Tag: Telecoms

More rumours of O2 iPhone deal

Forbes Madrid are reporting this morning that O2’s parent company, Telefonica have signed an exclusive deal with Apple for iPhone distribution rights in the UK.

This is the second time this rumour has emerged in the last two weeks. Both times from very credible sources.

It makes sense. Vodafone don’t need Apple (and the sales boost iPhone exclusivity would give them) as much as O2 does. This deal obviously doesn’t stop Apple signing deals with Vodafone in other European countries.

I’ll be interested to see who gets distributorship in Ireland!

Nokia N95 vs E65

Well, I handed back my review model Nokia N95 yesterday and already I miss it. Paul Giltinan from Choice Communications was good enough to lend it to me to try out for a number of weeks. Now though I am back to my trusty E65. Sniff!

Here are a few quick thoughts on the N95 and how it compares to the E65

Likes

  • The screen
  • The 5mp camera
  • The built-in Wifi

Dislikes

  • The keypad
  • The battery
  • The GPS

Slightly more detail:

The screen on the N95 is fantastic. It is big and can display in either landscape or portrait. The E65’s screen has the same resolution but is much smaller so it doesn’t look nearly as impressive.

The camera in the E65 is appalling, as I have already noted and while the N95 camera is slow (press the button, count to 10, *click*), the quality of the photos and video from it are impressive.

The built-in wifi is great in both the E65 and the N95. The screen on the N95 is big enough that you can actually browse web pages on it. The E65’s screen is a bit too small for that. Both phones are great for VOIP client software and where I live in Cobh, the call quality over wifi is significantly better than the expensive GSM alternative!

The Keypad on the N95 has a tacky, plasticky cheap feel to it that took some getting used to and was unexpected in a phone of its cost. The E65’s keyboard is more crisp and reassuring.

The battery life on the N95 has been panned but I didn’t find it too bad. It will quite easily go a full day on a charge so I used to simply charge it overnight and I rarely had problems. The times I did have problems were when I installed and used Fring on the phone. It completley sucked the life out of the battery (esp on 3g). If you have an N95, don’t install Fring, unless you have spare batteries or plan to keep it plugged into a power source at all times.

I never got the GPS software on the phone to see a satellite (or satellites) so I can’t comment on how this would work. Having said that, the fact that I couldn’t get it to see a satellite at all should be comment enough!

As a quick aside, I also tried installing the Jaiku mobile client on the N95 but for some reason it wouldn’t connect over wifi and wanted to connect over 3G. At the data prices in this country, I don’t think so. Uninstalled.

So would I, given the choice, put my money down for an N95? If cost were no object yes, but given that I already have the E65 and there is little between them in turns of functionality, there is no way I could justify buying one now.

Interestingly, the part of the phone which appeals to me most is the big screen and this is the feature of the iPhone which people seem to love too.

O2 to sell the iPhone?

Several credible sources are today reporting that O2 have signed a contract with Apple to distribute the iPhone in Europe. I hope that includes O2 Ireland too!

Vodafone would have seemed a more likely distributor seeing as they have a network in more European countries than O2. O2 must have made it far more attractive for Apple to say that they were chosen over Vodafone. It will be interesting now to watch who Apple partners with in the countries where O2 have no presence.

The iPhone debuted in the US last week and in its first three days is reputed to have sold over 1m units – a runaway success by any measure!

This incredible success is a measure of Apple’s successful marketing machine, but it is also indicative of pent-up dissatisfaction with the current array of phones on offer. The iPhone’s user experience is so much better than anything else currently on the market, that the Symbian group and Microsoft will really have to get the thumb out to come up with a competitive offering.

I just hope that when it comes to Europe it will have 3G (the US model doesn’t have 3G, relying instead on EDGE and wifi) and a better camera.

iPhone reviews out – overwhelmingly positive

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of the New York Times were both given iPhones to trial for the last two weeks. Today they (and others) published extremely positive reviews of the phone in their respective publications

The phone does indeed appear to live up to the hype with a game changing interface. There are, of course, a few issues with the phone (more of which later) but it has to be remembered that this is version 1.0 of the phone and many of those issues will be ironed out in the coming months. Can anyone remember the first version of Windows Mobile and just how terrible that was? With that in mind, what Apple have done with their first phone is indeed creditable.

