DATA DUMP | Our phones are getting smarter, faster during lockdown!

Data is an interesting subject. Some people find it fascinating; some people find it boring and then there are some people that find it darn-right terrifying.

If you own a smartphone which I’m almost certain that 100% of the people reading this do, then you’ll know these little hand-sized devices operate completely on nothing other than data. Why is a smartphone given the word ‘smart’ anyway? I mean, it’s just a device you use to message your mates or look at images of sunsets in Thailand or even listen to your favorite beats while keeping a second eye on a video titled ‘top 100 cat compilations’… nothing smart about that? Right?

Well, like me, you’re probably one of many people on house arrest… sorry I mean lockdown right now and maybe you’ve decided to binge-watch a series on Netflix or re-live the best sports moments from the last decade on YouTube. If you’re part of the former group or even do both then maybe you’ve watched the critically acclaimed series Black Mirror and if you have, then you’d probably understand where I’m going with this.

Your phone knows a lot about you… a lot. The more you use it, the more it learns. We all know this, this is nothing revolutionary but right now, this minute, this second, your phone is learning a lot more about you on an increased rate. Its brain is working in overdrive and it’s being stuffed with knowledge while still yearning for more.

What you may not have noticed is that, you (the average Joe – like me) are using your phone a lot more now than before COVID-19 attacked and when the world was a ‘regular’ (I use that word sparingly) place. By doing this, you’re subconsciously feeding your phones more knowledge about you than you ever did. Now, the everyday distractions of life have significantly decreased – I apologise if you have kids… I don’t! You no longer have to travel to work, you no longer get to visit your mates, you no longer get to well… do what you used to. So, what are we doing instead? We’re searching for the perfect holiday to travel after this is all over, we’re video calling almost every day and we’re looking at baking recipes.

All of this is making your smartphone salivate and it will soon, if it hasn’t already start telling you that you’re interested in things you never thought that you were interested in.

Scrolling through Facebook one day, my phone advertised and easy-bake oven for eight-year-olds to me. I thought, ‘why would I be interested in that?’ However, thinking about it properly, when this lockdown started, I was one of those eager people who ran to the supermarket to buy flour and guess what? I started baking. But most importantly, I scoured through the interned to find not too difficult baking recipes. I was successful and now I’ve baked three cakes so far and I can’t wait to use my easy-bake oven for eight-year-olds (that arrived yesterday) to bake some fairy cakes, topped with strawberry jam and powdered sugar.

Back to the point… although that was part of the point (if you’re paying attention). We’re living in a time of wanting to pass the time. My baking anecdote is only a small level example of the data I’m providing my phone during these times. Of course, I didn’t have to be in lockdown to start baking but I did start baking because of this lockdown and I did provide my phone with new knowledge and the longer this continues, the more knowledge I and also you will give our phones.

Is it fascinating? Is it boring? Is it terrifying? Maybe it’s all three. But one thing is for sure, our smart phones are getting smart… faster. And by the time we’re allowed to go outside and smell that July air. Yes, I said July! Your phone will probably know things about you that you didn’t even know about yourself.

That being said, I have to go… my blueberry muffins are almost ready!

The Takeover of Fortnite

This video game taking over a generation.

When we think about popular video games that attract a youth market, we think of such games like FIFA, Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Games that are prominent with a male under 30 demographic and games that cause a wave of media outcry and popularity when they are released.

Well now, there’s a new kid on the block and this new phenomenon is not just a game, but a game-changer.

Fortnite is a game developed by ‘Epic Games’ and whether they knew it or not when creating this masterpiece, Fortnite has taken the internet by storm.

Firstly, Fortnite is free to download… Yes, free.

In an age where it is not un-common to spend £40-£50 on video games, Fortnite was released to the world for a grand total of £0. If you’re like me, you’d expect a free game to be subpar… Not the case for Fortnite. It’s a solid third person shooter that has a lot going for it. Sure, it’s not Halo or Call of Duty but it does offer a great piece of gameplay that is difficult to get anywhere else.

Fortnite is aimed at a younger, male audience that either still get pocket money from mum or simply don’t earn enough money to justify buying a £50 game that doesn’t come with years of accolades. So, when a free games pops up on the market, downloads go wild.

Along with the launch, came a wave of user-generated social media content that drove the publicity of this game to a new level.

People started using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch to talk about Fortnite. Bigger accounts that don £10m+ followers started to upload content because it is where the conversation lies. People didn’t and don’t want to miss out on what everybody else is making noise about. People aren’t addicted to Fortnite, it just has the same calling that any other new craze has. Young people simply do not want to get left behind. Heck, it’s the reason why I started playing it. It’s not an amazing game but it’s a solid game, it’s a free game that everyone is playing… So why don’t I start playing it?

But what do the developers get out of this? Sure, there’s a wave of free user-generated publicity, sure they have millions of users across the globe. But if the game is free, then how are they making money? There’s no advertising in the game so there’s no third-party income coming in through that traditional route.

The way Epic Games makes money through Fortnite is through in-game purchases. This has been a model that has been around since mobile gaming first jumped on the scene. You download a ‘free’ game from the app store and then once in the game you can pay for certain add-ons to make your gaming experience even better. The console gaming industry adopted this same model a while ago and it is still being used to extreme effect today. The best example of this probably comes in the form of FIFA Ultimate Team. Where you can physically use your own hard-earned money to pay for FUT points to buy or bid on players.

Fortnite allows users to pay for in-game add-ons that can make you a more formidable opponent when you’re up against your friends in the game. As more people play and the competition levels rise, people will want to outdo their counterparts and this is what Fortnite counts on to make money.

Fortnite is an online gaming example that has taken social media by storm and…

Sorry, Ryan’s online and asking me to play… Gotta go!

YouTube is Dangerous

YouTube is supposed to be a place where content creators from all over the world can share their most entertaining creations for a more interactive social community. It is indeed that place but it is also a dark place people and bots can exploit the minds of children without even knowing it.

If I were to hand my phone, unlocked, to a child (some as young as three years old). They would undoubtedly know how to find YouTube and navigate around the app.

Parents use YouTube to keep their children entertained. It is used as a tool of parenting and they subscribe to what’s known as ‘kids content’ with the idea that what their children are watching is child-friendly… But is it really?

When delving deep into some of these YouTube channels, you can find a lot of disturbing cartoons, animation content that has been knowingly or even unknowingly created by humans or bots on a mass scale for the simple reason of creating content quickly. A quick turn-around of content means more ads on your videos which means more money and humans cannot create videos as quickly as robots can.

When we let robots create this kind of ‘child friendly’ content we’re often seen with results that aren’t very child-friendly and it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

I have personally seen The Joker from the Batman series, kidnap and tie up Elsa from Disney’s Frozen onto a bed. This is found on a very famous kids YouTube channel called Animals For Kids. There is a lot of content our here like this and Google/YouTube needs to take a stand… Quickly!