Sunday, August 30, 2009

Confussion over the Handset market

I know that we are in a quite period as the holiday season starts to end with one last public holiday before the children return to school but if you take both the Observer and The Sunday Times you might be a little confused as to the progress of Android.

The Observer reports that the iPhone faces a threat, whilst the Times tells us that Google is failing in the smartphone market.

This week I have been talking to a number of clients about the OS battle that is taking place in the mobile phones space. In preparation for a workshop on Smartphones OS I decided that I would put aside my opinion formed by being a user for the last twenty plus years and get one of everything and use them for a few weeks. So I have started carrying a small gadget bag with something others than Nikons in. As well as the Nokia E71 I have a G1, Apple 3G, Blackberry Storm and I still carry my Sony Ericsson C905i.

I do not think that the mobile industry is in a battle for one single OS but rather the current EIGHT competing OS will be consolidated down to just three.

Talking with others who use Smartphones has been interesting. One current iPhone users told me that he was going to pass on an upgrade of his iPhone to the 3GS but rather he was moving to an Android handset and upgrading to Paid Google Apps so that he could work on the Cloud. Another told me that he keeps being surprised by RIM and has noticed how many women are using one to surf and network with rather than an iPhone. The Nokia users cannot see why they should jump ship and are hopeful that the divergence into Linux and Windows devices are little more than a distraction.

I have noticed that my iPhone seems to prefer WiFi to the poor O2 network when ever I want to use facebook, twitter, Yahoo, Shozu. The experience is no different from my iPod Touch and thus if I have an iPod why do I need the Phone element because I'm not using the phone network and payment is taken via my iTunes account. I am now using pictures in Twitter but is that worth the expense?

I seem to be having problems with the Android App Store and Installing software like Opera. The mail client seems good but the browser needs work. For me the mixture of touch and QWERTY keyboard is a pain. Might be a better experience on Vodafone than it is on T-Mobile but I am underwhelmed at present.

The Storm is an interesting experience. The device has attracted a lot of attention from my teenage twins who would both love to find in their bag for the new school year. The messaging is excellent especially BB to BB user and Facebook and Twitter are as good as on the iPhone.

I am starting to get the hang of the E71 and Ovi alongside Google Apps does make it a productive device. The battery life is far better than that of the other smartphones however I still find that I need to switch to Opera to work as quickly as I can with either my PC or MacBook. In switching to Opera a number of sites ask we to "use the browser installed by the phone manufacturer" what is this 1999 all over again?

When I am off out for a walk with my camera what do I put in my pocket? It is still the C905i it has a better camera and the battery does not die on me. Should I need it I have GPS and Opera takes care of the browsing.

From conversations and observation I feel that RIM and Linux will be two of the three that are left standing the other one is any ones guess. Mr Jobs has been at the phone thing for two years now and he still has not hit the target he set himself for sales outside of the US. If he were to launch the tablet / iPod Touch MAX and it was a success would he kill the iPhone? Most people I observe when I travel seem to have two mobile phones and they carry these in a bag rather than in a pocket and so a larger form factor will not be an issue providing that it is A5 in size rather than A4.

What ever handset OS wins the distribution model will have to change. Two year contracts will see handsets looking like they have been cared for by Vandals if my Twins handsets are anything to go by. One friend has changed his iPhone five times in the last year as it was starting to look used and the Apple Store guys let him. What is need is more Handset Vendor stores so that some may buy a handset and then buy connectivity separately. After all we know that the guy in Carphone Warehouse is not going to give us the best deal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Network Coverage Issues....

A few weeks ago Ofcom published maps for all five UK Operators coverage of the UK with a 3G Signal. At the time I thought that the maps were interesting but suspected that they were overstating the situation.

With the change of handset and the fact that this Summer England are playing an interesting cricket competition I have been more concerned that usual about coverage.

I have chosen to trial the Sky Sports service on my Orange Handset. In order to be able to watch mobile TV I have to be able to get a 3G signal. If all I relied on was Orange I'd have thought that England played well in Leeds last week as all that I saw was the first three overs on Friday and 15 minutes of Broad and Swan hitting the ball to all corners. The other attempts to watch whilst I was out and about were all failures because I didn't have coverage. The issue was that I was not at home where I know Orange has coverage issues but rather I was in Central London, Oxford and around the M1. The other issue is that Ofcom says that Orange has the widest coverage.

With my T-Mobile handset I find that the traffic management is an issue in the daytime the push email on my handset does not function and email is downloaded in blocks however between 20:00 and 07:00 it does work. So just what is happening to the T-Mobile Network if it is drifting in and out?

I have "free" mobile broadband from BT which uses the Vodafone network and I have to say that on my commute into London they seem to be the only people capable of providing coverage along the Metline all the way out to Hertfordshire. The dongle also seems to function well in places where I cannot find wifi. In terms of mobile broadband Vodafone is not only faster than 3 but also has a greater footprint.

