But increasingly new smartphones incorporate -- if not fully utilize -- touch screens and capacitive touch buttons, which are in the minority of phones RIM produces.

RIM is still no slouch, even as it continues to grapple with showing the tech market it can change with last year's introduction of the Blackberry Torch, a hybrid of a touch screen and Qwerty keyboard, and the newly released PlayBook.

The key to RIM retaining its stronghold of African-American buyers may hinge on how well it balances the evolution of Blackberry phones with new messaging features while adopting the multimedia features attributed to pushing Apple and Android smartphones to the top.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

African-Americans Seemingly Underrepresented in Smartphone Ads

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Blacks are fastest mobile internet adopters, though not depicted in advertising

By Corey A. Washington –

The smartphone landscape has quickly evolved over the past five years, outpacing expert expectations and moving faster than many consumers and technology aficionados can keep up with. And while blacks have historically been used to slight by societal changes, recent studies show African-Americans are outpacing other ethnic groups in mobile internet access and social media. This appears to be a positive indication of where we could be headed in the information age.

But as some critics question how this emerging trend could be separating black culture farther apart in our efforts to bridge the digital divide, I wonder where are the black faces in the smartphone advertising campaigns.

The evidence of African-American buying power has been undeniable for more than a decade, but newer studies on African-American use of technological advancements make a clear case for why African-Americans should be a leading group in the smartphone marketing world.

In 2009, African-Americans spent $9.4 billion on cell phones, up 30 percent from the previous year, according to a report by Target Market News. Heavy hitters in the smartphone arena, such as the iPhone and Android handsets pose the best opportunity for growth with African-American consumers, who mostly own Blackberry devices. According to research by The Nielsen Company, 31 percent of African-American consumers owned Blackberry devices, 27% owned Android phones, and 15% owned iPhones at the end of 2010.

But if you turn on your television, visit a major cell phone carrier online or pay close attention to billboard advertisements, African-American representation is minimal. African-Americans living in urban neighborhoods may notice modest relative advertising, but most anecdotal evidence points to cell phone and smart phone advertising hanging on the lower end of the total advertising spectrum.

Last year, a Pew Research Center study showed that about six in every ten adults go online wirelessly. This includes Wi-Fi and broadband access on a laptop as well as internet, email and instant messenger use via cell phone. Nearly two-thirds of African-Americans (64 percent) were wireless internet users. English-speaking Hispanics were right behind African-Americans, with 63 percent. Throw in 87% of African-Americans and Hispanics likelihood of owning a cell phone compared with whites and the picture becomes clear.

Technological innovation is non-stop, especially with smartphone and mobile device platforms, with tablets coming into the mainstream and 3G becoming the slower data standard for smartphones. African-Americans need to remain on par with these changes and their buying power or willingness to purchase smartphones should not be taken for granted.

With smartphones accounting for half of new cell phones coming to the United States in 2012, according to a study by In-Stat, one has to wonder when will the advertisers come to African-Americans.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Today I’m going to go over a couple of really simple tips for smart phones. Smart phones, particularly the iPhone, have become increasingly widespread over the past few years. Many of the people using them however are unaware of how to avoid some of the product’s common pitfalls.

The following tips correct common smart phone related problems that new or inexperienced users might be having an issue with.

A problem I’ve heard many friends and family members complain about recently is “pocket dialing” with their phones. Pocket dialing refers to accidentally calling someone with your phone after ending a call and putting it away, and it can create situations that can be anywhere from annoying to embarrassing to serious, depending on what you say once the accidental call has been made. Imagine the last person you called hearing a conversation you really don’t want them to know about.

The way to prevent pocket dialing, or any sort of accidental phone usage, is to get into the habit of locking your phone when you aren’t using it.

When the smart phone is locked, the user is unable to put in any input until it is unlocked. This is different from turning it off; while the phone is locked the user will still be able to receive phone calls and messages as always.

Different smart phones have different ways of being locked, but finding out how to lock them shouldn’t be too difficult.

The iPhone, for instance, has a button on the phone itself that handles locking and unlocking.

