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Unlike searching on a desktop or laptop computer, when you’re searching on a touch-screen mobile device it’s often inconvenient to type. So we strive to give you a variety of ways to interact with Google, be it by speaking your queries, getting results before you finish typing, or searching by image. Now there’s a new way for you to interact with Google: Handwrite for web search on mobile phones and tablets.

Say you’re standing on a busy street corner, in a bumpy taxi ride, talking with a friend, or sitting on the couch with your tablet. Handwrite enables you to search by just writing letters with your finger most anywhere on your device’s screen—there’s no keyboard that covers half of the screen and no need for hunt-and-peck typing.

Getting started is easy: go to in your mobile browser, tap on “Settings” at the bottom of the screen and enable “Handwrite.” Note that after you’ve saved the setting, you may need to refresh the homepage to see the feature.

On tablets, the Search settings are available as an option behind the gear icon.

Once the feature is enabled, tap the Handwrite icon on the bottom right corner of your screen to activate the writing surface. Write a few letters and you’ll see autocomplete options appear below the search box. If one of the options is what you’re looking for, just tap it to search. For longer queries, you can continue writing and use the arrows next to the autocompletions to move the right one into the search box. Since you can write anywhere, you don’t have to look back and forth repeatedly from the keyboard to the search box.

For more tips and tricks on how to use Handwrite, see our Help Center article. To make accessing faster, be sure to bookmark it and add it to your home screen.

We designed Handwrite to complement rather than replace typing: with the feature enabled, you can still use the keyboard at any time by tapping on the search box. Handwrite is experimental, and works better in some browsers than others—on Android devices, it works best in Chrome. For now, we’ve enabled Handwrite for iOS5+ devices, Android 2.3+ phones and Android 4.0+ tablets—in 27 languages.

Have fun with this new way of searching!

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search Blog)

The Official Google Blog

Sharing is deeply sensory. From cooking a favorite meal to getting together with friends, it’s the smells and the stories and the smiles that make human connections so essential. With Google+ we want to extend these moments online, so it’s only right to focus on the most personal of personal computers: your mobile phone.

To be clear, we’re not interested in a mobile or social experience that’s just smaller. We’re embracing the sensor-rich smartphone (with its touchable screen and high-density display), and transforming Google+ into something more intimate, and more expressive. Today’s new iPhone app is an important step in this direction—toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.

A feast for the eyes
Full-bleed photos and videos are cool. But you know what’s really cool? Content so immersive it remakes your mobile device into a rich carousel of beloved memories and breaking news. That’s the Google+ experience we aspire to, and today’s release helps us get closer:

  • Whether you post photos or articles or text, we’re making ‘em look gooood
  • We’re adding crisper fonts, larger profile pics and a friendlier homescreen
  • We’re making the stream easier to scan, and easier on the eyes with overlays, gradients and other visual elements

A stream you can swim in
Looks alone aren’t enough—you also need an app that’s fast and fluid. Even a simple swipe gesture can inspire the same “wheeee!” as the bubble wands and ball pits we enjoy(ed) as kids. So today’s update pays special attention to fun and performance:

  • Conversations fall into view as you move forward and backward in time
  • Optical cues (like parallax) help the mind linger on individual posts
  • Important actions like +1 now float atop the stream, making it easy to endorse all your favorites

The end result—we hope—is an app that brings you closer to the people you care about, and the stuff you’re into; an app with sense and soul. But please, give it a go and let us know what you think. The iPhone update is rolling out now to the App Store (version, and the Android update is coming in a few weeks (with a few extra surprises).

Selected screenshots from today’s mobile update

The Official Google Blog

Super Bowl XLVI: Mobile, Manning and Madonna

Now that the final Super Bowl touchdown has been scored, the dip bowl wiped clean and the last of the chicken wings devoured, we’re taking a look at some game-day search trends to see what football fans were searching for this year.

