Posts tagged users
Here’s a warning for all those parents who remember that first whopper cell phone bill loaded with ringtones and texting fees from the kids: Get ready for round two.
That’s because the multibillion-dollar market of mobile phone app makers is looking for their next billion dollars.
And right now that target is roping children (and you) into making lots of small purchases within apps, games and social networking services.
Think of a magic flaming sword in your medieval strategy game. If you want it, it’ll cost 5 cents. Or say you want a cool pair of sunglasses for your game’s avatar — 50 cents.
There’s the $99 bunch of virtual “Smurfberries” your 5-year-old wanted so badly in the Smurfs’ Village app that he happily tapped on the “purchase” button. The charges end up on your credit card or monthly wireless bill.
They’re called “micro payments,” and they’re suddenly a macro-sized fountain of new revenue for app and game makers, particularly those who market through Apple’s iTunes store. But, the apps can also be a surprise headache for parents.
The micro-payment strategy is a big change from the way app creator first marketed their products.
Previously, the business model for app or game makers was to take a share of the initial sales price – typically 99 cents – through iTunes or another online store, said Patrick Mork, chief marketing officer of GetJar, one of largest online marketplaces for apps.
Then app creators began offering free, trial versions to tempt people into buying the full version for 99 cents, or $19.99 in some cases.
But now, Mork said, “I’ve talked to some gaming companies who tell me they’re seeing four and five times the revenue from sales of things in the app than the original app.”
All from millions of tiny charges.
That revenue stream could only grow as gadget makers like Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and LG are expected to sell millions of new tablet computers, all built to be app playgrounds.
* * * * *
In turn, parents and politicians have started venting their outrage, especially as children knowingly or not rack up big charges on their parents’ credit card for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The Washington Post in particular documented cases in which children bought $99 barrels of “Smurfberries” in the Capcom Interactive game Smurfs’ Village – either with their parent’s passwords, or during a special 15-minute window that doesn’t require password re-entry by users.
Since the original app purchase was tied to a parent’s credit card, the micro-payments simply flowed through to the monthly credit card statement.
This February, the Federal Trade Commission announced plans to review the marketing and delivery of apps that charge fees. One key question – similar to that in the era of surprise ringtone fees – is whether those charges are fairly disclosed up front.
That probe is ongoing.
Meanwhile, app makers, Apple and some cell phone companies have started adjusting how they handle in-app purchases. Apple has a new operating system upgrade that requires an additional password to purchase in-game trinkets.
* * * * *
But looking forward, app makers, app stores online, and cell phone companies will need to find a balance that makes the most sense for a variety of apps, games or other mobile services, said Todd Murphy, director of the consumer solutions group at Verizon Wireless.
“It’s not like the up front payment will go away,” Murphy said. For example, Verizon has the ability to sell apps on its vCast online store and process in-app purchases so they flow through to the customer’s monthly bill.
“But we have to be sensitive to how we allow developers to present that offering to the customer, because it could be so easy to throw it all on the phone bill. We want to make sure to do this in the right way, so customers can trust us in terms of what they put in the hands of their children.”
For parents wondering if there’s a way to control their children’s in-app purchases – there’s an app for that too.
But if you want to disable in-app purchase altogether on the Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod, follow these steps:
- Tap on your smart phone’s settings button
- Then tap General
- Then tap Restrictions
- Create, or enter your passcode (Note it down for later) and select “Enable Restrictions”
- Scroll down to “In-App Purchases” and switch it to “Off.” Then exit the Settings menu
There isn’t a simple way to make purchases in apps yet For Android and Windows Mobile devices but that’s’ changing. Developers are working on ways to make that happen, and those apps could come out this spring and summer.
Parents will have to learn how to adjust those preferences to block or restrict micro-payments.
[March 25, 2011]
China’s mobile phone users top 878.83 mln in February
BEIJING, Mar 25, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — More and more Chinese are disconnecting fixed-line telephones and turning to mobile phones for communication, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Friday.
China’s mobile phone operators added 19.83 million new subscribers in the first two months of this year, bringing the number of the country’s cell phone users to 878.83 million, MIIT said in a statement on its website.
Fixed-line telecommunication companies, however, lost 918,000 fixed-line telephone users in the January-February period, partly because these subscribers pay a fixed monthly fee of around 18 yuan (2.74 U.S. dollars) even if they make no phone calls.
China reported 1.17 billion telephone users at the end of February, compared to its population of 1.34 billion.
