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Saba Naz

Saba Naz

Are you conducting market research? Qualitative research is an important first step in the market research process. In this guide, we’ll share 7 qualitative research methods for understanding your user.

Qualitative research is important for gaining a broad understanding of the underlying reasons and motivations behind consumer decisions.

We’ll share the qualitative research methods in just a moment, but before we dive in, let’s briefly discuss the basics.

What is Qualitative Market Research?

Qualitative market research is any research conducted using observation or unstructured questioning.

While quantitative research answers the what, where, when and who of decision making, qualitative research also answers the why and how.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

The goal of qualitative research is to gain insights into the deeper motives behind consumer purchases.

The goal of the quantitative research, on the other hand, is to quantify and generalize the results so that the marketer can come to a final conclusion about the best course of action.

marketing-research-an-online-perpective-17-638

Why use qualitative research as opposed to quantitative research?

Well, first of all, qualitative research should not be used instead of quantitative research. The two are complementary to each other.

Qualitative research in and of itself is not conclusive. However, it is used to…

  • Explain quantitative research results
  • Conduct market research when traditional surveys are not available (e.g. with embarrassing or “touchy” questions)
  • Conduct market research when more structured research is not possible

Qualitative research is a good first step to take when conducting your market research. Are you ready to learn how?

Great! Let’s dive into the 7 qualitative research techniques…

1. Individual Interviews

An individual interview can be conducted over the phone, Skype, or in person. The idea is to ask your ideal user (or an existing customer) a series of questions and follow-ups to learn what motivates them to buy a product like yours.

You should go into the interview with some questions prepared ahead of time, but don’t feel like you need to stick to a script. If they say something interesting, ask follow up questions that dig deeper. Really try to put yourself in their shoes, and try to figure out what makes them tick.

Here are a few initial questions you could ask:

  • What frustrates you in regard to [your topic]?
  • If I had a magic wand and could give you anything you want, what do you most desire?
  • What do you lose sleep over at night?
  • Have you bought [your type of product] before?
  • If so, what motivated you to buy it?

2. Focus Groups

Focus groups are generally conducted in-person. These groups are meant to provide a safe and comfortable environment for your users to talk about their thoughts and feelings surrounding your product.

focus-group

The advantage of using in-person focus groups is that you get to see the consumer’s verbal and non-verbal reaction to your product or advertising. The other advantage is that the different members of the group can bounce off each other’s thoughts and ideas, which means you’ll get even greater insights.

You can use focus groups to:

  • Test product usage or tasting
  • Explore the general concept of your product
  • Evaluate your advertising copy and imagery
  • Explore new packaging ideas

3. Observations or “Shop-Alongs”

An in-person observation of shopping behavior (or a “shop-along”) allows you to actually watch the consumer react to your product in-store. This way, you get to see their actual shopping behavior, as opposed to just what they would claim in a written survey.

shopper-eyetracking

One way that this is useful is by highlighting challenges that arise from shelf display issues, clutter, or out of stock issues. You may also interact with consumers to get deeper insights during the shopping process, to get feedback on a package design, for example.

4. In-Home Videos

In-home videos allow you to observe how users interact with your product in real life, at home.

The advantage of this method is that you get to observe user behavior in a natural, comfortable environment. This way, they can feel free to simply be themselves, and you’ll get a more realistic view of how your product is being used.

5. Lifestyle Immersion and Real World Dialogue

Lifestyle immersion is when you attend an event, such as a party or a family gathering. This allows you to get an uninterrupted view of your user’s attitudes and behaviors. This is another great way to get candid insight in a comfortable, familiar setting.

During these activities, observe your users having a dialogue with their friends. Listening in to real-world conversations is a really powerful way to get a deeper understanding of their desires, frustrations, and motivations.

6. Journal or Diary

Have your user (or potential user) keep a journal or a diary to document their experience with your topic or your product.

This can be handwritten or digital. Either way, it will allow you to capture your user’s actual voice, which is extremely valuable for marketing copy.

7. Online Focus Groups

Online focus groups are similar to in-person focus groups, except that they are more cost-efficient and allow you to reach more people.

Use social media to your advantage by creating communities of people who are interested in your topic, and fostering a conversation. Then, simply observe the dialogue. You’ll gain a lot of interesting insights!

How to Analyze Qualitative Data

At this point you may be wondering, how do you actually analyze qualitative data after you’ve gathered it?

Since qualitative data is unstructured, it can be tricky to draw conclusions from it, let alone present your findings. While it is not meant to be conclusive in and of itself, here are a few tips for analyzing qualitative research data

1. Summarize the Key Points

For interviews and focus groups, have the moderator write up some key points that they heard. For example: “Common concerns among participants in regard to our pizza were cheese overuse, greasiness, and bland sauce.”

pizza-hut-marketing-research-project-15-638

2. Code Responses

“Code” the unstructured data into something that can be summarized with tables or charts. For example, some coded responses to the question “When do you wear a watch?” might be 1 – never, 2 – once in a while, 3 – every day, etc.

3. Create a Word Cloud

Create a “word cloud” out of the keywords being used by the consumer. Just take your notes and put them into a word cloud generator, such as WordClouds.com. Then you’ll be able to easily spot the most prominent words.

i-have-a-dream-speech

That’s it! We shared 7 qualitative research methods that you can use to better understand your user or target customer.

