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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 14:45

For quite a while I have been searching for the ultimate MiFi device service. While I religiously use my EE 4G MiFi here in the UK, I’ve always had problems when I go abroad, whether it’s getting charged stupid rates or spending a silly amount of money buying local sims that don’t actually work.

I think the Uros Goodspeed is what I’ve been searching for.

goodspeed-sales-box-contents

In recent months it’s become more or less plausible to go abroad without making special provision for your phone’s data roaming. For instance, if you’re a Vodafone customer, you can data roam in Europe for £2 per day using your UK allowance. This is perfectly useful.

However things get rather complicated when you’ve got more than one device. For instance, I usually carry two personal mobile phones and then I usually have another one supplied by the business (which sometimes won’t have international data enabled!) and of course, an iPad or similar. And the laptop if I need proper computing power.

I want each of them connected, naturally. At this point I usually have to wait until I get back to the hotel or airport — somewhere with a WiFi zone — so that I can use them all.

This isn’t really acceptable. It’s certainly bearable if you’re just doing a quick jaunt on a personal basis.

It’s 100% not acceptable if you’re working, especially if, like me, you’re providing consultancy services to someone who is paying you and therefore expects to be able to get a full business day’s worth of value from you.

Telling your customer that you can’t look up DropBox because you’re out-and-about in Malaga and don’t want to pay the data roaming charges isn’t a valid response.

I’ve often had to bite the bullet and get stung repeatedly when I’ve needed data in a hurry.

Enter the Uros Goodspeed service.

The service is comprised of a device and then various SIM cards for the countries you are planning on visiting.

The device is a MiFi unit with 10 spare SIM card slots. It handles up to 3.5G and comes with a 2,550 mAh battery for roughly 8 hours of usage (see more tech specs.) It will handle up to 5 connections so that’s all my critical ones covered. The device is €239 to purchase.

Once you’ve got that, then you need some SIM cards. When you order the device, you’ll be prompted to select what country SIMs you’d like included. You can add more later on. Just be sure to plan ahead.

I picked a random number of countries in the example below (specifically excluding the standard European roaming zones we’re all aware of).

Screenshot 2014-07-28 15.33.26

You can see I’ve deliberately picked Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala… the sort of countries I’d normally expect to be absolutely hosed from a data standpoint. The cost per country is a flat €5.90 per SIM and that also includes 500mb of usage.

Let’s just assume I have to fly to Ecuador twice a month (if only) for business for 2-3 days each. That would normally cost me £3 per MB for up to 5MB then £15 for every 5MB after (assuming I’m a Vodafone UK pay monthly customer). I could use the Data Traveller bundle which would charge me a semi reasonable £5 for 25mb per day. But no. That’s enough for me to check my email a few times, do a few searches and then… well, because I’m using a smartphone that lives for a data connection, all the other services that will activate normally the moment I’ve got a connection (e.g. weather update, blah blah blah) will easily take me to the 25mb limit in about 20 minutes. ;-)

Compare that with the Uros Goodspeed offer. I already get 500mb for buying the Ecuador SIM. And if I’d like a 1,000mb day-pass, that’s €9.90 (the higher rate — see the chart below), job done. All in. No more costs. And that is very, very appealing.

And since in this scenario I’m using the Goodspeed, I get all the standard MiFi benefits — namely all of my devices can connect to the Goodspeed and get a data connection. So across 2-3 days, I’d end up paying something like €17 or £13.44 in the orange countries (below) or in this Ecuador example, about €29 or £22.

Of course it’s the same deal for America, too.

I’ve been pretty pleased that 3UK has now made America “inclusive” for contract customers however, again, I’m not that interested in just one device. I need multi-device connectivity.

Here’s the rough plan details based on country:

Screenshot 2014-07-28 15.17.36

You’ll see most countries in Africa aren’t offered plus note the difference in rates according to the colour.

On the train

I was astonished recently when I found a chap sitting across from me using a Uros Goodspeed. I noted his British Airways Gold status card on his bag and thought it was worthwhile seeing if he’d engage. I asked him how he was finding the Goodspeed and he told me he swears by it, particularly as he has to often travel to a set of countries not generally included in his corporate data plan. His company pays for his Goodspeed (Uros offer centralised administration for business customers) and apparently they’ve seen a huge cut in their data bill as a result.

Would you find it useful?

I think the Uros Goodspeed service is particularly useful if you travel regularly. By all means consider the service if you’ve got a one-off trip planned — but the up-front cost for the device might make it rather uneconomical, depending on the usage you’re planning. When I was consulting with Reed Exhibitions and finding myself in different countries almost every week, the Uros would have been absolutely ideal, especially as I usually got a bit of notice so I knew where I was going (you’ll need a bit of notice to allow for the delivery of new sims).

I’ve been using the Uros here in the UK and finding it excellent. Sadly, for review purposes, I’m afraid I haven’t managed to make it anywhere interesting like Ecuador!

You can find more information and purchasing details at www.uros.com.

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, News, Operators, Services, data..."
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Date: Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 08:13

Screenshot 2014-07-22 23.13.50

We’re leaning very heavily on changing our electricity supplier. Right now it’s EDF. I’m thinking of swapping to British Gas. And in doing so, I’m thinking of taking them up on their Hive offer (£60/year, payable £5/month) to enable me to control and monitor my heating on-the-go. There’s more about Hive here.

I don’t need it.

But you know, I like to test these things out.

However. The prevailing wind globally is surely Google Nest, right? I saw one for sale in B&Q the other day which got me wondering if I should be looking at that. It does look seriously … hot… (boom boom). You can even plug it into your Mercedes.. or your Jawbone or your washing machine. Interestingly, British Gas competitor nPower has aligned with Nest and is offering it for £99 and free installation (normally £279) if you use a particular energy plan.

I do like the ‘Britishness’ of the British Gas Hive offer.

Although am I going to limit the ability to do other sexy things if I don’t select Nest?

What do you reckon? Have you chosen one or the other yet?

 

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, b&q, british gas, Google, heati..."
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Date: Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 19:36

LG G3Let me first say I am quite enjoying my enforced experiment with the LG G3, LG’s newest flagship model. I like what they’ve done with the device.

The operating platform is fcukng shIt.

There we go.

Let me further revise that statement.

The power management of the operating platform is fcukng shIt.

I mean, utter toss.

Utter fckng drivel.

[I don’t normally use the F word because I tend to get complaints for people who don’t receive their Mobile Industry Review newsletter because the corporate mail system has knocked it into the unobtainable spam folder. Hence the modification, which, incidentally, gets through perfectly fine.]

I am the first to demand access to all the cool toys — big screens, wickedly cool lifestyle monitoring whizzy things along with background processing and multi-app capabilities.

However, I expect that to be at the end of the list for the device manufacturers and software developers. I expect sane heads to make sure the device gets through the flipping day, FIRST. Then add the bells and whistles.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

It’s not just the operating system. You’ll note that I didn’t explicitly blame Android. I used the word ‘platform’ — interchangeable with ‘ecosystem’.

You have to laugh — as I did — I burst out laughing walking along Threadneedle Street this evening when my phone piped up with a “30% of battery left so I’m switching everything off” message.

How is that a fix?

“Here, have 70% worth of amazing experience and then, once you’ve nutted your battery, we’ll switch all that coolness off. So, you can get through the rest of the day.”

My mistake was considering Whatsapp and Google Hangouts as business critical communications platforms.

They are not.

They can’t be when they’re running on top of a device with a super HD screen, dozens of processors and bucketloads of bloaty buggy software running on top of the OS opening all sorts of connections all the flipping time.