China’s third-generation (3G) mobile phone service subscribers expanded to 55.99 million by the end of February, according to MIIT.
The entire telecommunication industry generated 170.33 billion yuan (25.97 billion U.S. dollars) in business revenue in January-February, up 14 percent year on year.
Of every 100 Chinese people, 64.4 were using mobile phones in 2010, compared to 56.3 users in 2009.
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Minnesota T-Mobile customers are sharply divided over AT&T’s planned $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA, which would push AT&T past its largest rival, Verizon Wireless, to become the biggest U.S. cell phone company.
The deal would eliminate T-Mobile, known as a low-price competitor among the top four cell phone companies, leaving Verizon as a close No. 2 and Sprint as a distant No. 3.
That worries Kory Lasker of Woodbury, who believes his T-Mobile smart phone service will get more expensive under AT&T.
“I pay attention to prices, and T-Mobile is the least expensive provider available and has excellent customer service,” said Lasker, who has a family plan with five phones and four data plans. “I don’t see why prices wouldn’t go up. AT&T’s prices certainly aren’t going to fall to T-Mobile’s level.”
The pending merger, which regulators say could take a year to be cleared by government regulators, creates a host of challenges for the companies and their 130 million subscribers.
The companies use different wireless frequencies, which means T-Mobile customers eventually would have to replace their phones. Some experts say the deal is the biggest antitrust challenge to face the Obama administration.
But Sahar Amini of Minneapolis says she can’t wait to become an AT&T customer.
“I hate T-Mobile because of their customer service,” said Amini, who now has T-Mobile service through her mother’s plan. “From what I’ve heard, AT&T is better.”
Erick Stohr, a T-Mobile customer in Apple Valley who enjoys paying for his cell phone month-to-month without a contract, says he will look at other carriers.
“I feel strongly that I’ll end up paying more money if I stay with AT&T, and that they’ll start to restrict things such a non-contract cell plans,” Stohr said. “I’d been considering moving to Verizon Wireless or Sprint, and this AT&T acquisition is what pushed me over the edge.”
Price fears overblown?
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics in Boston, said consumer fears that cellular phone costs would rise may be exaggerated.
“Every time there is a cell phone company merger, we hear that prices will go up,” Entner said. “But it hasn’t happened. Cellular prices have stayed the same or come down.”
What’s more, Entner says the AT&T/T-Mobile merger may turn out better than many expect, even though Consumer Reports surveys show that AT&T has the worst network in the nation in the eyes of its customers.
“There are certainly complaints about AT&T’s network, but the actual differences between the various cellular networks are not that significant,” Entner said. What’s more, the combined T-Mobile/AT&T network will be less likely to drop calls because the number of cell sites will increase, he said.
Few details offered
AT&T isn’t revealing much about what changes are ahead if the companies combine. It hasn’t disclosed pricing plans for the new company, and won’t say whether it will eliminate T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan. AT&T doesn’t offer an unlimited plan. In addition, AT&T won’t say whether the popular iPhone or iPad will become available to T-Mobile customers.
It’s unclear how many people in Minnesota would be affected — AT&T won’t disclose market share or customer numbers for the state.
It’s also unclear how much the merger will cost T-Mobile customers when it comes to buying new phones.
Lasker said he had been planning to purchase a new T-Mobile phone, but won’t now because AT&T plans to shift T-Mobile to a different frequency — which would require him to buy a new phone.
AT&T agrees that it plans to shift T-Mobile customers to a new frequency, and that the move will require T-Mobile customers to get new phones. But AT&T said the shift would be stretched out over several years, so customers could replace their phones at the same time they normally would.
AT&T has said that one of the major benefits of the merger would be the expansion of 4G service to rural areas. But it also said the 4G network construction is just beginning, and will take seven years to cover 95 percent of the U.S. population.
Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553
With smartphones becoming an indispensable tool, the imminent need for mobile protection is increasingly important with Indians having their phones lost or stolen an average of 1.5 times over the past five years. This was revealed by a Norton Mobile Survey based on research conducted in January 2011 by The Leading Edge, an independent market research firm, on behalf of Symantec Corporation. The Leading Edge conducted an online survey among 500 adults, between the ages 18 and 54, within each of the following six markets: Singapore, India, Australia, China, Taiwan and Japan.