As the Giants and Patriots battled it out on the field yesterday, U.S. viewers multi-tasked, watching the game on television and also going online more than ever before, turning to their smartphones and tablets to look up players, halftime show performers and their favorite Super Bowl commercials. In fact, around 41% of searches related to [Super Bowl ads] that were made during the game came from mobile devices, up from 25% for the same time the day prior.

Overall, the top trending searches on Google during the game were:

  1. Madonna
  2. Halftime show
  3. Patriots
  4. Tom Brady
  5. Giants

This was the first year that the Super Bowl was live streamed, and there was a significant spike in searches related to Super Bowl live streaming on game day. Searches peaked at kickoff, and were made predominantly on desktop, followed by mobile phones and then tablets. Searches for the Spanish language version of the live stream made the list of top trending queries, and while it may have been after midnight on the other side of the Atlantic, we still saw searches for [Super Bowl 2012 übertragung] and [w9 streaming] in Germany and France, respectively.

The Giants claimed the game in a down-to-the-wire nail biter; however, the Patriots edged them out in searches. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady not only broke Joe Montana’s record for the most consecutive completions at a Super Bowl, he also scored the most searches out of all the players. Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead rounded out the top five players trending during the game.

The Material Girl Madonna took the honor of being the most-searched for term during the game, but other celebrities that caught viewers’ eyes included Super Bowl performers LMFAO, Kelly Clarkson and Nicki Minaj. Searches for Katherine McPhee’s soon-to-premiere NBC show [Smash] beat out searches for David Beckham’s H&M ad campaign.

Finally, no Super Bowl wrap-up would be complete without talking about the commercials. 2012 saw a pre-Super Bowl ad bonanza, with many of the top commercials either being teased or posted in full well in advance of the game. Super Bowl ads or ad teasers were watched more than 30 million times on YouTube before the big weekend this year (you can read more on the top rising Super Bowl searches on YouTube here).

Game day searches for [super bowl ads] were 122 times higher than the same time last week. The most popular commercials in terms of Google searches were ads from Acura, GoDaddy and M&M’s. Searches for The Avengers movie trailer were also trending, along with Chrysler’s spot featuring Clint Eastwood.

Now that you’ve seen them all, vote for your favorite commercial of the game on the YouTube Ad Blitz channel. The winning ads will be showcased on the YouTube homepage on February 18.

To download the full infographic above, visit Think Insights, our website for marketers. Our final Ad Blitz infographic (coming soon) will include new facts and stats about Super Bowl ads, and you can follow Think with Google on Google+ to be the first to know when it’s released.

That’s it for the NFL 2012 season, but luckily, major league baseball is just around the corner…

Update 10:09am: Earlier, this post incorrectly stated that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady broke Joe Montana’s record for the most touchdown passes at a Super Bowl, instead of most consecutive completions. This post has been updated to correct the error.

The Official Google Blog

Mobile search helps people find what they need in a snap. Whether they’re choosing between two restaurants, shopping for a new watch, or buying a movie ticket, people make better decisions when they have access to more information. Search ads are information—answers—and on mobile devices, they’re able to connect people and businesses in new, useful and relevant ways.

Today, we’re unveiling new mobile search ad formats and some new details about the ways many different businesses are benefiting from mobile advertising.

Search ads, meet mobile apps
We’re bringing the worlds of search and apps together with mobile advertising in a few ways:

  • Search ads in mobile apps: Lots of mobile apps give people the ability to search for information—like an app that lets you search for a restaurant nearby. Today we’re announcing Custom Search Ads for these apps. These ads provide useful and relevant answers, for people searching within a mobile app. Custom Search Ads will also help app developers earn more money to fund their apps and grow their businesses on mobile.
    Custom Search Ads in mobile apps

  • Click to Download: Not surprisingly, many people use Google to search for information about mobile apps. This ad format helps consumers right when they’re searching for information about an app, linking them directly to the App Store or Android Marketplace to download. We’ve recently enabled app developers to include app icons and information about the app in their ad unit so that people can make more informed decisions about whether they want to download the app.
  • Mobile App Extensions: This new, beta ad unit enables businesses to use mobile search ads to direct someone to a page within a mobile app already installed on their phone. For example, if someone searches for sneakers on a mobile device, they might see an ad that takes them directly into a cool shopping app they’ve installed on their phone.

