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Phone first


About half the readers of this site are in the US. To them I apologise, not for the slight about coverage in the week before last’s column – that was justified – but for the following comment about something a parochial as a British soap opera.

Roxy took a photograph of her dodgy husband holding a stolen TV on Eastenders and threatened to email it to her cousin from whom it had been looted. This is interesting not for the daft plot but for Roxy’s understanding that an MMS can be sent to email, something few consumers understand – they think they can only be sent to another phone.

There is a way of thinking where the obvious isn’t the same as what happens. Part of the standard Android presentation is that being an Open system it’s flexible. “Why”, the presenter asks, “can’t you click on the address in your address book and look at it on a map in Google maps”. This makes a lot of sense.

If you come from a PC world.

Expansys HTC Touch Diamond advert

But it misses one thing: People don’t hold contacts addresses in their phones. They have a name and a phone number. They might have an email address if, like Roxy, they are clued up enough to have an email address for sending MMS, but generally they will have a name and a number. They might also have a photo which is used for CLI and a dedicated ring tone. Photos and custom ring tones are the next most common things to have, but the .vcf format – from the PC world –  has never heard of ringtones.

This is a general problem with new people coming into mobile. Rumour has it that Microsoft wanted to leave SMS out of Windows Mobile because it competed with email.

We’ve long struggled for a dividing line between feature phones and smartphones. One of the things that makes it even more grey is the dividing line between small computers and big phones. Nokia talks about phones as pocket computers, Motorola in its last flash of brilliance a few years ago talked about “The device formerly known as the cellphone”,  but they both do this from the perspective of phones adding computing. This works very much better than the Windows Mobile/Android/Palm way of adding voice as a computing application. You can’t have “ringing please wait” dialog boxes on a phone.  Indeed the worst phone crash I’ve seen was on a Windows Mobile phone which crashed when it rang. You could see who was calling you but all you could do was hit reset. Then you had to wait until the thing rebooted – and did the screen calibration – until you could call them back.

The computer people who are touting mobile operating systems really need to get their heads around what “phone first” means. At the moment they only think they know.


That cool mobile website that I steal links from – Mobile Industry review – is running a competition for good causes. Please donate and you could win some great stuff.

Working out what standards will succeed isn’t about how good the standards are but about who backs them. The announcement that Qualcomm has gone LTE makes the future for WiMax look a little more shaky.

Omio has run a keyboard competition. I still don’t think it would beat the average Filipino with T9.

Apple is planning an iPhone  launch in China. If you’ve not been there and seen the Rolls Royces, Maybechs and Prada stores you might think that it’s an odd marke but China will soon have a bigger middle class than Europe.

More powerful batteries might lead to price rises. The battery needed for a car to travel 200 miles currently weighs a tonne. This is about six times as much as a petrol engine. A new Toshiba technology can shift the balance. Bit if batteries become practical for cars the market for them multiples and there is already a shortage of elements like cobalt which is needed. Fuel taxes will make the car market more attractive than phones, so we’ll not see the benefit.

I don’t understand how this works. It’s SIM-based GPS. If the antenna is in the SIM how can it get line of sight to the GPS satellites?

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