As annoying as it is to lose their mobile phones, 77 percent of victims considered the loss of contact information the worst part of the experience and also a huge inconvenience. In fact, Indian women would rather get a root canal and the men would rather drink stale milk than lose their mobile phones, the survey revealed. It is therefore not surprising that ‘anger’ was the single most dominant feeling expressed by victims of mobile theft.
Of the affected Indians, one in two was concerned about the exposure or loss of private information, with a whopping 74 percent noting that they could neither remotely lock nor wipe the phone’s memory after it was lost or stolen. This could account for 82 percent finding the process of resolving the situation difficult and 90 percent finding the experience stressful.
Not surprisingly, more than half of the victims said that they were willing to pay a ransom (an average of Rs. 3,692) to resolve the situation. However, in reality victims end up paying nearly three times that amount (an average of Rs. 9,957) to resolve the situation. Despite this almost 3 in 10 Indians said that the situation was never resolved and in cases where it was resolved, 12 percent said that it took more than a week.
Getting help is not entirely straightforward either; despite high levels of inconvenience, adults feel that only a limited number of resources are available to help in such occasions. For most Indians, mobile providers are the main source of contact, followed by family and friends.
“The survey results are clear: mobile phone loss and theft is a significant issue for Indians today. As smartphones become more pervasive in our lives, there is a greater need to protect the data on such devices,” says Gaurav Kanwal, Country Sales Manager, India, Consumer Products and Solutions, Symantec.
The study also found that Indians are more likely to have a password if they currently own a smartphone or have lost their mobile phone or had it stolen in the past. Currently, only 42 percent of users in India have password-protected mobile phones – of which, 61 percent currently own a smartphone and another 50 percent were previously victims of mobile phone loss or theft.
On the whole, a significant number of Indians consider security factors before making a mobile phone purchase. Eighty percent of adults agreed that services such as locking, wiping and locating phones remotely are important; and the same percentage would be likely to purchase software providing such a service.
Indians have some of the highest confidence levels in the region with regard to the use of software services on their mobile phones. Six out of ten Indians are comfortable allowing software on their phones to identify their location, and a similar number are comfortable with online banking. With mobile phones becoming such a central device in the lives of consumers, it is important to protect these devices, especially the data that is stored on such devices.
Chances are you lock your door when you leave home, don’t leave the keys in the ignition when you run into the 7-Eleven for milk and have at least some kind of security software on your computer.
But what about your smartphone?
For many people, a phone these days is a mobile office crammed with valuable contacts, a digital wallet from which you buy songs on iTunes or shoes on Amazon, and a portal to your online bank account.
Rather than locking the phones like bank vaults, most smartphone owners treat their devices with as much concern as they do Monopoly money.
According to a survey by data-security provider Symantec, 54 percent of smartphone users do not have a password lock on their phones when they turn them on or wake them from sleep mode.
“I think there’s definitely an awareness gap right now,” said Mark Kanok, group product manager for the Norton mobile division at Symantec.
“Just a few years ago, your phone was a phone. Then the iPhone comes out and people are downloading apps. People are now starting to ask the questions about, ‘How is this going to affect my privacy, what happens if I lose it,’ things like that.”
On top of the dangers of your phone being lost or stolen, there are also a growing number of malicious apps designed to steal data from it or rack up huge texting bills.
Last week, Google pulled several dozen free apps from its Android market that had been stuffed with damaging code.
Symantec estimated that the apps were downloaded anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 times in a four-day period before they were pulled.
John Thode, vice president and general manager of the mobility product group at Dell, said many smartphone users don’t realize the value of their device until it’s gone.
“The reality is that, yeah, whenever you lose your phone or your phone breaks, there’s an instant panic that comes around,” he said. “Holy smokes, where are my contacts? How do I get back my whole life?”
That concern is magnified when an employer starts giving out smartphones to its workers or lets those workers connect their personal devices to the corporate network, said Mary Chan, vice president of Dell’s enterprise mobile-solutions division. Chan’s group has begun offering security systems and procedures for mobile devices on corporate networks.
She said a compromised phone with access to a corporate network can wreak havoc.
“I think most of the IT and CIO folks are really concerned about managing the device itself, managing what’s being loaded on the device,” she said.
Chan pointed to an estimate by research firm Gartner that about 300 million smartphones will be connected to corporate networks by 2015, with about half those devices being employees’ personal machines.
Much of the security advice for individual smartphone users and corporate managers overlaps.
Install only trusted apps on your phone.
