Mobile devices are the next frontier of the Internet. Where companies and even governments are now battling it out over the desktop, it is the device you can fit in your pocket that will be the next place they will be after. Where those reading this who live outside of the US are very in tune with this, folks here are not so much aware of this, namely as mobile devices are now crossing over from being simple phones to smartphones.
Now I will step off my soapbox and talk about practical applications, which is the path to the success of conquering the mobile frontier. When I recently happened upon Mippin, a service that will format your blog to display on a mobile device, I had to try it out. By creating a free account and entering my blog’s URL, it created an optimized version of The Hot Iron for a mobile device. You can see this for yourself by clicking the widget above or click this link. You are sent to a page to display it on your device, whether by entering a URL manually of scanning a QR code. As it is a Web page, you can display it in a standard Web browser as well.
Eventually I plan to build my own mobile-optimized version of The Hot Iron, but for now this is a good stand-in for it. I welcome your input on how this mobile format looks and works for you.
As much as a mobile phone is a high tech device, it doesn’t necessarily mean everybody who uses one is also high tech. In most cases, that is not the case. When I heard T-Mobile, who is my mobile provider, is going to start charging for paper copies of bills to be sent, I was honestly surprised. I heard about it in a tweet from CBS2 Chicago, and responded with my stance.
Shortly after I was asked if I would like to be interviewed about the story, to which your humble and definitely not camera-shy writer quickly obliged. The accompanying photo is a screen shot from the interview today on CBS2 with reporter Vince Gerasole, and by clicking on the picture or this link to the CBS2 Web site you can watch the story.
Maybe I am hyper sensitive to such issues in my capacity as a Web architect and developer, but the ultimate goal of any use of retail technology is to help those using it. As much as online billing is alive and flourishing, not to mention my use and support of it, I also understand that we are “not there yet” as a society when it comes to being completely paperless. Some people prefer a paper bill, especially for those who are not online continuously as others are. T-Mobile is charging $1.50 for a non-detailed bill (not listing all calls) and $3.50 for a bill listing them all. I can see if they wanted to impose a charge on a detailed bill, as they tend to run long (in the news story, the bill I printed was 18 pages), but charging even for a basic bill makes no sense to me.
Rather that starting with the charge, T-Mobile should incentivize people by offering them a credit, say US$5, to go paperless. That may cover most people. For those remaining, this should have already been worked into your pricing structure to send bills in some form. Rather than sending bulky envelopes with all kinds of inserts, perhaps send the statement in a self-sealing sheet, similar to how some checks are sent? There are other options – explore them!
I must admit I am a very satisfied T-Mobile customer, and I have stated that before here on The Hot Iron. However, one issue I do have is with billing. Where I get my bill online, I never get an email or even SMS alert that my bill is available. I have to rely on my credit card statement to see a new bill has been cut. Also, the T-Mobile site offers an HTML version of the bill and not a PDF version, so someone would need the software to make PDFs in order to save it digitally. Most other vendors send email alerts and offer PDFs.
I’m interested in how this issue plays out, and if other providers capitalize on it, or if all others start charging for bills. In any case, we all need to be aware about what is showing up on our bills. For this issue, I thank CBS2 Chicago for letting me know about it.
Along with the device itself, which is in good order but has some wear, there are a large number of cables and chargers, plus a cradle. If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer and are looking for a device, this could be yours.
All good things come to an end, and so does the use of my Palm Treo 680 unlocked device. Since making the switch to Nokia about a year ago, I have decided to put the Treo 680 up for sale on eBay, along with a slew of accessories, as you can see below.
Along with the device itself, which is in good order but has some wear, there are a large number of cables and chargers, plus a spare battery. If you’re looking for an unlocked device, this could be yours.
There comes a time when you introduce something remarkable in to your business or life that you almost don’t realize it is even there. For me, that is SpinVox, a service which transcribes voicemail to text.
I started using SpinVox in January, and here it August. I was setup with an account by James Whatley, SpinVox’s Head of Digital & Social Media Strategy, whom I met at the Nokia OpenLab last year in Helsinki. The service is tied to my mobile voicemail, and as it worked so well I added it to my Vonage account, which they refer to it as Visual Voicemail. Since then it has been such a vital tool for me, I almost forgot life without it.
