Saturday, December 30, 2006

More reflections on Argentine mobiles

After raving about the tiny cost of picking up a pay as you go phone in Argentina, I have sad news to report. The phones out here make no sense whatsoever! For example...

I can send text messages to the UK, but cannot recieve replies to the same number. In fact, it seems I cannot recieve any messages from the UK at all. This is a real shame, as I recieved an apologetic email from my ex saying something along the lines of "sorry for the filthy messages the other night". Filthy messages?

Secondly, your mobile number changes when you move around the country. Why?

Finally, you sometimes need to use area codes when dialling, and sometimes not. Why, oh, why?

Still, the handset is holding up nicely and seems to do everything required of it. The onboard games are bizarre, although the football one has something of sensible soccer about it. I crushed the USA in the final 4-0. Get on.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cell Fella International

Well, the English winter got a bit much for me. Dark at 4pm? Rain? Wind? Pasty looking people as far as the eye can see? No Thanks.

So this is my first post from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What a hell of a city this is. The people here are so passionate about the finer things in life... food, music, art and flirting. And, quite honestly, I have never seen anything quite like the steak here. For the princely sum of $15 (15 pesos = just under £3) you can get a vast (maybe 2 pound) steak in a decent restaurant. The one in the photo is half finished! Having had two already this week, I'm now hanging back a bit and giving my guts a chance to recover. The steak is great for soaking up all the Quilmes everyone knocks back out here.

One other thing that has greatly impressed me out here is the (wait for it) mobile technology.

As I'll be working out here for a few months, I thought it provident to pick up a mobile phone so that people at home can get in touch and I can mix it up with the portenos (there should be a squiggle above the n). Movistar - a division of Spain's vast Telefonica - rules the roost out here and have a rather splendido line of pay as you go handsets. For $99 (pesos) I picked up a Nokia 2160 with $50 (pesos) of calls included. That works out at under £20 for a brand new, if basic, Nokia handset and £10 of calls.

The handset is ok... a bit simple compared to my usual brick but it does the job nicely, if you know what I mean. The only thing that is really pissing me off about it is the lack of proper ring tones. At the moment I have some ghastly ditty called something like 'disco' which is almost impossible to register in anything other than entirely silent surroundings. Why, oh why, don't Nokia phones come with anything resembling a ringing sound?

Call me old fashioned, but when I hear a phone ring, I go to answer it. When I hear some ghastly disco dittie, I assume some 13 year old's phone is ringing.


Still, at least it was nice and cheap, eh?

Managed to exhaust the credit pretty quickly, but it's free to recieve calls. If I'd taken the Vodabrick with me it would have cost £1.35 a minute to make and recieve calls here and they don't offer Vodafone Passport in this particular corner of the planet.

Oh well, enough moaning I guess. It's thirty-something degrees here and I'm off to one of the most beautiful nightclubs on Earth tonight - Opera Bay in Puerto Madero. Let's just hope I get some numbers...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Is this the next step forward for mobile billing?

When I first got a mobile phone it was a lovely big Siemens handset on One 2 One. What a great phone that was. The best thing about it was that my contract, which came in at around £20pm if I remember correctly, included free evening and weekend calls to any local numbers. I never worked out what exactly counted as local, but hammered the free calls to my heart's content (and brain's discontent, most likely).

The typical shape of mobile phone contracts has changed in the decade since I got that lovely big load of Siemens. Now, the providers like to slap monthly allowances on your free calls, to avoid the possibility of the free minutes being misused, as was supposedly common with the old One 2 One deals.

Now, 3 have introduced the first groundbreaking billing package for 3G phones, under the interesting (if slightly odd) moniker 'X'.

"X-Series customers will only pay a flat access fee on top of their basic subscription and then what’s free to use on the internet should be free to use on mobile broadband (subject to fair usage and international roaming conditions, of course)"

This is a bold step forward for a company which is still trying to claw market share away from its longer-established rivals. In theory, it should force the other networks to follow suit and drop their current per-megabyte charging.

As we well know, the mobile operators are in a bit of a sticky situation at the minute as regards 3G services, having paid the equivalent of £500 per customer for their licenses. That's £500 they need to make back from mobile phone users like your mum, who has probably just grasped texting and would never dream of watching television or managing her money via the internet facility on her phone.