Use Web-based programs that let you remotely track or delete all of the data on your smartphone if it gets lost.
Don’t conduct financial transactions over public or unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks, where your data can flow through a hacker’s router.
Employers can also take additional steps, Chan said, such as letting employees install apps only from a preapproved list.
Another option is keeping valuable corporate data only accessible online, rather than letting individual users download it to their phones.
Phone makers and software developers are pushing out some of these tools to smartphone users.
Apple, for example, offers free software on the iPhone and iPad that lets users remotely set up a password lock if the device gets lost or stolen, track it geographically or even wipe all the data from the machine as a last resort.
Norton Mobile Security for Android devices includes a malware scanner designed to catch crooked apps before they bite you.
Even with technological protection, user awareness can go a long way.
Simple games and screen-saver apps, for example, shouldn’t be asking for permission to access your text messages. If they do, you’re probably better off canceling the installation.
Strong security software and individual vigilance will become even more important over the next few years as phone makers and carriers adopt a technology that will turn your phone into a wireless digital wallet.
So-called near-field communication, or NFC, systems should make life more convenient, letting you store your credit and debit cards and, eventually, your driver’s license digitally on your phone.
You’ll simply wave your phone over a scanner at the cash register to pay and be on your way.
Target for thieves
But as our phones become more valuable to us, they’ll also become a more tempting target for thieves.
“Once NFC starts happening, you’re going to see hackers enter this space in a much more substantial way,” said Thode at Dell.
Apple is rumored to be including an NFC chip in the next-generation iPhone expected this summer, and Samsung has already released the NFC-equipped Nexus S.
Kanok at Norton said the growing need for better smartphone security seems to be sinking in.
“I think the maturity is a little bit lagging behind where we are on the PC front,” he said. “But I think the sensitivity has picked up over the last year.”
Sponsored links, if any, appear in green.
Kazaa announced today the availability of a mobile site that allows subscribers of its streaming music services that use iOS devices to access such services simply by visiting kazaa.com in their mobile browsers.
Users can register and pay for the subscription services by entering in a credit card, cell phone number, or home phone bill directly on the website. This allows Kazaa to bypass the new Apple App Store requirements that state in-app subscriptions are subject to Apple getting a 30 percent cut. If Kazaa had released a native application in the App Store, it would be subject to such a fee whenever new customers signed up through the app.
It will be interesting to see if this is successful for Kazaa as there are already a plethora of streaming music services available directly in the App Store and Android Market. The new mobile site is available today at www.kazaa.com. [via TechCrunch]
Poor etiquette by mobile users is rampant and getting worse every day as use of smartphones and other wireless devices continues to mushroom, according to an Ipsos survey of U.S. adults.
The survey found that 75% of the 2,000 adults surveyed believe mobile manners have worsened since 2009. And more than 90% said they have witnessed first-hand poor mobile behavior — activities ranging from texting while driving or walking to talking on a mobile phone in a public restroom.
Some 19% of the repondents admitted having poor mobile habits themselves, but continued such activities because others were doing the same thing.
The survey, sponsored by Intel, was conducted from Dec. 10, 2010 to Jan. 5, 2011.
Intel, which makes processors that are used in some mobile devices, said the survey is part of its research into how people use technology to drive innovation. The company sponsored a similar survey in 2009.
Genevieve Bell, an Intel fellow who heads up research into human interactions and experience at Intel Labs, noted that because mobile technology is still fairly new, “it’s no surprise that people still struggle with how to best integrate these devices into their lives.
“New digital technologies are becoming a mainstay in consumers’ lives, but we haven’t yet worked out for ourselves, our families, communities and societies what all the right kinds of behaviors and expectations will be,” Bell added. The survey also found that:
The survey relates to a theme raised by some communications executives at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently.
On one panel there, executives cited how smartphones and similar devices can constantly interrupt our lives , keeping our attention on the devices instead of on friends, family and co-workers.
“We’re starting to live in a world of interruption technology — isn’t anybody questioning this?” said MWC panelist Hampus Jakobsson, director of strategic alliances at BlackBerry smartphone maker Research in Motion. He is the former head of TAT, an interface design company acquired by RIM last year.
In response to a question on how RIM might reduce interruptions, Jakobsson suggested BlackBerry devices perhaps shouldn’t run games that demand close attention from users.