Now it’s your turn. Go ahead and begin your market research by trying one of the techniques above.

 Source: This article was published on optinmonster.com By Mary Fernandez

Wednesday, 02 November 2016 17:53

12 Must-Have iPhone Apps

It's pretty amazing to think that Apple's mobile operating system is already nearly 10 years old, with the recently released iPhone 7 shipping with iOS 10. The first iPhone couldn't even run third-party apps, if you can imagine that, but since then those apps have been paramount to the phone's success. There are now roughly 2 million apps available, ranging from the excellent to the awful.

New users of Apple's smartphone looking for a list of the first dozen third-party apps they need to install have come to the right place. The iPhone comes with many very capable and useful apps pre-installed, including ever-improving Maps, Messages, Music, News, and Photos apps. Be sure to take advantage of these built-in apps, as well as of the ever-smartening Siri voice assistant, the Find iPhone, and the Find Friends utilities. But do note that we don't include those in this roundup.

The apps on this list cover the basic functions most of us perform with our phones: communication, entertainment, and finding information,

whether local or general. In addition to being among the most widely used and most useful examples of mobile software, most share another welcome attribute: All of them are free to use, though a few have optional subscription pricing for added functionality.

Of course, for each app included here, there are plenty of competitors, but those we include are the basics that everyone should at least know about and check out. For example, Jill loves fitness apps, and Michael is a photo-app aficionado, but we recognize that those genres are not everyone's cup of tea. In contrast, this list aims to hit the most important apps that are applicable to just about everybody. For a more-in-depth list of wonderful apps that may not be quite as universal, see our Top 100 iPhone Apps feature.

We also recognize that most iPhone owners want to play the occasional game, whether that's an intense car-racing title like Need for Speed or a cerebral word game like Words With Friends. But again, this list covers the basics. If you're looking for games specifically, check out our iPhone games roundup.

Below are the 12 apps we deem essential for most iPhone users. Don't agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments.

EvernoteEvernote

Evernote
Free


Without the Evernote app for iPhone, we'd be a lot less productive while we're away from our desks. This free, straightforward note-taking app outdoes the competition thanks to its strong search capabilities and effortless organization. But the real key to its success and popularity is that Evernote synchronizes all your files by saving them to a cloud service, meaning anything you create or alter on your iPhone will be there waiting for you when you log into any other version of Evernote.

FacebookFacebook

Facebook
Free

The social network of record has come out with quite a few apps, but this one remains the most essential. If you watch strangers using their iPhones, there's a good chance that Facebook is the app they're using. And there's a reason for that: No other communication app offers the richness of interaction possibilities. (Of course, one of those communication types was stripped from the main app, and that's the next on in our list.) With the Facebook app, you can not only respond to friend's posts, but also upload photos, and even broadcast live video.

FlipboardFlipboard

Flipboard
Free

Flipboard, an app initially designed for the iPad that curates content from your social networks and Web partners (think periodicals, blogs, etc.) based on your interests and turns them into stunning magazine-like digital pages, is now available on the iPhone. The app is free to download and requires a free user account. Flipboard absolutely shines on the iPad, taking advantage of swiping gestures with both visual and interactive grace, and it's still elegant on the iPhone, despite the smaller screen.

GmailGmail

Gmail
Free

Google's main email app (the company also makes Inbox by Gmail) is a wonderful communication tool, as long as you only use Google's email service. Unlike our other Editors' Choice, Outlook, it doesn't handle mail accounts from any provider. But it does make your entire email database much faster and easier to deal with than the preinstalled Mail app can. That capability alone makes it a must-have iPhone app. It could very easily become your primary app for Gmail. It's smooth and fast, as well, but note that Apple doesn't allow third-party mail apps to become the default, the one that opens when you hit a link.

Google MapsGoogle Maps

Google Maps
Free

Another one from the dominant force on the internet, Google Maps may well have the most up-to-date and detailed geographic information of any organization around. Its turn-by-turn directions by car, foot, and public transportation are hard to beat. With Google Maps, you can see estimated travel times and integration with your Google account for quick access to your home and work addresses. Offline maps, street view, and indoor maps are nifty plusses. After a shaky start, the iPhone's built-in Apple Maps now matches most of its features, however, and competitor Here Maps offers another good alternative.

InstagramInstagram

Instagram
Free

Despite—or maybe because of—its limitations, Instagram has gone on to surpass Flickr as the number-one photo sharing service on the Internet. Its social discovery aspects are addictive, it offers excellent image-manipulation tools, and it now supports video, as well as still photos. The company keeps adding more features, like direct messaging, Snapchat-like Stories, and, finally, pinch-to-zoom. In keeping with the times and trends, the app now supports Handoff to switch between your Apple Watch and your iPhone.

NetflixNetflix

Netflix
Free; $7.99 per month subscription

Netflix, like many of the other apps included here, has become a cultural phenomenon. Original, exclusive series, such as House of Cardsand Stranger Things, are viewed by many as superior to much of what's available on broadcast or cable. Add to those the host of favorite standbys in both television and cinema releases, and you've got a must-have service. Note that this is one of the few apps included here that costs money, with subscriptions starting at $7.99.

Slacker RadioSlacker Radio

Slacker Radio

Free; Optional subscriptions for ad-free and on-demand listening

Of all the music streaming apps in the Apple App Store, Slacker Radio's beats seem to pound the hardest. The same outstanding service you'll find in Slacker Radio's online version is on the iPhone and has been for a long enough time for the company to have massaged the interface and performance to the point that you can appreciate it audibly.