Nokia and Microsoft must be very concerned now with the appearance of this new player on their territory. Especially since the phone’s interface beats anything they have ever produced!

Apple have announced that the phone will be updated over the ‘net – similar to how the iPod’s firmware is updated one assumes. This will allow Apple to quickly address faults or bugs found in the phone’s software as well as adding extra functionality.

David Pogue, after outlining all the phone’s strong points in detail goes on to point out some of its flaws –

So yes, the iPhone is amazing. But no, it’s not perfect. There’s no memory-card slot, no chat program, no voice dialing. You can’t install new programs from anyone but Apple; other companies can create only iPhone-tailored mini-programs on the Web. The browser can’t handle Java or Flash, which deprives you of millions of Web videos… it can’t capture video. And you can’t send picture messages (called MMS) to other cellphones.

Apple says that the battery starts to lose capacity after 300 or 400 charges. Eventually, you’ll have to send the phone to Apple for battery replacement, much as you do now with an iPod, for a fee.

Then there’s the small matter of typing. Tapping the skinny little virtual keys on the screen is frustrating, especially at first.

Two things make the job tolerable. First, some very smart software offers to complete words for you, and, when you tap the wrong letter, figures out what word you intended. In both cases, tapping the Space bar accepts its suggestion.

Second, the instructional leaflet encourages you to “trust” the keyboard (or, as a product manager jokingly put it, to “use the Force”). It sounds like new-age baloney, but it works; once you stop stressing about each individual letter and just plow ahead, speed and accuracy pick up considerably.

Even so, text entry is not the iPhone’s strong suit. The BlackBerry won’t be going away anytime soon.

The bigger problem is the AT&T network. In a Consumer Reports study, AT&T’s signal ranked either last or second to last in 19 out of 20 major cities…
Then there’s the Internet problem. When you’re in a Wi-Fi hot spot, going online is fast and satisfying.

But otherwise, you have to use AT&T’s ancient EDGE cellular network, which is excruciatingly slow. The New York Times’s home page takes 55 seconds to appear; Amazon.com, 100 seconds; Yahoo. two minutes. You almost ache for a dial-up modem.

These drawbacks may be deal-killers for some people. On the other hand, both the iPhone and its network will improve. Apple points out that unlike other cellphones, this one can and will be enhanced with free software updates. That’s good, because I encountered a couple of tiny bugs and one freeze. (There’s also a tantalizing empty space for a row of new icons on the Home screen.) A future iPhone model will be able to exploit AT&T’s newer, much faster data network, which is now available in 160 cities.

But even in version 1.0, the iPhone is still the most sophisticated, outlook-changing piece of electronics to come along in years. It does so many things so well, and so pleasurably, that you tend to forgive its foibles.

In other words, maybe all the iPhone hype isn’t hype at all. As the ball player Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you done it.”

Nokia N95 initial impressions

Courtesy of Paul Giltinan of Choice Communications, I have a loan of a Nokia N95 to try out for the next couple of weeks – excellent!

The first thing which strikes you when you pick up the N95 is how light it is. It is quite bulky (99 x 53 x 21 mm), so you expect it to be heavier than its 120g.

The next thing which hits you is the quality of the 2.6″ screen. At 240 x 320 pixels and up to 16 million colours it is the same resolution as my E65 but because of the larger size, it just looks way better!

A lot has been written about the poor battery life of the N95 but I haven’t found that to be the case. That may be because the N95 and the E65 use the same battery and I am used to its short life (!) but I suspect it has more to do with my not having the Wireless Scanning enabled.

The one time the battery levels did drop sharply was when I was following my Twitter Stream over 3G (instead of the usual WLAN at home).

The GPS application which ships with the phone is of limited use as it can never seem to find the satellites!

I tried a Fring call using the Skype client on the phone today to Conn O’Muinechain but the call quality was appalling and we had to revert to a normal call. This is more likely a problem with Fring, or Fring’s Skype implementation than the N95.

The camera in the phone takes very high quality pics (see photo below) and video but be aware that the 160 onboard memory will run out quickly. You will need to supplement it with a Micro SD memory card (it supports up to 2gb).

The bi-directional slider and the way the screen flips from portrait to landscape automatically is very impressive.