Panelist and AT&T CTO John Donovan added that mobile devices have become the “serial interrupters” of modern society. “We owe it to the industry to restore simplicity where interactions and productivity are balanced,” he added.
Elsewhere, Microsoft picked up on the theme of bad phone behaviors in a series of TV ads for its Windows Phone 7 devices.
The commercials lament the way typical smartphones can prevent people from engaging directly with others, and suggesting that the interface on WP7-based phones will allow tasks to be completed swiftly and thus let users more quickly get back to communicating directly with families and co-workers.
An Intel spokeswoman said the is not looking to prescribe a right or wrong way to use mobile technology by releasing the results of the survey. “We want to understand how people use and want to use their technology. It’s an important part of our future product planning process,” said spokeswoman Jessica Hansen.
She said Intel isn’t aware of an industry group devoted to mobile technology etiquette despite the comments made at MWC and the Microsoft ads.
Intel, however, did quote tips from etiquette expert Anna Post.
In general, Post suggests that mobile users “be present … [and] give your full attention to those you are with … in a meeting or on a date.”
Post also suggests that users stop and consider whether it would be best to postpone a call or to move away from others when talking, texting or e-mailing from a mobile device. She also suggests talking with family, friends and co-workers about setting ground rules for mobile device use.
Finally, Post said she believes that some places, such as restrooms, are private and should remain free of mobile device use.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt’s RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld’s Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.
There were devices galore at the Mobile World Congress trade show, but the software outshone the hardware, writes Lucy Battersby.
In between coffees, meetings and product launches at the mobile industry’s annual jamboree in Barcelona, many visitors were seen pulling out a computer or tablet to email and browse the web.
It was not surprising that there was free Wi-Fi available everywhere. What was surprising was the speed of that Wi-Fi. It was lousy. Really lousy. But when you think about it, it all makes sense, and is a perfect demonstration of the benefits and limitations of wireless technology.
Inside the congress were 60,000 people and all their devices and several thousand more devices on display. Apart from those who had turned data capabilities off to avoid roaming fees, everyone at some point was trying to access the internet through their smartphone or tablet or the latest invention.
The radio frequency allocated to the mobile phone cells and temporary Wi-Fi networks serving the congress area struggled with demand for data and slowed to a crawl.
Wireless routers were also used, but signals were slowed by walls. The most reliable and fastest connection came from an ethernet cable.
Inside venues femtocells (femto is a metric measurement) were plugged into fixed connections to boost mobile coverage. These cells transform fixed broadband into mobile broadband, thus taking people off the mobile phone tower cell. These cells have been widely distributed to households by the US mobile company AT&T to alleviate demand on the network.
While displaying the amazing benefits of plucking internet from the air and the future direction of mobile broadband, no one at the congress was arguing it would replace fixed broadband. In fact, the sector invests heavily in comprehensive fixed networks, so every mobile base station can plug into the internet. Telstra already has high-capacity ethernet cables running to 93 per cent of its mobile base stations, its chief executive, David Thodey, said at a press conference announcing the company’s new 4G network.
”We see both fibre to the home and high-speed wireless being complementary. Giving people the option and running a truly homogenous core network is critically important,” he says.
Telstra will install new technology on existing mobile towers to deliver high speed data at 1800 megahertz. The frequency of the new network is more important than the speeds it can achieve because it moves users off the NextG network, set at 850 MHz. Each device and mobile tower is tuned to a particular frequency, which acts like a highway along which data travels. By creating a new highway at 1800, there will be less traffic at 850.
Expanding network capacity to accommodate demand for data was a key theme of the congress. Consumers want all the bells and whistles of their new devices, but they won’t get them unless the network can handle data-hungry applications such as video.
Bob Azzi, the senior vice-president of network at the US mobile operator Sprint, said customer behaviour in the mobile sector is changing.
”We are now in the era where the move is rapid and quick to devices that do a lot more,” he says.
”When you make it easy for customers to use their devices and you make the applications easier, they use more data.”
Instead of a small number of excessive users draining mobile networks, the ubiquity of smartphones means many people using small to medium amounts of data are draining networks.
Despite the limits of physics, the global mobile industry is in ascendancy, judging by the amount of money spent on exhibition venues, hospitality and new product launches. There was a record number of attendees, chief executives and app developers at this year’s congress.
But with every new customer and new device comes more demand on the network, and carriers can’t charge for data unless they deliver it.
The chief executive of Vodafone, Vittorio Colao, declared himself a ”digital optimist”’ because of his belief that customers will pay for better service.