SnapChatSnapChat

SnapChat
Free

Sexting and security worries aside, the visual chat app Snapchat can be a lot of fun to use—and let us emphasize "fun." Snapchat should not be used as a private and secure messaging app. Rather, it's a simple app that you can use to swap funny, ephemeral visuals with your friends. Messages sent through Snapchat disappear from the receiver's phone after a short time. The sender chooses up to 10 seconds as the limit.

Snap a picture, draw or write on top of it if you like, choose the amount of time the recipient can see it, and send away. Just bear in mind that all digital media is reproducible, and that you should never send anything illicit, private, or anything meant to be secure through this entertainment app. Snapchat Stories last a bit longer—a whole day!

TwitterTwitter


Twitter

Free

For a long time, Twitter Inc., the company that owns the 140-character social network, didn't make its own app. Dozens of third parties did, however, but not all the resulting apps were worth using. So when Twitter released its official Twitter app—and it worked well and loaded quickly!—users folded the new tool into their iPhones happily. If you tweet, it's a no-brainer to have this app. If you don't tweet and have been on the fence about joining the masses, the iPhone app makes it easy and convenient to get on board.

Weather UndergroundWeather Underground

Weather Underground
Free

Sure, iOS has a Weather app, but you should forsake it because Weather Underground, our Editors' Choice for iPhone weather apps, is far better. It succeeds because it sticks to what it does best: clearly presenting lots of hyper-local information in a simple and highly customizable interface. The rich data in this excellent app will keep the most info-hungry meteorology geek satisfied.

YelpYelp

Yelp
Free

The most comprehensive business-reviewing app, Yelp turns out to be an invaluable tool for finding restaurants, stores, and services nearby, especially when you're in a town you don't know well. Yelp's mobile app has helped Jill find a hairdresser when she was in a pinch in Washington D.C. and a suitable lunch while driving through Ohio. Michael finds the restaurant ratings consistently reliable. And you can find good local spots worldwide with it, not just in the US.

Source : pcmag

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 12:59

The 50 Best Apps of the Year

Our favorite iPhone and Android apps of the year

We’re increasingly reliant on the smartphones in our pockets to keep in touch with friends, watch movies and TV shows, and get work done. But the phones themselves would be meaningless without the software that, almost like magic, imbues them with new powers even their creators never thought possible.

In that spirit, these are TIME’s 50 best iPhone and Android apps of the year. These are apps that were either released, had a notable redesign, or took off in popularity this year. The list is unranked, as the different functionality of each app makes them impossible to fairly compare. What did we miss?

Venmo

iPhone and Android, Free

android-venmo1.jpg

It’s rare that a company or an app gets “verbified” the way Google did. That’s exactly what’s happening with money-sending app Venmo, especially among cash-allergic millennials. “Just Venmo me” is an increasingly common refrain at brunch or the bar when it’s time to split the check.

Messages

iPhone, Free

messages.jpg

Why include Apple’s default messaging service in this list? Because Messages got a major overhaul in iOS 10, the company’s new iPhone software update. Messages is now a feature-rich messaging platform, complete with third-party apps, stickers, and fun graphic effects like confetti and laser beams. All the new functionality puts it leagues ahead of regular old SMS texting.

Signal

iPhone and Android, Free

signal.jpg

Which messaging app should you use when you really want to make sure your chats stay secret? Try Signal, an encrypted chat app used by politicians, businesspeople and whistleblowers worldwide. Signal offers complete end-to-end encryption, meaning the company behind the app can’t see what you’re sending and receiving. And it works with your existing contact book, so long as both parties have Signal installed.

Snapchat

iPhone and Android, Free

snapchat.jpg

Sure, Snapchat first came out in 2011, but it certainly came into its own this year — especially with the app’s “Chat 2.0” revision in March 2016. With that update, the free disappearing video messaging app laid the groundwork for all sorts of killer features, from geofilters to facial lenses. As a result, Snapchat has not only become one of the most fun apps of the year, but it’s turning into a real business, too.

Pokémon Go

iPhone and Android, Free

pokemon-go.jpg


The super-powered creatures that triggered a worldwide craze in the 90’s have finally reached the smartphone era. Immediately upon launching in July, Pokémon Go became a massive sensation among seemingly anyone who owned a smartphone. The game tasks players with physically exploring the real world to capture new Pokémon creatures, engaging in battles to claim gyms, and collecting items. It also uses your phone’s camera to make it seem like critters from the game are appearing in your actual surroundings. By cleverly using the technology in our smartphones and tapping into a wildly beloved franchise, game developer Niantic created a smash hit.

WhatsApp

whatsapp.jpg

In the seven years that WhatsApp has existed, it’s become one of the most widely used communication tools in the world. The Facebook-owned app initially gained popularity because it works on most smartphones and provides a cheaper alternative to SMS for sending messages around the globe. After conducting a survey this April that included 187 countries, research firm SimilarWeb found that WhatsApp was the messaging app of choice in 55% of the world. Earlier this year, the company announced that it surpassed the one billion user milestone, meaning one in every seven people in the world now use WhatsApp.

