“Underrated smartphone apps you didn’t know you needed - Digital Trends” plus 2 more

“Underrated smartphone apps you didn’t know you needed - Digital Trends” plus 2 more


Underrated smartphone apps you didn’t know you needed - Digital Trends

Posted: 14 Aug 2019 05:30 AM PDT

You always have your smartphone within reach, and it can serve your every whim regardless of where you are or what you're up to. But sometimes circumstances arise when you wonder if there's an app that can help. Chances are, there is. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store host over 2 million apps each, and there's bound to be something that suits every circumstance, no matter how specific or obscure.

We picked out some highly rated apps spanning both platforms that will help you through various situations and events. Most are free with ads, though some also have a pro version. That's not enough? Have a look at our massive lists of best iOS apps and best Android apps for 2019.

Gas prices are all over the lot. If you're fanatical about getting the best price down to a fraction of a cent, then you'll want to pull over to the curb to check GasBuddy before you pull into the nearest gas station. The app provides price hike alerts so you can fill up first before the price goes up, current deals from local convenience stores, and uses your phone's motion detection to identify actions that may be bad for your fuel economy. The app quotes price information from users for the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

iOS Android

Learning a foreign language can be very challenging, but Duolingo makes the experience more pleasant and productive through very short, game-like lessons. The award-winning app facilitates practicing your speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills in a fun format. You boost your skills by responding to questions and doing lessons. The app starts you off with basic verbs, phrases, and sentences, and has you progress through new vocabulary words every day.

iOS  Android

It's 2 a.m. and you're wide awake. Why not go outside and look up? Depending on where you are, there are twinkling little lights that humans have been staring at since the world began, and Star Chart helps you interpret what you are seeing. Assisted by your smartphone's GPS and an accurate 3D universe, Star Chart calculates the current location of every star and planet visible from Earth and shows you where they are, even during the day.

If you want to know what that bright thing is, point your phone at it. View your immediate area or the other side of the world by pointing your phone down toward the ground. You can find out your star sign or use voice control to navigate outer space. The app displays all 88 constellations and 120,000 stars. A premium version for $5 tracks satellite positions, meteor showers, and includes Charles Messier's catalog of exotic deep sky objects.

iOS  Android

Sure, the default image editing app on your iPhone or Android smartphone is serviceable enough to do some basic improvements on your pictures, but if you'd like something a bit more comprehensive and easy to use, Snapseed is your jam. The app features 29 tools and filters to enhance any image — such as healing, brush, structure, HDR, perspective, and more. It opens both JPEG and raw files, saves custom looks to use on different photos, and has a selective filter brush. All styles can be tweaked with precise controls. You can achieve double exposures to blend two photos, face enhancements to add eye focus, improved lighting and skin softening, and enhanced portrait posing.

iOS  Android

When you're walking around town, it's a cinch that your money is burning a hole in your pocket. A coffee here, a magazine or book there, a couple of bucks to someone in need — by the time you get home you have no idea where it all went. Keep better track of your money with Spending Tracker. You'll still spend it all, but at least you'll know on what. It features an intuitive interface that lets you enter and track expenses, adjust time periods, set budgets, view a summary, log income and expenses, create multiple accounts for personal and business expenses, get report charts, and back up everything to Dropbox. You'll have to upgrade to get the syncing feature.

iOS  Android

RunPee

You're at the movies and nature calls. But you can't leave your seat as the suspense builds — or can you? RunPee is one of those apps you can't believe really exist, but that actually serves a great purpose: It tells you at what part of the movie you can use the loo without missing anything. Seriously. The app's timer vibrates to alert you when a good time for a pee break is coming so you don't have to bother your companions or other moviegoers in the theater. Just enjoy the movie without stressing about when you can duck out. The database of 1,300 movies is updated weekly, whenever films open to wide distribution in theaters. It also provides a synopsis for your time out so you know what you missed. If you're running late for the show, the app will catch you up on what you missed in the first three minutes.