Local search ads—so hot right now
Building local context into mobile ads makes them more useful both for both consumers and businesses. Here are a few specific examples:

  • Click to Call: We introduced these ads for high-end smartphones less than two years ago and they’re now driving millions of calls per week to hundreds of thousands of businesses around the world. Click to call ads have been very effective in generating leads for businesses of all sizes, across many verticals—more people can call an Enterprise Rent-A-Car near them for rentals and more potential customers can connect with ADT Security for alarm system expertise, for example.
  • Hyperlocal search ads: Launched a year ago, these search ads contain useful local information like phone numbers, driving directions, a number to click and call a business directly, and also show people how far they are from specific business locations. Roy’s Restaurants’ efforts with this format led to a 40 percent increase in call volume—and lots more full tables!
  • Proximity as a factor in mobile search ads ranking: The distance between a person and an advertiser’s business location is now a factor in mobile search ads ranking. This means an ad for a business with a physical location close to to a consumer may perform better in AdWords—driving more mobile traffic at a lower cost. The feature will be effective only when consumers opt in to share their device location for mobile searches. It will make our hyperlocal format more useful for businesses and users—advertisers can get started with this by creating Location Extensions for their mobile campaigns. Particularly this holiday season, when consumers are using their mobile phones to find a nearby store for last minute gift purchases, this new feature will help connect customers with storefronts.
  • Circulars: We began testing this new ad format with Best Buy and Macy’s earlier this month. When someone clicks on a search or display ad (on desktop, mobile or tablet devices), they may see these engaging ads which contain photos of relevant products and special offers. With a few simple clicks, people who are at their desk can email that circular to their mobile phones, and later walk into their local store, flash their phone and redeem the offers.

Macy’s Circular ads on mobile

The exciting thing for mobile users and businesses is that the possibilities for mobile search advertising are nearly endless. We’re looking forward to helping businesses and consumers alike take advantage of this brave new (mobile) world.

The Official Google Blog

Mobile usage in retail is on the rise—every year we see an increasing number of shopping queries originate from mobile phones. As mobile continues to proliferate, it’s also fundamentally changing the way people shop. Mobile and shopping are made for each other.

Knowing this, we’re sharing a secret with you: it’s not too late to get your e-commerce site ready for the mobile surge this holiday shopping season. In fact, our newest customer, Timberland, just went live with their mobile-optimized website powered by Google Commerce Search in a matter of days.

Chris Hardisty, director of Timberland Global E-Commerce, told us: “Our first priority in developing our mobile website was making sure customers had the best experience possible. Shoppers today expect fast and relevant results especially on mobile, where speed and interactivity matter most. Since we launched our mobile-optimized website, we have seen mobile sales grow 20 times faster than our desktop site sales.”

Today we’re growing the Google Commerce Search family by opening up our new Google Commerce Search Reseller Program, and welcoming Branding Brand and Perficient as our inaugural resellers. We wanted to make it easier for retailers to adopt Google Commerce Search to help them achieve amazing results and meet their customers’ needs. Through this new program, resellers can work with us to bring the unique capabilities of Google Commerce Search to their retail clients.

Branding Brand has worked with Timberland and—earlier this year—GNC to turn their mobile visions into reality. Before GNC optimized their mobile website, 10 to 15 percent of their e-commerce traffic came from mobile. Since launching it this summer, there are twice as many visitors using search, and mobile search conversions are up 50 percent.