NPR One

iPhone and Android, Free

android-npr-one.jpg

Unless you drive often, you probably don’t have easy access to an AM/FM radio. Which means it’s hard to find public radio, a great source of news, knowledge and new music. NPR’s new NPR One app can help — it’s basically a customizable public radio station that learns what shows you like and what topics you’re interested in, building a more personal feed over time. You can also use it to listen to NPR podcasts on demand, like Planet Money and the NPR Politics Podcast.

NYT Cooking

iPhone, Free (web version for Android)

android-nyt-cooking.jpg

Need an easy weekday meal for two? What should you do with all those apples you just picked? How about a slow-cooker recipe? NYT Cooking, from The New York Times, can answer all these questions and more. It offers lots of great recipes searchable by type of meal, prep time and more, often along with beautiful photos. A big bonus: You can save recipes from around the web to this app, making it a clearing house for the meals you’d like to cook.

Spotify

iPhone, Android (Free With Ads)

android-spotify.jpg

Even with Apple, Amazon and Google all taking aim, Spotify is still king of the music streaming apps. A big redesign this year brought a more modern interface that’s still dead simple to use, and gorgeous to boot. One of our favorite features is the mood-based playlists, great when you need something for a rainy day or a morning workout.

A Good Snowman Is Hard to Build

iPhone and Android, $4.99

a-good-snowman-knows-how-to-build.jpg

A puzzle game about crafting people made of snow, rolled into being by a blobby black creature surrounded by tiny gardens of white. Players fashion snowballs from strips of snow by swiping to roll, then stacking them in threes, large-medium-small. Only each garden has constraints, from ornamental bird baths and birdhouses to rows of potted plants. Beautifully visualized and scored, A Good Snowman Is Hard to Build is one of the sweetest, smartest puzzlers to grace 2016.

Prisma

iPhone and Android, Free

prisma.jpg

Photo editing apps are generally a dime a dozen, all offering slight variations on the same basic features: Film-style filters, crop and resize tools, red eye reduction and so on. Prisma stands out from the pack by using complex algorithms to transform your images into vibrant and unique works of art. A recent update means it can now do the same for video, too. It takes some practice to know which filters will work the best with which photos, but once you nail it, the payoff is sweet.

White Noise

iPhone, Android (Free With Ads)

white-noise.jpg

Getting a newborn to sleep, or even just break out of a crying fit, is no easy feat. White Noise helps by flooding baby with soothing sounds, from “Heavy Rain Pouring” and “Ocean Waves Crashing” to “Extreme Rain Pouring” and “Stream Water Flowing.” It’s easy to switch between sounds and adjust the volume to find the mix that works best for baby. Only one downside: The app doesn’t work in the background if you exit it to work on other things. Best to download it onto one of the old disconnected iPhones sitting in a drawer and make that baby’s iPhone.

bitmoji

iPhone and Android, Free

bitmoji.jpg

Why say it with words when you can say it with stickers? Bitmoji lets you create custom emoji-like stickers complete with an avatar that looks just like you. Stickers have been around for years, but they’re really taking off this year — so much so that Snapchat acquired the company behind Bitmoji for about $100 million in March.

Google Translate

iPhone and Android, Free

google-translate.jpg

One of the coolest pieces of fictional Star Trek tech is the Universal Translator, which lets the Enterprise’s crew understand alien languages. The next best thing is Google Translate, which can take typed phrases, spoken words and even real-world text (like street signs) and transform them into other languages. This year’s big update brought more useful features, like tap-to-translate on Android and offline language packs for the iPhone version, helpful when you’re traveling abroad without a data plan

Breathe

Apple Watch, Free

breathe-app.jpg

Apple’s Breathe app, for the Apple Watch, walks users through a short set of deep breathing exercises. That might sound silly, but spending a few minutes every day to take some deep breaths can have remarkable benefits for your mental health. Our advice: Disable the daily breathe reminders, stressful in their own right, and open the app only when you need it.

Burly Men At Sea

iPhone and Android, $4.99

burly-men-at-sea.jpg

Brain&Brain’s folklorish adventure is a whimsical romp starring three bearded adventurers that speaks in plaintive accordion tunes and whispers, airy sighs and polyphonic hoots–one that marries quirky activities with starlit encounters and aquamarine serpents plucked from Norwegian myth. It’s a little bit The Old Man and the Sea, a little bit O Brother, Where Art Thou? And a reminder that every journey is a circle, filled with both farce and delight.

Amazon Alexa

iPhone and Android, Free

amazon-alexa.jpg

Amazon’s Alexa app turns your smartphone into a remote for your Echo Internet-connected speaker, handy for setup and when you’re too far from your Echo for it to pick up your requests. If you’re an Echo fan, this app is a can’t-miss companion.

Quik

iPhone and Android, Free

quik.jpg

Modern smartphones can record very high-quality video, but what to do with all that footage? Try Quik, an automatic video editing app that action camera maker GoPro acquired and rebranded this year. Quik takes a bunch of your video footage, identifies the best moments automatically, and sets the whole thing to mood-appropriate music. It’s a great way to add a professional-looking touch to your recordings before putting them on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.

Mint

iPhone and Android, Free

 mint.jpg

Mint’s an older app, but it’s still the king of budget management software. Mint connects with your various bank accounts, pulling in your spending and income and organizing it into categories that make it easy to track and stick to a budget. It’s great in those situations when you’re contemplating a big purchase and want to see if you can really afford it or not.