Here’s how I used the phone today:

  • I unplugged it from the wall at 130pm.
  • I didn’t touch it until 230pm whereby I used it to check some email and engage in about 20 minutes of Whatsapp.
  • I used Whatsapp occasionally across the next hour plus a bit of email running up to 4pm. I could see the battery draining by the second.
  • I then placed a call from about 530-6pm. That took me to under 50%.
  • I placed another 10 minute call and I was hitting 40%.
  • I walked along Threadneedle Street and lost TEN FLIPPING PERCENT because I was Whatsapping and Google Hangout-ing.

Instant messaging is the absolute bane of my mobile existence. I love it but the phones just cannot, cannot CANNOT hack it. Not when they’re having to do everything else.

I haven’t looked into my LG’s inner gubbings to see what’s been sucking the battery most, but you can bet your bottom dollar the huge glorious screen is up three in the top 3. That and the cellular/data connectivity switching having to take place.

I didn’t expect the phone calls to suck the battery so much, given the screen is off for the duration.

Anyway, I then got in a cab to Waterloo and had the temerity to use Feedly to browse some news. Continually! For a good few minutes. That took me to 15% and the next LG battery warning.

I made it to the train at about 9%.

Utter toss.

So who’s to blame?

Well, Android yes. The handset manufacturer, yes. But let’s give a nod over to Ye Olde Nokia and Symbian and remember how it used to be done. Back in the good old days, developers had their faces pressed against hot coals if they were lazy enough to attempt to open up a communications socket without good, proper, demonstrably useful reason.

That’s because every time your phone has to actually DO something beyond presenting a few menu items at you, there’s an immediate power impact (especially when the phone battery didn’t have to power such hungry screens). Back in the good old days, your mobile apps had to be designed from the ground up to use data sparingly, particularly given the crazy per megabyte rates people had to suffer.

It was drummed into developers that you needed to think very, very carefully about the demands you placed on the phone’s antenna. Back in those days, the wrong code executed at the wrong time could sink your battery and run up tens or hundreds of quid’s worth of data.

There’s a temptation (or, perhaps an assumption) that having a 3G, H or 4G signal on your phone means you’re all good to go, that your phone is ‘connected’. Well, yes. Not quite. There’s a power consumption cost every time you communicate. Even on WiFi, however the technology is a little different there. With mobile data, you’re actually sitting on top of layers of technology and having to deal with the laws of physics too. Inside a building? Arse. Attached to a seriously busy cell tower? You might need more power to establish or maintain that connection. Bad weather? It all adds up.

And then when I come along with my semi-continuous Whatsapp conversations, it all goes to pot.

Because although it seems to me as though I’m having quick 10 second bursts of conversation across 10 minutes, I’m causing power misery, switching my screen on, doing the little taps to open the screen, flicking up the app and so on.

I can’t entirely blame the operating system or the manufacturer. I think, however, there’s a portion of blame that is often unallocated that should be thrown squarely at lazy mobile developers. Let me ask you this: Have you actually thought about the power implications of everything you are asking your app to do? No. Hardly anybody does. As a developer, the ‘connection’ is assumed to be binary and permanent. It’s either on or off.

And when it’s on, go for it.

If you’ve ever been around mobile app developers and looked at the kind of code they execute, most of it (could I go out on a limb and assert that all of it?) blithely assumes the user is on WiFi. The app will certainly be tested on WiFi. With only the most thorough actually testing their apps in real world poor signal areas. And even if there’s a real battery impact, I’ve almost never seen that challenged as a failure or significant problem. It’s ignored.

Which means we’ve got a whole ecosystem more or less guaranteed to annoy the hell out of me.

There is a degree of control when it comes to Apple. Many key operating system features are still entirely out of bounds. Developers can only do so much because Apple wants to control the environment as much as possible. Which means that I often do get better battery performance on iOS… (flippantly) because I can’t do as much as I can with Android. iOS is almost self limiting.

Still you only need to run something like Socialcam properly and have it recording video then uploading it ‘live’ to YouTube to feel the iPhone reach frying pan heat level and the battery hit 20% in 10 minutes.

On Android I’ve got countless processes running all over the place, whether it’s Google tracking my location or DropBox trying to upload the latest photo I’ve snapped and repeatedly hammering my antenna because I’m in a limited signal area. Don’t even mention the GPS or the whizzy “Ok Google” power demands.

Sadly, in the end, the full ownership of the blame rests with me.

My expectations are completely skewed.

I’m using all sorts of apps that I’ve chosen because of their visible utility. If there was some kind of ‘battery consumption kite mark’ for apps I might consider abiding by that and deciding on my app choices with more thought.

But it’s my problem, fundamentally, right?

I should have my screen running at 12% brightness, first of all. I don’t because it’s sometimes difficult to see. Heh.

I should carefully limit my data usage, turning off mobile data until I really need it. And I should deinstall almost everything I’m running and in particular, switch off as many background processes as possible (e.g. Google Sync, Widget updates and so on). I might actually try that.

But… what is the point? I might as well go back to using a top of the range candy bar Nokia offering days of power. And run that alongside an iPad Mini/Full size.

I should have taken my charging cable with me, today, so that I could have sucked some of my Mophie PowerStation’s 10,000mAh to keep me going.

I wonder if anyone has made a 10,000mAh battery for the LG G3?

Or, actually, given I’m using the G3 which sports a removable battery, maybe I should be carrying three of them around with me so I don’t have to limit my actual usage of the phone during the day so I have power to get me home?

I think it’s time for me to make peace with this issue and … finally, finally accept that it’s my fundamentally problem. If I want to use this wickedly good technology (and boy, am I a power user) then I need to recognise and accept I need to always carry spare batteries.

I think my frustration today came from the fact that I stood there in front of the power socket today and thought, “Nah, I won’t need to take the cable today… I’ve got a full charge and it’s not as if I’m going out the whole evening either.”

My mistake. There are some efficiencies to be gained trying to limit unnecessarily functions. I think I should either get a stupid case to destroy the nice feeling of my super-slim LG G3 or always carry a battery charger and lead.

Thoughts?

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, Opinion, android, battery, LG, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 22:13

Thank you to those who commented on my post last week (“Can you recommend a good IP/Web camera for monitoring an infirm pensioner?“). After a good amount of additional research I actually ended up going for a UCAM247 product.

This is the one I eventually purchased to try out:

Readers helpfully recommended looking at the Dropcam Pro. I did look at it very carefully and I really, really liked what I saw. REALLY. Here’s the Amazon entry:

And as you can see it’s almost double the price.

Dropcam has recently been purchased by Nest/Google which is both good news and bad (heh… who wants Google’s servers now actually physically watching you whilst you eat?) however I also think that helps validate and assure the service on-going. The biggest negative for me is the Dropcam team haven’t yet internationalised their service — for instance their online shop only serves the US. That said it’s easy to get one sent to the UK — for an extra £85 it seems. Plus their archival service demands a US credit card.

I just wanted to test out the facility with my other relative (who wants to check on their parent). And although I loved, loved, loved the usability and service concept behind Dropcam, I thought it was silly to pay double the price.

As I expected, the UCAM247′s usability was a bit … techie. You really need to dive into the various different settings and I struggled to get the monitoring working to my satisfaction, probably because I wasn’t willing to invest the additional time and effort. The camera plays a stream on-demand via the app and the web. Job done. I did manage to get it to send alerts via Gmail/SMTP but not via FTP so I could use a more user-friendly monitoring service from the likes of Cammy. Again it’s probably me not paying full attention. I followed the PDF/FAQs on the UCAM247 site but to no avail.

I also found the UCAM app to be a bit… buggy. Things would freeze regularly. I was also a little disappointed that push notifications seemed to be perhaps 3 or more minutes delayed. I ended up using a third party app called ‘AnyScene’ on iOS (recommended as an alternative by UCAM) that offers a more consistent viewing experience, albeit in the older generation iOS style. Still, this was good enough for my relative… at the moment, anyway.