That is not to say that the 3G services will not turn a profit in the future. As new generation of mobile phone users grows up with the notion of a mobile internet, usage is growing... just not at the rate needed by the operators.

Against this background, 3's move seems like a logical and innovative step, which their competitors will have to match in the near future. It may remove some of the potential profit from offering 3G services, but a change in user habits is the only way the phone companies can hope to get any of their £22 billion investment in the technology back.

Monday, November 13, 2006

We are gathered here today...

My Nokia 6630 is on its last legs.

Despite having 3G Speed, a 1.3 megapixel camera, 10 MB of internal dynamic memory with hot swap 64 MB Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (MMC), up to 1 hour video recording time and a Web browser with improved HTML support, the poxy thing is creaking sadly to the big pawn shop in the sky.

I must admit, despite our long relationship (almost 2 years) I have never been especially fond of the phone, with its pocket-filling dimensions and general asthetic impairments. It seemed so futuristic when I first picked it up from a Vodafone store... 3G? Yowsers. 1.3 Megapixels? Fab. Weight and dimensions of a young ox? Not so good.

The real trouble started about 3 months ago when I tried to use the fabled camera. Instead of allowing me to make the usual home made smut with my (now ex) girlfriend, up came a message saying 'system error'. Now, anyone with even the loosest relationship with techology knows that these are bad words to see.

The camera has not worked since. Worse, though, is the fact that all of my old photos and videos have also been deleted. This is very bad news, especially as I no longer have a girlfriend for company. (Off topic for a minute, but ex-girlfriend related, a number of these postings on Craigslist cracked me up)

So, what is the first thing a right-minded (and newly single) young chap would do in this situation? Try and salvage the address book, that's what. Luckily, my names and numbers were not touched in the Nokia memory rout. Great, I thought, let's get them backed up onto the computer. While this involves using Nokia PC Suite - officially the most shocking piece of software ever created - I have known it to work in the past and have a relatively recent list of names and numbers (lacking any post-girlfriend totty, it must be noted) to fall back on.

Did the bastard work?

What do you think?

Another system error left me feeling well and truly at the mercy of the technology that is there to help.

This means I have an evening in prospect of copying down all my names and numbers into an address book, which is not the best way to spend a Monday evening, all things considered.

So here I am blogging!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Motorola SLVR L7e

Yippee. Motorola have released a new handset and it's not a RAZR!

No, instead it's another SLVR.

It seems the mighty Motorola is struggling to come up with anything even related to an original handset after having led the market for the past couple of years. The Mobile Gazette is rather more eloquent on the subject than I could ever hope to be.

It seems to me that the biggest breakthrough in recent handset design has been by LG, with their increasingly popular Chocolate phone, which can be seen attached to the ears of everyone from celebrities to the Croydon facelift brigade. LG has done brilliantly to break into the big boy's club of Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Samsung. People are generally very loyal to a brand of mobile phone... far more so than to any particular network. Smaller brands find it very difficult to break into the market, you just have to look at the Benq Siemens debacle for proof of that.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Which way will mobiles go?

It was interesting to read in the paper about one expert's theory that the human race is in the process of evolvig into a ruling class and a sub-species of shorter, less intelligent folk. While it turns out the 'expert' proposed this theory for the fabled institute of scientific excellence that is Bravo TV, you've got to wonder whether he may have a point.

To use a mobile phone metaphor: we all started out as those clunky phones which MPs/prominent businessmen/James Bond had in their cars from the 1960s. Those genetically superior Vikings at Nokia defined the populist mobile phone in the mid-nineties with the 5110 and 6110. The introduction of the 9 series was the genesis of modern business phones and saw the mobile market properly split for the first time as larger, clunkier phones with many more features were created for the business market. The decade since has seen two major types of phone develop (here's the point): the pretty, lightweight and feature-free phone aimed at texting teenagers and the heavyweight business machine, a la blackberry, psalm etc. There are hybirds, but these are not the most popular phones by anyone's standards.

Personally, I reckon that the human race will destroy itself long before we have a chance to divide into superior and inferior sub-strands - the evidence for this is all around us. Also, random factors will always crop up that stop the beautiful/intelligent types breeding with each other. For example, the national lottery. You can bet that lottery winners are able to punch well above their weight with the opposite sex, purely because of the downright attractiveness of a pile of cash.

