Category Archives: mobile-phones

Swype at TechCrunch50

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Swype was one of the mobile related startups at TechCrunch50 that I found impressive and innovative.  Swype delivers single-tap, multi-tap, predictive and “swype” motions for both stylus and finger based input.

Swype isn’t a pure mobile play as an embedded solution it may be applied to any screen as a enhancement to text input.  The screen might be a mobile device virtual keyboard, but the screen might also be a TV display or visual radio or navigation device, or any device which has a display and can receive text input.

Congratulations to the TechCrunch50 winner: Yammer, but my personal pick for top startup was Swype.  Swype has an amazing team including CEO, Cliff Kushler the co-inventor of T-9 and co-founder Randy Marsden, developer of the virtual keyboard included in Windows.  The company has funding and with the explosion of touch screens including the iPhone and all it’s competitors the market is ready for Swype.

The short video below represents my anticipation that my choice would also be the choice of judges at TechCrunch50.  Apparently, my prediction skills need refinement.

Orange rewrites the Nokia Narrative over Music Service

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The Independent reported that Orange is at odds with Nokia over its new music service which is scheduled for launch today.  The paper claims to have “seen” a memo from Orange to Nokia that threatens to derange an 8GB device to be debuted today. Orange insists that if Nokia doesn’t agree to a trial measuring the performance of Nokia’s music service against Orange’s own music service their handset business will go elsewhere.  The operator set a deadline of 31 August for Nokia’s reply.

The memo said: “We are still to see a working demo of the music store; we would expect a significant level of customer confusion and increased calls to customer services as a result of housing both players on a device and our data tariffs would be negatively impacted as they were not designed to deal with such large individual music files. In short, if this was an Orange service, we would definitely not launch yet to protect our customer experience.”

As Nokia prepares to launch an iTunes competitor today, Orange wants to ensure that their handset provider doesn’t cannibalize the operator’s revenue from its own music service.  One has to wonder if the “trial” will infact result in the trottling of Nokia’s service to ensure a better subscriber experience for Orange.  So, perhaps when it comes to Nokia’s internal narrative, We have 800 million customers outside the US and only 4 customers inside the US, Orange seems to be rewriting that statement.   The network owner is still in charge regardless of what Nokia think.

Mobile Web – Just Say No!

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Mmetrics have released an interesting little data snack from their smartphone user panels. The chart shows the top “mobile web” destinations in the US versus in the UK.

Top Mobile Web Sites

What’s interesting here is that five of the top ten web sites accessed from mobiles in the UK are carrier/operator sites, while the US list more closely resembles the top www sites list. There are the very consistant top three, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft (MSN) and only two carrier/operator sites in the US top ten list. I’ve asked this question of a number of people in the mobile applications, infrastructure and operator businesses, “Is the US consumers’ entry to mobile data services impacted by the very high PC peneration rate and previous web experience in the US versus Europe?” The answers have varied and granted one should not draw conclusions from this one data point, but it validates asking the question.

The label “mobile web” creates cognitive dissonance and confusion in the marketplace. Is there a separate web? The real answer should be no, and in fact, as one observes the growth and evolution of mobile data services in the US what strikes the chord of recognition and apparently adoption are those services familiar from our web experience which add a mobile specific UI and uniquely mobile VAS (value added service) to existing behaviors.

For example, Alltel’s award winning Celltop application ties web services into a UI which works on handsets and tiny screens. Note: Celltop awards are both industry and user bestowed.

Celltop Business View Celltop Sports View Celltop Consumer View

Weather, news, sports scores, stocks and new ringtones/callback tones are services combined from the web and/or the carrier/operator presented in a handset specific UI. Alltel are also running polls to ask their users which web service they’d like to see offered next through Celltop. The options include a digg feed, Gmail, NASCAR updates or horoscopes. Sounds webilicious, no?

Another example is a personal favorite, Sprint Navigation by Telenav. I love this application.

Sprint Navigation Menu View Sprint Navigation Turn-by-turn Sprint Navigation Traffic

Most of you have used Mapquest, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps or some combination of web based mapping and navigation applications. Telenav brings web services behind maps and navigation along traffic information together with GPS and voice capabilities from the handset and mobile network. The result is a powerful personal navigation solution.

First, your actual location is determined via GPS, then you have the option to type or speak the address of your destination. This is where Telenav have done a superior job of integrating with native handset strength in functionality. Screen viewing to observe navigation instructions is supremely difficult at 80 mph on a California freeway. (This is an illustration not an admission of guilt in case the CHPS are listening.) So, Sprint Navigation allows placing a call from inside the application to an automated voice search facility which locates and confirms your destination address, then returns the handset to application state on completion of the call. Your route is calculated and finally the application checks a web traffic conditions service and either reports traffic is good or reroutes to your destination, if possible.