”Tiered data pricing is good because it gives customers choice and control, but it is also good because it gives operators the opportunity to monetise on the high-usage customers, and gives the opportunity to upsell when all these nice devices create more demand,” he says.
Don’t be surprised if carriers start offering guaranteed mobile broadband service at a higher price, or faster downloads for a price. Their networks have the capability to prioritise your data, if you are willing to pay for it.
Which introduces the next big problem for mobile companies after they increase network capacity – building accurate and complex billing systems.
Last year 26 per cent of complaints about Australian telcos were related to billing, at a time when customers only have mobile and fixed phones, and mobile and fixed broadband.
In coming years more and more ordinary products will be built for mobile broadband and more daily chores will be done through mobile devices.
The head of strategy and business development at Ericsson, Stefan Hedelius, says machine-to-machine communications is the next big thing. For example, connecting cars will help road authorities manage traffic flow or track stolen vehicles.
Or software can be downloaded for just a few hours at a time, rather than buying whole packages, or customers can ask for a speed boost at busy times. And mobile devices will be closely tied to bank accounts so consumers can pay for snacks or train fares by waving their phone near a receiver.
But with so much personal and financial information tied up in wireless communications, and so many varied ways for companies to charge for extra service, Hedelius admits carriers will need to be very trustworthy and have excellent billing capabilities.
”Normally operators have a very strong brand and you rely on them for many things … [but] trust is going to be extremely important,” he says.
Operators will also walk a fine line between using all this information for direct advertising and invading customers’ personal space.
”There is a level where [customers] want to have their privacy. We can feel that sometimes,” he says.
The head of Ericsson in Asia and Oceania, Arun Bansal, says operations and business support systems will be a huge growth area around the region as carriers are forced to upgrade to provide better and more complex services.
Back on the consumer side, handset technology is racing ahead of network capability and a user’s basic needs. Samsung released a 3D smartphone which can also record video in three dimensions and Sony Ericsson released a smartphone with PlayStation game controls. Haptic technology allows users to feel texture and grooves on the flat screen of a smartphone or tablet and is already being installed in new products, and Texas Instruments has an application that allows users to zoom in and out of an image or flick through files by gesturing in front of the device’s camera.
And augmented reality was on display everywhere – where a smartphone’s camera picks up signals embedded in images and then displays information about the product. For example, looking at a film poster through your phone would pull up the film’s showing times at nearby cinemas and offer to buy tickets for you, which you would be able to pay for through your mobile phone account.
Supporting these features is the software installed on a smartphone, another key theme at the congress. The importance of the software, or operating system, is becoming more important than the physical phone.
While there are hundreds of smartphone manufacturers and models, consumers only seem to be interested in three major operating systems. First there was only Apple’s iOS and App store, then Google brought Android to market, and then Microsoft released the Windows 7 operating system.
Most apps are available on the three major systems, but not on less popular software.
A handset maker can install different software on their phones to satisfy customer demand. For example, Samsung has phones with Android software and phones with Microsoft software, and also some phones with its own ”bada” software.
The non-voice capabilities of smartphones are so important that consumers are now choosing phones based on the software rather than the handset. Which is why a few days before the World Mobile Congress, the Finnish phone maker Nokia announced a new partnership with Microsoft, with expectations it will release a Windows 7-Nokia smartphone before the end of the year.
The software enables certain applications or features and affects the phone’s speed and performance, but it also affects the way smartphones behave on the network.
”We have had operating systems come out that really load up the network with extraneous data that we do not want … Why they are important to the operator is to make sure that they are efficient and that they work well,” Thodey explains, admitting the customer’s preference for software does not always match the operator’s preference.
Blurring the line between phones and mobile life-management tools and science fiction has inevitably led to a backlash. One of the most memorable devices on show was a phone that only makes phone calls. With the rest of the industry clambering to have the best video and broadband applications, a simple phone with large buttons and no screen stood out. Manufactured in China for an Amsterdam business, John’s Phone also comes with a paper address book neatly fitted into a compartment on its back.
The author travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Ericsson.
State-run telecom company Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. lost 10,355 users since the launch of mobile number portability, or MNP, junior Telecom Minister Sachin Pilot said Wednesday.
But MTNL gained 4,486 new users from other telecom companies through MNP, a service that allows mobile phone users to switch their service providers without changing their numbers, Pilot told lawmakers in the lower house of the parliament.