iOS   Android

Go ahead, laugh. But just wait until you're stuck somewhere, need to use the bathroom, and have no idea where public toilets are located. Then you will be happy to have this useful app. Flush uses geolocation technology to alert you of where a public toilet is closest to you. It's serviceable if not perfect. The app has over 190,000 bathrooms in its database and you can search even while offline. It tells you which ones offer disabled access, charge a fee, or require a key, and gives directions on how to locate them. You can also add a toilet to augment the crowdsourced list of toilets and rate or report a toilet by swiping left on a specific toilet in the list.

iOS  Android

With your smartphone as a de facto record keeper, scanning is quickly becoming extinct. CamScanner reclaims that skill somewhat by giving you a nicely centered document in proper proportion and in PDF format instead of a poorly captured one. The app lets you digitize business and personal documents, optimize scan quality for professional rendition, share documents through the usual channels or print them, edit, annotate, or watermark, password protect, and search. OCR features to extract text from images are available in the premium version for $5 per month or $50 per year. You must register to sync documents across platforms.

iOS  Android

Editors' Recommendations

Mobile Banking in 2019: Latest App Features & Market Trends - Business Insider

Posted: 14 Aug 2019 10:41 AM PDT

Transferring money from one account to another by simply tapping a button, and depositing a check by taking a picture of it, are just two common mobile banking features that banks are providing to customers.

With a growing appetite for mobile banking, remaining up-to-speed on mobile market trends is key to attracting customers.
BI Intelligence

The convenience and quickness of completing financial transactions via an app is attracting consumers' attention, and the influence of digital transformation will only increase demand for mobile-first banking features like these. Below we've outlined the state of the mobile banking industry, and how banks are staying on top of evolving market trends.

What is mobile banking?

By now, most competitive banks offer their customers mobile banking -the ability to complete financial transactions via their smartphone or tablet. In order to keep up with growing demands of digitally-savvy millennials and Gen Zers, both digital and legacy banks must continue adapting to mobile market trends to remain relevant.

Mobile banking usage statistics

Mobile banking is already a pervasive trend; according to Business Insider Intelligence's Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Study, 89% of survey respondents said they use mobile banking. Further, a massive 97% of millennials indicated that they use mobile banking.

Mobile banking is not solely for younger generations, however, as 91% of Gen Xers and 79% of baby boomers also reported seeing the benefits of these services. With a growing appetite for mobile banking, companies realize that remaining up-to-speed on mobile market trends is key to attracting customers.

Features & advantages of mobile banking

Providing a variety of mobile banking services allows companies to support an end-to-end customer experience within the channel. Mobile banking allows users to set personalized alerts - helping them stay on top of their finances by notifying them when it's time to pay certain bills, or when their balances are getting low.

Mobile banking allows users to stay on top of their finances
BII

Additionally, paperless benefits to mobile banking help not only protect the environment, but also remove clutter for customers and reduce postage costs for banks.

Mobile banking security concerns

According to consumers who use mobile banking, security was ranked as the most in-demand mobile banking feature. This is understandable in light of Capital One's massive data breach, which followed a record number of big-tech breaches - including Facebook and Google.

Consumers want to ensure that their banking information is secure, which explains why the ability to temporarily turn off a payment card was ranked as "extremely valuable" by 47% of Mobile Banking Competitive Edge Study respondents.

Despite high demand for security features, there are still many banks that have yet to address these concerns with security and control services - giving banks that do offer them the ability to attract potential bank switchers.

Top banks with mobile apps

The top five competitors in the banking industry include:

  • Citibank
  • Wells Fargo
  • USAA
  • NFCU
  • Bank of America

These banks offer the most in-demand mobile banking features, with four of the five top features belonging in the security and control category.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the Citibank corporate headquarters in New York
Thomson Reuters

Even though CitiBank ranked first overall for its mobile-banking features, Wells Fargo took the top spot for a second year in a row in the security and controls category.