Why is this an issue?

Well in an effort to get UK working better we want to use Mobile to provide coverage to those that chose to live in a rural setting that is not covered by ADSL or Fiber-optic networks in order to give speeds of 2 Meg/Second. If those inside Government are to believe the regulator or networks that they offer British Telecom a get out clause we are in for a shock.

I don't blame the Networks completely for the failure of their coverage. Some of the blame has to be accepted by NIMBY local Governments who refuse planning for new base stations. My Lib Dem controlled council as a matter of course refuse all applications and so appeals are need to grant them. The fact that we have an over supply which has seen prices collapse makes it difficult to justify the return on investment needed to cover all of the UK. However the auctions required commitment to cover the UK with a suitable service. Today that service can be seen as a hybrid network that offers a basic connection and at times a high speed one. The regulator needs to raise the speed of the basic connection.

Without a suitable network how can a provider expect me to pay for a service. Given what I have experienced over the first week of testing mobile TV I don not expect to keep it after the free period is over. In order to attempt to use my handset as a mini-computer I have to use the wifi radio. In doing so I consume power too fast for my phone to operate all day. If I am using wifi I am not mobile but rather wireless and so might as well use my iPod Touch if all I need is small screen access or my Laptop if I want a bigger view.

Monday, August 10, 2009

72Hours in what have I learnt about my Nokia?

OK having spent the weekend learning about my E71 and setting it up what do I think now?

The Ovi service is still a LONG way off from being ready to roll. The first app I downloaded was hard to set up and does not seem to work and so I removed it. The second app that I want to download can't be!

I want to install ShoZu when I try and discover the app from my handset its not found. When I find it on the desktop I can't send it to the handset. Does it have anything to do with the lack of a suitable payment service to collect the £6 price? Before I add anything more I want to get ShoZu running.

Other issue is just how open is Ovi? Wanted to use Opera to navigate and once I logged in access was denied.

Opera install was a bit of a learning curve. Started off with thinking that I could run Opera Mini on my S60 handset. Downloaded and installed but didn't seem to working as well as it does on my SE so removed it and installed Opera Mini which is recommended for the E71.

Email seems to function well have six accounts set up and have them pushed to the handset. Works well when T-Mobile has coverage.

One other little gripe is compatibility with my MacBook. Stuck the CD in the drive and nothing happens! Quick look online and I see I can download software that allows Nokia and iCal to sync. Once done I have be able to get appointments and to do lists on the phone not interested in trying to copy Address Book as have copy on the iPod Touch.

At this moment I am happy with the progress of discovering S60 it's going better than when I used a N93i which was just to different to my day to day handset. If things still prove to be frustrating might have to see if some of my mates at Nokia are back from Summer Holidays and ask for a favour?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Testing Nokia

Yesterday I got myself a Nokia E71 to use with my T-Mobile SIM.

Opening the box I saw a Handset form factor that I liked and despite not being a Nokia user an OS that works well. A number of things seemed easy in terms of installing the bits needed to use the phone also managed to edit contacts from my address book in the process.

Then I went over to Ovi to see what might be of interest and saw nothing. Went on the web and looked at what widgets might make Twitter, Facebook and Flickr easier to use rather than via the T-Zones portal and was again disappointed.

After 24 hours use with the handset I have email up and running for the 5 accounts that I use. Have PIM working as I would wish it to on my handset. Am looking at using Opera mini as my browser so that I can make everything work on the device as I would wish. As well as Opera I have also installed Yahoo Go 3.0 so that I can deal with Flickr and manage the SPAM flow in my personal email.

So in terms of hardware design I have a form factor that I like and a need to tweek some of the software so that the experience is a little more like that of my iPod touch rather than my Sony Ericsson C905. Do I think the E71 is a smartphone? Well at them moment it does not seem that smart. I do think that it should be a second device that means the Laptop can stay on the desk as when out and about it can offer me the functionality needed.

The camera seems to me to be something I will not be using my SE has something better and it is not often used when I have a Nikon available! The Maps function looks more interesting than the service I have tested from Orange.

The biggest issue with the E71 however is not the software or hardware it's the service provider. With T-Mobile seeking to manage costs in line with its revenues the coverage is woeful. Despite having had Planning Permission for over a year to build a new 3G mast close to my home the Local School reports no sign of construction starting. Thus I revert to using WiFi in the home, I am glad that I am on a SIM only contract which includes web n walk because if I was paying consumer contract rates I might have to start stalking the new MD.

I know that all Networks have an issue with coverage in my location and so accept blackspots but in the last year T-Mobile seem to have discovered deadzones! I would hope that investment can be made into femtocells so that the coverage issue can be resolved. WiFi is not the solution because of battery consumption. If we are to replace voice spend with data services first off we need coverage.