How It Works
SpinVox replaces your mobile carrier’s own voicemail system, in my case T-Mobile. This is achieved by forwarding all calls that do not answer to numbers tied to the SpinVox system. When someone leaves me a voicemail, I get both an email and a SMS (or text message as we call it in the US). Each has the transcribed text of the voicemail plus numbers to call to listen and reply to the message. For my Vonage line, it was simply adding the service, and the regular emails and SMSs I received now have the text of the message.
So how well does it transcribe it? Not bad! Common words come through without missing a beat. Names and not-so common words come through pretty well, and if it cannot translate it exactly, it does it phonetically and even puts a question mark next to it. For example, my last name, Maddaloni, is usually spelled out phonetically. All in all I rarely have to listen to a message to understand it, but if I want to I can. The delivery of messages is not instantaneously as compared to traditional voicemail, but it usually arrives within a few minutes.
Why It Works
You may be asking, as I did originally, so what? There are 2 benefits to SpinVox that made me a true believer. The first is the ability to read a voicemail message when you don’t have the ability to listen to it. In the middle of a meeting, calls get translated to text and you can get the gist of it without putting the device to your ear. Many times a return email or SMS to the caller will do the trick. A second and equal benefit is the ability to file and store transcriptions of voicemails. This is huge, as many times project details are communicated by voicemail, and now you have a written record that can be stored in email archives or in other digital files.
Another feature of SpinVox is Memo. This is where you can speak a message to yourself and it is delivered in an email message to you. I find myself using this when I am out for a walk and ideas come to me, and I don’t have – or want – paper and a pen.
Reading voicemail is a great convenience in today’s multitasking world, and SpinVox makes it easy. It is available through several carriers, such as Vonage, Skype and Verizon in the US and Rogers in Canada. If you are not on these carriers you can get it as an add-on through uReach. On the uReach or SpinVox sites you can try it for yourself to see how well it translates your voice, which for me at least was an experience the first time I saw it.
Regular readers of The Hot Iron know I have written a post or 2 (more like several) on unlocked mobile devices, or mobile phones as some know them as. Where I have tried to explain it, the following video does a great job explaining the benefits of an unlocked device. Watch the video below or view the video directly.
This video showcases the specific US network providers as not all of them offer a SIM card. This differs greatly from pretty much the rest of the world! Devices like the iPhone and many other models stamped with a carrier’s logo are locked to those networks, and there isn’t even the option to use a SIM card. This video is from Nokia, who sells mostly unlocked devices, though recently they have offered models locked to Verizon Wireless.
Of course, unlocked devices cost more. But their value is also greater as you have a better chance of reselling it as the market for it is greater. Some device manufacturers, like Apple, only want you to use them on a specific network, as they have made business deals with the network provider for exclusivity. Where that may work for them, it doesn’t work for the masses who want a particular device. The providers like locked devices as they probably see it a big part of their competitive advantage, which is a lot harder than providing excellent customer service!
This video is a great start to educating people, but it will time. In the meantime, I shy away from the iPhone. But note to Steve Jobs – I would be willing to pay a lot more than the highest price you currently charge for the iPhone to get one unlocked!
After several weeks with a Nokia E75 mobile device, from the kind generosity from the folks at WOM World/Nokia I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I took this device on planes, trains and automobiles – even ferries – and was my only camera at a wedding. A few blog posts here at The Hot Iron were written on it too. Still, I was having a hard time deciding what I thought of the device.
Then it hit me; it isn’t for me.
It was while waiting for a train from Chicago to Milwaukee when I realized this. Standing in the tiny Amtrak lobby, I saw many people typing away on keyboard device models by Samsung and LG among others. As I observed their pecking away on their device’s full keyboards, I noticed the keys were smaller than those on the E75, which are much larger than most devices out there. The people using them were probably in their 20’s and 30’s and were very adept at “texting” as we call it in the States. As I looked at the E75 in my hands, it then dawned on me why it wasn’t for me.
Here’s my conclusion – the E75 is for the business user who isn’t comfortable with the small size of keyboards such as those on a Blackberry or even like on the Nokia E71.
