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Hillel Fuld is a technology enthusiast whose passions are mobile innovations as well as social media. In addition to blogging at Technmarketing.com with Aryeh Altshul, he hosts a weekly podcast on the developments of the mobile industry at Likemob.com with Itamar Weisbrod of Flyscreen. Tech N’... More
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  • Nokia N97, iPhone, and Modu Go Head to Head

     A lot going on in the mobile industry in the last few days and Israel is in the hot spot (no pun intended). Let’s start with the fact that all 3 cellular providers; OrangeCellcom, and Pelephone recently announced that they will be launching the iPhone 3Gs over the next few months. The word on the street, and when I say street, I mean Twittersphere of course, is that at least two of the three providers bought 100 thousand iPhones from Apple. Now you have to understand that fact in the context that these providers max out at 150 thousand mobile devices sold annually! So out of the 150 thousand phones they will sell in 2009, 100 thousand will be iPhones?! I think it is safe to say we are going to be seeing some serious hard selling of the iPhone, not to mention Capitalism at its best!

    Another scoop I learned from Twitter is that supposedly Apple gave many conditions before agreeing to sell the iPhone in Israel. To just name a few, the iPhone ads need to be iPhone ads, no Cellcom ads or Orange ads, but ads made by Apple. This is good news for the average Israeli since most commercials here needs improvement to say the least! Another prerequisite was that the iPhone cannot exceed a certain price! From what I have heard, Apple put a cap on the price of the iPhone, another fact that will of course make a lot of Israelis happy. If you look at the markup of other phones, you will understand why. The bottom line is that the iPhone will be available on every street corner, will be advertised using every form of media, and will be offered at a minimal price.

    If all the above conditions are in fact true, Apple’s competition has a challenging few months ahead of them, which brings me to my next point. Nokia is launching the N97 in Israel over the next few weeks. Now, putting all the initial and generally negative reviews aside, the N97 is an impressive device. A 3.5″ touch screen, full QWERTY physical keyboard, a whopping 32GB of storage with the ability to add 16 more GBs with a Micro SD card, HSDPA, Wifi, GPS, and a 5 mp Auto Focus camera. What else can one ask for in a phone?

    The thing is, in this industry, it is all about timing, and Nokia Israel does NOT have timing on their side. With the iPhone launching, there will be many consumers that will refuse to pay such a premium price for the N97, when they know that the iPhone, which has a screen that actually responds (Sorry, I just could not help myself), almost all the features of the N97, and Apple’s revolutionary interface, will be available for significantly less, even if the camera is not 5 mp.

    Nokia has to be creative here if they want the N97 to become the next E71, which was extremely successful around here. I have to say that, putting my personal feelings aside (keep reading, you will understand), Nokia is on the right track. They just started a very smart and innovative campaign for the N97. Basically, they have a list of bloggers and they go from one to another with a package, while streaming it live on the Web. Each one opens the package with the hope that it will contain a brand new N97. If it does, the blogger gets to keep it, if not, he/she gets to decide who gets the package next. Of course, every blogger along the way blogs/tweets about this interesting contest and creates more hype surrounding the N97. Now, although I was not on the list (hence the personal feeling comment earlier), there is no denying that Nokia did a brilliant thing here. They targeted their ideal audience, the exact people who would even consider purchasing an N97, and they did it without writing one press release or launching one expensive TV campaign.

    So far we got two major players competing for the same people, Apple and Nokia. As if that was not enough to cause complete chaos in the cellular scene here, add another variable to that equation. Remember that company that once claimed they are the next big thing in the mobile world? They were designing modular devices? Sound familiar? Well Modu is launching! They are launching this week and they are doing it in…you guessed it, Israel.

    Now, I really do hope they succeed as a company, but I have to say, when I heard about it, what feels like a lifetime ago, I thought it was a cool idea with potential, but now, I have to admit, I do not see what need there is in the market for such a device. The basic principle is that the Modu is a tiny and basic mobile device, which can be inserted in different “jackets” that take on various forms and functions. So if you are at work and need a QWERTY, put the QWERTY jacket on. If you are going out with the guys and want a cool looking touch screen, simply put the touch screen jacket on (I am pretty sure they have not released the touch screen jackets yet). It is a cool idea but in today’s market, the people that want a QWERTY have a Blackberry, the people that want a touch screen have an iPhone. Not sure this idea will fly anymore. Even if it does have potential to take off, with buzz words like iPhone and N97 in the air, I am pretty sure now is NOT the ideal time for Modu to launch and Israel might not be the ideal place.

