This story is flying around the marketplace at the moment (and, incidentally, getting quite a lot of traditional banks in a bit of a panic):
Hot on the heels of a report that Apple has inked a deal with American Express, a second report has stated that the company has also signed deals with Visa and MasterCard.
My view is: Bring it on. Bring it flipping on.
For a long, long time the concept of the iPhone becoming central to a user’s financial world has been muted. To a large extent, the device already is central. Apple — by virtue of their App Store — has placed itself at the centre of the Universe.
Hitherto, Apple has enabled others to benefit — witness, for example, the raft of bank, building society and credit card providers who all offer market leading services via iPhone. The latest American Express Passbooky-cum-app integration is just gorgeous, for example.
But the iPhone itself? Just a dumb terminal in the world of payments. Today.
Tomorrow, though? It could get rather exciting, especially if there’s integration into the existing contactless/NFC standards.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple did it’s own thing. The market will simply gravitate toward whatever they do, such is the power and influence of the brand. Don’t forget that most C-Level executives in Corporate America are typically wielding an iPhone, iPad or both. So getting the business case approved (which is what it all comes down to) shouldn’t be too complicated.
The issue will be if Apple does the usual shit. That is: A semi half-baked gorgeous concept that is missing key points or integrations, either because it hasn’t been built, because Apple doesn’t understand it or for naked commercial gain.
There is a temptation to assume Cupertino is the font of all wisdom. It’s not. The abject secrecy the company works with makes it really difficult for real world testing. Do you remember the iPhone-left-in-a-bar saga a few years ago? That was when a pre-release iPhone disguised as an older version was let outside the compound so that an Apple worker could test the device in real world conditions.
Failures have been high. We just don’t ever, ever pay attention to them. Perhaps the best example was bumpergate. The “You’re holding it wrong,” saga. Grip your iPhone 4S (was it? I can’t remember now) and the signal will visibly wilt. No one at Apple seemed to have tested the device in the real world without a ‘bumper’ or a case. Obviously. Because the devices were disguised in cases. Steve Jobs wove his magic and told us we were wrong in a special edition keynote. And then offered everyone a free ‘bumper’. Very well played. Everyone smiled and carried on.
I hope that the team at Apple has arrived to dominate the mobile payments market. I hope they will absolutely blow away the existing banks and credit card companies. That will force the kind of innovation and development at pace that the rest of the market sorely needs to adopt.
The first step is to integrate though.
As an American Express customer accustomed to brilliant service and reasonably swift innovation, I will be delighted if I can ‘do advanced things’ with my iPhone and Amex account. Similarly with Visa and MasterCard although I won’t be surprised if the various financial institutions I use don’t ‘sign up’ right-away.
We’ll see. Bring it on. I hope we have some exciting innovation announcements at the keynote next week.
One final comment: The operators — dead and buried. That’s it. The moment Apple announces something credible with mobile payments (and it does need to be credible) I think we can all relax that the ‘game’ (such as it was) with operators is over. Years ago, I used to write about the operators panicking about Apple doing something to unseat them or their position. We’re almost done now. Dumb data pipes, for the most part.
As the VP of Strategy at MobileIron, we were really keen to read Ojas Rege’s top 7 favourite apps.
MobileIron provides the foundation for companies around the world to transform into Mobile First organisations, we were sure he’d have a great list.
Ojas currently uses both an iPhone 5S and Nokia Lumia 925. (We’ve provided links to both the Android and iPhone versions for his chosen apps… We’ll need to see if we can extend this to Windows Phone soon).
- – - – -
Ojas’ Top 7 Apps
My bank account would LOVE if this app wasn’t in my top 7 but unfortunately I am addicted to one-click ordering.
Yeah, not original but it is my only connection to so many people I care about but don’t get to spend time with in person.
I’ve got a teenager who loves movies and he’s got a dad who loves to take him to see them!
My family’s entire life over the last 10 years in captured in this app.
I love my three custom stations, developed specifically for my variant moods: Classic, Heavy, and Really F’ing Heavy.
We should all be doing presentations from our mobile devices! Plus sharks are cool.
