You can follow me on Twitter at Sevendotzero.
Friday, 27 February 2009
Thursday, 26 February 2009
This week I’m returning to the travails of the family Normobs (normal mobile users). A few weeks back I wrote about my son George’s search for a new mobile (to be fair he’s more than a Normob). Well this week we closed the deal for the next 18 months. George’s contract is in my name as he’s under 18, so I phoned 3 to discuss the options. George had decided he wanted a Samsung Tocco but had seen a better deal on Orange. When I told the 3 advisor this he ‘disappeared off’ to talk to his manager and came back with the offer of a discontinued Direct Text tariff with an £8 monthly discount plus a free handset! Not a bad deal. Handset arrived next day – one happy son! I’m impressed with 3 that despite George having only spent £15 a month with 3 they still offer some recognition for sticking with them. The result is he stays with 3 and will now be spending about £20 a month.
My wife Jo decided after much deliberation that she would defect from Nokia S60 and join the ranks of iPhone addicts! However her experience with 3 was a little different. After saying she was leaving 3 because she wanted an iPhone, the 3 advisor tried every possible objection to her stated wish for a PAC code. Despite getting the PAC code they continued to phone asking her to reconsider and didn’t give up even after she said she’d bought the iPhone! She began to feel she was being stalked by 3!
Now Jo’s got an iPhone she’s thrilled with it and hasn’t stopped plundering the App Store! So what aspects of the iPhone really impressed her? To quote ‘It’s so easy to use and it’s a really fun phone’. For me what’s really telling is the fact that Jo has only looked at the user guide once (which is good because she hates user guides!). Despite the complexity of what the handset can do, the user interface is so simple that Normobs can use it ‘out of the box’. The ease of use of social networking apps is another attraction. She’s a big fan of Facebook and Twitter and the iPhone is a great device for this type of interaction. The user experience on the iPhone is so much better than having to fire up the S60 browser and then go to your bookmarks to select Facebook or Twitter. In fact her ongoing commentary about how great it is is becoming increasingly irritating!
When it originally launched I said that the iPhone was the smartphone for Normobs. I’m a big fan of Nokia S60 devices but they don’t make the smartphone experience easy for Normobs – no App Store (yet, but it is coming at last!), no seamless WiFi/3G experience and a limited application set ‘out of the box’. The iPhone WiFi integration is a neat touch as it takes the decision making on 3G versus WiFi away from the user. This is especially useful where 3G data coverage is flaky, e.g. in-building, and the bundled access to commercial hotspots gives a reasonable level of public hotspot access.
Next up for Jo on the iPhone is Truphone so she gets all her IM accounts in one place plus free calls between us!
Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
This week’s post from Mobile Industry Review.
I’m not attending Mobile World Congress this week and rather than blog about news from Barcelona which will be admirably covered by my MIR colleagues on the ground there, I thought I’d pick up on a related subject – contactability. One of the interesting points I’ve picked up from tweets, blogs and conversations is the number of devices people are taking with them – maybe not surprising really as it’s a mobile show! Delegates are of course keen to avoid being stiffed by the mobile networks’ roaming charges and therefore many are using local Spanish SIM cards, travel SIM cards and mobile VoIP like Truphone. However with all these handsets and SIMs comes the problem of making your contacts aware of the best numbers to use at any given point in time. Plus of course there are all the other contact methods that we use.
This reminded me of an issue I faced at a billing conference I attended a few months back in Budapest. I had a number of contact methods whilst I was there - two mobile numbers, DeFi VoIP number, Truphone and of course Twitter, Skype etc. At the last minute I even acquired a Budapest number for my MAXroam SIM thanks to Pat Phelan. So what’s the solution in this situation? What I lacked was a simple method of making these numbers and IDs easily available and, as important, controlling which ones were available at any point in time. Of course this idea isn’t just relevant to conference visits; most of us are acquiring more and more contact methods for everyday use without even realising it; and with no consistent way of making these methods available to our friends and network.
Services like LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo don’t fulfil this role because they’re designed with different objectives in mind and don’t make simple contact data easily available. I thought about posting my contact data to my own website but that isn’t designed for easily changing contact data availability and doesn’t provide any privacy functionality. Better to use a system that’s designed for contact data management ‘out of the box’.
To test out a solution to this theory I’ve started to only give people my .tel address. A quick check of my .tel will only show relevant contact details at that point in time and because .tel is mobile optimised my data is available very quickly and I can be contacted via simple click through. I can manage the availability of individual contact methods in real time via profiles, so for example if I’m not online I can hide my Skype details. Of course there’s an education process here but as users start handing out their .tel addresses people will increasingly start to see the benefits. Okay this solution won’t work for MWC this year because .tel doesn’t go live until towards the end of February (existing IDs like mine are part of the beta) but plan ahead for your next trip. In fact, why give out phone numbers at all – just point people to your .tel so it becomes your preferred contact method at all times. Of course some of your details will be private and not something you want to share with everyone so .tel uses a simple system of friending to protect items of data that are only available to specified people.
