Wednesday, August 08, 2007

First post from mobile

The E61i seems to be a pretty practical tool for this - though perhaps a dedicated app might be a bit more streamlined than just logging in to the blogger website in the browser?

Friday, June 08, 2007

30Mb/month = "unlimited"

Read it and weep ...

30Mb a month is "unlimited" - and I thought the Voda deal was bad! Still unclear how punitive it will be in terms of the "limit" and "acceptable use". Will going over cause you to get a phone call to tell you to moderate or upgrade; or cause a nasty surprise on your bill at the end of the month?


Vodafone and the "Mobile Internet"

Wednesday seemed like a normal day at first - then we started getting the first reports of content not being correctly delivered to Vodafone contract customers and so the fun began!

I should say from the start that I actually think that what Vodafone are trying to do, provide sensible access to the "real" internet across the majority of phones, is a very laudable thing. Unfortunately it is also very hard to do right - as they have discovered.

The basic principle of their system is to pass all web traffic from phones on their network through a number of transcoders which both try to reduce the size of any images etc in the pages, and make the layout easier to browse on a standard xhtml handset.

They key problem is deciding when to do this. They are taking the approach that since the majority of named sites are non-mobile they will assume that any site they don't specifically know to be mobile should be run through their transcoders.

Initially all hits to our sites were coming through

They do allow users to choose whether or not they see a transcoded or raw view - but this is expressed along the lines of an "optimised for mobile" view vs a "PC" view - the vast majority of users will plump for the first without understanding the implications.

As I said at the start I do see the reasoning behind their overall direction - now the "but"s!

Key things they have done badly wrong at a practical level are to roll out a system with this fundamental an impact ...
  • without warning anybody in advance
  • without full testing - since if they had tested it many of these issues would have been obvious
Rather poor for an organisation as substantial as Vodafone. At the time of writting if a Vodafone customer were to purchase a media product and download it to their handset they would not get the media they had paid for - Vodafone takes the real media and delivers something inferior in its place. Not a great way to increase user confidence.

Looking at the wider view it is at best questionable for Vodafone to unilaterally set aside the usual standards and conventions to impose their view of what people should see when viewing the web through the Vodafone network.

That said the whole area of the mobile web is necessarily a process of compromise.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More operators go unmetered - ish!

In rapid succession Orange and Voda have announced new data packages which go some way to answering the existing unmetered packages from T-mobile and 3. First off I want to say that in general this is a good thing (tm) - an absolutely necessary step towards regaining consumer confidence in data services.

The issue of "consumer confidence" is really the crux of this. If users are uncertain how much they will end up having to pay then they are much less likely to use data services. With that in mind let's looks at the new offerings.

Orange's new package, which is available to both contract (£8pm, or £5pm evenings and weekends) and PAYG (£5 for 7 days), provides for unlimited "browsing". It is unclear as yet where precisely the bounds of acceptable use will fall here though the text reported by el reg ...

"modem access for computers, internet based streaming services, voice or video over the internet, instant mssaging, peer to peer file sharing and non Orange internet based video."

... suggests it is more or less in line with the lowest tier of T-mobile's contract web-n-walk.

The Vodafone package - which is dissected in some detail though possible a little contentiously over at disruptive wireless - is a little different. It is not an optional package and will be applied to all users from the start of June. It keeps the basic principle of metering by the kb used but only charges users for the first half Mb of data each day, and then any data used above-and-beyond 15 Mb in a single day. All data is charged at £2/Mb.

This is quite cleverly structured to encourage data use up to a certain level - i.e. if a user has used a small amount they may as well use quite a bite more that day since it will be free.

One major problem in user confidence terms is how traffic beyond the acceptable use criterion...

"Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype or Peer-to-Peer services (such as instant messenger services, text messaging clients or file sharing)"

... is handled. That will allegedly immediately be charged separately at the standard rate - and the user will only find out at the end of the month or when the unexpectedly run out of PAYG credit.

I can't help but feel that for the typical punter the Vodafone package doesn't really do much to help build confidence. The mechanism is complex and the possibility of paying more than you expect if you do the "wrong" things even if you do understand it is always hanging over you.

The Orange package is better in that regard - but it does crucially depend on how they implement the fair use policy. Hopefully they take a T-mobile style relatively hands off approach.

They key here is the consumer having the confidence that they won't run up unexpected charges when trying out services that they don't necessarily fully understand.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Carnival of the Mobilists 64

This has just been published over at and is well worth a read as ever.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mobile data charges - the second coming of the frog?

I know the title of this entry seems a little random, but bear with me!

First lets look back a little at the crazy frog subscriptions debacle in 2005. The basic problem was that Jamba's ads used didn't make it clear that it was a subscription service as opposed to a one off purchase of the single ringtone - and end users felt they were being ripped off. The net result was a distrust in mobile subscriptions that is felt up to the present day - though PayForIt is now making the first tentative steps to making subscriptions acceptable again.

Stepping back slightly the issue was one of transparency of pricing. Users became worried that they would be overcharged for using PSMS services and that dented their confidence to spend.

We are now seeing the same problem again in the area of mobile data charges. End users (who typically won't understand every dot and comma of their price plan) are getting nice shiny new video etc capable phones and heading off enthusiastically to download rich media like videos from the BBC site and things like that. At the end of the first month they are shocked to find their phone bill has increased by a factor of 10 due to the data used.

Again, other folks hear the horror stories (via tabloids, word of mouth etc) and choose not to use data services on their phones. Their confidence to spend has been dented which is bad for everybody.

This general problem isn't just affecting non-technical etc users as illustrated by Mike Rowhel over at This is Mobility.

This whole area is a major bee in my bonnet so I suspect I will be writing more on this over the next while!

One Web or Mobile Web?

Managed to sneak away from the stand for a couple of interestingly different presentations at 3GSM the other week.

The first was part of the .mobi thread in the wireless developers forum. Stayed for the first few items until they started to talk about the value of the .mobi domain for email addresses (and if anybody can explain the sense of that to me I would be grateful) and I gave up in disgust! As I am sure most folks know the underlying premise is that sites for mobile devices need to be built for mobile devices and the .mobi domain is intended (and restricted) to contain such sites.

The day after I attended the first few talks in Ajit Jaokar's technology breakout on mobile web 2.0 and listened to Jon von Tetzchner of Opera Software tell us at great length how it was "one web" and that all devices, from mobile phones through consumer electronics up to desktop PCs should be able to browse the same material, handling it in a way appropriate to the device in question.

These are at first glance two fundamentally opposed views, of which I would say the former is a useful and pragmatic approach for the short term with a healthy emphasis on supporting end-user confidence, while the latter is a nice long term ideal.