It’s how I keep up to date with everything happening in tech (@arstechnica), comics (@Marvel), and music (@Blabbermouthnet) and it’s like having a constant stream of everything geeky I love getting directly piped into my brain.
- – - – -
Thank you Ojas!
If you agree, disagree or think your list is better, then why not drop me a note and submit your Top 7 Apps to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Likewise if you represent an executive who might like get involved we’d love to hear from you too.
Our very first Top 7 Apps post comes from Nick Gibson, Managing Director of Tiger Mobiles, a mobile phone comparison site. Nick’s role is to oversee day to day running of the company as well as playing a key role in marketing and understanding customers’ shopping behaviour to help them make better buying decisions.
Nick’s primary handset: Google’s LG Nexus 7
- – - – -
Now let’s get into his top 7 apps….
Trello helps me stay in sync with the team, we use it internally as a business for workflow and the app lets me check up on things if I’m out of the office or at home looking at tomorrow’s agenda.
Anything that can automate simple processes is extremely useful and that’s what IFTTT does. I personally use it to keep track of some stock prices (it sends me a notification if it drops above or below a certain price) and also to auto send certain emails into a Google drive spreadsheet. You can literally automate anything with it though even boiling the kettle for a cup of tea from another room.
I like keeping my device free from junk files and flushing apps that are hogging the memory. It just keeps it running that bit smoother and also lets you remove apps that you’re hardly using.
Alongside a work based to do list / workflow system I use Wunderlist for personal tasks and projects. I like it because it’s very simple in design, works well on all devices and has been really well thought out. It’s basically just a to do list with a couple of nice features and a very slick interface.
I’m quite active on social media and I have access to all the company profiles too so it’s important I have something where I can share things seamlessly across Facebook & Twitter, as well as schedule posts when I need to. Buffer has those options as well as some inbuilt analytics for tracking shares & clicks.
I have a LOT of login / passwords and I try to use as many unique combinations as possible just for security. Remembering them all is a tough ask so Lastpass is ideal if I need to login into something on the go as it stores them all securely
I sell games, electronics etc on eBay that I’m no longer using and the eBay app keeps me informed if my items have bids on or have sold. It’s useful for marking items as dispatched as soon as you’ve posted them and just makes the selling process that bit slicker.
Nick also had the following honourable mentions:
I’m heavily into crypto currencies like bitcoin and I use the blockchain app as my bitcoin wallet to store a couple of coins so I can spend them easily or move them elsewhere quickly.
Online security is a big deal and I try to enable Two Factor authentication wherever possible. The Google authenticator app makes that pretty easy and I prefer it to receiving an SMS code as it’s easier and doesn’t clog up my inbox.
- – - – -
Thank you very much Nick!
If you’d like to submit your Top 7 Apps, drop me a note and we’ll sort that out — email@example.com. And if you are a PR manager representing an executive who might like to participate we’d similarly love to hear from you.
I’d like to say hello to JP, Social Media genius at Telefonica O2.
He sent me a chocolate bar together with the slightly mysterious note you see above.
As you can see on the wrapper, the text on the chocolate bar reads:
This doesn’t have to last you two years. Just like a phone. Get a new one whenever you like with O2 Refresh.
A smart way to draw attention!
I’m a big, big fan of O2′s Refresh. If you recall, that’s where they separate line rental from the cost of the mobile phone. If you really don’t like committing to a 24-month contract, then Refresh is definitely for you. Agree the line rental package you’d like and that works like normal. However, you can then change your phone as often as you wish. You’ll need to pay it off before swapping but there’s a lot of possibilities around — you could try and sell it, recycle it or even see what O2 would give you for the device. The key point is you won’t get nailed for the full cost of a contract if you’d like to change.
O2 launched Refresh about a year ago and since then has been getting excellent feedback. Anecdotally whenever I’ve been talking to O2 store employees, Refresh is regularly cited as a Godsend when dealing with fractious customers like me who want everything now-now-now.
If you’re keen to try it out, you need to make sure you’re on the right price plan — all the company’s new monthly contracts are “Refresh enabled”.
Here’s a practical example with the Samsung Galaxy S5. Let’s say you go for their £38 line rental. That (see the red box I highlighted?) is broken down as £18 for actual airtime and £20 for the phone.