I’ll keep an eye on Dropcam. I still want one.

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, @home, amazon, cammy, dropcam, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 21:56

Screenshot 2014-07-22 22.49.59

I’ve got another question for you, dear reader.

Do you have problems with the WiFi in your place of residence? If so, do you use the powerline/homeplug adapters to serve you WiFi via your electricity connection? We seem to have an array of dampening fields all around our house so I’ve got three different WiFi networks going in different regions of the house.

I’ve been using Devolo products (like that one above – Amazon link) for a long time and I’m reasonably content (apart from having to have three different networks!)

However I was wondering if you’ve got any recommendations for other products to try?

The Devolo adapters are rather expensive compared to other ranges (TP, for example). I’ve been browsing the Amazon feedback sections and given the fact TP is almost two thirds cheaper I’ve been thinking about trying them out.

But is there another brand I should be looking at? Any suggestions welcome!

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Opinion, @home, adapter, devolo, electri..."
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 21:21

As I was setting up my new LG G3 piece of Android joy the other week I inevitably searched for the Amazon app. I was looking for the main Amazon app — the one I use almost daily on the iPhone to order all sorts of things (Most recent purchases: 4x 9V batteries, 1 x Dry wipe noticeboard for the office).

I couldn’t find the app on the Play Store.

I presume there is one.

I’m sure there is one.

I eventually had to do a (ironic?) Google search for “Amazon Android App” and was able — I think — to determine that, yes, there is a ‘standard’ Amazon shopping app for Android.

Here’s what I see when I search for “Amazon” in the Google Play Store:

Screenshot_2014-07-11-02-35-46

What am I missing? Why don’t I see all of Amazon’s apps right there on the ‘first page’ of Google Play results?

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Applications, amazon, android"
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 21:15

Screenshot 2014-07-16 22.15.48

I’ve got a challenge that’s been presented to me by a relative (I’m keeping this one as anonymous as possible). One of my relative’s parents is becoming increasingly infirm. The parent lives in elderly accommodation and they have one of those ‘red button’ alarm services installed, activated either by pulling a cord or by using the dongle you hang around your neck.

This is all well and good… until, that is, you’re dealing with an infirm parent who can’t remember things. It’s irrelevant whether the memory loss is caused by alzheimer’s, dementia or just old age. If you fall and then don’t recall that you’re wearing a dongle with an emergency button to summon help right-away, there’s not much alternative but to wait — sometimes overnight — to be discovered.

The parent has now fallen twice in the bathroom in the middle of the night and had to wait until late mornings to be rescued. This can of course be remedied by having the warden call every morning at 8am. Which still leaves a huge amount of time for accidents to happen and an unnecessary amount of time left lying on the floor (perhaps in some pain).

Things are complicated even more when the parent insists on having no additional help — and, further, when they prefer to avoid calling out in the middle of the night, perhaps to avoid inconveniencing neighbours (or, perhaps to avoid dealing with the embarrassment of one’s situation — a natural response).

So… I suggested installing a web camera that my relative could use to remotely check on the parent. I was thinking we could install the camera in the main living room area which would help give my relative an idea if the parent is ‘ok’. We were also giving some thought to placing a camera in the bedroom, strategically located to be able to indicate whether the parent is in bed or not (whilst retaining the privacy of the parent). My relative will then be able to check-in regularly across the day and night to check that the parent is ok

My relative really likes the idea. So much that they’ve got BT to install an internet connection. They’ve checked with the parent in question who also likes and has approved the concept too.

I’m thinking of something like a Withings Smart Baby Monitor.

Here are the requirements, I’m hoping you’ll be able to suggest a model that I can buy.

  • My relative needs to be able to use a native app on their iPhone to connect to the webcam feed
  • The native app has to be well laid out
  • The webcam unit needs to have decent security protocols
  • The webcam should be able to deliver both audio and video — I also like the idea of ‘two way’ communication although I’m not sure how useful that would actually be given the delays that I’ve witnessed with the likes of the Withings Baby Monitor
  • The webcam should use Wi-Fi so it can be positioned away from the router without wiring
  • It would be ideal if we could hook up multiple cameras to the same app

I do like the idea of going even further and installing some kind of monitor that will send an alert when the parent goes *into* the bathroom and when they don’t return to the bedroom after X minutes. That would probably be even more useful than a webcam but I couldn’t find anything that does this (easily and consumer-grade-easy too!)

Do you have any ideas or suggestions?

Update: I bought a camera…

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, Opinion, advice, alarm, camera,..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 01:30

LG_G3_2This arrived today. If you don’t recognise it immediately, it’s the LG G3 (press release), winner at the Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress (it says so on the box!).

I thought I’d opt for the LG as it’s been far too long. I don’t know the LG PR team in the UK so I haven’t kept as up to date as I should have with the LG brand. The last LG I had proper, decent hands-on with was the…. wait for it… LG Renoir back in 2008. Here’s the intro piece (“The LG Renoir is a work of art” — see what I did there?)

Since then the company’s been through a few peaks and troughs. I think it’s fair to say that they’ve found their smartphone mojo in recent models culminating in the G3 (I’ve also ordered the LG Watch… in for a penny, in for a pound).

I spent about an hour setting it all up tonight and I’m more or less rocking with it.

First impressions are positive. I will see how I get on with it tomorrow — we’ll be recording some 361 Degrees podcast episodes so I shall vent forth there about the experience too.

Meanwhile in other news, my wife’s HTC One M8 has arrived… More on that and her reactions soon.

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, device, LG G3, phone, smartphon..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 19:46

Screenshot 2014-07-08 20.45.52

I don’t think you’ll guess.

I’ll tell you on Thursday.

Meanwhile Hetty’s HTC One M8 arrives tomorrow, complete with the little dot-matrix screen cover.

How do you think she’ll react to it? I shall be documenting the experience for your reading pleasure.

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Opinion, android, it's a surprise!, phon..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 15:33

Screenshot 2014-07-08 10.04.14

All across the news today is this announcement from British Airways (see Telegraph):

British Airways says it will turn away passengers booked on US-bound flights if their electrical devices will not switch on

The underlining issue being that if your phone doesn’t switch on, it could theoretically contain explosives. Or something like that.

I wonder if this could FINALLY be the turning point for the industry to actual focus on battery life?

We’ve been slowly moving that way and increasingly it’s rather exciting to see the “mAh” figures gradually tipping over the 2,000 mark for most batteries. Still, when you’ve just added an even more powerful screen or a quad-core chip that will draw more of that battery, it can be a zero sum game.

Samsung is currently marketing the fact they can make your phone “shitter” so that you can stay connected longer because the battery won’t get you through the average day. The screen goes black and white, the capabilities of the phone (all the fancy face tracking stuff, etc) are switched off so that your £600 device can maintain a cellular connection (See: The Wall Huggers video).

What will it take for me to be able to use my iPhone or Galaxy S5 for more than a few hours continuously without the battery hitting 20% or worse?

As anyone who experiences this regularly, the moment you get the ‘Battery low’ (“Dismiss”) prompt at 20% on an iPhone, it’s game over. You can more or less see the battery percentage descend every 3 minutes if you’ve still got 4G rocketing away and you’re busy processing a video on the phone.

What will it take?

5,000 mAh? To get through a decent day of average use?

Could we see some innovation in power delivery and management? We’ve seen manufacturers testing the water recently with some beefier devices — Moto’s RAZR Maxx (3,300 mAh)– but not with the conviction that I’d like to see.

I’d love to see Apple, Samsung or HTC actually put a stake in the ground on the issue of battery power. Maybe even Microsoft might like to get involved?