Taking the extra second to hit that button to lock your phone as you stick it your pocket can save a lot of grief.

This next tip is a bit more iPhone specific, but users with different smart phones should have a comparable feature, although with a different keystroke.

When browsing the internet or performing any other task with the iPhone, a user might want to keep track of whatever information they happen to be looking at right now. For example, if you’re looking up a phone number or address, once you find it you look for a pen and paper and write it down. There is a better way.

On an iPhone, pushing and holding the “Home” and “Sleep/Wake” button (the big button on the bottom of the screen, and the smaller one on the top-right of the phone) will take a screen shot of whatever is currently being displayed on your phone. This screenshot is placed with the other photos on your phone, and is essentially the same thing as a photo. This allows you to e-mail it to a friend or coworker who might need to see the information, or just have it handy for yourself. Much more convenient than a pen and paper!

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Today I’m going to talk about a matter that is of specific importance to anyone who uses AT&T’s Internet service. Starting next month, AT&T will implement a monthly usage cap for all subscribers.

For normal DSL users the cap will be 150 GBs a month, and for U-Verse users the cap will be 250 GBs a month. If a user goes over that cap, the charge will be ten dollars for every 50 GB over their limit.

For those who don’t know, a “GB” is short for a gigabyte, which is a unit of measurement for computer data. In terms of paper, one gigabyte is a great deal of books. The problem is that non-text data can take up much more memory.

For example, using your computer to watch a two hour movie online would mean around two GBs used. When you only have 150 in a month, that might be hard to spare.

So what does this mean for you? To be honest, if you have to ask that question then it probably won’t have any immediate effects on you or your Internet bill.

The average user doesn’t come close to the 150 GB monthly cap. So if you’re the kind of person who only uses the Internet to check your email and occasionally check a news site or Facebook, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

The main people who will be affected by this are those who use the Internet heavily, and especially those who make constant use of file sharing programs like BitTorrent. But anyone who uses online streaming services like Netflix also might have something to worry about. If you make regular use of any service which makes use of frequent uploads or downloads (something like movie streaming or cloud computing), make sure that you check your bill to see if you are in danger of hitting or exceeding the cap.

A word of caution to those who have kids on the Internet, the meter for Internet usage will take into account the entire household. Just because you hardly ever go online doesn’t mean your children don’t. Check your bill when AT&T starts this policy in May and make sure that you don’t find any unexpected surprises.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Our thoughts and prayers have been with the citizens of Japan after the terrible disaster they are working to overcome.

These trying times tend to bring out the best side of humanity; when it’s important we can and will give of ourselves to help those who truely need it. Sadly, these times can also bring out the worst side of people as well.

It pains me to say it, but when you or anyone else decides to donate to the relief fund for Japan it is vital that you make sure that the website is legitimate. There are always a few scammers looking to take advantage of any bad situation, and it can be easy to trick people into donating to a website that has nothing to do with Japan. When you decide to donate online, I would highly recommend doing so through this website: www.usaid.gov/japanquake.

There you will find a clear spot to click that will redirect you to an approved list of charities. Donating to these charities will ensure that your contributions will get where you want them to go. Keep in mind that this list provided by USAID is by no means the only option you have when it comes to donating. If you have another trusted organization of choice, feel free to donate to them.

As always, most phony websites will have a few tells.

First off, look for professionalism. A website that looks shoddy, and especially a website with a good amount of spelling or grammar mistakes is very suspicious. Next, look for any page that doesn’t have https:// in the address line (as opposed to http://) for the page where you are actually putting in your payment information.

As I’ve talked about previous, the “s” in https stands for secure. Any page that doesn’t use this when you are about to submit them financial information is almost certainly not a site you want to give your financial information to anyway.

Finally, try and make sure that you are actually on the website you think you are on. If you visit a website in an atypical way (like through an email link), it’s possible you are on a look-alike scam website.

If you have any reason to doubt that you are on the real thing, leave immediately and return the website the way you normally do.

Donating online isn’t riskfree, but please don’t let that deter you from doing so, especially when the need is so great.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

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