Gboard

iPhone, Free

gboard1.jpg

Google’s Gboard app pulls Google’s powerful search engine into text conversations, making it possible to find answers to questions or seek restaurant suggestions without leaving a chat. Google’s search bar is built right into the keyboard, which pulls up results across sites on the Web, locations in Google Maps, and more. The app launched in May, months before Apple released its dramatic overhaul of iMessage in September that added the ability to interact with outside apps within a text thread.

Day One

iPhone, $4.99

day-one.jpg

Keeping and looking back on a journal can be deeply rewarding, but it’s a tough habit to build. Instead try Day One, a journaling app that makes it easy to quickly record a few thoughts, along with a photo, every day. Unlike paper journals, Day One automatically backs up your notes to the cloud, helping preserve your reflections forever.

Crashlands

iPhone and Android, $4.99

crashlands.jpg

Old school roleplaying games dole out abstract rewards like “experience points” so you can make your superpowers a trifle more super. New school ones like Crashlands let you scoop those rewards up off the battlefield, drag them back to your base, then turn them into cool, usable objects. Killer aliens meets goofball storytelling and characters meets a weighty crafting system brimming with hundreds of recipes, Crashlands is everything predictable RPGs aren’t.

Boomerang

iPhone and Android, Free

boomerang.jpg

Boomerang takes a burst of still photos, then stitches them together in a short, looping video. The end result is somewhere between a GIF and a stop-motion movie. Tons of fun to play around with, Boomerang is Instagram’s best spinoff app.

Google Trips

iPhone and Android, Free

google-trips.jpg
With its new travel app, Google wants to be the only resource you need when planning your next getaway. Trips scans your Gmail inbox for flight and hotel information, pulling it into a one-stop-shop. It also packs itineraries for a handful of cities, including attractions, restaurants and more. These simple travel guides can be downloaded for offline use, great when you’re abroad without a data plan.

Untappd

iPhone and Android, Free

untapped.jpg

Remember how much fun Foursquare was in its glory days? Well, Untappd is basically Foursquare specifically for beer. It’s great as a sort of “beer journal:” Scanning a bottle or can’s barcode with your smartphone saves it for later, meaning you’ll always be able to remember the name of that new brew you tried last night.

Vevo

iPhone and Android, Free

vevo.jpg

If you love music videos, you probably know Vevo, which is basically the MTV of the smartphone era. Vevo dropped a big redesign this year featuring a gorgeous interface with your favorite music videos, as well as a discovery feature to help you find rising artists. The app learns your preferences over time, helping to customize your feed.

Alto Mail

iPhone and Android, Free

alto-mail.jpg

AOL’s take on gussying up your email service has been around for a few years, but the app’s 2.0 version, launched in September 2016, makes an already smart take on email even smarter. The free app’s new dashboard scrapes all the important information from your emails — shopping receipts, tracking numbers, reservation information, and more — and puts it on virtual cards, for easy gleaning. The app can be used to put a more manageable face on almost any other email service, from IMAP to Gmail, and can also pile up your digital information in “stacks” of photos, files, bills, and other categories.

Houseparty

iPhone and Android, Free

house-party.jpg

With a user-friendly way to stream video from a mobile phone to everyone in the world, Meerkat turned the Internet on its ear. But that app is so last year (to the point that it’s no longer operational) and in its place Meerkat’s developers have released Houseparty,  which is mainstreaming group video chats in almost the same way. Creating what it calls a “synchronous social network,” Houseparty basically lets people video chat with each other, up to eight people at a time. Open the free Android or iOS app, and you’re broadcasting in your own private video chat room.

Netflix’s Fast.com

Web app, Free

netflixs-fast-com1.jpg

With millions of users sucking down data at home, on mobile and over Wi-Fi, the Internet can be a very slow place. There are dozens of iOS and Android apps to measure your speeds, but they all seem to have an air of unreliability. Fast.com, a web app put out by Netflix, loads quicker than a Craigslist directory on whatever device, whichever operating system, and wherever you are. So from the boardroom, to the bathroom, to the backyard, you’ll always know if you’re down to download.

Nuzzel

iPhone and Android, Free

nuzzel.jpg

Launched at the tail end of 2015, this free Android and iOS app is a vital app for keeping pace with Twitter’s endless stream of information. Syncing up with your social networks, Nuzzel keeps track of the most tweeted links by the accounts you follow and provides a roundup of all the associated tweets. Ideal for news hounds or anyone who closely follows trends on the Twitterverse, it’s become a must-use over the past 12 months.

Reddit

iPhone and Android, Free

reddit.jpg

Unofficial Reddit apps existed before this year, but the official take makes the front page of the Internet even easier to use and browse than it is on a computer. Longtime Redditors may disagree (they’re never short on opinions), but the app’s intuitive interface is good for new users, making it easier to dive into topics and communities. The communications tab pulls messages, comments, replies and mentions into one place for quick access, and the main tab puts the web’s hottest content just taps away.

Sorcery! 4

iPhone and Android, $4.99

sorcery-4.jpg

The fourth and final installment in studio Inkle’s grand game-book series based on Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! adventures is an easy recommend for admirers of plain brilliant storytelling. No, you needn’t have played the first three, though the delights are that much brighter if you have. Want to see what a choose-your-own-adventure meets immaculate illustrations and artistry meets the opposite of tin-eared writing looks like? Start here.