Now I don’t base this on anything I have read elsewhere, only my own brainpower. As I consider myself a high-end tech user, and love the E71 the issues I had with using the keyboard on the E75 were due to the fact I was trying to use it like I did the E71 – fast, and with one hand. This is not what the E75’s slide out keyboard was designed for.
My evaluation process was more utilitarian than scientific. I simply charged the E75, put my T-Mobile SIM card in it, synced my contacts and calendar and started using it as my primary device during the trial. I did install Qik and tried the Ovi Store – actually I did them in the reverse order as I was unable to install Qik from the Ovi Store, so I went directly to Qik’s Web site to initiate the install.
As a mobile phone, the E75 works well. The best way to describe the keypad is that is similar to shingles on a house. I’ve never seen this concept before and it worked for me. The Navi key was familiar to me as I used it on the E71. Much of the use of the E75 was like the E71, including a camera on the front as well as back, ideal for self-portraits and recording video of one’s self.
It seems the main selling point of the device is the slide out keyboard. The actual sliding part was solid as the device is overall. Down the middle of the keyboard is a metal bar which I presume is for stability. When the keyboard slides out the action buttons on the phone keypad remain active as well as the Navi key, but the remaining keys are disabled. This is too bad, as it’s difficult to quickly key numbers on the keyboard and leaving them active would have alleviated this issue.
Here’s some specific regarding the E75 keyboard. There is only one function key, which you need to get to the alternate characters on keys, namely numbers. This made it hard to type traditionally or with thumbs as you would on a smaller keyboard. It was also hard for my fat fingers to press the top row of keys as it kept hitting the edge of the top of the phone from where the keyboard slides from. On top of it all, the flat keys prevented “feel” typing.
As for the camera, overall it was good and much better than I anticipated. It took decent photos in daylight as well as good video. Photos at night were somewhat grainy and those from a distance were a little blurred. I didn’t try any of the settings on the camera as I used it in auto mode always. I have uploaded some photos to a Flickr group for your perusal. I was able to get some great photos and video of my friend’s wedding which was a good thing.
Thus my conclusion that the E75 is for a low-tech business user who thinks standard keybaords on mobile devices are too small. Any other takers on this opinion?
So E75, it’s not you – it’s me. There is a match for you out there, and you two will make a great pair. Your older sibling the E71 is more my type, or it’s half-sibling the E72 may be the one for me?
Next Tuesday, July 14, I will be the guest speaker in the chat room during the live domain name auction on Bido. Bido is a unique “social auction platform” which offers for auction one domain name a day exclusively on the Web. You don’t have to bid on a domain name to participate in the live chat, but you do need to register.
The domain name to be auctioned is unlock.info. The term "unlock" has a high degree of meaning in the world of mobile devices, as a device is either locked to a particular provider or unlocked and can be used on any provider. I have written on locked vs. unlocked mobile devices before and I only own and use those unlocked.
I am looking forward to joining the conversation on domain names, mobile technology and Internet services during the chat on Bido. If you have never participated in a domain name auction I encourage you to check it out.
Last week I was riding the Brown Line in Chicago north and I got an idea to truly test out the video on the Nokia E75 I am evaluating. So I held it up against the window of the car and pressed record, and the following is what was captured.
Thanks to the great folks at WOMWorld/Nokia, I will be evaluating the Nokia E75 device for the next few weeks. It arrived last week, and here is a video I made of my first impressions as I was unboxing it.
Since then, it has been my primary device, as I have switched my T-Mobile SIM from my Nokia E70 device to this. I am going to give it some time and really try it out, including installing the new Ovi Store and several apps, including Qik, ShoZu, Facebook and a Twitter client. I also plan on reading the instruction manual – seriously.
Since I made this video, I discovered a few things. The camera does not have a Carl Zeiss lens, though it has taken some decent pictures and video so far. The case that comes with it is very cool – the strap is not a locking, Velcro strap as I first thought. It is wrapped around the inside of the case, and I pull the tab to slide the E75 out of the form-fitting velour-like case. I haven’t seen such a case idea before, but I definitely like it.
Watch The Hot Iron for a full report when I am done reviewing it, or if I decide to share something in the interim, like photos or videos or who knows what! I will be sharing thoughts on it on Twitter - follow me @thehotiron.