Is O2 the only place for smartphone users?

Daniel Sung iPhone, Mobile phones 5 Comments

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O2 has little need to worry about quality of service when they snap up the two hottest smartphones on the market. I’ve been using an iPhone 3GS for a few weeks – it’s review model I’m praying Apple will forget about – and, aside all the minor issues one might have with it, the one real problem is that it’s stuck on O2, unless you’re happy to spend £900.

I found myself asking the question of whether it was worth it; whether I could stomach this very expensive, exquisite handset when the network drops more of my calls than any other I’ve ever used, and that’s the middle of London?

So, I’ll try the Palm Pre before I make up my mind, I think, but yesterday I, and many others, have been stumped with the unofficial news that O2 has won/paid over the odds for exclusive rights to that smartphone too. And the Pre isn’t just any smartphone. For many, it’s the only serious competitor there’s been in the last two years to the iPhone.

It kills me because I’ve still never actually had my hands on one but I’m lead to believe that the screen is just as much a joy as the Jesus Phone and that all its wonderfully usable Palm OS and open sourcery goodness are enough to make any tech nerd weak at the knees.

It’s hard to tell whether the Pre is going to have the same mass market appeal as the iPhone – I suspect it won’t – but the point is that that’s not something O2 is going to have to worry about when throwing money at the problem, money that might better be spent invest in the quality of their network such that people in rural Scotland and Wales can actually get a signal.

Worse still for the consumer is that we’re all now going to get ripped off on the Pre. O2 can’t possibly sell it for any less than the iPhone without causing major waves from Apple HQ and I’m quite surprised that Palm is going to let that stand given that it’s the kind of move that could bury the Pre in the UK. But that’s their choice. Where does it leave us, the UK consumer? Are we still going to have to pick up sticks and trudge on over to O2 to get a serious smartphone?

Well, my first instinct is – no, of course not, but thinking about it, I’m not so sure. The serious smartphones out there, the super smartphones, the top notch devices are the iPhone, the Pre, the HTC Magic, HTC Hero and the Nokia N97. I haven’t included the TG01 or the G1 because the latter has a battery life too poor to be a real option and the former is, as yet, to be announced, let alone have anyone actually touch it.

I’ve had my fingers on four out of that five and, if I’m hearing that the Pre is like the iPhone for UI, then I’m calling it five. The Magic, the Hero and the N97 just don’t compare for touchscreen interfaces. Take my word for it if you haven’t tried them. They just don’t and, for me, that’s the key to enjoying a smartphone. I don’t care how many profound functions it has or just how well it synchronises your Twitter, Facebook and phone book contacts. If it’s a pain in the arse to use, it’s impossible to learn to love it.

That said, the the Magic, Hero and N97 are a lot more responsive than any other touchscreen phone aside O2’s exclusives. They certainly outrank anything I’ve seen from the pseudo-smarts like the LG Viewty and Arena. The trouble is that if you’re really serious about your smartphones, if having a pocket computer is of paramount importance to you, if you want the best, then sadly, it seems like O2 is the only place to be.

I absolutely loathe the business model they’re employing to become the biggest provider in the UK. I have no particular love for their main rivals, Vodafone, but at least you can get a decent signal with them. At least they don’t drop calls by the dozen, at least they don’t charge a premium for their very best handsets and at least they haven’t ripped anyone off on issues like tethering.

There’s an excellent chance I’ll be defecting to O2 in the next few months. I don’t want a good smartphone. I want a great one and I’m prepared to put up with a lousy network for it. All I can hope is that the Digital Britain powers that be start putting some serious pressure on O2 to invest in their infrastructure or that their business model falls in on itself and the other networks get to pick up the pieces as well as the nest of the handsets. Neither are particularly likely but one can dream. Instead, I’ll take solus from jailbreaking whichever handset I opt for, tethering it at my convenience and bleeding O2 of as much free high speed data as I can.

Related: Which is the best mobile network in the UK?

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The Smartbooks are coming! Quick, the Smartbooks are coming

Oli Jones Computers, Internet, Laptops / Notebooks, Mobile phones 1 Comment

We called it: Smartbooks. Smartbooks are going to be massiver than massive. And the proof is in the concept pudding.

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These interesting, if not perfectly polished, concept drawings, highlight the way in which the Smartbook will evolve to fill the gap between Smartphones and Netbooks/Notebooks, and might eventually grow to replace both.

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The drawings produced in partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design also show the way in which modular production will allow a degree of customization production, catered to each user’s preferences, not easily possible with current production methods.

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If I’m brutally honest, I think some of these drawings, are well, pretty A-level-Design-Technology, but it’s not so much the designs but the concepts behind them which I find exciting.