A recently added mobile banking category, money management, had the second most in-demand features in the study.

The Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) ranked first for its money management features which include the ability to view recurring charges, access to a financial wellness score, the ability to view spending within date ranges, and the ability to set spending limits on a credit or debit card.

Mobile banking trends in 2019

Offering mobile wallets, where users can make purchases via their smartphones, has become a popular service for most US banks. The surging demand for mobile wallets has also influenced credit unions to offer them - with over half of credit unions granting access to at least one mobile wallet.

Apple

Mobile wallets offer users the ability to link debit or credit cards to their smartphones - enabling to complete contactless payments either in-store on online. Skepticism surrounding contactless payments is decreasing due to the influence of millenials and Gen-Zers.

According to Business Insider Intelligence, over half of credit unions surveyed saw an annual increase in mobile wallet adoption (56%) and transactions (53%).

Continued excitement surrounding voice assistants, like Alexa, is beginning to influence another trend in mobile banking: voice banking.

Siri already allows consumers to transfer money to peers through Venmo, and Alexa can pay off Capital One credit card bills. Today, 18 million US consumers have made a voice payment, and Business Insider Intelligence projects that figure will quadruple over the next five years.

In the US, voice-based and conversational banking was piloted by Bank of America and Capital One with the help of artificial intelligence. Capital One's Eno provides users with fraud alerts, notifications of potential double charges, and notifies customers of suspected subscription price increases.

Erica, launched by Bank of America, grants customers the ability to conduct peer-to-peer payments as well as bill payments, and has surpassed 6 million users a year.

With so many facets of banking undergoing change amidst the digital age, it's crucial for those connected to the banking industry to stay ahead of mobile market trends. That's why Business Insider Intelligence is launching Banking, our most recent research coverage area, to keep you up to date on what's happening in the banking industry.

Click here to obtain an exclusive FREE preview of Banking!

Google News Optimization: How to Boost Your Site’s Visibility & Traffic - Search Engine Journal

Posted: 14 Aug 2019 05:37 AM PDT

Google News has changed dramatically since the "beta" version was launched back in September 2002. And many of the best practices for optimizing your news content have changed significantly, too.

But, some of the fundamentals of Google News optimization haven't changed at all over the past 17 years.

The key to optimizing your news content for visibility and traffic is figuring out what has changed and what hasn't.

For example, Google News is still a news search engine despite the fact that Google announced "the all-new Google News" on May 8.

In the announcement on Google new official blog, The Keyword, Trystan Upstill, a Distinguished Engineer and the Google News Engineering and Product Lead, wrote:

"The reimagined Google News uses a new set of AI techniques to take a constant flow of information as it hits the web, analyze it in real time and organize it into storylines. This approach means Google News understands the people, places and things involved in a story as it evolves, and connects how they relate to one another. At its core, this technology lets us synthesize information and put it together in a way that helps you make sense of what's happening, and what the impact or reaction has been."

In other words, computer algorithms may have been updated, but they still determine which stories, images, and videos appear in Google News results, and in what order.

So, if you conduct a news search, you'll still see "relevant" news, magazine, and video stories as well as press releases in the results.

Ironically, the information about ranking in the Google News Publisher Help Center doesn't mention "relevance." It says:

"Ranking in Google News is determined algorithmically based on a number of factors, including:

  • Freshness of content
  • Diversity of content
  • Rich textual content
  • Originality of content
  • User preferences for topics or publishers…"

Does this mean that you don't have to think about the words users would type to find your news content and no longer need to make sure that your news, magazine, and video story or press release actually includes those words within it?

Get real.

Although the revamped Google News app uses machine learning to adapt to a user's habits and routines over time, enabling it to recommend personalized content in the "For you" section, that doesn't mean it now shows users irrelevant results when they conduct a news search.

In fact, if you conduct a news search for "machine learning," you won't see content about "influencer marketing" – even if that's a topic that you've also used Google News to search for recently.