This means you’re on the hook for £480 for the Galaxy S5. If, 10 months from now you decide you’d like the Galaxy S6 (as it should probably have launched by then) you’ll have paid off £200 (£20/month x 10) and therefore the balance will be £280. Let’s assume you can use O2 Recycle to get…. £190 back. (That’s me being realistic… today you’d get about £270 for a recycled S5). So in this example, you’d had to stump up £90 to call it quits and get a new phone. I think Refresh is a good idea even if you end up keeping your phone for 24 months. I like everyone to have the flexibility to change.
Order by 10pm, get it next day
The other piece of news, delivered by chocolate bar — seriously, this is the way to go for press releases in the future, stick it all on a chocolate bar wrapper — is that O2 is upping the bar, yet again.
Logistics Managers all across the industry will be gnashing their teeth when they see that O2 has now launched guaranteed next day delivery on all orders placed before 10pm. Good.
The amount of times I’ve been ordering phones from operators and had the deflating answer from the call centre along the lines of, “Oh yeah sorry it’s gone 4pm so … yeah… you’ll get the phone in two days time.”
O2′s customer services is open until 9pm during the week so you’ll definitely meet the cut-off no problem if you’re ordering by phone. Otherwise, if you place your online order before 10pm, expect it to arrive within about 10-12 hours (assuming it’s delivered from about 8am-10am onwards). That is pretty smart.
It’s a good challenge for the rest of the industry and it will no doubt add to the net promoter scores for O2 customers. It also just makes sense in today’s now-today-right-now culture.
Back to the chocolate bar. I arrived home at about 9pm this evening and then fumbled for my phone to quickly get an email off to JP prior to the 10pm cut off as instructed. I admit to eating some of the bar too. See the photo evidence below. I left a substantial amount for my wife though!
Great work O2.
(And seriously: Press releases compressed into 4 lines on a chocolate bar wrapper — love it!)
I’ve got a new feature coming soon here at MIR. It’s called Top 7 Apps. I’m asking executives from around the industry (and beyond) to list out their top 7 mobile applications with a line or two about each.
I chose 7 rather than 5 or 10 as I think that will push each individual to go beyond the absolute favourites. I’m hoping to discover some nuggets that I haven’t come across — or perhaps a different perspective that leads me to look at an app in a new light.
Anyway if you’d like to participate, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send you back the details.
I’ll have the first one up shortly.
We’ve just published episode 10 of Season 7… (SEVEN!) of the 361 Degrees Podcast.
If you haven’t checked in recently, I (perhaps rather obviously) recommend you have a listen. We’re finishing this series by exploring the question of whether we will shortly see the death of tablets.
Not the full, actual death… but given the market has seen fewer iPads being produced over the last year or so, what could that possibly mean? And how should that be rationalised, given the recent Ofcom stats indicate a doubling in the use of tablets in the UK!
Here’s the summary:
It’s our final week of season 7 and the team turn their attention to tablets. Rafe’s gathered some research (so we know the numbers are right) showing the iPad has lost its market-dominating position with overall sales of tablets slowing too. Samsung is catching Apple fast with its broad range of tablets and price-points but the smaller, lower-cost devices are the real winners cumulatively beating both the big firms.
In other news Ewan’s finally a productive member of society again (well, he’s started his new job) and Rafe’s finding dual-sim phones useful in rural areas with poor network coverage.
Ewan says he’s impressed with the capabilities of some of the new lower-priced tablets, especially Amazon’s Kindle range.
Rafe says tablets probably aren’t ‘dead’ but life-cycles are clearly different to smartphones which are replaced much more frequently..
Ben says there’s probably not just one type of tablet market and he can believe they can become home-users’ main device.
Here’s the Soundcloud embed so you can play right-away:
Or, here are the subscription details.
The last time the calls began was back in May. I ignored them for a few days and eventually answered on May 14th (I wrote a post then to chronicle the experience).
So almost three months to the day, I got another call from the now eerily familiar 0800 358 number range. The number that rang this afternoon was 0800 358 4481.
I answered and I shit ye not, I thought it was one of those phone jacker calls on account of the language the chap was using (e.g. phrases like ‘informations’ and so on.”