Sentences like this: “Smartbooks are cloud-computing-centric and characterised by all-day battery life, instant-on functionality and persistent connectivity.”

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I’ve images of small utilitarian fixed-state HDs operating specifically designed OSs with everything kept in the cloud and streamed seamlessly via uber quick all-covering 4th or 5th generation mobile networks. GBs and GBs of media at my disposal anywhere in the world, on OLED touchscreens with slide-out QWERTYs and intergrated high-lumen pico projectors. Ooh, wow sorry, got a tad giddy. But it is exciting right?

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Why the Pre won't save Palm

Ashley Norris Mobile phones Leave a Comment

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Regular readers will know that we were fairly taken with the Palm Pre handset when it debuted to great fanfare at CES in January. It’s a touch screen device crammed with sensible features that uses Palm’s innovative new operating system, Web OS. In kinder economic times, it would be a sure-fire winner and enough to re-establish a once great brand.

But in spite of those green shoots you keep hearing about things are still brutal, especially in the smartphone market, and Palm has probably left it too late. There’s an interesting post in WallSt, a respected US financial blog, today that highlights 12 brands that won’t make it through the next 12 months. There’s good news – apparently Crocs, makers of those hideous plastic shoes, are on their way out, but the worst news of all for us techies is that Palm should in theory be toast by the end of the year.

Sure, it is only one blog’s opinion but, without the Pre and the recent injection of $100 million capital, the company would have disappeared anyhow. Its trading position is awful with the company only selling 482,000 handsets in its last quarter, down 42% from the same quarter the year before.

Can the Pre save the day? Well it has mountains to climb and here’s why…

1.) Bad choice of partners

In the US, Palm is with Sprint which is the third most popular carrier. It’s been haemorrhaging subscribers for a while and is definitely in need of some high profile handsets. However, it probably won’t have the reach to ensure the Pre gets enough market share. In Europe the deal is apparently with Telefonica (though I could find no confirmation of this) the company which famously already has a certain iPhone on its books. Even if it has fantastic reasons to sell the Pre, I can’t see it pushing it too hard against its golden handset.

2.) Handset market is too crowded now

In the US, Palm is up against Blackberry, which is rapidly making in roads into the consumer space, and Apple which is obviously doing amazingly well. In the UK, add to that list Nokia, with its new range of N series handsets, plus touch screen smartphone lite models from the Koreans and HTC’s Windows phones, and the competition looks fierce. That’s without even considering exactly how big a splash Android is going to make when they finally launch more than just the one handset.

3.) Apple and Blackberry users are not going to buy a Pre

Both brands command huge loyalty leaving the Pre a smaller slice of the cake to shoot for. Enough said.

4.) Palm probably doesn’t have enough money to market the Pre as it would like

With those crippling losses there’s probably less to spend on online marketing. If Palm could push the device online, then at least it would have a chance to compete. Unfortunately, its rivals are still relatively cash rich; for example Samsung spent £27 million on advertising in the UK last year and is expected to spend more this time around.

If Palm does go, I will be rather sad. Over the years, I have owned a string of Palm devices, including some by its off shoot company Handspring, that uses the Palm OS. Also, for a time in the early noughties Palm’s PDAs were as cool as handheld devices got. I am guessing that there might be a taker for its new OS, but we’ll have to see about that.

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Acer unveils phone roadmap for 2009

Daniel Sung Mobile phones Leave a Comment

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At what appeared to be just to be a closer look at the Acer Tempo range of smartphones we saw at MWC, the notebook giants revealed their mobile phone plans for world domination.

By Q3 2009, you can expect to see handsets such as the H2, L1, C1 and E1 sporting 5-megapixel cameras and all working on Windows Mobile 6.5. It will mean that by the end of the year, the company that sells 33 million computers worldwide will have over 10 mobile phones…

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RUMOUR: Dell entering the smartphone race next month

Daniel Sung Mobile phones Leave a Comment

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Before we get rolling on this one, I should say that I’m a little skeptical personally but men and women who spend their days stroking their beards and, well, whatever women stroke when they’re deep in thought, seem pretty convinced that Dell is going to get into mobiles from February.

In fact, it’s not just any beards and beardettes that think it to be true, it’s the top most hairy ones over at the Wall Street Journal and Engadget too, even though Dell has publicly said that they won’t be…

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Stephen Fry launches his own blog with 6,465-word iPhone / smartphone post

Stuart Dredge Web 2.0

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Everyone and their mother is blogging nowadays, and now one of the greatest living englishmen is getting into the act. Stephen Fry has launched his own blog with a post about smartphones. Well, it’s more of an essay really. A 6,465-word essay, according to my word-count.

Fry’s well-known for being a gadget-lover, so it’s good stuff if you have the time to scroll through it

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