Mobile Phones

Data Access in America

You may remember that last year I blogged about the costs associated with Data Access in Europe. Coming to America I knew that using my mobile wouldn’t be cheap; or at least that was my assumption before I travelled. I have, however, come up with some innovative solutions that have surprised me as to how cost effective communicating transatlantic can be.

1. O2 TuGo

My mobile phone contract in the UK is with O2, thanks to the new TuGo app I can make and receive calls and send text messages from anywhere in the world via wifi. They charge me as if I were using my handset in the UK so any call time or texts comes out of my contract minutes. If you haven’t found the app yet or want more information take a look at this website.

2. An American Sim Card

Fortunately I had remembered to ensure that both my iPad and Mobile phone were unlocked so I have been able to purchase American Sim Cards for the devices. This obviously makes data access significantly cheaper; unlimited data on my mobile phone costs around $3 per day.

What surprised me more though was that for an extra $10 I am able to make unlimited calls to UK landlines.

Both of the above solutions has made me realise how far behind we are in the UK in terms of data and calling plans on our mobile devices. I called O2 before travel and was told that using my phone abroad would cost more that £1 per minute to make calls and around £0.90 per minute to receive calls. It seems to me that there is something amiss here – why is it cost effective for American carriers to offer reasonable calling plans but not for UK carriers.

What is your experience of calling and using data from abroad?

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Online and in flight

Following my thoughts on data access in Europe I am now flying home from Italy and I’ve started to contemplate Internet access in the air.

Remember the days when you walked into a hospital and were told to switch off your mobile phone? Then one day this seemed to stop being important – someone realised that mobile phones didn’t effect hospital equipment ….. or maybe technology advanced.

It was also once impossible to get wifi on a train. Then suddenly it’s common place particularly on virgin trains and I find it immensely useful particularly when travelling for work.

Planes are one place where the still insist that you switch off electronic devices, or at least switch them to flight only mode – is there a serious risk to the aeroplane if someone makes a telephone call mid flight or uses the Internet over a cellular network? (Answers on a postcard please)

It occurs to me that this is one place where a wifi hotspot could make a fortune. Airlines have a captive audience often for several hours and I know that I would pay extra for the privilege if it were available.

I guess in posting this I’m looking for more information from someone who is in the know re: the possibility of wifi in the air. Science fiction? In the pipeline? Or someway off?

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Data access in Europe

This week I’ve taken a holiday to Sorrento in southern Italy. Naturally I couldn’t come away without bringing some technology with me – I have my iPhone, iPad and (in the hotel room) my laptop has come along for the ride.

Something which I’m finding slightly frustrating is that the SIM card in my iPad doesn’t work while I’m abroad, yet despite being on the same network the SIM card in my mobile phone works just fine. I knew this before I travelled having checked with O2 but sitting here in the picturesque Amalfi I’m wondering why.

Having said that my iPhone works fine, it does but my provider places certain restrictions on usage. O2 send me frequent text messages to remind me that I can use up to 25 mb per day for £1.99. I enquired about the cost of going over this allowance and was told that if I did regularly I would be charged £0.65 per mb.

In a normal month I use an average of 1.5 gb worth of data which is around 50mb per day, it therefore occurs to me that a 50% reduction in data usage when I’m using my mobile phone more (particularly navigation, and the Internet to research places I’m visiting) means that I’m not getting what I want out of my provider. Coupled with the fact that my iPad sim doesn’t work abroad I’m actually feeling very disconnected.

I suppose you could argue that I’m on holiday and therefore should be relaxing and revelling in this apparent connectivity restriction; on many levels I agree with you, but it still leaves me asking the question why is it such a problem to use as much data as I want to in 2012? Surely this problem is just going to get worse in years to come as more and more people connect multiple devices to the Internet. Is it because operator costs increase by providing access abroad? Or is there some other reason?

According to Ofcom there is some other reason. A 2012 ruling has regulated charges that mobile operators can impose for providing these services and the maximum charges are on a decreasing sliding scale over the next 2 years. By summer 2014 operators will be able to charge a maximum of 20 cents per mb for using data abroad.

My experience in 2012 tells me that one way operators are getting around these price limitations is by simply capping the amount of data their customers are allowed to use when abroad or in the case of the iPad simply not supporting data access. Surely this cannot be a sustainable model? I can’t see my data usage decreasing over time …… One solution would be to buy a local sim card when I go abroad but again this seems tiresome …..

Have you had data access issues in Europe? How did you solve your issues? Also if you’re a mobile operator how do you see the future developing for data access abroad?

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two Android’s and an iPhone

I’m in the process of developing a couple of apps for the Android platform. To anyone who knows me this is almost unthinkable as i’m the biggest Apple Nerd you will ever meet ….. well apart from my mate Andy Davies who I actually think wants to BE Apple!

As i’m releasing apps for Android it makes sense that I need to test them. I’ve looked into different ways of purchasing Android devices and finally settled on taking out a business contract which allows me to get two phones at a very reasonable price.