If you’ve got any solutions to the multiple contact method dilemma do share them here.
Jonathan’s also at jonathanjensen.vip.tel
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Last week’s extreme weather conditions made little difference to me. Although I had planned to go to London on the Monday and Tuesday I changed my meetings to conference calls and worked at home. I actually had more productive days than I was anticipating! I’m always puzzled when we’re told not to make unnecessary journeys because of bad weather. Shouldn’t we be trying to avoid making unnecessary journeys the whole time! Of course the snow and ice did have a major impact on the UK and many people and businesses struggled to cope with the impact. As ever the traditional media tended to dwell on the negative aspects (as they like to do) but I do wonder how much worse the ‘crisis’ would have been without the advances in mobile technology over the last few years. Many people are now equipped with business mobile phones and laptops; and therefore able to work remotely, keep in touch and talk to customers without having to trek into the office. Some of the more progressive organisations already encourage staff to work remotely where possible and not make unnecessary journeys to the office; for these people adverse weather should be business as usual! More organisations need to look at the benefits of mobile working and implement a technology infrastructure that supports this mode of working all the time. That way they will see ongoing benefits as well as be better prepared for the next ‘crisis’.
However, this increasing reliance on technology has also shown just how fragile that technology infrastructure is when it’s put under pressure. This week we were faced with rail information sites that collapsed, broadband speeds that ground to a halt as contention ratios bit and mobile phones that displayed ‘network busy’ when making a call. Service providers across all these businesses need to see these problems as a call to action to invest in their infrastructure. It’s not just bad weather that puts a strain on infrastructure; it can be a security alert or even kids coming home from school! My home broadband speed frequently halves around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Investment in this technology infrastructure will not only equip us for the next ‘crisis’ but also deliver a more robust infrastructure day-to-day.
Twitter again came into its own with the lack of information from official sources. MIR contributor Ben Smith implemented the excellent uktrains Twitter feed and local weather tips were swapped with friends. These showed how powerful Twitter is at conveying pertinent information when its needed.
And one more point – a WiFi account for the local coffee shop is a a must for mobile working! My local coffee shop was packed during the snow.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
Recently I’ve had several conversations with people about the future of WiFi. The debate around WiFi versus 3G data is a contentious one that frequently provokes a frank exchange of views! However this ‘either or’ debate misses the point because WiFi and 3G should be viewed as complementary, rather than competing, wireless access methods. I’m a big fan of WiFi; for example it gives me better mobile coverage at home than my 3G service provider plus very cheap roaming coverage in specific locations when I’m away. As with the App Store, the iPhone has brought many more people into contact with something that used to be the preserve of mobile geeks - mobile WiFi.
3G mobile data (and its developments) is good but suffers from issues like flaky coverage, cell capacity constraints and backhaul bottlenecks. Public WiFi has coverage limitations but where it does work it generally delivers decent speeds and consistent service. The lack of roaming agreements between the big service providers is a frustration and I’d like to see a move towards ubiquitous coverage via more service provider co-operation, i.e. if you can find a signal you know you can use it, with service differentiation based around price, and value-adds.
Devicescape recently undertook some research into their user base to understand what WiFi users want from service providers and how people use WiFi. Key findings from the report showed:
- An overwhelming number of WiFi users expect WiFi while on the road (91%)
- Most respondents want citywide WiFi (84%) and many are willing to pay for it (56%)
- When travelling, the most popular device for accessing WiFi was the smartphone, such as an iPhone (vs.laptops)
- The overwhelming majority of smartphone users (81%) prefer using WiFi over 3G for browsing Web sites, downloading data, Google searches and sending e-mail
- 86% of respondents want manufacturers to build WiFi into their handsets
- 82% of respondents want the service provider to provide an overall 3G/WiFi data package
Whilst this research is focused on existing WiFi users it does show that people who already use WiFi don’t see 3G as an alternative wireless access method but as complementary to WiFi. I’ve blogged about Devicescape before; what they do is make WiFi access simple. Devicescape Easy Wi-Fi automates the hotspot login process to create a seamless user experience. Increasingly, this means Devicescape is hidden from the user and the service provider’s software uses Devicescape to manage the WiFi login process. DeFi Mobile uses this model and makes the hotspot login process fast and automatic. This simplicity addresses what has always been a barrier to simple WiFi use – the login process.
The next step for service providers is to create a completely seamless user experience across both 3G and WiFi. Users should not have to decide themselves which wireless access technology to use. The software should determine whether 3G or WiFi is appropriate. For the 3G service providers it makes sense to ship traffic via WiFi where they can, in order to preserve cell capacity for non WiFi users.
Mobile VoIP is an interesting but potentially very confusing (especially for Normobs) part of the WiFi market, so it’s good to see LowCostMob bringing some clarity here. Comparing mobile VoIP is a bit of a black art because each service provider has a slightly different take on the market and it’s not just a simple matter of comparing tariffs. Users need to compare functionality and features as well as prices to determine which service provider to use. Some clarity here will help to drive progress in this part of the WiFi market.
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