Streaks

iPhone (with Apple Watch app), $3.99

streaks1.jpg

Bad habits may be hard to break, but good habits can be even harder to make. This app helps by giving users a gentle reminder ever day — whether its on your phone or your wrist — to develop up to six healthy routines. Pre-loaded with all sorts of activities from drinking more water to walking the dog (and with Apple Health integrations), it’ll help you do all the little things consistently and right. Streaks was launched in 2015, but the app was given a slick 2.0 makeover this year that was so good it garnered the app an Apple Design Award.

Tribe

iPhone and Android, Free

tribe.jpg

There are a slew of Snapchat-like free video messaging apps on the market. And while they all jockey for position, Tribe does so with a new killer feature: Magic Words. Basically, when a user says a term in his or her video (like a band name, for example) that word — through some back-end Google speech recognition magic — appears on the screen, overlaid on the video as a clickable keyword. Is this enough to put it ahead of the camera-toting pack? It’s early to say for sure, but this one’s worth watching.

Google Allo

iPhone and Android, Free

google-allo.jpg
A new messaging app from Google, Allo is one of the first products to incorporate the firm’s new artificially intelligent aide, the Google Assistant. Allo has a few limitations — there aren’t any third-party apps and there’s no desktop companion, for instance. But Allo earns a spot on our list because of the potential of the Google Assistant. Right now, it’s pretty good at handling basic questions and surfacing recommendations within chats. But when and if it gets smarter, it could be truly brilliant.

Microsoft Pix

iPhone, Free

microsoft-pix.jpg

Microsoft is pitching Pix as a replacement for the iPhone’s standard Camera app. Pix, which launched in July, uses artificial intelligence to recognize the subject of an image and adjust camera settings in real time. If you’re snapping a photo in well-lit conditions, it’ll create a GIF-like video loop when it detects motion. Unlike many other photo apps, Pix offers helpful enhancements rather than gimmicky features, all with little effort on the user’s part.

Picniic

iPhone, Free

picniic.jpg
Picniic is a sort of Swiss Army Knife for keeping your family organized: it’s a shared to-do list, calendar, and event manager all in one. Within the app, users can assign tasks on the to-do list to specific family members and take note of the last time a certain family member was heard from. It’s a bit similar to another app called Cozi, but Picniic offers a few extras, including a newsfeed-style stream of updates and an encrypted storage locker for keeping personal family information.

Swift Playgrounds

iPhone, Free

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There are dozens of apps, games, and toys designed to help kids learn the building blocks of computer programming. But few of these apps do so by having players write lines of actual code, as Apple’s Swift Playgrounds does. The iPad app challenges participants to input strings of characters written in Apple’s Swift language to complete puzzles. Aspiring developers can also write their own code in a blank document and export it into Xcode, Apple’s software for creating apps. “We’re not hiding code, or running away from the fact that it is code,” Wiley Hodges, director of tools and technologies product marketing for Apple, previously told TIME about the app.



Pocket

iPhone and Android, Free

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When you see an article you want to read but don’t have time at the moment, you can save it to Pocket and savor it later. It downloads articles in a clean, readable format so you can read anything without an Internet connection. Add-ons for desktop browsers mean you can save stories from your work computer and read them on your way home.

Waze

iPhone and Android, Free

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Google Maps and Apple Maps are fine, but neither will make you the master of defeating traffic like Waze. Acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $1.3 billion, Waze collects data about traffic jams, construction and other issues and displays them to other drivers in a given area. It’s also great at finding little-known shortcuts to save you precious minutes, mileage and gas money.

Reigns

iPhone and Android, $2.99

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Swipe left or right, that’s all there is to Reigns, an ingenious, dichotomous Tinder-like, only about ruling a kingdom instead of speed-dating. There are no roads less traveled, only left or right turns, yes or no answers to questions of medieval monarch-dom, as you attempt to balance your kingdom’s needs along idiosyncratic, ever-forking roads. If your idea of choose-your-own nirvana involves minimalist, binary survivalism (your goal is to stay alive), Reigns is one of the coolest stripped-down, rapid-play angles on the genre in years.

Super Stickman Golf 3

iPhone and Android, Free

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Golf and stickmen? Really? Unqualifiedly. It’s the adventurist allure of putt-putt, the ballistic physics of Angry Birds and the zany level design of 2D platformers like Super Mario Bros. rolled into one. After two forays to hone their ingenious little mashup, this is the iteration of Noodlecake Studios’ series to own, the one that brings it all together while adding the option to put English on the ball. Even if like me the thought of playing real golf makes you recoil, this is the stick-and-ball-swatting game for you.

Bandsintown

iPhone and Android, Free

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Ah, the time-old question: “Any good bands in town tonight?” Get your answer with Bandsintown, which analyzes your music listening habits and alerts you when your favorite performers are in your area.There’s also a calendar display that lets you check out who’s playing on a given date in case you’d prefer to check out something new for a change.

Insight Timer

iPhone and Android, Free

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Do away with the the stressful blare of your built-in phone buzzer. Insight Timer is really nothing more than a peaceful chime when time’s up, but we find ourselves using it for everything from signaling the end of a meditation session to the completion of roast chicken. Anything’s better than hearing Marimba for the millionth time.