He was polite. He was particularly insistent. He offered me a free phone (“absolutely free”) from £16 per month. I countered by saying I didn’t like 24 month contracts. He then explained that Ofcom-something-or-other blah-blah all other operators do 24-month contracts. Something like that.
He then suggested a SIM-only approach. Good thinking, I thought. However this time I was way ahead of him.
“I’ve actually just got one from Three,” I cut in.
He began explaining how SIM-only contracts worked. I cut in again and tried to explain that I had physically attended a Three store on Sunday (hello Aronn who served me!) and picked up an £15/month unlimited data SIM. I also extended one of the other lines.
So I was fine, thank you.
“So you don’t want a phone?” asked the dejected chap. I felt for him.
“No, thank you.”
“What about for a family member?” he asked, once more. Five stars for persistence.
“No, thank you, I’m fine.”
And then I threw in a spanner. (This is for the Three executives who I know are reading. And also for the team over at Vodafone, O2 and EE to do some good old cackles over their afternoon espressos.)
“I do actually need one of the SIMs I bought to be activated….” I said, leaving a pause for effect.
“… But,” I continued, “I doubt you’ll be able to help me with that, right? I’ll need to phone someone else, right?”
The chap responded as I expected: “Yes, you will need to phone customer services.”
Expectations met: Total fucking shit.
I thoroughly admire the operation at Three, I really do. I am massively in favour of the new approach they’ve been leading recently (inclusive 0800 calls, USA roaming included, no price plan hikes during your contract and so on.) Their data network is excellent.
But their CRM is a pile of bollocks.
What, seriously is the point, in PAYING for someone to PHONE me — a “valued” customer (as the chap from the Indian call centre pointed out) to interrupt my day, to try and flog me something, when a) I’ve already been pre-flogged (at the weekend) and b) when the bod you’ve asked to call me isn’t given the capabilities to actually help me.
Shitty shitty shitty double shit. He couldn’t even transfer me? Let’s be clear: He obviously has the system credentials to be able to create new customer orders — so it can’t be asking too much to give the chap access to actually help me with other queries? I wouldn’t have minded if he said, “No look sorry I don’t have access, but let me transfer you right now…”
Heh. It’s amazingly bad. I love it, it’s so bad.
I will phone the Three customer services when I can summon the courage as I need to get this nano SIM card activated.
I am amazed that they keep on with their CRM calls.
By my reckoning, I should be getting hammered with sales calls from their 0800 358 number range in about 90 days. If you don’t answer the system just keeps on calling… so I should expect that to begin once more probably November 10th/11th. Something to look forward to, eh?
Here, for the avoidance of doubt, is the growing chronicle of my Three CRM experiences. It seems they’ve moved from an annual call to a quarterly call.
- August 11, 2014, This post
- May 13, 2014: It’s that time again: Three’s CRM is calling me twice a day now
- May 10-20, 2013: [I’d just joined RBS so I don’t think I even had the time of day to look at my mobile]
- May 21, 2012: “Three tried to flog me some stuff today”
- May 10, 2011: “Three UK: Fascinating example of a missed sales opportunity“
The message for Android is increasingly bleak in the context of security. I really do wonder whether the average normob (“normal mobile user”) is beginning to form the view that ‘Android is insecure’.
I don’t know if the message has penetrated widely enough and often enough in mainstream media yet. But I’m sure some damage is being done.
The pivotable moment will be when an institution or company (e.g. bank or supermarket) with millions of customers reports a meaningful exception (e.g. “1 million of our customers that use our [platform name] app have lost £5 due to hacking”).
One-in-ten banking apps are wide open to a malicious drive-by hacking exploit that exposes user credentials when visiting bug-laden websites. The vulnerability – discovered by the IBM Security X-Force Research team – lies in Android applications built on the Apache Cordova previously PhoneGap platform. According to AppBrain, this affects 5.8% of all Android apps and roughly one-in-ten mobile banking apps.
Have a read of this scenario from the labs at enterprise security specialist, Bromium:
You walk into a coffee shop and take a seat. While waiting for your coffee, you take out your smartphone and start playing a game you downloaded the other day. Later, you go to work and check your email in the elevator. Without you knowing, an attacker has just gained a foothold in your corporate network and is steadily infecting all your colleagues’ smartphones too.