MNP service was launched on Nov. 25 in the northern Indian state of Haryana, and subsequently extended it across the country on Jan. 20. MTNL provides communications services only in the Delhi and Mumbai service areas.
State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. lost 223,824 users to other mobile phone companies post the launch of MNP, and gained 92,243 new users from others, Pilot said.
BSNL offers services in the remaining of 20 of India’s 22 telecom service areas.
“The main reasons for porting out [switching from] have been reported to be network/coverage issues, tariff issues…,” the minister said.
Pilot said that BSNL has waived off an INR19 fee for users opting to change their service provider to the company, formed special cells to address user grievances, introduced competitive tariff plans, and also has given additional incentives for its distributors and retailers selling its services.
MTNL has also waived off the fee for users in Mumbai, introduced competitive tariffs and improved its mobile phone network coverage and capacity to retain old users and add new subscribers, the minister said.
BARCELONA: Consumers have more choices than ever before of how to tell their mobile phones what they want to do, and are likely to change their habits faster than they expect as distribution speeds up.
Handwriting, tracing and plain speaking to your device are some of the alternatives to typing that are now on the market — and app stores and Google Inc’s Android are putting them into the hands of hundreds of millions of users.
Apple Inc’s original iPhone in 2007 with its responsive touchscreen revolutionized the way consumers interacted with their phones, spawning widespread imitation at the high end of the market.
But typing on a touch screen is still problematic for many users and a host of alternatives have recently sprung up.
Nuance Communications Inc, the maker of Dragon speech-recognition software, this week launched an application in five European languages that allows users to switch between four different input methods at the touch of an icon.
Swype, invented by the creator of the widely used T9 predictive text technology for numeric keypads, lets users input words by tracing their shape on a touch screen keyboard.
Others go a step further: Vlingo combines voice recognition with what it calls an intent engine — guessing, for example, that a user wants to see a movie when it hears a film title, and responding with local cinema listings.
Last year, Apple bought Siri, an iPhone app that doubles as a voice-operated “personal assistant,” doing tasks like booking taxis or making restaurant reservations, helped by the phone’s knowledge of where the user is.
Clicking on glass
Other smartphone makers have been quick to embrace such technology, either offering it in app stores or pre-installing it on their devices.
At the Samsung Electronics Co Ltd stand at this week’s Mobile World Congress, visitors experimented with some of the new apps.
“Once you get used to it, it will probably be lovely,” said Boudewijn Rempt, a 41-year-old software executive from the Netherlands trying out Swype. But he added that he could easily live without it.
“I’ve been typing with my two thumbs for ages now. Being stubborn, I’m fast enough this way,” he said. “If all the devices supported it equally well I might be tempted to try it.”
It may not be long before that becomes the case.
The distribution of apps through app stores means users no longer need to wait to replace their handset to obtain new features, while the adoption of Android by dozens of phone makers is standardizing advanced technology.
In addition, some companies, like Nuance, make their software available to developers to embed in their apps, giving users additional opportunities to stumble upon uses for dictation or voice-activated Web search.
“If Swype would get its technology onto a few apps, they could get really swift adoption,” says Christian Lindholm, managing partner at digital design agency Fjord, whose clients include Yahoo! Inc and social network Foursquare.
Lindholm, who invented the Navi-Key menu navigation system that was central to hundreds of millions of Nokia candy-bar phones last decade, said he believed users would overcome their skepticism if the new technology worked well.
“It’s not natural to click on a plate of glass. Speed and lack of errors are the key,” he said.
Swype, whose investors include Nokia and Samsung, does not allow developers access to its technology, preferring to license it to handset makers. It shipped on 20 million devices last year and says it is set as the default keyboard on about half.
“We would rather be a system-wide solution than be incorporated in apps. It also promotes stickiness,” Chief Executive Mike McSherry told Reuters in an interview. “Our goal is to be the default for every single keyboard.”
More context-rich services like Vlingo may take longer to catch on, since they depend on users being willing to share information about where they are, and on Internet connections to fetch information.
At the Samsung stand, Rempt said of Vlingo: “It’s nice to have local. Of course, it needs a bit of processing capacity. Like all of these devices, it presumes you have the Internet.”
He said international roaming charges would prevent him from making much use of it. “I think it’s good for the US But I’m Dutch — I barely have 400 kilometers by 400 kilometers (250 miles) where I can use it.”