So, how do you optimize your news content for visibility and traffic today?

1. Conduct Keyword Research to Find News Search Terms People Are Likely to Use

Well, the first step in Google News optimization is conducting keyword research to find 85% of the news search terms that people are likely to use. How do you do that?

If you have the time to plan a feature article or press release on "back to school", then use the Explore tool in Google Trends.

And although "Web Search" is the default setting, use the "News Search" option to discover that news search interest in "back to school" spikes in late July and early August in the U.S.

But, if you need to conduct keyword research on the fly, then use the Autocomplete feature in Google News.

Type in "back to school" and Autocomplete will make some predictions. These predictions are possible news search terms related to what you're looking for and what other people have already searched for.

As I was writing this, Autocomplete showed me that other people had already searched for:

  • "back to school shopping"
  • "back to school supplies"
  • "back to school sale 2019"
  • "back to school Apple"
  • "back to school allowance"
  • "back to school bash"
  • "back to school snacks"
  • "back to school backpacks"
  • "back to school tips"

Raise your hand if you've already guessed that these terms are listed in order of their relative popularity.

What about the other 15% of the news search terms that people are likely to use?

Well, in April 2017, Ben Gomes, Google's VP of Engineering, wrote in The Keyword:

"15 percent of searches we see every day are new—which means there's always more work for us to do to present people with the best answers to their queries from a wide variety of legitimate sources."

So, if you've got a truly newsworthy story or you're launching an exceptional new product, then you can coin your own news search term and discover if you get lucky.

2. Write a Clear, Concise Headline

Despite getting revamped, Google News continues to rely heavily on page titles to determine ranking.

Your news, magazine, and video story or press release's headline is its page title.

For proper indexing by Google News, your headline should be between 2 and 22 words.

And avoid puns or plays on words.

Why?

They can confuse humans as well as news search engine algorithms.

3. Use Subheads & Text Formatting for Emphasis

What about subheads? Well, they're a good place to incorporate additional keywords that aren't in your headline.

They also provide early supplemental guidance to readers as they decide whether to continue reading longer news content.

In addition, bold, italic, underlined, and bulleted text help:

  • Emphasize key points in your article.
  • Break up your content into easily digestible sections.
  • Provide visual cues for skimmers to quickly pick up the gist of your news.

So, use them – judiciously.

4. Question the Conventional Wisdom That Says: Keep It Short

Now, I'm often asked, "How long should optimized news content be?"

But, there is no simple formula for calculating how long your article or release should be in order to be optimized for Google News.

But, it's time to question the conventional wisdom that says: Keep it short.

Unfortunately, short content provides the wrong answers to some of the questions that Google engineers use to assess the "quality" of an article, according to a post in Google's Webmaster Central Blog by Amit Singhal, who was a Google Fellow back in May 2011:

  • "Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?"
  • "Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?"
  • "Does the article describe both sides of a story?"
  • "Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?"
  • "Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?"
  • "Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?"
  • "Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?"

To confirm that this advice still holds true, I conducted a news search on July 21 for "machine learning" and "What Is Machine Learning?" ranked higher than more recent articles.

Written by Ben Dickson of PCMag.com, this article is 1,528 words long.

I also conducted a news search for "back to school", and "Missed Amazon Prime Day? You can still find the best back-to-school deals" ranked higher than more recent news stories.

Written by AJ Horch of CNBC, this story is 715 words long.

Finally, I conducted a news search for "GEICO", and "Road Trip: GEICO Says Make It Memorable and Make It Safe" was ranked #1.

This press release was distributed by Business Wire and appeared on Yahoo! Finance. It included an infographic and was 507 words long.

So, conduct your own news searches for a couple of your target search terms and find out just how long your optimized news content should be.

It may vary, but I'd be shocked, shocked to find it was "short."

5. Include Photos & Videos

Although rich textual content is important, so are photos and videos.

