Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What’s on your handset?

This week's post from The Really Mobile Project - for readers who don't follow that site.
Flicking through the apps on my handset the other day made me realise that the key apps I use haven’t changed that much over the past year or so. The big change for me has been swapping from a handset with a regular keypad (Nokia E51) to a handset with a qwerty keypad; my Nokia E63. The E63 has transformed the way I use my handset. Now I find myself sending many more texts and emails because it’s so easy. And it’s not just contacting friends and family that easier; updating Twitter and Facebook is a much quicker and less painful experience. This week I’m going to look at some communications apps on my E63. I’ll take a look at the other apps I use in a future article.
I tend to use the Ping.fm SMS number for simultaneous updates to Twitter and Facebook and the Vodafone SMS number for Twitter only. Top marks to Ping.fm for using a regular Vodafone number for their UK SMS service as it’s included in operator bundles, unlike many other innovative services that use numbers from Manx Telecom or Jersey Telecom. When I check in with Twitter I either use Gravity or Dabr.co.uk via the handset’s browser. Gravity has a fantastic user interface, although I find the app a bit limiting because it only displays the last hour’s tweets and doesn’t always update when it’s running in the background (I’m not convinced this is normal behaviour so your experience may differ). Dabr.co.uk is a much better browser based option than mobile Twitter and has the advantage of allowing me to scroll back through several hours of tweets.
I’ve tried different email applications for accessing my personal email including the default email client on the E63, Nokia Messaging, Seven and Emoze. Having switched between them several times I’ve settled on Emoze as being the best one. Emoze is the fastest to update with new emails and seamlessly handles both text and HTML emails plus multiple mailboxes. Emoze is free for one mailbox and you can buy the Pro version if you want to download from multiple mailboxes. I’ve tried hard to like Nokia Messaging but two issues have stopped me using it; first it’s not possible to change the sender email address to my own domain name and secondly it has a habit of stopping receiving emails which necessitates a manual sync to pick them up. If Nokia can fix these issues I’d take another look.
Moving to the calling side, the main additional app I use is Truphone. Truphone is great for cheap international calls over home WiFi; plus Truphone Anywhere gives me the same prices via a UK access number when I’m out. I’ve set up custom filters in Truphone Anywhere so calls to 0800, 0870 etc numbers get routed via Truphone. So instead of the calls being charged at out of bundle rates by Vodafone, I pay Truphone for the call to the 0800 number and nothing to Vodafone for the call to the access number as it comes out of my call bundle.
The other calling service I sometimes use is Skype and currently I’m using it via Nimbuzz. Nimbuzz allows me to access my Skype unlimited UK landline calls package for which I pay the tiny sum of £1.95 per month (I also get a UK landline number for inbound calls included in the £1.95). I’m continuing to look at the options for mobile Skype and will come back to this in the future.
Let me know what’s on your handset to improve your communications experience!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Calling 0800 numbers for free from mobiles

This week's post from The Really Mobile Project - for readers who don't follow that site.
One of the ‘features’ that annoys me the most about UK mobile phones is the policy of all the big operators of charging to call 0800 numbers (with the exception of a few helplines). 0800 numbers are free from landlines and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect them to be free from mobiles. I know there are issues around interconnect rates but that’s not the consumer’s problem and is the bad publicity for the mobile operators really worth it? From a customer experience perspective, the calls are free on landlines so they should be free on mobiles (they were on Orange in the early days). In fact the issue is even worse because not only are they chargeable but they aren’t included in call bundles so they always appear as an extra charge on your bill. If you make a lot of calls to 0800 numbers the costs soon mount up. Consumer Focus the UK organisation that campaigns on behalf of consumers is pushing for calls to all 0800 numbers to be free from mobiles but while we wait to see what happens here there is a simple way to avoid the cost.
Several service providers have sprung up recently that route calls to 0800 numbers via a 01 or 02 access number. As 01 and 02 calls come out of mobile call bundles, this effectively makes 0800 calls free (as long as you don’t exceed your call bundle). I’ve been using 0800Buster and have stored the access number in my handset so it's easily available. If there are 0800 numbers that you call regularly you can store them in your mobile using a pause between the access number and the 0800 number.
For example, to store 0800 123 4567 using 0800Buster, save the following number in your mobile:
The 'p' represents a pause and is obtained by pressing + three times on a Nokia handset.
There’s always the risk that the mobile operators will bar the access numbers but if they do check back to the provider’s website and there’s bound to be a replacement. 0800Buster cycle through a series of numbers; if you clear your cookies you’ll probably see a different one on their site. I’ve found ten so far and I’ve only reached 012!
This 0800 tip is great because it’s simple and Normob friendly – you don’t have to be a mobile geek to use it!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Telco conference in Nice

This week I'm going to (the strangely named) Management World 2009 conference in Nice. Despite it's name the conference covers telco issues including billing.

On Thursday I'm taking part in a discussion panel looking at the future of billing. I'm especially interested in the opportunity to leverage more value from telco billing account relationships.

I'll be posting updates from the conference on Twitter. You can follow me here.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The iPhone: making life easy for Normobs

Last week's post from The Really Mobile Project.
Returning to my favourite theme of ‘Normobs‘, I’m intrigued by the way the iPhone has changed my wife Jo’s approach, not just to mobile telephony, but also to using her laptop.
Since buying an iPhone she’s tended to use it for most of her emails and much of her web browsing. For Internet use the laptop is very much a fall-back device rather than her first choice. A few days ago Apple COO Tim Cook suggested that if you want a netbook, buy an iPhone. Bias aside - Tim clearly doesn’t fall into the category of an independent observer and Apple doesn’t yet have a netbook offering - he does have a point. Jo’s use of the iPhone indicates that for some users and some activities an iPhone can be a PC replacement.
We all know the App Store has been a game changer and is being copied by Nokia, BlackBerry and Android and yes it’s great fun for us mobile geeks to dig up new stuff. However it’s also changed the way Jo uses mobile technology. She certainly never bothered to look for apps for her Nokia S60 handset. Who would unless you’re a serious mobile geek but now she’s customised her iPhone with loads of extra stuff from the App Store. Why? Because it’s so easy and it’s Normob friendly. Plus Apple’s accreditation process ensures that applications do what they’re supposed to do and don’t screw up your phone.
The way the iPhone manages connectivity is again perfect for Normobs. Why should users have to decide when and whether to use WiFi rather than 3G or GPRS? All they want is the best connectivity available and the iPhone’s seamless management of WiFi and 3G, plus bundled hotspot access to commercial access points, makes this an invisible process to users.
As a mobile geek it’s easy to criticise the iPhone spec; 2MP camera without flash, applications can’t run in the background, limited Bluetooth connectivity, no cut and paste, no user replaceable battery and so on. But users love it because it makes technology simple and the user interface is aesthetically pleasing. How often can we really say that technology is simple? Technology providers invariably make products and services over complex for their customers but Apple (and hands up I do criticise them for other transgressions) makes it easy.
Now where did I put my S60 handset …!

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Really Mobile Project launched this week

The Really Mobile Project launched this week with news and information about what's going on in ‘mobile’. It will be providing the style of content that many of us have been missing since MIR went subscription only. The team behind The Really Mobile Project includes several faces familiar to those of you who used to follow MIR – Ben Smith, James Whatley, Dan Lane and Vikki Chowney. I'll also be contributing on a (fairly) regular basis.
The team put a lot of work into launching the project and it's great news it's come to fruition. There’s already a lot to read on the site so head over and take a look.

Blog Archive