If we continue see headlines like the one above, I think we’ll soon see some adjustments in the marketplace placing a higher focus on battery consumption.

British Airways appears to have been especially direct with it’s new ruling. It’s not quite clear what the other airlines are doing although I imagine they could soon adopt the same policy.

Here’s the Telegraph with more detail:

But on its website, BA said: “If your device doesn’t power up when you are requested to do so, you will not be allowed to fly to the US on your original service. Our customer services team will look after the rebooking of your travel arrangements.”

It added: “If you are flying to the US as a transfer customer, especially those on long journeys, please make sure that you do not deplete power in your devices while on the first part of your journey.”

So let’s be clear what’s going on here… Let’s say I’m flying to Las Vegas via JFK, right?

That’s something like 7 hours from Heathrow to New York, then I need to hang about for… an hour… two hours, whatever, then get on another 5-6 hour flight to Vegas.

Based on BA’s advice, you’d need to ensure your phone’s battery is sufficiently charged to get through security screening at JFK to board the second leg of your flight.

So you either need to allow enough time to get your phone charged properly when you’re on the ground. Or you need to fly Business so you’ve got access to a USB charge point in your seat. Or you need to carry a spare battery. Or you need to carry a Mophie Powerstation mobile battery.

Speaking of which… if you can hide explosives in a mobile phone, why couldn’t you do so in a mobile battery? You can switch on a mobile phone to prove it works. You can’t easily ‘switch on’ one of these mobile battery packs. Yeah you can make it flash a few lights, but you’d need to X-Ray it to see what’s inside.

It’s going to get interesting.

And if you’re a frequently flyer this whole battery issue is likely to get annoying really fast.

What do you reckon?

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "News, airlines, Batteries, flying, phone"
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 12:01

Screenshot 2014-07-08 00.16.04

Picturelife has done it again: They’ve just released the latest version of their service on mobile and it’s even better than before. The price plans have had a total re-jig and now for $15/month, you’ll get unlimited storage for all your photos and video.

Picturelife’s back-end data storage parter is Amazon S3.

Amazon is rock solid.

Right?

Yes.

Here’s some data via Stack Overflow from Amazon themselves:

Q: How durable is Amazon S3?

Amazon S3 is designed to provide 99.999999999% durability of objects over a given year. This durability level corresponds to an average annual expected loss of 0.000000001% of objects. For example, if you store 10,000 objects with Amazon S3, you can on average expect to incur a loss of a single object once every 10,000,000 years. In addition, Amazon S3 is designed to sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities.

Q: How is Amazon S3 designed to achieve 99.999999999% durability?

Amazon S3 redundantly stores your objects on multiple devices across multiple facilities in an Amazon S3 Region. The service is designed to sustain concurrent device failures by quickly detecting and repairing any lost redundancy. When processing a request to store data, the service will redundantly store your object across multiple facilities before returning SUCCESS. Amazon S3 also regularly verifies the integrity of your data using checksums.

That durability is good enough for me, right?

Well.

No.

Backup the backup

And this is the crux of my problem with Picturelife.

I was happily going about my business sticking all of my photos and video on to the service and amassing a huge 300GB+ archive with them, loving every moment of the experience… until I did a 361 Degrees podcast with Ben and Rafe on the topic.

They thought I was nuts.

Their view is that I was utterly stupid to trust my most valuable data (photos and videos of the boys, family and so on) to an ‘unknown party’, even if that party — Picturelife — were using something as reliable as Amazon.

Ben and Rafe set about quoting the backup maxims. You know, things like, make sure you’ve got a local copy; make sure you’ve got two copies in two different locations on two different media sets. Yada yada.

I ignored them for a little while. I did break out into mental sweats whenever I thought about it, though.

What if some hacker managed to crack Picturelife and delete half their data structures — taking my 300GB with it?

Well, I’m pretty sure (although I haven’t confirmed) that Picturelife will have versioning turned on with their S3 storage, meaning that, theoretically, you can’t actually delete anything. You’ve always got an older copy.

Again, theoretically, that can be switched off (or, more accurately, paused) and hackers could have fun with that too.

I’m the weak point

The underpinning point: Amazon isn’t the problem, it’s other ‘actors’ that could mess with my data — not least someone cracking my super-hyper-crazy Picturelife password (thanks to Dashlane) and proceeding to delete every single file on my account using my credentials.

Again, one would hope that Picturelife support could, using versioning, be able to recover my data? Right? Probably.

But I don’t know. And Picturelife has not hitherto dealt with this level of worry.

I think it’s important they do, at some point.

One key thing they’ve offered from more or less day one is the ability to opt to use your OWN Amazon S3 ‘bucket’ to store your Picturelife account. If you do that, then they won’t actually bill you (given that you assume the bandwidth and hosting costs yourself).

A little while ago I rolled up my sleeves and setup my own bucket and transferred my 300Gb across.

Great.

Now my pictures and videos are stored in my own bucket. The service level is exactly the same. I can still use the app and web service as normal. I see no practical difference day-to-day.

However I can login with an S3 ‘file browser’ and I can verify that my files are there. This is the equivalent of a data centre manager who simply won’t swap to virtualisation, who insists on being able to touch his or her servers physically.

This week, however, I decided to change that.

Programming my own backup script

I flexed my LAMP (“Linux Apache MySQL PHP”) skillz. I flicked up a Rackspace Cloud server on CentOS, installed AMP, found the Amazon S3 class on Github and proceeded to see if I could work out a way of downloading each of my files sequentially.

You see, I’d used an S3 file browser to check my bucket and found 100,000+ files there. Picturelife takes your photo and makes two additional copies as you might expect — one as a quick ’tile’ shot and another ‘larger’ shot, as well as the original. Useful for caching purposes. You don’t really want to download an 8mb photo if you’re just swiping through it.

So I have about 33,000 photos and videos. Which equates to about 100k files. The file browser was having trouble parsing the 100k file list.

That led me to programming my own download script.

Which I duly created.

I’m rather proud of myself, dear reader. I flexed the LAMP skillz and boom, data arrived! I started programming at 11pm and by 2am I went to bed and left my scripts to work downloading the 33,000 files to an external drive connected to my MacBook. Thank you BT Infinity.

24 hours passed and I had retrieved everything.

I felt complete inside.

I felt whole.

I had a 300gb copy on my Rackspace cloud server (which I’ve since imaged/backed-up and shut down for the moment) and I’ve also got a copy on my USB drive.

The bad news is that the files I’ve downloaded have been stripped of the file creation dates. That was a bummer. That data is obviously stored elsewhere in the bucket (or on the Picturelife main servers).

Still: I do actually have the raw photos and videos. That’s the important bit, right? So if everything goes to pot, I have got a backup.

I shouldn’t have had to do this

Arguably most people don’t obsess at this level. I blame Ben and Rafe. However they’re still in the dark ages. They are still arsing around with Photostreams and iPhoto which, if you’ve got children like me (and you like taking photos and video) you will have noticed already that they are really poor.

Google’s Picasa does a nice job. It’s the same underpinning problem for me though: Control and management of data. I’m less worried about Picturelife and Amazon getting it wrong and more worried about some kind of stupid user-error on my part.

I would seriously love for Picturelife to offer an Amazon S3 bucket backup facility.

Or actually, I would really like to go back into the main Picturelife ‘account’ — instead of feeling as though I have to manage my own bucket — but with the premium option of being able to take a copy of my data and stick it somewhere else: Rackspace Cloud. Or Dropbox (even though they’re also using Amazon). Or something different.

I do not NOT NOT want to have to worry about managing my own picture and video data locally.

Local data management is an absolute joke — something that I think Ben and Rafe missed when they were lambasting me (rightly) about taking silly risks with valuable data. There’s no way at all I could rival Amazon or Picturelife’s reliability with my own infrastructure.

