Monday, January 27, 2014

Lost Your Room Key? It's Ok, Just Use Your Smartphone!

Traveling of any kind can bring its own set of comforts and worries. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, we can all agree that our homes away from home carry their own stresses. More so for business traveling-- keeping up with all of your belongings can be an issue that you don't really anticipate. Your laptop is in check, you made sure to tip the waiter on your way out of the diner, but when you look for your room key, it's gone. Again, this is a common occurrence for anyone traveling, no matter what the reason may be. But once again, technology comes through for humanity. Don't have your room key on you? Don't worry. There's an app for that.

The new Starwood app for Starwood Hotels & Resorts is now offering an added new feature. Its added functionality of a "virtual room key" has given their customers the opportunity for less headaches when checking in and gaining access to their rooms. The app is set up to have a payment method and check in access directly involved with it. Now, when you book at the hotel, you don't necessarily have to wait in line or ring the bell for service at the front desk. When you arrive, check in and pay on your app, head to your room, and even enter your room via the app!

The access to your room is completely based on the app, should you choose to do it that way. It all works via Bluetooth technology. However, you need to have at least an iPhone 4S or newer for it to work. An Android device using the Android 4.3 OS or newer OS will also work. The locks on the door contain sensors which become active as soon as the Bluetooth connection is detected. One other good note is that the locks are completely battery powered. That means that although the batteries will need to be changed regularly, you will still have complete access to your room should the hotel's systems go down.

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This all seems very well and good, but could it be seen as just another gimmick to attract more customers? The CEO of the Starwood Hotels, Frits van Paasschen, actually addressed that very question. He admitted to seeing how the idea of it could seem to be a bit of a "novelty" when it first comes into use, but also said that he could see it actually being the new standard for checking into your hotel and your hotel room.

So far the only drawback is that this feature will only be available at the Starwood Aloft hotels in Cupertino, CA and Harlem, NY. Since they are the ones piloting the program, they do plan to see how well this new app works for their customers. Should the app and its uses see success, then Starwood plans to move it to all of their hotels by the end of 2015. But should you still want to keep things old school, you can always gain access through the front desk. You are not limited to the app. Just remember that having your key card and your phone become the same thing, essentially, can make life just a little bit easier for your travels.


Sprint Continues with Unlimited Domination by Adding Unlimited Cloud Storage for Mobile Devices

When it comes to mobile carriers, there are really only four major names that come to mind here in the U.S: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. Out of all of these providers, Sprint is one of the only ones that still offers unlimited packages for data and other things like talk and text. Verizon did away with such things a while back and it seems that most providers are following suit. But that hasn't stopped Sprint from trying its hardest to make everything offered by the carrier unlimited.

With that being said, Sprint has just announced its newest unlimited offering for its wireless customers. In an announcement that went live on Monday, the carrier acknowledged that it now offers unlimited cloud storage in its data packages. The storage, which is provided by Pogoplug, will allow Sprint customers to access as many as 5GB of cloud storage absolutely free. In order to receive unlimited cloud storage customers will be required to shell out a measly $4.99 per month, which can be billed directly through Sprint. 

Getting started is pretty simple. If you're a Sprint customer simply download the Pogoplug app from either the Sprint Zone, Apple App Store or Google Play store depending on your device. Once you've installed the app you can immediately begin storing anything from pics and videos to music and any other type of digital content. This new cloud storage offer allows customers to conserve space on their mobile devices (which is always crucial) with Pogoplug providing automatic backup of all digital content. In addition to that, customers can also manage their own settings to determine if the backup will run over Sprint's data network or only when they are connected to WiFi.

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While this sounds like a fantastic deal for Sprint customers, it's hardly an exclusive one. Anybody using a mobile device, regardless of provider, can download the Pogoplug app for their iPhone or Android with both the free and paid versions of the app working the same way they do over Sprint's network and with the same pricing scheme. The only thing that Sprint says is different with this partnership is that it makes it easier for Sprint customers to discover Pogoplug's app. In addition to that, it is also said to make it easier for Sprint customers to transition into the paid version of the app over the free version since the monthly fee can be directly integrated into Sprint's monthly billing to customers. 

According to Sprint's Director of Product Development Mike McRoberts, this offer "fulfills Sprint's brand promise of unlimited. We now have unlimited storage to go along with our other unlimited offerings."

This new offering is definitely a marketing ploy by Sprint in an attempt to gain back some of the customers it lost in 2013. Sprint is the third largest mobile carrier in the US, behind AT&T and Verizon, and has suffered some major network problems recently that caused a lot of the carrier's customers to jump ship and head for other carriers, primarily T-Mobile. Sprint is definitely trying to set itself apart from the competition without having to undercut its prices or services and this new unlimited cloud storage option is yet another brick in Sprint's road to recovery.