I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours in the O2 store in Chester this morning where a girl called Alex provided me with excellent customer service. I walked out of the store with a new Samsung Galaxy 3 and a new HTC one.

Now other than a fleeting glance at an Android phone i’ve never used the platform …… so I was quite excited to get back to the office to really see for myself which device I believe is the best.

So now in front of me on my desk I have two Android’s and an iPhone….. sounds like some weird movie title ….. I now decree that i will give you my opinion!

At this point you’re probably thinking this can go one of two ways …… he’s either going to slate Android and big up iOS because Apple has the superior product or alternatively he’s going to have a revelation and announce that iPhone is dead and that up until now he has clearly been going down the wrong path in life – time for a change?

Packaging

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Isaacson discusses how Jobs was fascinated by the user experience. It is well documented that Jobs believed that the user experience begins the moment you open the box. I remember when I got my iPhone 4s, the product was a pleasure from the very moment I started to open the packaging.

I decided that the first test of my new Android devices would be how pleasurable it is to open the boxes.

Samsung Galaxy 3

I liked the box, it looks elegant and in honesty reminded me of the box my iPhone came in (No wonder the legal disputes continue). Once out of the box though I started to get frustrated – the battery wasn’t charged so I needed to plug it in, but before I could plug it in I had to assemble the charger ….. not just a case of plugging in the USB cord, I had to attach the plugs pins – sounds easy but it wasn’t very intuitive. Therefore I give the Samsung Galaxy 3 6 out of 10.

HTC One

Unlike the Galaxy I don’t like the HTC packaging. It feels cheap almost as if its made out of Polystyrene. I also nearly dropped the phone because when I opened the box the upper layer got stuck in the lid as I removed it from the box. The phone did have a little charge on the battery which was a bonus and there was no issues building the charger ….. but then I noticed the smell …. most products have a nice new smell ….. the HTC one smells like wet cardboard. 3 out of 10 and I think that’s generous.

Look and Feel

This is a very basic test ….. what does the device look like and does it feel good to use.

Samsung Galaxy 3

There’s no denying it, the Galaxy 3 looks sexy. The phone I bought is in white and it’s gorgeous. That said to my mind its a bit thin and light – it’s got no weight to it at all which makes me a little scared i’m going to snap it. Also the on button is on the side which doesn’t feel intuitive – I guess if they’d put it on the top they would be facing another law suit from Apple … I give the galaxy a respectable 8 out 10.

HTC One

The packaging feels like cheap cardboard, and being honest the phone does as well. It’s not shiny (I know that must sound very superficial) and as a result it feels cheap. The connector for the charger is in a bizarre place (left hand side toward the top) – and the phone has too many buttons (no risk of an Apple law suit for that). As is said to the uk each year in Eurovision “nil point”. That may sound very unfair but at least i’m being truthful.

Initial Set – Up

It’s important even though you only do it once ….

Samsung Galaxy 3

It was fairly simple – quite a straight forward process. The keyboard has some quirks that I don’t like, and I find myself hitting the wrong letters but I think that’s just because i’m used to the iPhone ….. I guess with time I can get good on the Galaxy keyboard? I also quite like the vibrate feedback when you press a button. My only difficulty was that the phone didn’t like connecting to my wireless network and as a result I had to create some the suggested accounts after i’d made a couple of tweaks in settings. Not a deal breaker through – 7 out of 10.

HTC One

Finally, something to write home about! All I can say is that it worked! There was no setup requirement ….. I switched the phone on and immediately it was ready to make a phone call. I couldn’t fault the process – 10 out of 10 – the iPhone wouldn’t have achieved that …..

So, scores so far ….. Samsung Galaxy 3 21 out of 30, HTC One 13 out of 30 ….. and where do I believe Apple sits? I would be lying if at this stage I said that in my opinion Apple didn’t have a much superior product – aesthetically it beats both the Galaxy and HTC by a country mile …. although the aesthetic gap between Samsung and HTC is also in my opinion HUGE.

My gut instinct is that the Galaxy is working toward what Apple have ….. and that’s the problem ….. Apple already have what I view as best smart phone, therefore to get something that works as well as the iPhone Galaxy need to copy Apple or their product in my eyes will never be quite as good – another court case anyone?

The other option is for Samsung to take a risk and come out with something completely different – a game changer ….. you need a visionary like Steve Jobs to do that though and I don’t think Samsung have one …..

Now that I have my new phones i’m going to play with Android and decide if I do like it ….. my instinct at this stage is that it’s not as simple and streamlined as iOS ….. but I have an open mind – i’m going to use the phones and then make an informed decision which i’ll feed onto the blog in due course.

In terms of the devices themselves, as it currently stands …..

HTC = *Aldi
Samsung = *Tesco or *Morrisons
iPhone = *Waitrose or *Sainsbury

Anyone else got any views? The can of worms is unleashed 😉

*No offence intended to any supermarket chains mentioned in this article 😉

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