Overall, the N95 is a lovely phone and if I could afford it…

N95 test pic

Apple's iPhone launch – a disaster in the making?

iPhone

The new Apple iPhone is a very desirable bit of kit, no doubt about it. Even at the $499 (4GB) or $599 (8GB) asking price.

I spoke to a contact in Apple about the iPhone which they are launching with AT&T this coming Friday and, from what he said, the launch sounds like it has all the makings of a disaster in the works!

First off the phone is sold brick-locked – in other words the iPhone is dead when you get it. You have to bring it home, hook it up to an Internet connected computer , and activate it online.

Remember, there are 1m of these puppies pre-sold. What happens when 1m people all try to log in to the site to activate their phones around the same time. How well will the activation server infrastructure hold up?

Presumably, if you have a PC, this process also involves the installation of iTunes and Safari (Macs come with these installed).

Then there is the issue of the iPhone being sim-locked. And I don’t just mean that the phone is locked, nope, the sim is locked physically into the phone! It can’t be removed.

Seemingly there is a way to map your existing number to the sim in your iPhone – this will be part of the activation process. But you can’t take your sim out of the phone for any reason. What happens when you want to upgrade to a new phone? No idea. Presumably this will be straightforward if your new phone is another iPhone – but if it is not…

Joy, oh joy, I can see lots of potential for support issues right there.

Keep in mind also that the phone is not being sold to business customers – the AT&T shops are only going to sell the phones to consumers.

Consumers with a good credit record. If you have any history of bad debts, you can forget about getting an iPhone! They won’t sell you one.

Why is the credit record important? Well, if you buy an iPhone, you are signing up to a two year AT&T contract with a minimum spend of $60 per month! $60 per month for two years is $1440. So, after the initial purchase, you are committing to give Apple and AT&T at least another $1440.

So, if you are a technically minded consumer, have access to an Internet connected computer, can logon to the activation site, have a good credit history and a steady income for the next two years, it should be no problem.

I’d hate to be working for AT&T or Apple’s support next weekend!

UPDATE: – I see AppleInsider are reporting that the first shipments of the iPhone have arrived in the US under unprecedented security.

Further Update: Apple have confirmed that activation of the phones is done by the consumer “in the comfort and privacy of their own home or office, without having to wait in a store while their phone is activated” as I mentioned in the post above and that the price plans start at $60 per month, again, as I said above.

Yak4ever is Allfreecalls.net relaunched and re-branded

Pat Phelan is persistence personified!

He launched Allfreecalls.net earlier this year to some considerable acclaim only to have to shut it down after legal action by AT&T!

Pat has been plugging away in the background ever since trying to get the service back up and running again.

Yesterday Pat announced that Allfreecalls.net is back up once more, this time re-branded as Yak4ever.com.

Unlike the Allfreecalls service, Yak4ever users need to register their number and have to enter a list of (up to 10) numbers they will be calling. This is for legal reasons according to Pat.

Michael Arrington has removed Allfreecalls from his Dead Pool (for now, he says!).

Irish and UK readers should note that this relates to the US service only, Allfreecalls.ie and allfreecalls.co.uk continue to operate as previously.

[Disclaimer: I host these sites for Pat]

Fancy €100,000 p.a.?

That is what Pat Phelan is offering to his next hire! Pat is posting this on his blog and in the job sections of the papers. It will be interesting to know where he receives the most applications from.

Pat is looking for a business development manager. Unfortunately he is looking for someone with experience in business development so that rules me out, I guess 😦

Shame, I could have done with the salary, the new car, share options etc which go with the position.

If you feel you are right for the job, for God’s sake don’t contact Pat. I want him to come crawling to me 😉

Off to MIX07

I’m writing this post in Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport waiting to board a flight to Chicago (and then another to Vegas) for Microsoft’s MIX07 conference.

I’m looking forward to the conference, the line-up of talks looks really impressive and I’ll get a chance to meet some great people.

What is really cool as well is that Pat Phelan has ensured that my phone charges while I’m there will be minimal! How did he do that? Well, he mapped a Cork number (+353212349915) to my TruPhone number.

Now anyone who calls me from Ireland can call me on the Cork number Pat provided and, as long as I’m in a wifi zone, I will receive the call without incurring any roaming charges. And with Truphone, all outgoing calls to landlines are free until the end of June!

The only time I expect to incur call charges is if I have to call someone on mobile.

Excellent, thanks Pat.