Monday, 25 January 2010

The Rise of the Second Handset

It can be hard to predict sales numbers of gadgets and mobile phones, sometimes a handset can take off and become much more popular than expected. It is clear why some phones are more popular than other, the user interface on the iPhone for instance has made it very popular even (or perhaps especially) with the less technically minded consumer.

Recently a lot of very cheap handsets have become surprisingly popular. The rise of the Smart Phone has meant that most of us have mobile which are capable of web browsing, high quality photos and easy email integration. These phones have become fairly cheap on pay monthly contracts so why are people buying cheap handsets all of a sudden? There have always been people who only want a very basic mobile to make occasional calls but what explains the big rise in sales we have recently seen?

The key is that a large proportion of those buying the bargain handsets also own a fancy Smart Phone as well. These handsets are being used as a cheap back up in situations where the user's main handset has either gone AWOL or is is danger of being damaged. The prevalence of free SIM cards and SIM only deals means that a temporary phone is cheap and easy to set up.

Those going on a night out or even a day out (mountain biking etc) can take a cheap handset with them rather than risking breaking their main mobile phone. The back up can contain their main SIM card or a pay as you go one with a bit of credit on it. If the second handset gets damaged you just take out the SIM card and ditch the casing. Many of us already have an old handset lying around which saves the £20 or so needed for a new one.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Does Your Camera Need a Mobile Broadband Connection

Once upon a time you could only connect to the internet with a computer and the most mobile broadband got was moving your PC to the other side of the office. Next came wifi which allowed you to connect anywhere within your own home or even at the local coffee house. These days most people have a mobile phones capable of internet browsing with them at all times so that they can tweet after every bowl movement.

Now that we have the technology to enable small, portable devices to connect at relatively high speeds we can think about what else could be online. The benefits of internet enabled ebook readers are obvious but do you need your fridge to be online? Despite the risks of the Chinese government hacking into your kitchen devices there could be benefits- it could let you know if the temperature changes or if you need to throw out that cheese that is going green.

The number of mobile broadband enabled devices is expected to increase by a factor of 55 by the year 2014. This is likely to cause issues as the mobile broadband infrastructure wasn't built for this amount of traffic. If the infrastructure can be improved we might find that there are a lot of applications for internet enabled devices.

One of the most obvious devices crying out for a broadband connection is the humble digital camera. At the moment cameras are one step behind mobile phones in the it isn't possible to upload your photo directly once you have taken it (although some can handle a wifi connection). The question is are consumers going to pay a monthly fee to have their camera connected to the internet? Will they be able to choose from different providers? Perhaps we will end up paying a monthly fee for all of our devices (hopefully on an unlimited tariff).

Monday, 11 January 2010

Could Mobile Phones Support Economic Growth in Developing Countries?

At the recent CES 2010 show in Las Vegas Nokia's chief Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo suggested that mobile phones could help to improve the lives of those in developing countries. At first this statement seems a bit strange as we often think of mobile phones a a luxury rather than a necessity but it isn't perhaps as far-fetched as it might first seem. The suggestion is that mobile phones can benefit those who live in areas without the necessary infrastructure which we associate with a high quality of life.

40 percent of the world population don't have access to banking with micro-banking via mobile devices this figure could be greatly reduced. There is also the potential to increase literacy and eduction via mobile phones. Imagine if there had been an automated Tsunami warning system which updated people via mobile phones during the boxing day Tsunami of 2004. Imagine if families in remote rural location could be in contact with doctors instantly when someone fell ill.

I wont go into great detail here but one you start to think of mobile devices as mini-computers and a way of keeping in touch across great distances the possibilities are endless. The production costs of basic level phones are low and free SIM cards or pay as you go contracts offer a low cost option. The Skype Mobile on Three lets users communicate free of charge via VOIP so topping up isn't even an issue. The communication infrastructure in developing countries may be lacking but as they are currently the biggest growth market this is set to change.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Just What I Don't Need: A Dishwaser Proof Mobile Phone

Most mobile phones are at least a bit waterproof as you will know if you have ever made a phone call in the rain. Some phones can even survive falling in a river (or more often a pint of beer) as long as you don't turn them on until they have dried out. Now there is a new phone which can supposedly survive inside a dishwasher.

Quite why you would need to put your phone in the dishwasher is not clear but the latest handset by Seal Shield can cope if you chuck it in there for fun. Seal Shield specialize in making things waterproof including keyboards, TV remotes and (presumably computer) mice. The phone was launched at CES 2010 (the Consumer Electronics Show).

The cell phone is attractive in a rugged adventurous kind of way (like me) and is clearly built to throw around and drop in puddles. It is similar looking to the Sonim XP1and will probably appeal to a similar demographic. A spokesman for Seal Shield suggested that the washable gadget is ideal for the germophobic as it can be easily washed.