If you’re at all interested in this area, I encourage you to have a read of the in-depth post linked above. It’s an article written by Tom Sutcliffe and Thomas Coudray who actually succeeded in executing some remote code on Android devices through the control of a ‘rogue’ WiFi hotspot.
After reading I did find myself hoping that the Cloak VPN chaps finally launch their Android service. I use public WiFi quite a lot and take a lot of confidence from the fact I’m protected on my iOS/Mac devices by Cloak.
Stefan over at Tab Dump posts a stimulating viewpoint today suggesting to that Samsung, “pulls a Qualcomm,” — that is, dump it’s handset business and focus on supplying key components to every other manufacturer.
He has a point, I think. Have a read:
People associate Qualcomm with the Snapdragon platform that powers just about every interesting Android phone currently on the market. Whether we’re talking the $129 Motorola Moto E, the $350 LG Nexus 5, or the $700 Samsung Galaxy S5, they all have a piece of silicon under the hood that was engineered by a bunch of nerds in San Diego.
I think I should check out the new Nokia Lumia 930. It’s been a while since I gave Windows Phone some decent usage attention. I need to use the 930 for at least a month.
So I’ve got to buy another phone. Yet again.
I therefore don’t need the LG G3. Not at the moment, anyway. I won’t be able to use it as my primary phone.
I still need access to the LG G3. I need to have a top of the range Android device available to me mid-September for the end of September and the G3, with it’s funky smart watch, is useful. I have to demonstrate it a few times.
However I don’t need the G3 during August.
I am therefore going to try crowd renting the G3.
I reckon 10% of the cost is a fair amount for a month’s usage. So £40 plus insured delivery of approx £7. Call it £50.
Does anyone want to use the LG G3?
Am I nuts? Maybe. If you’re a Nigerian scammer or operating one of those “Windows Support helpline” scam call centres, I don’t think I’d like you to have the phone.
But there’s surely a few folk out there who’d like to test out the G3 for a bit of time and who a) can expense £50 and b) are honest enough to send me the phone back after 30 days.
I’ll wipe the device and send it next-day in a nice little padded envelope. I’ll even provide a padded return envelope too. I suppose I could also wear the return delivery charges as well.
What say you?
It’ll be an interesting test anyway, right?
The team over at Travolution have just published this guest post. Have you got some rather nifty technology relevant to the luxury travel sector? Read my post then drop me a note!
This September I need your help. I will be presenting to 60 of the most influential luxury travel buyers and suppliers from around the globe at the inaugural Connections Luxury event.
My role will be to explain the latest advances in technology (with a focus on mobile). I’ll also be demonstrating many of them first hand (think: Google Glass, wearables and so on). I would welcome your ideas for technology and services that I can include on the day…
Starhome Mach is the global leader in mobile roaming services (or, to use the proper definition, inter-carrier network and clearing services).
A huge number of operators use them to manage their roaming services. Therefore, via their Unity real-time analytics system, they are well positioned to offer aggregate anonymised data on how hundreds of millions of actual people use their mobiles abroad.
The sad reality is that you and I need a bit of a reset. We reckon that the issue of ‘roaming’ is sorted, more or less, right? It’s not crazy, generally. Especially in Europe. It’s certainly manageable for the average customer now.
And anyone featured in the media today with one of those “I ran up a £500 bill abroad” sob stories has only themselves to blame. The operators have come a long way in terms of educating customers and making things a lot more bearable especially for the occasional roamer.
Unfortunately, globally, most folk don’t bother roaming.
They STILL switch their phones off.
Here are the headlines from Starhome Mach’s latest announcement:
- 68% of global roamers are still silent [i.e. don’t roam when abroad]
- 58% of EU roamers are still silent, despite regulations designed to lower
- The number of roamers using data increased 10% over the past 12 months, while the number of roamers using voice decreased
- Only 56% use voice when roaming
It’s not all bad news. Roaming usage is increasing slowly.