The issue I still face is redundant backup.

Just in case.

And here’s how easy it is, at least in my silly example, to dump my memories. I wanted to switch off my cloud server that I used for testing the backup script. I took a ‘backup’ or image of it whilst it contained the 200Gb data (i.e. just the original files, not all the ones created via Picturelife). I then wanted to create a ‘vanilla’ copy of the server config so I needed to dump the data. Here’s how I did it…

Screenshot 2014-07-08 00.34.26

Where I am today

So the solution, temporarily at least (I’m looking at you, Nate Westheimer, CEO, Picturelife) is my own silly backup script that literally scrapes each file from the my Amazon bucket. (There are various rsync style options but I was looking for something I could directly tinker with myself)

Given the recent and welcome price plan changes for Picturelife ($15/month for unlimited is brilliant, and the ability to share that with 3 other family members is even better!) I wonder if the team will soon be looking for premium add-on options? Surely a backup option can’t be too far away?

In the meantime I am going to work on my Picturelife bucket scraper tool and my plan is to run it once a month. Or programme it properly so that it runs daily and sucks down the latest additional files. BUUUT all of a sudden my photo and video management costs have gone into the hundreds of dollars per month because I ideally need a cloud server to run this.

I should underline my fanatical approach to Picturelife, particularly for Nate and his colleagues if they’re reading. I’m a huge, huge fan. So much so that I continued to pay the $15/month fee, even when I moved to my own Amazon bucket (which, incidentally started costing me about $40/month!). I like the sound of the cut of Nate’s jib, as the phrase goes. Here’s Nate writing about the recent cloud hosting cuts.

If you haven’t tried Picturelife, do so. The company appears to be doing rather well and my wife and our family and friends are absolutely delighted with the service. It’s just me being anal about the double-backup thing.

Further background reading on the issue

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Opinion, Services, amazon, backup, googl..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 09:15

Screenshot 2014-07-07 23.18.51

After my post yesterday about my wife selecting an Android phone, I decided to have a look at the most efficient way of buying an HTC One M8 online. I checked out Google Shopping to see what the cheapest rate was with them. I never tend to have a brilliant experience with Google Shopping but it’s usually semi helpful to at least get the rough market price.

The absolute cheapest I could find was from a company called Simply Electronics. Their price was £378.95 including free delivery.

This is a substantial discount on the HTC website (£549 — fulfilled via Expansys, who interestingly, will charge you just £469 from their own website). Amazon lists the HTC One M8 at a reasonably competitive £519. Very.co.uk, my personal choice for consumer buying hardware thanks to their ‘take 3′ buy-now-pay-later service offering, lists the M8 at a rather disappointing £579.

Back, then, to Simply Electronics. How can they possibly be retailing a phone at £141 cheaper than 800lb Gorilla, Amazon? Indeed the Simply Electronics price is actually cheaper than a factory reconditioned device for sale on Amazon at £389!

I looked around for some weasel words on the Simply Electronics website, wondering if I’d added a refurbished device to my shopping basked. Apparently not.

I then did some cursory research and ended up on this MoneySavingExpert thread filled with lots of commentary. Some posters (dating back from 2012) reckon the company is based in Hong Kong. I can only presume that this the HTC they’d be sending would be a Hong Kong, Chinese or similar derivative probably without a standard UK plug and so on.

Who knows?

Quite a lot of posters said that they did eventually receive their products but only after long delays (i.e. 10 or 11 days). That’s not actually too long. Just, in today’s next-day (or, same day!) world that I’m used to with the likes of Amazon or Very, that’s almost a lifetime.

Still. £141 saved compared to Amazon if you apparently wait for an unspecified amount of time and are happy to opt for a (presumed) non-UK spec device.

My preference — nay, my requirement — is a UK device for testing and evaluation. If you’ve used Simply Electronics I’d welcome your perspective. Would you recommend them to the Mobile Industry Review audience?

Right now I’m probably going to give the business to Expansys.

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, amazon, expansys, htc, htc one ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 09:03

I do like the new Samsung ‘wallhugger’ advert… Have a watch:

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, samsung, wallhugger"
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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 20:42

I’ve this following challenge to my wife: You’ve got to select an Android phone to buy and then use for a month.

The last time she used Android, she had a T-Mobile G1 running Android 1.6 (“Donut”, specs at GSM Arena). Remember that device?

t-mobile g1

 

“I loved that phone,” She said as she briefly reminisced. I think she really quite liked the fact you could pop out the physical keyboard. Since the G1, she’s been on iPhone exclusively. She is absolutely delighted with her iPhone and I’ve made sure to keep her on the very latest Apple hardware, upgrading more or less every September.

She does admit that she might be missing something and was rather impressed at the idea of widgets when I was doing my best to try and explain the key differences between iOS and Android.

I need to buy the latest devices especially for use during my consulting engagements when clients like to have ‘hands on’ of the latest devices. I need a few more for some upcoming full-day experiential events so I used that opportunity to see just how Hetty — my wife — reacts to the idea of choosing a new, Android phone.

The only research I’ve let her do is online. I’ve also insisted she make the decision in one sitting this evening.

The choices I gave her were:

  • Sony Xperia Z2
  • HTC One M8
  • Samsung Galaxy S5

I gave her the list by email in that order as I thought the Sony might need a bit of a push. I also highlighted the fact the Sony is completely waterproof. (She had been impressed at the original Z’s performance in the pool and at CenterParcs.)

“But I know nothing about Android phones,” was her first response.

“Great,” I replied, “This will be an interesting experiment won’t it?”

Her first response before sitting down at the computer (iMac…!) was to consider what all of her friends used. Her immediate social circle is roughly 70% iPhone, 25% Android and 5% “other” — apparently one of her friends is still rocking a BlackBerry and there was mention of one or two Windows Phones.

I asked her to use the internet for her primary research. It’s always stimulating to see how the various phone brands choose to present themselves online. If anything, ‘online’ is exceptionally fair. You don’t have any manufacturer’s incentives or store incentives getting in the way. There’s no spotty teenager trying to push a particular model so he can hit his Ibiza holiday target.

I also asked her to search directly for the model names I’d provided.

Now, this certainly isn’t scientific given she’s married to me — a total mobile geek with dozens of handsets arrayed around the office. However she’s had next to zero exposure to Android since v1.6 and therefore represents a good example of a premium customer migrating (albeit temporarily?) into the Android ecosystem.

Her first stop was the Sony Xperia website.

She clicked on the first available video and had a watch.

“So the Sony is all about the camera then?”

Unfortunately the first video Sony had chosen to present was focused around the camera capabilities of the Xperia Z2. My wife was looking for a good generic overview (I suspect, anyway) and came away less than impressed. I did prompt her to say, “Er, scroll down and… have a more detailed look.”

I suspect her mind was made up here. She does appreciate a good camera however I wonder if the webmaster at Sony has limited the sales potential of their website by ONLY focusing on the camera video. Or assuming that interested parties would do further research down the page. My wife didn’t. She was off to the next website to browse.

I felt rather sorry for Sony. I don’t think the Xperia did very well in presenting their capabilities to her. The camera-focused video didn’t tell her anything else about the phone’s capabilities.

Next, she hit the HTC website. Remember that I put an HTC G1 in her hand around October 2008… right? That is SIX years ago. She was — interestingly — already rather warm to HTC. She browsed the product page and watched a few videos, taking in all the features. Then she was off to various other websites to look at the video reviews of the M8. I silently observed her paying serious attention to a TrustedReviews video of the HTC.

Then — almost reluctantly — she hit the Samsung Galaxy S5 website. I also sent her the latest Samsung wallhuggers video which she really liked. She scrolled up and down on the S5 site and watched a few Samsung videos.