Either way, sub-species should be the least of our worries. First should be global warming, while a close second should be Watford's survival in the Premiership. Up the Horns!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Phones 4 U Exclusive Vodafone Deal

The annnouncement that Vodafone will be dealing exclusively with Phones 4 U seems like a bit of a funny one. The reason given - that Phones 4 U appeals to the younger market Vodafone craves - makes sense in a way, but I can't see any justification for NOT selling through as many outlets as possible. Also, the exclusive deal only applies to contract phones, which aren't really there for the younger market anyway.

Back in the day, Vodafone was the unquestioned king of UK mobile providers. Now, with the third generation licenses, reception issues with rivals are no longer relevant as they were and it's all about service and cost. I personally had difficulty with Voda when they worked with Singlepoint and in the months following their purchase of the company. I upgraded my phone and kept the same contract, but they knocked off my rolled-over free minutes and sent me a stinker of a bill. The problem was sorted reasonably quickly, but it shouldn't have been an issue in the first place and I did have to navigate through several layers of customer service advisor to get anything fixed.

While the Carphone Warehouse insists the announcement will do no great damage to profits (apparantly only 10% of their business involves Voda contracts), the BBC have reported that Carphone shares took a hammering in the aftermath of the announcement.

To me, it seems like a good time to pick up Carphone shares. Yes, they've taken a hammering and yes the Voda announcement is bad news (at least in the short term), but they have the most respected mobile communications brand out there (hence a royal warrant) and the Talk Talk internet project is in the process of revolutionising broadband, giving the company a huge client base to woo in the future.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Benq Siemens RIP

We gather here today to mourn the death of BenQ Simens.

After less than a year of trading, Benq is closing its European wing in the face of unsustainable losses. Check out this ice cold press release for the company's official reasoning. It's fair enough... apparently the company lost 600 million Euros on its mobile business in the last year; by my estimation, thats losing the equivalent of my annual earnings every 21 minutes, which is pretty impressive going. Surely there are better ways of spunking THAT much cash, such as:

  • Going majorly off the rails
  • erm... that's all

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things that I would like to see on mobile phones

Here are some things I would like to see on future mobile phones:

  • larger screens, maybe of the type that fold out
  • failing that, how about a phone-based projector?
  • in the mean time, better touch screens would be useful, or perhaps roller ball technology to make internet browsing more natural.
  • a working life of over 12 months. This one grates because my 18 month old handset is on its last legs... when I want to take a picture with it, I get a rather ominous 'system error' message. This is only weeks after it took the unprovoked step of deleting all of my images and video clips. Grrrrr!!!
  • curvier designs. I just like them, that's all.
Take heed, phone manufacturers! This is what Cell Fella wants!

Monday, September 18, 2006

These phones are getting thinner!

Yowsers, has anyone seen the new P310 phone from Samsung?

It is a beautiful handset, designed to look like a credit card and fit neatly in your pocket. It is pretty tiny, weighing only 75 grams but isn't lacking on features, such as bluetooth, a 2 megapixel camera and a TV out socket (!?).

Anyways, this makes me wonder... how small is too small? There's no doubt that clunky handsets are on the way out for everyone except the business users who require a great variety of features and keep their phones in a briefcase or jacket pocket. Those of us who like to keep their phones in our jeans pockets require something a little more slimline.

On that note... does anyone else worry about the health risks of carrying a phone so close to your baby-making appartus? I've had a mobile for about 8 years now. For much of this time, it has sat in the left hand front pocket on my Levis. When I was recently packing a load to take to a charity shop, I had fun trying to work out which phone I had with which jeans by the markings around the pocket. Fun or not, there is a serious point here. For the best part of a decade, my tackle has been exposed to microwaves for hours each day. While the link between mobile phones and ill health has never been catagorically established, there is a little voice in my head saying that this has got to be a bad idea. Actually, the existence of a little voice in my head is probably a bad thing in itself, and could possibly be mobile phone related. Oh dear.

In fact, mobile phones must be getting to my head. What sane person would keep a blog about mobile phones? That's it, I'm going loopy. I'm off to the priory now... until next time, take it easy.

Friday, August 25, 2006

* * * Cute Phone Alert * * *

Anyone who spends any time on the various forums around the web will probably have stumbled across images from Cute Overload. I'm not sure how they'd feel about putting a moible phone on there, but a contender has surely arrived in the form of the BenQ-Siemens AL26 Hello Kitty phone.