If you decide that building a mobile application is the best choice for you, it’s still important to build a powerful search experience that will help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for and engage with your brand. In August, Westfield launched a mobile shopping app powered by Google Commerce Search for its 55 malls throughout the U.S. Alan Cohen, Executive Vice President, Management and Marketing for Westfield, told us “Whether the shopper is looking for a very specific product or general holiday gift items, the ability to search retailer products effortlessly is of real benefit.”

Ready to get started with your mobile commerce site? With the big holiday shopping season coming soon, we wanted to share some tips based on our relationships with our merchant customers:

  • Every millisecond counts: You can’t deliver an amazing mobile shopping experience to your customers by wasting their time. Shoppers should be able to find the products without unnecessary clicks, typing or other steps.
  • Engage your audience: Search has become highly interactive with suggestions and auto-complete, while mobile allows consumers to touch and engage with their devices in new and fun ways. Combining the two allows you to intrigue your potential customers for instant gratification.
  • Get to the point: Whether someone’s looking for a high-resolution digital camera or orange khaki trousers, you want to make sure that it’s easy to find—with minimal keystrokes, of course. Space is limited on those 3- or 4-inch screens, so make the most of it by providing relevant search results.
  • Bridge the gap: According to our holiday retail user survey, 65 percent of high-end device users report they have used their device to find a business and then made a purchase at that business in person. In other words: mobile provides a great opportunity to drive foot traffic and bridge online and offline sales. You can delight shoppers by showing them when a product is also available in a store nearby—in-line with the search results.

We built Google Commerce Search just under two years ago to help retailers provide a great shopping experience to their customers, and we’ve had positive feedback from our retail customers on how they’ve been able to increase search revenues, site searches and online conversions while increasing customer satisfaction. Get started now with Google Commerce Search to build a great mobile experience in time for this year’s shopping season.

The Official Google Blog

HandHeld: The Ultimate Mobile Plugin

Every once in a while a WordPress Plugin comes along that is so great and genius it deserves special mention. Well today, we are pleased to introduce you to the first ever plugin released by none other than Elegant Themes. For quite a while, Elegant Themes has been our favorite choice for premium WordPress Themes … Continue Reading
Best WordPress Plugins

With the success of Safaricom’s mobile money service, M-Pesa in Kenya, analysts have looked to other African countries as potential mobile money success stories. A key market with potential is Nigeria. With over 90 million cellular phone subscribers in the country, it is Africa’s largest mobile phone market and is one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world.

Currently only 20 million Nigerians out of the nation’s 150 million citizens have bank accounts. As such, there is tremendous opportunity for Nigerian mobile money services to provide access to financial services to millions of unbanked Nigerians.

One of such mobile money services looking to tap this potentially lucrative sector is a Nigerian company called Paga. Founded by Tayo Oviosu,  a former Vice President at Travant Capital Partners and a former Manager in charge of Acquisitions & Venture Investments at Cisco, the company aims to provide financial access to any Nigerian with a mobile phone or internet enabled device.

In a recent interview with The Next Web Africa, Oviosu said that so far the service has about 17,374 users and has done over N100 million (about $ 666,666) in transaction volume  since it formally launched to the public in February 2011. According to him, the service witnessed a 95% growth in transactions in August alone and he estimates that the Nigerian mobile money market would be a billion dollar industry by 2015. Since the company’s launch, Paga has hired over 60 staff and about 250 agents around the country.

To market the service effectively in the market, Paga engaged in awareness drives in some key Nigerian cities such as Lagos and Onitsha where it rode Paga branded buses around the city to raise awareness. To drive its penetration into the market, the company has begun partnering with key organizations such as African multi-channel pay television provider, DStv. Through the partnership, Nigerians can pay for their DStv subscriptions either directly from their mobile phones or through Paga or DStv retail agents around the country. Paga also recently partnered with Nigerian discount buying site, Dealdey to integrate Paga with the service’s payment interface. Oviosu confirmed to The Next Web Africa that even more partnerships are in the works thus bringing convenience to the country’s bill payments system.