Calorie Counter

iPhone and Android, Free

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It’s never easy to count calories, but MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Counter can be a handy helper. Just tell it what you’ve eaten in a given day, and it’ll let you know how many calories you’ve consumed. Tracking that data is an important part of losing weight, which, when it comes down to it, is about burning more calories than you’ve taken in.

Warbits

iPhone, $3.99

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Okay, sure, Warbits clearly cribs from classic turn-based strategy game Advance Wars (for Nintendo’s ancient Game Boy Advance, no less). But I can think of no higher praise to lavish on a game that fills a void over a decade wide and generations of overlooked platforms deep. Much more than a clone, Warbits takes the idea that teams of infantry, armor and aerial vehicles are squaring off over moderately sized squarish maps, then adds an online mode that’s pretty much the definition of how to do turn-based, 1v1 or 2v2 strategy on a phone.

Hitlist

iPhone, Free

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There are incredible airfare deals available and dozens of places we’d love to visit. But finding a reasonable deal takes far more time and effort than it should. Hitlist can help. It combines travel photography with airfare deals, letting you add appealing destinations to your watch list. Then you’ll get alerts when there’s an incredible price on flights.

Beam

iPhone and Android, Free

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Video game streaming apps like the Amazon-owned Twitch are getting extremely popular — Twitch users watched more than 241 billion minutes of content last year. So it’s not surprising to see younger companies getting in on the action. One of the newbies is Beam, which offers the unique twist of letting viewers impact the game. Audiences on Beam can suggest moves for players, give them challenges, and more. Microsoft acquired the company behind beam in August; it’s now integrating it directly into the Xbox platform.

PRISM

iPhone and Android, $2.99

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Prism has one of those un-self-aware taglines about “sacred geometry” converging with “the ethereal soul” you can just ignore, then get right to the heart of the matter: It’s a stirring, smart little shape-puzzler set to groovy, hypnotic tunes. Lines and dots you manipulate with your finger adorn shapes that unfurl like polyhedral flowers as you advance, uncloaking incandescent cores. The puzzles are diverting but accessible, ensuring you’ll hang around long enough to appreciate the experience’s gorgeous, trippy ambience.

Meditation Studio

iPhone, $3.99


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A well-designed gateway app to a serious daily meditation practice. Great for beginners, the app has more than 200 guided meditations of varying lengths organized around whatever you need—sleep, confidence, stress and anxiety relief—and it gives you a perfect little zen break wherever you are.

Source : time

Franchises, resellers, customer service, collaboration tools, and training -- professional hacking organizations are now operating like any other business.

The clichéd image of a cybercriminal is one of a lone hacker, huddled over a computer in their parent's basement. Today, that stereotype couldn't be further from the truth, because -- now more than ever -- cybercrime is carried out by gangs running sophisticated operations.

The most organized criminal groups, such as those active on the dark web, are operating like legitimate businesses, with departmentalized teamwork, collaboration tools, training, and even service agreements between malicious software providers and their hacker customers.

"When you start to see malware kits that have customer service agreements and warranties associated with them, you know that you've moved into a pretty professional space," says Nathaniel J Gleicher, former director for cybersecurity policy for the White House's National Security Council.

Like the legitimate software market, cybercrime is now a huge economy in its own right, with people with a range of skillsets working together towards one goal: making money with illicit hacking schemes, malware, ransomware, and more. It's essentially an extension of 'real world' crime into cyberspace, and it's come a long way in recent years as groups have become bigger, more specialized, and more professional.

"There's been a substantial amount of improvement and innovation in the way attackers go after networks and, as cybercrime has professionalized, you've seen individuals develop a particular set of skills which fit into a broader network," says Gleicher, now head of cybersecurity strategy at Illumio.

"You have people who are managing and distributing credit card information, people who are cracking bank accounts, people who are managing remote access toolkits, to people who specialize in social engineering. There're very specific skillsets," he adds.

But it's not just gangs of hackers anymore: the cybercriminal ecosystem has evolved to the extent that it supports roles you'd expect to find in any large business.

"Advanced cybercrime groups now mirror legitimate organizations in the way they operate, with networks of partners, associates, resellers, and vendors. Some groups even deploy call center operations to ensure maximum impact for their scamming efforts," says Sian John, chief strategist for EMEA at Symantec.

That overlap with the world of business is also true of the tools cybercriminals use to communicate and collaborate, with different groups -- whether they're responsible for orchestrating phishing campaigns or stealing and cloning card data -- coordinating their actions for maximum effect.

"They're very much acting like a business. We're seeing that they very much collaborate and communicate via encrypted instant messaging systems," says Jens Monrad, senior intelligence analyst at FireEye.

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However, such systems aren't open to anyone, as the dark web is still very much a closed space. "They're still using various internet forums, some which are only available if you have enough street credibility or that you have to pay for to demonstrate how you're willing to collaborate on their terms," Monrad says.

Terms and conditions have very much become a part of the increasingly professionalized world of cybercrime, where cybercriminals are now leasing out or franchising their malicious software as a service and making just as much money -- if not more -- than when they were selling it themselves.

"The franchises take that technology, but rather than hosting it in the country where it's being developed, they'll ask the developers if they can take some of their services and host them in places they can't get to and let them take a cut. It's exactly the same as an independent software company: they have their own channel programme," says Bharat Mistry, cybersecurity consultant at Trend Micro, who describes such operations as "full-on enterprises on the underground".