At this point I’m seriously surprised just how much video watching she’s doing. Obviously in this ‘test’ she decided that video was the best medium for getting information — beyond scanning (but definitely not carefully reading) the product pages.

“I don’t know they all look good”

That was her immediate summation after the S5 website window was closed.

She followed up with:

“I like the look of the HTC… Am I allowed to choose it on looks? It’s obviously not the best as it doesn’t have a removable battery…”

I felt that was a rather interesting point to make — I wonder if this was the impact of the Samsung video. I hoped I hadn’t thrown things by sending her that video.

Then it was back to TrustedReviews:

“On TrustedReviews it says the Samsung S5 body gets a bit hot…”

I responded trying to bring a bit of balance, pointing out that her iPhone 5S can also get a bit hot too.

A bit more browsing… and then the first summary from her arrived:

“For some reason I just don’t like the Samsung… I think that’s because I think it’s cheap. It’s just the brand. I’m sure they’re great…”

Not good for Samsung. I think that was her excluding Samsung from the running. I wonder if the wide array of Samsung models has led her to that view.

After another 5 minutes of browsing, I asked her if she’d made a decision.

She nodded. I asked her for a quotable sentence and here it is:

“I’m choosing the HTC One M8 because it gets the highest rating on TrustedReviews (9/10) and it looks as smart as the iPhone does — which is one of the reasons I like the iPhone. They do all look like they’re very good phones and I guess you have to choose one based on something. I do like the idea of a waterproof phone. But it’s the HTC for me.. in Silver.”

And there, dear reader, we have it. HTC wins.

I should point out that as far as I’m aware, she’s never used TrustedReviews before and, again I’m reaching here, but I reckon she’s never come across them before. But their reviews and videos were compelling enough to make an impression.

Or another point of view…. she was already seriously warm for the HTC brand based on her previous experience. I don’t think she’s ever owned a Samsung or a Sony mobile phone in the past.

There we go.

So, less than scientific, but interesting all the same. I wonder how she’d have fared if I’d asked her to phone Vodafone or Three to buy a top Android phone?

Once the phone arrives I’m going to swap her to it properly — sim and all — to see what she thinks of the experience. I think she’ll hate it for the first few days and then I wonder if she’ll grow to like the HTC?

We shall see.

Since she selected the HTC I’m also going to get her the fancy dot-matrix cover as I think that’s a must, right? ;-)

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Opinion, hetty, htc one m8, samsung gala..."
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Date: Monday, 30 Jun 2014 22:38

…thanks to Amazon.

I’ve setup an instance using Amazon Workspaces to see how it performs as a secondary ‘backup’ computer that I can always access wherever I am. 

I’ve installed DropBox on the desktop instance and it’s whirring away nicely. 

I’ll write more shortly. For now I’m seriously impressed at the speed. It should fast, given my DropBox files are located on Amazon’s S3 storage service

Screenshot 2014 06 30 23 33 13

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "News, amazon, workspaces"
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Date: Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 23:07

While I’m writing about the Amazon Fire Phone, here’s a survey conducted by Gorkana THIS morning (i.e. the day after the launch). Depending on how you read it, it’s not brilliant news.

Let’s get into the guts of the release:

Amazon has taken its first step into the mobile phone market and just unveiled its first handset.  A survey conducted by Gorkana Group this morning shows that only 27% of smart phone users would consider changing their current mobile device to Amazon’s new Fire phone. The much-hyped 3D capabilities of the Amazon Fire handset may not be enough for consumers as results showed a dismal 8% were very likely to choose it for its 3D capabilities.

Gorkana Group’s research, which surveyed 1,000 adults in the UK on 19 June 2014, the morning following Amazon’s announcement, found that whilst 72% of consumers trust a retailer, such as Amazon, to be able to produce a good phone, they are unlikely to make the switch.

When asked whether the new Amazon Fire device would make users more likely to shop on Amazon, 80% of those surveyed answered no.

“It’s an exciting time for consumers as Amazon launches its 3D enabled phone”, said Jeremy Thompson, CEO of Gorkana Group, “Whilst consumers are clearly happy to buy phones from non-traditional mobile manufacturers in principal, 3D capabilities alone don’t seem to be a big driver yet. More concerning for Amazon is the consumers lack of conviction that this will drive retail sales, which is the key purpose for the device.”

For the sake of balance, I’m sure a similar survey conducted the day after the iPhone launch would have reported similar results. The Fire Phone is seriously new.

On first glance, the fact that only 27% of respondents said they’ve consider purchasing a Fire Phone, sounds rather poor.

But if 27% of the UK market bought a Fire Phone, the market dynamic would change over night.

The fact that even 27% — more than a quarter — actually replied ‘yes’ to the survey question gives a super indication as to the strength of the Amazon brand.

Imagine if we replaced ‘Amazon’ with ‘John Lewis’? Would the results have been similar? No, I don’t think so. Even the non-geeks are aware of Amazon’s very well received Kindle technology.

So from a standing start to 27% of people nodding their heads in contemplation, that is good news.

How will that translate into device sales?

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, News, Opinion, amazon, fire, ph..."
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Date: Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 22:46

At $649, the Amazon Fire Phone appears to be a really good piece of engineering and software design. It’s just too expensive to matter at the moment. This is a turning point to remember though. The ramifications of yesterday’s launch are likely to be seen in 2 or 3 years time.

The current price point will have been a difficult one to decide upon for the Amazon executives famed for their preference for waver-thin margins to wipe the floor with the rest of the market.

When the real Amazon — the one we know from the decimation of other industries — wakes up and decides to compete seriously, that’s when we’ll have a game on our hands in the mobile industry.

As it stands today I’m delighted to see the Fire Phone hit the market. It’s going to give the standard status quo a bit of a kick. Not much. But a bit of a kick. It’s not every day that you see a handset hit the market with a fully formed ecosystem ready and waiting. I could happily pick up the Fire Phone and find oodles of familiarity in terms of my Amazon media. Like millions of others I’m a big user of their Kindle platform and their audiobook service Audible. I have also stuck thousands of music tracks on to Amazon’s Music Cloud — not that I do much with them there… yet. And of course, I am a massive Prime customer.

So the Fire Phone undoubtedly makes a lot of sense.

I certainly agree with the executive comments I published earlier: The Fire Phone is definitely “The Shopping Phone”.

I don’t have a problem with that.

I’m just concerned about price. I’m concerned about the market entry via AT&T in the States. I was secretly hoping for Amazon to absolutely rock the mobile world yesterday by declaring that $649 (or thereabouts) bought the phone AND the data plan for the year. Or something like that. Something to cause  the mobile operator executives opening their FTs this morning to turn very, very pale.

I was reaching with that wish though. The time is not quite right. We’re not quite there. Amazon haven’t bought Truphone. ;-)

That would be an interesting one, wouldn’t it? If Amazon purchased Truphone and then leveraged their global (more or less) data (and calls) footprint to deliver service to almost anyone, anywhere.

I am definitely looking forward to the next step from Amazon. People will buy the Fire Phone. I’ve no doubt. But it’s going to be in small numbers I’m sure, at least in the first instance.

Who is going to want to commit to a 2-year contract and $199 up front for an unproven device? Limited numbers. That will change.

It’s interesting to see AT&T involved again, hoping for a replay of the iPhone exclusive joy they experienced. Times are so different now. When the exclusivity was announced I could feel the frustration from the mobile world in America. Why couldn’t Amazon have chosen a better network if it had to be exclusive? ;-)

Going for exclusivity is a great way of limiting sales — or hiding limited initial sales. A sensible precaution. As long as we don’t have any ‘bumper’ problems hitting the press in the next few months, the pull and the drive of Amazon’s brand should get a few customers walking into AT&T and demanding the device. Likewise the customers wavering over whether to buy a Samsung or an iPhone now have a genuinely strong, familiar brand to choose from.