    I don’t think there is any doubt who will prevail in this upcoming battle. Apple has successfully created so much hype surrounding its iPhone ecosystem, that when the iPhone finally does launch here, Israelis of all ages will be running to buy them. If the amount of Facebook groups appealing to Apple to bring their device to Israel or the amount of Israelis who already have iPhones they bought, jailbroke, and unlocked are any indication, the iPhone is on its way to a major success in Israel.

    I am pretty sure the N97 will also see a relative success, after all if the providers reach their goal and sell 100 thousand iPhones, they still need to sell 50 thousand more devices, the N97 can comfortably fit into that category.

    As for Modu, as much as I personally wish them success, I am very skeptical. As Dov Moran, the name behind Modu said, they had so many obstacles along the way, whether it be the developer of the Modu interface going bankrupt or the worldwide recession, someone apparently does not want them to succeed. In my opinion, their initial statements about how amazing their product is and how it will revolutionize the mobile world did them no good either.

    However, given all the obstacles Modu met  along the way, there is no doubt that a failed launch can be a very detrimental thing for a company and as much as all the above factors might have damaged Modu, the two words that will pose the most serious threat to Modu’s success are Apple and Nokia.

    -Hillel

    Jul 22 5:01 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Mobile Broadband Explained

    What was true about the mobile web a few years is no longer true today! The iPhone and many phones just like it changed the face of mobile web! However, people speak a lot about the mobile browsers and the browsing experience they provide, not many people pay attention to the fact that without sufficient speeds, those browsers would be useless.

    After doing a little research on the topic, all the information I needed about mobile broadband, where it is today, and where it is going, I found at http://www.broadband-expert.co.uk/. To sum it up and make a little sense of all those complicated letters you see in phone reviews, here is what I have gathered.

    First we had EDGE or 2.5g, which anyone who had a first gen iPhone knows, provided a painful mobile browsing experience. Then came 3g, which made mobile browsing a decent option if there was no Wifi hotspot in the area. By the way the official term for 3g on a GSM network is UMTS.

    After 3g came HSDPA or 3.5g, which already gave you the option to surf comfortably on a non Wifi enabled phone but still was not as fast! The newest speed is HSUPA, which surfs at a ridiculous speed that is similar if not identical to Wifi.

    What we have in store for us is of course 4g or what is known as WIMAX. This will provide higher speed connections than today's Wifi with no need for a hotspot due to its tremendous ratio of coverage!

    There you have the breakdown of the different types of mobile broadband. I also found a useful table that helped me compare mobile broadband types and speeds implemented by the various providers.

    Now, what can you do with these connections? Well besides having a full internet experience whenever and wherever, you can use the connection to connect a laptop and surf using your phone's mobile broadband. This was not the best option on 3g as it was still too slow but on HSUPA or Wimax, it might even beat Wifi!

    An entire industry is developing around the fast moving mobile broadband market! There is the USB dongle (love that word) that enables you to insert your phone's SIM card into the dongle, plug it into your laptop, and you are good to go, no matter where you are located at that given moment (almost, and depending on your network coverage).

    Here is a nice comprehensive list of various broadband offers, depending on your location. The bottom line is with the rapidly developing smartphone market (see the video below for a look at the future), the evolving web browser arena, and the growing dependency on the internet, mobile broadband has to keep up with the pace! So far, it is doing a great job at that, let's just see what tomorrow brings!

    -Hillel

    Jul 22 4:57 AM | Link | Comment!
  • 8 Reasons to Consider an iPhone Over A BlackBerry

    By: Hillel Fuld

    One of the few disadvantages of the mobile advancements we are making is that consumers get bored of their mobile device after a very short period of time, or when the newer model comes out, whichever happens first. This is true for a lot of people I know, and it is true for me as well. On the flip side, when I get a new phone, I generally spend the first week or two getting to know the phone, and it is usually accompanied by excitement and enthusiasm about my new device.

