Digital life reporter Katie Humphrey covers all things Internet and culture, from apps and social media to goofy memes and studies proclaiming tech will doom/save us all. Chat with her on Twitter: @HumphreyKatie.

What would it take for you to buy a smartwatch?

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: September 9, 2014 - 9:23 PM

Apple Watch is no longer a mystery. (Details here for those who have been living under a low-tech rock.)

So, does it fulfill all our hopes and dreams for a smartwatch? When we already have handheld computers that do an awful lot, does Apple Watch add enough to make you want to drop $349?

We won't have concrete answers for a while, since its not available until early 2015. But it's interesting to think about. What would it take for you to buy a computer that you'd strap to your wrist?

Local tech enthusiasts discussed that at a Mobile Twin Cities group gathering the evening before Apple's big announcement. In a room with 20 tech savvy people, only a couple had purchased one of the existing smartwatches on the market. (Here's a nice side-by-side comparison of Apple Watch and some of its competitors.)

What made them hesitate? Price. Concerns about battery life and the hassle of charging. Durability. Doubts that a smartwatch can do that much more than a smartphone already does.

Nevermind that a large chunk of the population ditched their watches in favor of using smartphones to keep track of time. There's this idea (in the tech community, anyway) that the watch is where it's at.

Greg Swan, senior vice president for digital strategy at Weber Shandwick, pointed out that the smartwatch has been a cultural touchstone for decades. Dick Tracy, James Bond, the Jetsons, Penny from the Inspector Gadget cartoons. They all had smartwatches.

"We have this amazing dream and this cultural vision of what we expect watches to do," said Swan, who started the discussion with a presentation, "Smartwatches: Past, Present and Future."

And the group had plenty of thoughts about potential uses. Smartwatches as a way to keep tabs on kids or the elderly. Smartwatches for healthy lifestyles and medical records. Smartwatches as remote controls for connected homes.

Back to the original question: Is Apple offering something that fulfills those wishes? From one angle, perhaps -- mobile payments.

Apple Pay is the mobile payment system for both Apple Watch and the two new iPhones that uses near field communication (NFC). Wave your watch in front of a device at the checkout counter and be on your way, no need to dig a credit card or smartphone out of your purse. Is the mobile wallet that's long been discussed going mainstream?

After watching the Apple announcement, Swan put it this way: "The ability for consumers to pay for goods and services via phone or watch isn't new, but with today's Apple Pay announcement, it's no longer niche."

Brooks Goldade, vice president for client strategy at Nina Hale Inc., was also impressed by the move toward mobile payments. But he pointed out that it might still take some consumer convincing, especially if there are glitches.

"If you're buying gas at Holiday, you can't say, 'Sorry, my phone's not connecting properly, can I get you later?'" he said. "They have to work 100 percent of the time."

Text a taco when the craving is too urgent for words

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: September 8, 2014 - 4:00 PM

Taco cravings are serious. But until last week, there was no emoji to express them. Ice cream, donuts, pizza? Sure. But not little digital tacos.

Then Taco Text came on the scene. The free iOS app sends little taco pictures by text, email and Twitter. There's a regular taco, a fish taco, a breakfast taco and a "mystery taco." It also helps you locate places nearby to buy tacos.

Silly, but potentially useful if you're on the hunt for tacos. And aren't we all?

The app comes from XOXCO, a software product design and development studio in Austin, Texas, a city where tacos are acceptable for all meals. (Sidenote: Can somebody please make breakfast tacos a popular thing in the Twin Cities?) Yet even the company's CEO, Ben Brown, seems surprised at users' hunger for the odd little app.

The day the app launched:

And earlier today:

So far, however, the taco love is iOS only. An Android version is in the works.

Back to school with cell phone addiction

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: September 3, 2014 - 5:06 PM

It's fall. Back to school. Time to bury your nose in a book, especially if you're a college student.

But when do college student have time for old fashioned reading if they're spending 8 to 10 hours a day on their mobile phones?

That's the average daily phone use for college students, according to a study out of Baylor University. More specifically, women college students reported 10 hours a day on their phones; men fessed up to almost 8 hours a day. And, no, they weren't focused on reading class-related ebooks.

The most popular activities: Texting, sending emails, checking Facebook, surfing the Internet and listening to music.

In a press release about the study, researcher James Roberts called the results "astounding."

"As cellphone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility," said Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor's Hankame School of Business.

Nearly 60 percent of the 164 college students surveyed for the study, published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, said they might be addicted to the gadgets. Some said they felt agitated when cell phones were out of sight. Among the uses more associated with addictions? Pinterest and Instagram.

He also noted, as a professor should, that cell phones can pose risks for students and "may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms."

Pay attention, class.

Put down the mini donuts and snap a #felfie

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: August 28, 2014 - 2:39 PM

Sure, you can go to the Minnesota State Fair and take a selfie with your cheese curds, sweet corn and bucket of cookies.

But how about a selfie with a farmer? A #felfie, if you will.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation wants you to snap a picture with the people who grow the food and raise the livestock. Share it on social media with the hashtag #MFBFfelfie before the end of the fair and you've got a chance to win a $50 grocery gift card. (If you're not the social media type, you can also email your snapshot to mfbfstatefair@yahoo.com.)

And you don't even have to wander the fair in search of a farmer. There are #felfie volunteers waiting to say cheese at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation building at 1305 Underwood Street. Like this:

So far, response has been, well, not exactly viral. There are just a handful of photos with the #MFBFfelfie hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

"We haven't had a ton of entries, but it's been fun for the people who just wanted to take pictures," said Pam Dahlman, a member of the farm bureau's public relations team. "There's a lot going on the fair."

Social media aside, she said, the point is to give fairgoers a chance to connect with farmers. A study the bureau did in conjunction with the Food and Farm Coalition of Minnesota found that nearly 60 percent of Minnesotans have never met a farmer before.

"We just want to provide that opportunity in our building," Dahlman said.

Even before the fair, the #felfie was a thing. The Huffington Post explained the trend of farmer selfies (usually posing with their livestock) earlier this year, tracing its beginnings to a contest by the Irish Farmer's Journal. This guy won:

 

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