Let’s just hope we don’t hear about really poor battery performance or similar.

I haven’t bothered ordering one. Yeah it’ll probably sort-of work here in the UK but I have decided to wait for Amazon to fiddle about and launch a UK version. $649 is £380. So I expect the UK version should retail for, what, £399? Still pretty expensive.

I am unconvinced whether the Great Unwashed will respond in droves just yet to queue up virtually for the Fire Phone. The pricing feels too much of a risk at the moment. The early adopters will need to get hold of it and after a few quarters and one or two price reductions, it will be interesting to see how prospective customers react. The Amazon ecosystem is warm and appealing, provided you’re not after a niche set of apps.

Good show Amazon, good show. I’m pretty pleased all round. The price point is the problem — but that can be addressed in time. Once Amazon have a handle on just how valuable the average Fire Phone customer becomes, that should help them make some pricing decisions.

I wonder where we’ll be in 3 years time? Will I eventually be buying my mother a Fire Phone? I can visualise that. Will we all be walking around as “Amazon Prime Data” customers? (i.e. Amazon Prime plus an unlimited data bundle) Here’s hoping. I’d love to see how the operators would respond.

And what of Apple and the others? Bring on the excitement. We’ve need a bit of a change for a long time in the mobile world so I am pleased to welcome the 800lb Gorilla that is Amazon.

Let’s see what comes next from Amazon.

Note: Read the full Amazon Fire Phone press release

Fire---Maps-Landmark FirePhone-D-Right-App-Grid FirePhone-Hand-Email-Carousel FirePhone_Hand_Firefly-Icon Amazon_Fire_Phone_Center_Logo_RGB-sm amazon fire phone

 

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Devices, Opinion, amazon, fire, phone"
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Date: Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 14:39

amazon fire phoneWhat did executives across the wider mobile industry in the UK make of last night’s launch of the Amazon Fire Phone?

I asked a series of executives from a wide variety of companies to give us their viewpoints. I also asked them to give us a one liner description on their company for a bit of context too.

Ok, here we go…

- – - – -

Charles Cadbury, CEO of putitout

It is the ultimate feature phone. The feature is shopping. It is trying to deliver a feature that companies like POWA are offering through third party software. Amazon has trust which will be all important for consumer adoption.

A large proportion of consumers are more passionate for shopping on Amazon, know and understand the experience, than are passionate about 3rd party applications.  In one device you are delivered the ability to easily buy anything in the world using a service you can trust.  If that’s all the phone did it would be great, but there’s much more.

The Amazon app store is limited especially if you are used and enjoy any of Google’s apps which are notable absent. However, if you want a well featured phone which is great at shopping this should be high on your list and should be a hit in the city dwelling consumerist world that is eating us.

putitout is a leading technology agency focused on digital and emerging trends.

- – - – -

Peter Wood, CEO of IDT Systems

With Amazon.com launching a Smartphone of its own, the vibrations running through the technology industry are palpable. The effect this will have on the Smartphone industry are substantial. Consumers are constantly looking for the newest and most innovative device and if Amazon’s Smartphone offers the suggested 3D viewing capabilities, the usual players may find their hold decreasing. In an industry as volatile as this, the accessories market needs to do its utmost to keep up.

Consumers are getting impatient; the minute a phone is released, they want the accessories to accompany it and expect to be given a choice to make it their own. With these brand new devices entering the market, accessories haven’t been mass produced as yet, but retailers need to be prepared, forward thinking and plan for what might be the next big thing … or the next three minute wonder.

IDT Systems is a leading systems provider delivering 3D and 2D surface decoration solutions for most materials, across the consumer electronics and mobile phone accessory space and is responsible for creating 95% of the mobile accessory market.

- – - – -

Mark Mason, CEO & Founder, Mubaloo

Just like the Kindle Fire HD, the Fire Phone is only adding to the fragmentation of developing for Android. The fact that it’s adding another dimension to thinking about dynamic tilting, and designing that into apps is a further issue. Amazon wants developers to create apps specifically for this phone, doing so requires optimising for Amazon’s forked Android. It’s an interesting concept, but ultimately a bit of a gimmick, seemingly firmly aimed at the consumer market. Whilst we can see people enjoying the initial experience of being able to look at objects dynamically, it’s likely to get old, quickly. The Fire phone is basically a glorified hand held POS to the Amazon store, there aren’t likely to be many applications for this device in the enterprise market.

Having said that, the Amazon App Store is growing and as it is controlled by Amazon, there is less chance of rogue apps getting through onto the store. The Fire phone provides an opportunity for developers, time will tell how much of an opportunity it is.

Mubaloo is the UK’s leading enterprise and consumer app development company.

- – - – -

Martin McNulty, CEO at digital agency Forward3D

The Amazon Fire Phone with its dedicated FireFly button is exactly the kind of show rooming tech that supports our view, that this is about bridging real world objects and online. Accompanied by real world product detection application, this gives Amazon the power to operate on the high street. By allowing users to match products using it’s hand set Amazon hope to undercut those high street stores effectively turning them into little more than showrooms for good, Amazon will then deliver. At every turn, consumers will be able to find products and check prices.

Amazon’s efficiency in delivery services will mean it can now actively challenge the immediacy of the high street whilst also amassing swathes of data on consumers shopping behaviour.  That is of course, as long as Amazon can produce record breaking sales figures and polarise Samsung and Apple’s market share, with a phone that the media are already calling the Shopping Phone.

Forward3D is an independent global e-commerce and digital marketing agency, with localised services in over 45 markets.

- – - – -

Matt Graham, Tech Consultant, Apadmi

The new features enabled by the new SDKs provide interesting opportunities, and we look forward to finding out how our customers will exploit them. On the other hand, Amazon risks diverging too far from the base Android platform, which could make life difficult for developers.

Apadmi is an expert in mobile technology, creating exceptional brand led mobile experiences that inspire business and end consumers alike.

- – - – -

Paul Bennun, Chief Creative Officer at Somethin’ Else

To unpick what this device is about is to unpick where Amazon, Google, Samsung and Apple are trying to kill each other. It’s the first time an iOS competitor has genuinely looked at its own advantages and built user-centred features around them.

Our devices are interpreters of the world and providers of diversion. If you’re choosing a device for diversion (an app and content ecosystem), you buy an iPhone. If you want to buy a machine that interprets the world, Google would like your business, but no-one buys an Android phone. No-one. They buy a Samsung.

Amazon have an unrivalled content and product ecosystem. Amazon want you to be seduced by a face-tracking, tilt-activated pseudo 3D user interface, but they really want you to use the dedicated button on the phone.

This is a button which turns the whole world into a showroom for Amazon’s inventory.

Now you’ve got a device which will interpret the world, tell you what you’re looking at, and let you buy it with one click. Amazon is hoping this utility will be something users really want; of course we won’t know until the device escapes the AT&T lock-in. But at least someone’s competing with Apple on features, not mimicry or marketing.

Somethin’ Else is a content agency specialising in original content across games, interactivity, radio, TV and social media.

- – - – -

Jason Mander, Head of Trends at Global Web Index

At first glance, the AmazonFire phone’s 3D functionality is a nice-to-have rather than an essential and is unlikely to tempt significant numbers away from the established market leaders like Apple and Samsung.

Amazon can market this heavily as a content-consumption device. Just a fifth of internet users globally are using their phones to watch content on-demand – less than half the number who do this on PCs or Laptops. But with free access to Amazon’s Prime library and content pre-loaded to the phone, users will be able to watch safe in the knowledge that their data allowance is not in jeopardy and that they won’t face challenges trying to access content while out-and-about.