    This was true about my latest device, the BlackBerry Bold. I was very excited about it and after learning the ins and outs of BlackBerry’s interface and menus, I love it even more. However, I have definitely come to learn about some major issues with the phone that I thought I should share seeing as I spoke of it as the ultimate phone in my last post. Let me just emphasize that I still do NOT intend on replacing it with an iPhone mainly because of the iPhone’s lack of a keyboard and support for background apps, two things the Blackberry taught me that I most definitely need in a phone.

    The following is a list of my top 8 problems with RIM as a company and the Bold as a mobile device:

    1: Lack of Full Gmail Support: This is by far my biggest annoyance with the Blackberry. A feature that is implemented in the email experience of my iPod Touch, my G2, and other phones, is not available in what is supposedly the world’s ultimate email machine, the Blackberry. I am referring to full IMAP support for Gmail. You can define your Blackberry Gmail account with IMAP using a silly work around I dug up on the Web, but even after doing that, the Blackberry does not have full IMAP support.

    OK, for those of you who are NOT geeks and do not know what IMAP is, let me explain. Basically, IMAP enables you to fully synchronize your email, contacts, and folders on the various platforms in which you access your account. Still too geeky? If you check your Gmail on your phone, you want that email message to be marked as read in your browser’s inbox and not to show up as new. IMAP enables this. When it comes to Blackberry, as of now, when I am accessing my Gmail at work using my computer’s browser, all the emails I read throughout the day appear as new in my Blackberry’s inbox. To be fair, I will say that the opposite is not true. When I delete something from the Blackberry, it deletes instantly from my inbox and does not appear in Gmail when checking via a browser.

    I figured there has to be something I am missing and that there is no way RIM, the company that is synonymous with email, does not support the world’s most popular email, Gmail. So I did a little research and it turns out it is a known issue, and while full IMAP support is supported using RIM’s corporate BES email, or Yahoo mail, Gmail IMAP is not supported, nor is there any indication anywhere that it is even in the works. I have to add that I am aware of the Gmail app for Blackberrys, but if I am going to use that app, there really is no reason to use a Blackberry, I can use it on any old basic phone, it just takes away all the advantages of using a Blackberry. Major disappointment.

    2: Second Class Website: RIM has a lot of work to do when it comes to their website. I understand that their main audience is corporate and when one receives a Blackberry from their place of work, it comes with all the necessary passwords, but that does not mean every single page on the website should be restricted to members only. After all, there is a nice chunk of people using their Blackberrys with BIS (Blackberry Internet Service), RIM’s non corporate solution. How about a link on the site to contact RIM with a question? I understand they will not reply within the hour, the same way Nokia, Apple, or Sony won’t, but consumers still want to be able to contact their cellular manufacturer with certain questions, and on RIM’s site, a Contact Us is nowhere to be found.

    In addition, when it comes to Blackberry’s new Blackberry App World, which I will discuss later, it can only be accessed and downloaded using Internet Explorer (what’s that?), no Firefox, no Chrome, and no Safari support. C’mon, RIM, are you serious? Internet Explorer? I think we can agree that the time has come to upgrade your website. The bottom line is, when it comes to Blackberry.com, the information I needed was not accessible or easy to find. The site does not cater to non corporate customers, and it is all in all, offers a very outdated experience.

    3: App World: I have read and heard about this famous Blackberry App World that recently grew and now offers 2,000 apps. There was talk about it going global and being offered in many countries around the world. Well, I was utterly disappointed to say the least, when I found out I could not access or download the App World in Israel. Not only could I not access it, I had to figure out what the issue was when I received a most cryptic error message on my phone saying I could not download it since my phone has not met the “minimum requirements”. Is it so hard to write “The App World is not yet available in your country, but please stay updated or click here to find out when it will be”?

    Using my best Googling skills, I tried to inquire when the App World would be available in my country, but to no avail. This information is not available anywhere on the Web, and as a result of the previous issue, I could not find the information on Blackberry.com. Now, I did find alternatives to download apps for the Blackberry, and chances are, if and when the App World becomes available here, I will already have downloaded all the apps I will see in the App World, but this is a huge annoyance that is not handled properly by RIM.