Investors have taken keen interest in the market including acclaimed Skype and Baidu Investor, Tim Draper. Though Oviosu declined to give official figures of the size of Draper’s investment, he did confirm that millions of dollars have been invested so far in the business and that Paga is looking to raise tens of millions more.

By 2015, Oviosu hopes that the service would have expanded to about 15 million active users.

With such strong market potential, Paga is bound to face competition from competing services in the market such as eTranzact’s M-Teller, United Bank for Africa’s U-Mo and E-Soft’s M-Naira amongst others.

However, it appears the market leader will undoubtedly be the mobile money service that successfully creates the most ubiquitous retail agent network across Nigeria’s vast consumer market. We will keep you posted about developments in the market.

Watch the short promo video below where Paga’s C.E.O. talks about making payments using Paga.

TNW Aggregated Feed

I recently decided to propose to my girlfriend, Faigy. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful and —yes—a little over the top, so I decided to put my software engineering skills to work to create the ultimate romantic scavenger hunt. On the road to “The Big Question,” I wanted Faigy to visit places around New York City that were filled with memories of our relationship. My plan was to construct a map of the route and get my girlfriend from one destination to the next, all with the element of surprise. Google Maps gave me the tools I needed to make the magic happen.

View Faigy & Ari’s Engagement Route in a larger map

I used My Maps to plan out the route—from the Trader Joe’s we shop at on the Upper West Side, to Magnolia Bakery where we spent part of our first date, to Hudson Bar & Lounge where we enjoyed a night of dancing, to Carnegie Hall where Faigy once surprised me with tickets to a Beethoven concert, all the way to the lighthouse on Roosevelt Island where we went on our second date.

I secretly coordinated with Faigy’s manager at work to give her a Nexus One preloaded with Google Maps for mobile, a camera and instructions to go to the first location. I had a friend stationed at each of the six locations before the final stop to give Faigy a rose, take a picture of her with the roses and make sure she checked in with Google Maps. Meanwhile, I anxiously awaited her arrival at the Roosevelt Island lighthouse.

Her phone had a custom mobile app I’d built (with the help of my fellow Google engineers Andrew Oplinger and Matt Keoshkerian). The app would let Faigy check in to each location, then prompt her for a password to find out the next location. I provided each friend with a question to ask Faigy, tied to our memories of that particular place, the answer to which was the password. When Faigy entered the password, the app would automatically initiate walking navigation to the next location.

When she got to the checkered pin that marked her last destination, her seventh and final rose also came with a question—but this one was from me, and it wasn’t any ordinary question. I’ll leave it to you to guess what her answer was!

Posted by Ari Gilder, Software Engineer

The Official Google Blog

Taiwan-based smartphone vendor HTC announced on Friday that consolidated sales for the month of July totalled T$ 45.11 billion ($ 1.56 billion), an increase of 83.3% year on year, a new monthly sales record for the company.

The Android and Windows Phone device maker posted a small increase on its June sales, which stood at T$ 45.05 billion ($ 1.55 billion), with sales reaching T$ 24.61 billion a year earlier.

The company has continued to enjoy increased sales thanks to its range of Android and Windows Phone devices. Its Android devices – including the Evo 3D, Sensation and updated Desire S, Incredible and Wildfire smartphones – have helped the company remain as one of the top five biggest smartphone vendors, behind Apple, Samsung, Nokia and RIM.

HTC also announced that it plans to acquire Dashwire for $ 18.5 million. The company is an “industry leading mobile-web connected services platform for mobile operators, device makers and retailers to seamlessly deliver a new generation of real-time consumer, social and device management software services on open mobile phones”.

Dashwire announced in April that it had licensed patents from Intellectual Ventures for defensive purposes. With the company offers mobile and web applications that mobile owners to easily setup and personalize smartphones and tablets, and connect mobile device content across multiple screens and services – HTC may be looking to expand its cloud presence but also align itself with Intellectual Ventures to further protect innovations, particularly in its courtroom fight against Apple.

TNW Aggregated Feed

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