As you can probably tell by the name, the new offering from Siemens is branded with that most charming/irritating (delete as appropriate) of Japanabrands - Hello Kitty. While this cutesyness makes me want to attack my eyes with a cheese grater, anyone who has had the pleasure of teaching Japanese teenage girls will know that they absolutely adore this stuff.

You may think that this phone is just the AL26 with some cutesy graphics on there. You would be... wrong. Well, just about. The phone comes fully loaded with Hello Kitty wallpapers, ringtones, videos and all that jazz. I suppose it makes some kind of sense, what with this being a 'cute' phone and all.

Anyway, this development (along with Apple's U2 branded ipod) has lead me to consider some other branding crossover opportunites. How about:

The Timmy Mallet brand hammer/mallet - why was this never explored?
The Gary Glitter 'My Gang' dirty mac
Roman Abramovich moneyclip
Tony Blair gearstick - unfortunately there is no reverse gear...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Another new RAZR!

Check out the Mobile Gazette's preview of yet another RAZR:

They are questioning the need for another RAZR, and some might say quite rightly. While the phone has been one of the iconic designs of the noughties, perhaps it is time for a manufacturer of Motorola's resources to move on to something fresher. After all, the other firms have created equally stylish variations on the theme, such as LG's Chocolate and the swathe of folding Nokia phones recently released onto the market.

What will be the next big step forward in phone design? I'd like to suggest the return of the huge, Graphite-stlye phone. With retro styling taking over everywhere we look (notice girls in leggings and pumps, boys in skinny jeans), isn't it about time that we all had phones the size of bags of sugar?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

RAZR leads the way

Just a a quick post - has anyone else notice how flagrently other mobile phone designers are ripping off Mototola's RAZR?

Nokia, who have led the mobile market for years with their iconic designs are now being heavily influenced by the flat, sleek, fold-down RAZR as can be seen on their 6111 handset.

Samsung's E900 is another RAZRLIKE handset on the market.

Elsewhere, LG's chocolate is another variation on the same theme.

I like these phones - as a child of the eighties, I guess this is what I always imagined technology to look like, and form should certainly be given as much thought as function!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Samsung's Stroke of Genius (or is it?)

The fabled British press have been scratching around in recent weeks to fill the inevitable news gap that appears whenever the sun is shining. Never mind the whole world going to hell in a handbag: the summer demands silly stories, and probably the silliest so far was the news that Samsung had developed a revolutionary new mobile phone (the LP4100) which has a built in breathalyser to prevent those oh so regrettable 3am phonecalls to the ex/next partner.

We've all been there - a Saturday morning, bleary eyes, sore head... you reach for the phone and find a text message in the inbox saying something along the lines of "you are a dublini appe". What could have brought on such rudeness?

Then it dawns... you look at your call register and find something like "3:00 am Ex". Always bad news, because you haven't a clue what was said (but can guarantee it wasn't good).

I was in Ibiza last week, and, at around five in the morning, was inches away from sending some inappropriate text messages to both the ex and a good friend. Luckily, my fumbling fingers and short attention span took care of that little situation. If I'd had the LP4100 to hand, I suspect it would have automatically called 112 and made the San Antonio police come and get me!

Unfortunately, as you may expect, the press reports of this new phone were a bit wayward. The phone is produced by LG, not Samsung, and doesn't actually stop you from making those damned calls, it just lets you know that you are doing wrong. This 'concerned friend' behaviour is all well and good, but, much like real friends in the same situation, the advice is likely to be ignored.

And the phone isn't very attractive either. Oh well...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Into the ether once more...

It's always hard to know where to start with a blog! They say all novels have a start, a middle and an end, whereas (good) blogs just go on and on...

I have ventured into the world of blogging once before, when I kept a number of blogs relating to diffferent aspects of my life and interests. That experiment didn't end too well with the men in white coats almost coming to take me away (ha ha hee hee). The moral of that particular story was that blogs are very much a matter of quality over quantity, and that is what I shall aim for with this blog.

The internet is great for technology news, and this blog should help to collate new information as it comes in. I'm personally a big mobile phone fan so expect to hear plenty about those little beauties. Aside from that, I love music and the various applications of technology in modern production and playback (despite around 80% of my music collection being on vinyl!).

I'd love to hear any comments you have, but you should probably wait until I say something interesting before you start with all that.

Oh well, until next time.