This practice of hosting services to allow foreign cyberattackers to more easily commit cyberattacks against local targets has been observed in China and Russia. It's systemic of what has become a global trade meaning, like the largest enterprises, cybercriminal outfits are able to operate around the clock.

With 24-hour operations in what looks increasingly like a service-based business, cybercriminals are even recruiting people to work as customer service operatives -- although many of these 'employees' will be unaware they're working for a criminal group.

"Some groups deploy call center operations to ensure maximum impact on their scamming efforts and, in some instances, employees of the call center are oblivious to the fact they are working for criminal groups executing low-level campaigns like tech support scams," says Symantec's Sian John.

If traced by the authorities, the people unwittingly aiding these criminal activities might be fined or worse. But while these individuals might be discovered, the gangs they are working for often remain in the shadows.

Cybercrime credentials

While those at the bottom are unskilled, the professionalization of cybercrime has brought about another initiative you'd expect to see in any legitimate business operation: training courses. These programs are offered on the dark web in exchange for Bitcoin, the preferred currency of organized cybercriminal groups.

"There are online training courses you can pay for which show you how to go about hacking a website and infiltration. Everything which happens in physical enterprises is happening in the cybercriminal underground," says Trend Micro's Mistry, adding "it's only a matter of time" before this becomes a widespread activity within the professional cybercriminal economy.

Special report: Cyberwar and future of cybersecurity

Special report: Cyberwar and future of cybersecurity

You can download our full special report as a PDF in magazine format. It's free to registered ZDNet and TechRepublic members.

"We should assume any training techniques which are being used in legitimate organizations are being used in cybercriminal organizations as well," agrees Illumio's Gleicher.

Gleicher investigated and prosecuted cybercriminals during his time at the US Department of Justice and therefore has first-hand experience of just how sophisticated these schemes have become.

"What I found most interesting in the rise of professionalization is, as you're tracking these institutions, you quickly find they're based in multiple countries and they have sophisticated coordination frameworks to work together," he says.

What he took away from the experience was that cybercriminal operations are becoming increasingly niche, with groups conducting every type of cyberfraud using strategic business techniques that rival those used within corporations.

"They're working together in this really clockwork way, they'll specialize. So if you see an organization which runs fraud scams, something as simple as selling fake cars online, they're going to specialize in that and they're going to have teams of people creating legitimate looking websites, and teams of people communicating with prospective buyers who have effective enough English to appear legitimate," Gleicher says.

These trends suggest that hacking and cybercrime are no longer the domain of individuals seeking to make a nuisance of themselves. Cybercrime is now an industry involving major criminal groups, with ecosystems as well-structured as the corporations they're likely attempting to target. Organizations must therefore ensure their own defenses are up to fighting this threat.

Source : zdnet

With Android Experiments, Google is giving itself the freedom to experiment with quirky little apps that show off some interesting technologies but don’t really have any other real purpose. The latest of these experimental projects is Sprayscape, a VR camera app for Android that is probably not quite what you expect when you read the words “VR camera app.”

Unlike similar apps, including Google’s own Cardboard Camera, Sprayscape doesn’t simply capture a 360-degree sphere. “Just point your phone and tap the screen to spray faces, places, or anything else onto your canvas,” is how Google describes it.

When you first try the app, it’s not immediately obvious that you shouldn’t keep your finger on the screen as you move around. All that will give you is a very blurry image. It’s all a bit weird, but oddly fun, too.

Once you’ve captured your 360-degree photo collage, you can share your photos with the rest of the world via a link.

 
 

The app uses the Cardboard SDK to read gyroscope data and the NatCam Unity plugin to control the camera. Google has published the app’s code on GitHub, so if you want to build a similar app, you can use Google’s code to see how it’s done.

If you want to give it a try, you can download the app here.

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Source: Techcrunch

A new Google pilot program now allows publishers to describe CSV and other tabular datasets for scientific and government data.

 Google added a new structured data type named Science datasets. This is a new markup, which technically can be used by Google for rich cards/rich snippets in the Google search results interface.

Science data sets are “specialized repositories for datasets in many scientific domains: life sciences, earth sciences, material sciences, and more,” Google said. Google added, “Many governments maintain repositories of civic and government data,” which can be used for this as well.

Here is the example Google gave:

For example, consider this dataset that describes historical snow levels in the Northern Hemisphere. This page contains basic information about the data, like spatial coverage and units. Other pages on the site contain additional metadata: who produces the dataset, how to download it, and the license for using the data. With structured data markup, these pages can be more easily discovered by other scientists searching for climate data in that subject area.

This specific schema is not something that Google will show in the search results today. Google said this is something they are experimenting with: “Dataset markup is available for you to experiment with before it’s released to general availability.” Google explained you should be able to see the “previews in the Structured Data Testing Tools,” but “you won’t, however, see your datasets appear in Search.”

Here are the data sets that qualify for this markup:

  • a table or a CSV file with some data;
  • a file in a proprietary format that contains data;
  • a collection of files that together constitute some meaningful dataset;
  • a structured object with data in some other format that you might want to load into a special tool for processing;
  • images capturing the data; and
  • anything that looks like a dat aset to you.

Aaron Bradley seemed to first spot this and said “with [a] pilot program, Google now allows publishers to describe CSV and other tabular datasets.”

Source : http://searchengineland.com/

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