iPhone and Windows Phone Are Easier to Navigate for Novice Users Than Android and BlackBerry


Our friends over at Technologizer posted this interesting video of a usability study featuring the iPhone 4, a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7, a BlackBerry Storm and an HTC Thunderbolt running Android. This study, which was organized by University of Pittsburgh professor Dennis Galletta while teaching a summer course at Harvard, examined how novice users would perform a number of basic phone features like calling, adding contacts and sending a text message.

Sadly, we don’t know much about the methodology used here, but according to Galletta, all the users in the video had never used these platforms before (though if hard-core iPhone users suddenly had to switch to the Windows Phone 7 interface, for example, chances are that they would be rather confused, too, simply because the interface metaphor there is very different).

Still, the video is pretty instructive and a good reminder for how difficult it sometimes is for regular people user to perform basic functions on their phones (though the video would be even better without the background music…).

11:01 pm

Rules of the New York Times Paywall


The New York Times will activate its paywall at 2pm ET (11am PT) today. While the word “paywall” evokes the idea of an impermeable barrier that you will only be able to breach by getting out your credit card, the reality is far more complicated. Indeed, according to the New York Times’ own estimates, only about 20% of its readers will ever encounter the paywall at all.

Prices for access to the New York Times’ articles start at $15 for access to the website and the smartphone app and top out at $35 for access to the website, smartphone (Android, iPhone, BlackBerry) and tablet app. As a special introductory offer, though, you will be able to buy 4 weeks of access with any device for $0.99. Once the introductory offer expires (assuming the pricing hasn’t changed by then anyway), the cheapest way to get full access to the New York Times will be to get a Sunday-only print subscription. These qualify for full digital access. Prices vary depending on where you live, but are always cheaper than the digital subscriptions.

Stone flickr credit spcbrass

Rules of the Paywall:


  • print subscribers get full access to the New York Times on all devices.
  • if you don’t pay, you get to read 20 articles for free per calendar month.
  • access to the home page, section front pages and the classifieds don’t count towards this limit.
  • if you click on a video or slideshow that is related to the article you are reading, this click will not count towards the monthly article limit [/list]

Breaching the Wall with Social Media Links and Search Engines [list]

  • links from Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media services will count towards your limit of 20 free articles – but you can still continue to read articles this way after you hit the paywall limit.

    Here is how this works in practice: Say most of you interaction with the NYTimes comes from heading to the site because of links you’ve seen on Facebook. You read 15 articles on by coming from Facebook. You also read 5 more articles by browsing the homepage. You have now hit the 20 article limit and can’t read any more stories by coming from, but you will still be able to read articles your friends share with you on Facebook or Twitter.
  • you only get 5 free articles from Google searches per day (they also count towards the 20 article limit, but just like social media links, will allow you to continue reading after hitting the limit). The same goes for other “major” search engines like Bing.[/list]

Getting Around the Paywall

How hard is it to get around the paywall?

It’s actually pretty easy (assuming you don’t want to use the smartphone and tablet apps). The easiest way right now is to install this bookmarklet. The paywall was implement in such an amateurish way that, once installed, clicking this button will simply let you through whenever the dialog asking you to pay for access comes up.

If that seems to complicated, just follow these New York Times Twitter accounts and create your own personalized newspaper this way.

Image credit: Flickr user Shawn Carpenter.

10:13 am

Starbucks' App-Based Payment System is a Hit: 1 Million Transactions in Less than a Month


On January 19th, Starbucks launched its virtual Starbucks Card mobile payment app for the iPhone and select BlackBerry devices nationwide after running a number of tests in a few select markets last year. Today the company announced that it has already processed more than 1 million transactions since then. The app provides users with a virtual Starbucks card that allows them to make purchases after pre-loading the card with cash and also functions as a rewards card.

To make purchases, users simply present their phone with the virtual barcode to the cashier, who then scans this code. The company promises to release an Android version of its application soon and is also working on enabling support for the BlackBerry Torch in the BlackBerry version.

This is, of course, only a primitive precursor to the NFC-enabled phones that are quickly finding their way into the market. Starbucks’ success does show, however, that consumers in the U.S. are more than willing to use their phones to make payments. Indeed, chances are that app-based payment systems like Starbucks’ are only a stop-gap solution until more phones come with built-in NFC chips.

4:05 pm

Why You Shouldn't Trust the uSamp Verizon iPhone Survey


Saturday’s are usually slow days in the tech news world, but thanks to a new survey (PDF) from online research firm uSamp that argues that 44% of Verizon Android users and 26% of AT&T iPhone users will wait in line to get a Verizon iPhone on the first day it goes on sale, we have something fun to chat about.

Here are the most interesting results of the survey: 44% of Verizon Android users are very likely (19%) or somewhat likely (25%) to buy an iPhone on February 10. About 26% of AT&T iPhone owners are either very likely (8%) or somewhat likely (18%) to get in line for a Verizon iPhone on day one.

Now, given the huge demand for Verizon iPhones, there can be little doubt that it will be a huge hit for both Verizon and Apple. I’m not doubting that at all. What I do doubt, however, are the survey results from uSamp. Here are some of the problems I see with this survey and the way it’s currently portrayed:


  • How does uSamp recruit panelists? That one was a bit harder to find out, but as far as I can see, panelists are recruited through Opinion Place – a service owned by the same company as uSamp that pays panelists in Paypal credits, Amazon gift cards and American Airlines frequent flier miles. Basically, these people take surveys to make a buck – not exactly a trustworthy methodology.
  • Opinion Place 1

  • If you read all the way to the end of the survey, you see that a lot of people have “second thoughts about switching.” Once asked about these second thoughts, the number of switchers from AT&T to Verizon suddenly drops from 26% to 15%. Same for Verizon RIM and Android customers. The number of potential switchers drops from 54% to 25% after the survey asks if they still plan to switch, no matter the cost of switching, concerns about network speeds and the possibility that lots of iPhones could slow down Verizon’s network. This once again makes me wonder of the panelists who took this survey.
  • Related to this: I never trust a survey that asks consumers about future purchase decisions (see the ChangeWave iPhone survey from January for an example and more explanation). Saying ‘yes’ about buying something in the future is very easy. Doing it is a lot harder (especially if early termination fees play a role).
  • as far as I can see, this is only the second survey uSamp’s published under its own name. That doesn’t have to be a negative, but one could argue that uSamp doesn’t have a lot of experience in running its own surveys. The first survey – about consumer sentiments ahead of the holidays – seems quite reasonable, but maybe those questions were more in line with topics the paid uSamp panelists knew something about…

I’m happy to be proven wrong here. As I said above, I’m not doubting that the Verizon iPhone will be a huge hit and that lots of people will switch. I just think this survey isn’t the best way to prove that.

6:45 pm