Saturday, June 20, 2009

Carnival of the Mobilists #179

Following on from Volker's excellent carnival #178 last week, I am delighted to host this week's Carnival of the Mobilists.

I will kick off with a post by a fellow Scottish mobilist, Richard Marshall, who asks who will be the Railroad Barons of Mobile? He considers the development of the mobile apps business and draws an interesting parallel between the opening of the American west during the gold rush and the recent rollout of the mobile app stores. A thought provoking read and my post of the week.

Equally thought provokingly, Mark Kramer on Smart Mobs has posted a link inspired by one of the presentations at Mobile 2.0 on Participatory Sensing, including a link to an excellent video on the subject.

Alternative Reality (AR) is a theme that crops up a number of times this week. Anthony Ashbrook of the Mobile Visual Interactivity blog, carnival newcomer and another Scottish mobilist, starts at a high level and asks So what is augmented reality? Next up is an interesting overview of the use of AR in mobile marketing and apps from Andy Favell on the mobiThinking blog- though he seems to include general visual search within the definition of AR which I am not sure I would agree with.

AR is an interesting area for the technophile due to the sheer range of technologies used to underpin the various services - from image recognition through to location and digital compass. It is also an excellent way to bridge the gap between digital media and the physical world - definitely a technology whose time has come. By way of disclosure I should point out that I work for Mobile Acuity Ltd. and one of our areas of expertise is AR.

Taking a bit of a step back Tomi Ahonen at Communities Dominate Brands has added two more to the list of C's of cellphones - Cyber and Context. The former covers everything from AR on one hand to connected pets and plants the other. He defines the latter as being to do with the "human need to let people know our status" - rather than more technical things such as location, though I am not entirely convinced by that distinction.

One of the key services based on Tomi's definition of Context is obviously twitter, which is also the subject of Ajit Jaokar's contribution from Opengardens this week on The Twitterphone, where he describes a "pure social media co-creation phone", in fact taking it to a point where it is interesting to question whether it is still a phone ...

Looking a little further forward Russell Buckley at MobHappy speculates about Mobile Phones in 10 Year's Time - leading to a conclusion that many of us oldies who can't cope with such a closely integrated future will end up in "sheltered accommodation, which offer largely tech free environments" - nice one to look forward to Russell!

For stat-o-philes there have been a couple of interesting posts this week. Peggy Salz of MSearchGroove expands on a presentation given at Mobile Advertising UK in London last week describing the key findings of a survey of 1000 UK mobile users. This will provide the basis for a Mobile Advertising UK report due in July. She follows this up with an audio interview on the implications with Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy UK. Looking further afield Phil Barrett provides a presentation he gave at Marketing Magazine's Mobile 2.0 conference in Toronto in which he compares the relative merits of downloaded and web applications on mobile based on the stats in the Canadian market.

Thanks to everybody for providing such an interesting and stimulating collection of thoughts and ideas. Next week's carnival will be hosted by Rudy de Waele over at mTrends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why would anybody ever use iPhone tethering?

Following the live feed from WWDC provided by Mac Rumors I was delighted to see that the new iPhone would allow tethering on O2 in the UK. I was less pleased to find out, when looking at the details on the O2 site the next day, that users will have to pay an *extra* £15pm for the privilege of using it!

I have been tethering on various Nokia S60 handsets first on T-mobile and then on 3 for the last 3 years. It is not something I do very regularly - more a fallback - and relatively low volumes of data involved, but it is an important safety net.

While I am still very tempted to go for the new iPhone for other reasons, though still intrigued by the Android based Samsung i7500 if they would get on and launch it, I am now seriously questioning whether tethering will be part of my future at all.

All of the handsets I am now looking at provide pretty good access to web and email, and have a wide selection of apps which can handle a lot of the tasks I used to use my laptop for, but there will still be times when I need to get online with my laptop urgently so what to do?

This has led to me having a look round at the various PAYG 3G dongle options available. I had expected them to be fairly similar to each other give or take the usual demographic differences in the operators typical users, but I was pleasantly surprised by the range of options out there:
  • Vodafone. £39 upfront with 1Gb data included. Dongle doubles as 4Gb memory stick. No time limits on using the data at all - but need to use once every 180 days to keep live. Once it runs out £15 to topup with another 1GB. Possible to use on a Mac at a push but not yet officially or well supported which is a pity!
  • T-Mobile. £24.46 for the dongle. Pay to use: £2 per day, £7 per week, or £15 per month. 3Gb per month fair use policy. Mac is supported.
  • O2. Dongle costs £29.99. Pay to use: £2 per day (500Mb), £7 per week (1Gb), £15 per month (3Gb). Unlimited wifi use via the Cloud - assume during usage periods! Mac is supported.
  • 3. £29.99 for the dongle. Buy and convert a topup into a mobile broadband addon for a months access: £10 for 1Gb, £15 for 3Gb, or £25 for 7Gb. Mac is supported.
Quite a few different takes on how to price this sort of thing here - with the "right" choice very much dependent on your pattern of use. Of course for higher volume and/or regular use a contract makes more sense.

So in summary the pricing offered by O2 would only potentially make sense for people who need high volume data access while out and about very regularly, and it has to be said that in simple usability terms a seperate contract 3G dongle would make a *lot* more sense for that sort of user as opposed to having to wire their handset to their laptop all the time.

The way O2 have priced tethering simply doesn't make sense - but perhaps that is their intention. Doing it as they have they have the headline feature (unlike AT&T!) but won't have to support any large scale use of it.

PS. The latest carnival is up over at a consuming experience.

MoMo Edinburgh: App stores and mobile payment

An excellent turnout of 18 people (causing issues with getting extra tables - but a nice problem to have ;-) gathered in the downstairs private room of Centotre in Edinburgh last Monday for a pleasant lunch with lots of mobile chat. Some more photos were taken were taken to add to the MoMo Edinburgh group on flickr.

Richard Marshall of Rapid Mobile kicked off an interesting discussion about mobile App stores, initially looking for thoughts about the Nokia Ovi store. This broadened into a more general debate about whether the other stores could replicate Apple's success, supported as it is by the public trust in their brand, the existing billing relationship created by iTunes, and the advantage of minimal hardware fragmentation.

It was noted that the rash of new store launches has created a conflict between operator focused stores on one hand, and platform focused stores on the other. Also, while fragmentation is still a hard problem, the huge numbers of Nokia java phones in the market, addressable via Ovi, represent a huge commercial opportunity.

Gavin Dutch of Hedout then moved the discussion on to the problems of taking conventional credit card payments in mobile apps and web services. It was noted that APIs intended for webapps, e.g. from paypal and the like, could often be used, though security systems like 3D secure can be a problem in some cases.

Discussion then moved on to contactless and mobile payments, and it was noted that the major credit card networks are now rolling out NFC readers in the UK.

The next event is planned for the 6th of July and anybody interested should make sure they are signed up to the google group.

PS. Thanks to Vero at Taptu for giving a mention of my previous post about MoMo Edinburgh in her recent carnival of the mobilists.