    4: BIS Discrimination: OK, pay attention, this is a little complicated. RIM has two separate and very different types of users. Their main audience is the corporate world who use their Blackberries with what is called BES (Blackberry Enterprise Service). These are people who have their own server, whether it is through a work place or their own. Using BES, everything is simpler. The synchronization and seamlessness you hear about when people talk about Blackberries, is only using BES. BIS is a totally different ball game. In addition to the Gmail issue I discussed above, there is a very strange issue I learned about the hard way during my first week with Blackberry. When defining an email on your device, one of the options presented to you is to define a permanent username and password to access the email interface on your phone in which you define things like a signature, ports, and protocols.

    I of course did just that, thinking it would make my life easier. I was very wrong. Once you define that username and password on your phone, you can no longer define certain email characteristics (such as signature) on the device, but rather it can only be done via a Web interface known as the BIS interface. No problem, so define it on the Web, right? Wrong! My cellular provider, Orange, knows nothing of such an interface. Apparently, every provider on the globe that offers Blackberries, also offers access to a BIS interface, except mine. So now I can only define my email settings on a Web-based interface, but good luck finding the URL to such an interface when Orange does not support it and RIM cannot be contacted. After all is said and done, Orange, as usual, were very helpful and manually defined my signature and other settings, but claimed they could not give me access to the BIS interface. I do not know if this is Orange or RIM’s fault, but neither of them are innocent, and the one who ends up suffering is of course, the consumer.

    5: Interface: Until now, the issues I have mentioned were regarding RIM as an organization and not about the Bold as a mobile device. Time to move on to the Bold itself. Like I said, I still think it is one of the best devices I have ever used, and as of now, I do not intend on replacing it with any other phone. Having said that, just like RIM’s website, it is time to upgrade the phone’s interface and user experience. RIM is still a market leader so they can afford to continue sticking their head in the sand, but not for long. If they stay with this relatively primitive user interface and continue ignoring advances the mobile world has made (yes, I am referring to the iPhone), they are bound to sink. Now, I do not think the interface is as bad as people say, but the lists are just too long, it is too cluttered, and needs to be modernized in a major way.

    6: Camera (oh, is that what that is?): All I have to say to RIM on this issue is “How could you?” I understand that Blackberries are not primarily camera phones, but why can’t RIM surpass the ancient 2 megapixel line? Now, there are also 2 megapixels that provide decent photo quality, and then there are the Blackberry cameras. The Bold’s camera is an upgrade from the  camera on the Curve, but in my opinion, they should not have wasted the time or money on this upgrade. The Bold’s camera is as close to unusable as any phone camera I have ever used. No one is expecting RIM to put a 12 megapixel camera on their phones, but 3.2 or 5 would be nice. In fact, I don’t care if they stick with 2 but use a decent lens or something, make the camera usabale or remove it, right now, it’s pointless.

    7: Memory Compartment: I apologize in advance for nitpicking but I just couldn’t help myself. The cover on the SD card slot is nothing short of disastrous. Every time I try to remove a memory card from the Bold, I get at least 3 more grey hairs. I do not understand when manufacturers like RIM make something this crappy on a phone as attractive as the Bold. Please someone explain it to me.

    8: General Quirks: These are just some odds and ends that I am sure will be fixed in an eventual OS upgrade but they deserved a mention. The MP3 player was surprisingly satisfactory on the Bold, but is it so hard to have full screen album art? Those people who use Blackberries and do not give in to the peer pressure of getting an iPhone deserve it. I use a 3rd party app called Flipside, which makes the music interface somewhat similar to Apple’s famous album art display, but RIM should add this feature themselves. Additionally and along the same lines, why is full screen picture ID not supported? I want to see a nice big picture of my beautiful wife when she calls me, is that too much to ask? Lastly, why on earth do I need to depend on a Blackberry App developer to have my Bold ring and vibrate simultaneously?

    OK, that is my complete list of issues I have with my Blackberry. Some are more serious than others, and some make me wonder about my decision to stay with the Bold and not get an iPhone. However, at the end of the day, the Push Mail, keyboard, and background apps offered by the Blackberry make the iPhone an impossible option for me. Having said that, most of the above annoyances do not exist in the Apple ecosystem, so as soon as Apple adds a keyboard and background apps (push mail is already implemented, at least partly), I am afraid I will abandon the sinking RIM ship, unless of course, RIM is reading this and decides to upgrade their OS and fix the above issues. Which one do you think will happen first?

    -Hillel

     

    Jul 22 4:51 AM | Link | Comment!
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