Google News displays images associated with articles included in its index, although it sometimes pairs relevant images with articles from different sources.

Here are some tips to increase the likelihood that your images are included in Google News:

  • Use images that are relevant to the story rather than logos or captions.
  • Use Schema.org or og:image tags to make it clear to the image crawl which image you'd like to be the thumbnail image next to your article.
  • Use standard filename extensions, like .jpg, .jpeg, or .png.
  • Size your images to at least 60 x 90 pixels.
  • Use images that have reasonable aspect ratios.
  • Format your images as inline.
  • Place your images near their respective article titles.
  • Label your images with well-written captions.

Google News also recognizes the importance of video content.

If you have a news site, then Google News can crawl your YouTube channel and MP4 videos embedded within articles on your site.

Google News has a number of guidelines for video content to provide the best user experience as well as to maintain fairness and consistency when determining what content is included.

Before submitting your YouTube channel to their team for consideration, you should review these guidelines from Google:

  • Video channels included in Google News should primarily consist of content that reports on recent events. It rarely includes channels that mainly contain how-to videos, advertisements, trailers, video blogs, or music videos.
  • All the content included in your videos, such as music, images, and text, should be your own or used with permission. Google News respects copyrights and follows the DMCA guidelines for handling disputed copyrighted material.
  • A little bit of context for videos can be extremely useful for viewers. Make sure your channel's videos include relevant descriptions, useful titles, and basic information about your website or organization.
  • Videos should be easy to understand with clear audio and images that are in focus. Google News is also more likely to include channels that are updated regularly.

6. Add Meaningful Links

It's okay to use links in your story or release to direct your audiences to relevant additional content.

This includes:

  • Sidebars and photo galleries for readers.
  • Campaign-specific landing pages and product purchase pages for customers.

By placing relevant, context-appropriate links, you'll drive measurable traffic to this related content and improve the user's experience.

Editorial placed links, which Google calls "natural links", can provide you with an earned media SEO benefit.

But, links that aren't editorially placed, also known as "unnatural links", can be considered a violation of Google's guidelines.

That's why links in press releases in Google News employ "no follow" tags. While these links may not enhance your SEO, they can still drive traffic to your website – and that isn't chopped liver.

7. Measure the Impact of Google News

If you're a publisher, there are two ways to track how your content is performing according to Google News.

If Google News crawls the content on your site, then you can look for HTTP referrer values to separate traffic from Google News from the rest of your traffic.

Incoming readers with referrers of "news.google.com" or "news.url.google.com" are from Google News.

You can use your Google Analytics to conduct further analysis of both your standard HTML and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) articles.

If you provide licensed content via RSS feeds or AMP via Google News Producer, then you can track direct traffic to your site using the news.google.com and news.url.google.com referrers.

In addition, you can set up tracking in Google News Producer that provides more detail and track content that is rendered natively within the Google News Android and iOS apps.

If you're optimizing a press release, then you can use Google's free Campaign URL Builder tool, which enables you to easily add campaign parameters to URLs so you can track Custom Campaigns in Google Analytics.

I did this recently for a public research university that launched a new online program.

We used Google Analytics to get a picture of our users' Acquisition-Behavior-Conversion (ABC) cycle:

  • How we acquired users.
  • Their behavior on our site after acquisition.
  • Their conversion patterns.

I was able to report that the release had driven 301 users to their site, who visited a total of 558 sessions.

These users looked at an average of 4 pages per session, which had an average duration of 3-and-a-half minutes. And 100 users converted into soft leads (clicked on an Apply Now link), while 30 converted into hard leads (filled out a form).

To Sum Up

In closing, I should remind you that Google News is constantly changing.

So, I should probably add a "Best if used by (or before)" date to some of the tips in this article.

But, I should also note that other advice hasn't changed in years.

This means the trick to Google News optimization is continuing to figure out what's really new under the sun and what's old as dirt.

More Resources:

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