What do you do about the ‘silent’ roamers? Well, there’s a solution. You can actually ‘awaken’ them (I love the term). Here’s the overview from Starhome Mach:
Operators who use Starhome Mach’s real-time Silent Roamers solution are able to identify and awaken their roamers thanks to its unique integration between clearing and network services. They target roamers with micro-segmented campaigns based on profiles and usage patterns and then track results and the impact on their business. Dynamic pricing support on both the retail and wholesale levels provides maximum flexibility without impacting the operator’s billing system. Operators are also using this technology to detect silent locations to pinpoint potential quality of service issues.
I’d like to see more operators implement this kind of thing — alongside a competitively priced offering to match, of course!
You’d have thought they’d have fixed all this nonsense after many iterations. As it stands today I’m still getting emails from Android apologists telling me that ‘these things should be resolved with the next version,’. Yeah. Not useful to me when I’ve spunked £600 on what I thought would be a phenomenal experience.
Here’s a case in point that is causing me to press exit on Android today.
This morning I sat down at my desk to do some work. I placed my LG G3 top of the range gorgeous Android phone on the desk and got on with my tasks.
About 40 minutes later I got a text message. I picked up my phone. That’s when the trouble began.
It was exceptionally hot. Uncomfortably so.
I looked at the battery indicator. I put it down on about 98%. It was now, after 40 minutes, reporting 67% charge.
In my mind I was screaming BLUE FRUCKING MURDER.
Yes, it’s a #firstworldproblem but this is totally unacceptable.
I tried to respond to the text and found the phone had got itself drunk. It was semi responsive. The FRUCKING HUGELY POWERFUL CPU was behaving as though someone had thrown a bottle of Sambucca down it’s throat.
Now and again it was responding to my commands. I’d tap three times. The screen would register the taps but the rest of the phone was 10 seconds behind. And that created even more trauma because I ended up launching apps and other services that were going on to use up even more resources by mistake because the phone was misinterpreting my wishes. Because it was slow.
It was slow, because McAfee was doing something.
There’s some bollocks generic McAfee nonsense installed on the phone. Family Protection or something like that. I can’t easily find a way to remove it so I just left it.
I had a look and saw that in the past 40 minutes, McAfee had eaten up 32% of the battery power and seemed to be consuming a heck of a lot of other processing resources.
It’s perhaps wrong to blame McAfee. I’ve no idea what kicked that off. I’m at home today so I’m not worried about power. But I tell you, if I’d been on the train into work this morning and arrived at the client’s office with 50% battery … because of some stupid process malfunction. Ouch.
The fundamental problem as far as I’m concerned is that I’m using Android. And it doesn’t matter WHAT you say to counter this text: Android isn’t prime time.
Prime time requires stability. Stability at all flipping times. Not general ‘I’m sometimes drunk’ stability. I mean guaranteed stability.
I get this with an iPhone on iOS. IT. JUST. WORKS. NICELY.
I think once in a blue moon I’ll find my iPhone overheating unexpectedly. This is almost a daily occurrence.
It doesn’t take long before the other list of ‘fcuking annoying traits’ bubbles to the surface.
Want just one? (I’ve got a whole list.) I start the camera and … piff paff poof… I get message saying, “Camera stopped.”
Great. Thanks. Useful. Run the FLIPPING camera won’t you please? What is so difficult about running the camera? How can it POSSIBLY fail? Surely this stuff is tested repeatedly and repeatedly? Yes… but not in real world situations when you’ve got all sorts of buggy nonsense from lazy third party app developers interfering.
The OS itself on both the HTC One M8 and the LG G3 is really, really fast and responsive when you first switch the phone on. Start putting stuff on it and then seems to progressively dissolve into a semi-responsive experience.
I absolutely ABHORE interfaces that have to keep on building. You know, swipe right and then you have to WAIT while the phone renders the animation, then displays the icons and then properly formats the background. You have to wait or you’ll confuse the hell out of it.
You don’t need to do this with iPhone. Or BlackBerry. Or, to an extent, Windows Phone.
So that’s it for me and Android.
I tried, dear reader.
I’ll try again later on.
I need continuous stability first. Bring on the new iPhone.
Next, I think I owe it to Rafe Blandford to try out Windows Phone properly.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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?
Let 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%.
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.
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.
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!
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:
What am I missing? Why don’t I see all of Amazon’s apps right there on the ‘first page’ of Google Play results?