Global Web Index is the world’s largest ongoing multi-market research study into the digital consumer, GWI interview 170,000 people every year, in 32 global markets, representing 89% of the global internet population.

- – - – -

Marco Veremis, CEO, Upstream

Amazon entered the smartphone battleground yesterday as it unveiled its first mobile device, the Amazon Fire.  The move will give Western consumers another handset to consider in the very-crowded smartphone marketplace, and while the 3D functionality may appeal to Western consumers because of its innovation, will Amazon achieve the cut-through it needs to make the product a global success?

While the device may not compete with the hardware giants of Apple and Samsung, it may serve its own purpose of promoting Amazon’s online marketplace through better imagery to Western consumers. However, in India, Nigeria, Brazil, Vietnam and China, only 21% of consumers currently spend or want to spend money with Amazon (Upstream’s The Next Mobile Frontier Report).

Therefore, rather than creating products to reinforce an already successful marketplace in the West, Amazon needs to look to emerging markets if it wants to become a leading online marketplace worldwide. This is perhaps a more strategic priority to grow in the regions where Amazon is falling behind opposed to continuing to stick to areas of strength.

Upstream is a global mobile marketing technology company.

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Gareth Davies, CEO of Adbrain 

The launch of the Fire Phone is aligned with Amazon’s long game – collecting user data. Amazon already has incredibly rich data on consumers’ purchasing habits; if it sells a decent number of Fire Phones it will be able to combine that data with the rich behavioural and location data inherent to mobile and sharpen both its advertising and retail propositions. It all comes back to the shop in the end.

Adbrain is a company with a multiscreen audience-buying platform.

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Greg Weinger, Technical Product Manager, Urban Airship

With the release of its new Fire Phone today, Amazon enters the global smartphone market in a development we think will be great for consumers and the industry.

We’ve been watching this development with excitement, and have every reason to believe this new smartphone is going to be highly successful and potentially disruptive. Amazon already has one of the best-selling tablets on the market. With its thriving mobile app ecosystem, robust web services, content distribution and shopping infrastructure, plus the fact that most Android and HTML5 apps will already work on Fire, Amazon is well-positioned to take a significant share of the still-growing smartphone market and give developers greater distribution almost automatically.

We’re going to be watching closely in the coming weeks and months to see how quickly developers pursue new opportunities created by Amazon’s Fire Phone and its growing app ecosystem.

Urban Airship is the leading mobile relationship management specialist.

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Les Yates, marketing manager at The Snugg

Spec-wise, the Amazon Fire Phone isn’t breaking any new ground.  For serious tech fans, there’s not much there that they can’t get from the iPhone 5s or the Galaxy S5.  The 3D depth perspective user interface certainly looks impressive, but I’m not sure it can win over the general smartphone-buying public.  It could definitely appeal to more casual smartphone users – especially thanks to its robust rubber build – but Amazon hasn’t really priced it competitively enough.

However, what really could be exciting is the Kindle Phone’s Firefly feature.  Being able to recognise products in real life, instantly price-check, and order them online could revolutionize the shopping industry.  Firefly means users can browse physical stores’ CDs and DVDs but purchase them off Amazon, which might not sit too well with bricks-and-mortar retailers.  If the Fire Phone really takes off, we could see the online and physical shopping worlds coming closer together than ever.

The Snugg is a leading online retailer of tablet and smartphone protective cases and accessories.

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Cathal McGloin, CEO, FeedHenry

The Amazon Fire Smartphone offers innovative mobile retail features and is likely to find its way into the enterprise through BYOD programmes. From our point of view, the devices that employees select are less important than the information that they process. The key for enterprise apps is the control and security of integrating data from backend enterprise systems and making it available to the apps on devices. Business units should have the flexibility to choose the devices and apps that will do the job for their particular need while IT watches over the integration and management of these deployments.

Early indicators are that there’s more work to be done to excite consumers, who in turn may take Amazon Fire into the work environment. There are a lot of possibilities with Firefly but also some serious limitations for the enterprise. The core limitation is that the object recognition part has to be done by Amazon and cannot be extended. What you can do is write plugins which are triggered when certain objects are recognised and then run business logic to retrieve additional information. Another major limitation is the lack of support for hybrid apps or iOS. Just betting on native Android will not cut it for most enterprises, which need the flexibility to develop for multiple devices. Let’s see how the developer community reacts and whether app toolkits will be developed for Amazon Fire that extend the support for it.

FeedHenry provides a cloud-based mobile application platform that simplifies the development, deployment and management of  mobile apps for enterprises.

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There we go. I particularly like running these opinion style features because you get so many different perspectives in one post! Thank you to everyone for taking the time to send me their opinions.

What do you think? Will you be first in line for the $649 Amazon Fire Phone?

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "News, Opinion, amazon, fire, phone"
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Date: Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 08:27

I had a call from a chap earlier today hunting for a Head of Mobile EMEA position for a very well known brand. I suggested I post a blog to see if there are any readers interested. 

It’s based in the South West (Reading/Bracknell-ish) area, it’s interim possibly leading to permanent — but they’d also do contract too.

Here the general overview of experience required:

- Knowledge and insight of the mobile market, trends, key players, technologies, etc.
- Mobile and application proposition / product development
- Working within an Agile environment
- Responsive site experience (for tablet and Smartphone traffic)
- Cross-platform experience in iOS and Android
- Ability to lead large cross-functional matrix teams to deliver objectives.
- Strong commercial skills

Do you reckon it could be of interest? If so, drop me a note (ewan@mobileindustryreview.com) and I’ll connect you directly with the headhunter. 

Author: "Ewan" Tags: "News, Jobs"
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Date: Friday, 13 Jun 2014 10:44

I needed a Fridge. A tall free-standing one. We’ve got some work going on in the kitchen but it’s going to be quite a while before that’s complete so I determined, with a bit of persuasion of my wife, that we should just order a big temporary fridge… that, when everything is all finished, we can use in the garage for drinks and other things. 

I was going to order via very.co.uk — I absolutely love them, particularly the manner in which they handle the ‘take 3’ credit payment stuff. Alas it was going to be a few days before they could get the fridge out so I thought I’d finally get a John Lewis account setup and try and give the ailing old favourite a shot.

I was pretty impressed with the nice looking website and I got the order processed in double quick time.

Unfortunately the standard reality of British business — the fulfilment — caused a problem. They were due to deliver on Tuesday morning. My wife waited in the house until just past midday before calling it quits. The usual story. She got a call from the delivery chaps who promised to deliver on Wednesday morning. Same old challenge. My wife waited until midday and… yeah… nothing. No call, nothing.

I looked at the John Lewis online order system and saw that the fridge was set to be delivered NEXT Tuesday.

I phoned up John Lewis — famous, apparently, for their brilliant service. I explained that I’d like to cancel the order because of non-delivery. I wondered how they’d react. 

The polite lady promptly agreed. 

Job done. 

That was simple. She’s refunded the money. I was expecting some kind of rescue attempt from the famously helpful brand — but I was quite content that they just processed the cancellation efficiently.

Dear reader, I visited AO.com on my iPhone, found the same (or very similar) model and had it purchased within about 5 minutes of putting the phone down on John Lewis. In fact, the AO.com order confirmation arrived faster than the John Lewis refund acknowledgement! 

I did this all on my iPhone. I cannot praise the AO.com user journey in more glowing terms than to say they have absolutely nailed it. 

I think I was able to process the whole order in about 3 screens. I was pained at the possibility of filling in my credit card details on the iPhone browser, but actually, that only took about 30 seconds. Boom! Amazing. Absolutely amazing. 

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Author: "Ewan" Tags: "Opinion, Services, ao.com, john lewis"
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