So great! You’ve got a route, traffic considered, and now to get there you need to view the directions. Well, not nessarily. The application repeats turn-by-turn instructions periodically via voice. Using your headset or speakerphone (safety first people) you will hear updated instructions until the turn is reached or you bypass it. If a turn is missed, the application automatically informs you and recalculates the directions. That’s user fault tolerant which I often need give I suffer BADD (blogger attention deficit disorder) which is far shorter and more easily distracted than ADD or ADHD.

Here are two excellent and well adopted applications which do all the things that we’ve been told at countless events and conferences are essential to a successful application, and more importantly, they are implemented extremely well.

  1. web functionality
  2. augment with handset mobile network strengths
  3. mobile specific UI – this might require multiple modalities (don’t ignore voice)
  4. user centric design and fault tolerant

Okay, maybe the list wasn’t presented exactly this way, but it should’ve been. To all those evangelizing “the mobile web,” please stop. And reset to evangelize web services on mobile devices.

I’ll continue to try and persuade you on this logic. Stayed tuned for the next article of the series: .mobi winners and losers.

Back to the Mmetrics findings.   Well over half of the web browsing activity by smartphone users in the UK occurs on operator portals.  Well over half of the web surfing activity by smartphone users in the US is through Google.  It would be helpful to have a breakdown of the Google activity.  Is that all search?  How much is attributable to Gmail access?  Data always raises more questions.

These findings also highlight another consideration when combined with the illustrations of web services in this article.  What does it now mean to access the web from a mobile device?  Are web services through thick clients merely a interim step on the path to fully functioning web browsers on mobile devices?  I think not.  Again, with the example of Sprint Navigation, it takes a handset application to weave handset functionality into a complete solution.

And finally what does it mean that smartphoners in the UK rely upon their operator portals for web browsing?  Are the services offered by operators superior to those on the web?  Is it habit?   Or perhaps, the walled garden is simply more persistent in the UK than it is in the US.

iPhone Countdown: Watch live

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The day has arrived and lines have formed at Apple stores around the US.  If you’re in the US and have cable TV, CNBC is carrying live feeds from various cities awaiting the first sales of the iPhone.

There are Internet streaming sites also covering the launch and include live chat.  The NYC Soho Apple Store is covered live at  The chat room is full, but they’ve added a second web site for chat.

Many of you already know that Scoble is broadcasting from the Palo Alto, CA Apple Store   There is also a live chat available.  Scoble’s feed has been experiencing audio difficulties, but the video is not bad.  Zoomr TV is providing the equipment and using Sprint’s EVDO network for transmission of the live stream.

The first sale of the iPhone occurs at 6pm local time, so NY’ers will be able to purchase 3 hours ahead of California line dwellers.

India loves to talk on mobile phones

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The Economic Times reports that Indian talk-time on mobile phones has reached a high of 461 minutes per month per subscriber. Indians are the most talkative nationality in the Asia-Pacific region out chatting the largest mobile market, China with 450 million subscribers, by 150 to 240 minutes.

The world’s four largest mobile markets are China, US, India and Russia. When it comes to usage, India with 166 million subscribers is second only to the US where the average American spends 838 minutes per month talking on their mobile phones. Russia with the fourth largest subscriber base logged a mere 88 minutes per month. China falls in the middle with China Mobile reporting usage of 303 mintues per month and China Unicom at 220 mintues.

Some of the variance in talk-time is easily explained by the assoicated tariffs. For example, voice charges in India average $.02 per minute with about $.01 per SMS making it one of the world’s cheapest mobile markets. India, also, adheres to the calling party pays and free inbound SMS schemes familiar to Europeans. Callers and receivers both pay in the US, but subscribers purchase flat rate buckets of minutes on both postpaid and prepaid plans many of which, now, include unlimited SMS. Contrast these subscriber friendlier plans with Russia where voice calls average $.20 per minute within a city and $.27 per minute from, say, Moscow to St. Petersburg. Also, both inbound and outbound calls are charged. Clearly, price matters.

India’s low tariff market is also a low penetration market. Although, growth rates are soring with 68% subscriber increase from March of 2006 to March 2007 according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in Delhi. And with the India mobile market forecasted to triple in the next four years, heavy weights like Vodafone are betting big on talkative Indians.