Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surfing on your phone

Whew, I'm not alone. JKontheRun recently ran a survey. Thirty-four percent of the people responding to their poll surf the net on their phone multiple times a day.

Do you?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

As Smartphones becoming Mission Critical...

I've only had a Smart Phone now for about two months, and learned yesterday the impact of not having it.

An accident yesterday morning rendered my phone useless. No huge problem, I bought phone insurance for just this reason. I went to the website of my provider's insurance carrier, Asurion and filled out their claim form. Their web pages says you'll likely have your replacement phone the next day, and indeed I did. it arrived about 4:30 PM today, or about 31 and 1/2 hours after the incident.

After filing the claim yesterday, I called my own cell phone from a land line, and changed my outgoing message to tell callers not to leave a voice mail, but to instead call my home number. I didn't have to do that, but would have needed to check my voice mail from another phone frequently.

The other concern was text messages. My provider does not offer a way to either go on to their website and ask that text messages to my phone to forwarded to my email, or alternately, generate a auto-response asking people to email me as my phone is broken.

As more and more people use their mobile phones as their primary, or only phone, more thought needs to go into losing or breaking a phone.

Truly mission critical users should consider owning a backup phone. While Apple and other phone makers would love it if you owned two of a high end phone and kept one in the drawer, I'm thinking more of having a low end, voice only phone you an quickly tie in to your phone line.

Or provider's stores should offer "loaners" with certain plans, or inexpensive daily rentals until your insurance provider gets you a new phone.

Asurion did what I paid them to do, they got me a new phone fast. Although they made it more nerve wracking then it needed to be. Their confirmation email gave me a website to check status on. When I did that when the mail came in, it told me the claim was being processed, and to check back 24 hours later. Twenty seven hours later, it still did that. I called their automated customer service line 24 hours after filing the claim online, and it said the claim had been approved but they had no tracking information yet, and the phone should arrive in the next four to five day!

My nerves were soothed when the Great Dane let out the bark that tells me someone had stepped on the porch. Ahh, the new phone.

Citing a study from Gartner, MediaBistro thinks Smart Phones will one day replace office's desktop phone. Before we get much further down that road, users, providers and the users employers need to do a lot more thinking about what to do when the worst happens.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Raving about the Airave

At the same time we bought the Samsung Instinct smart phones from Sprint, we also picked up one of their femtocells, The Airave.

A femtocell is basically a personal cell site. It is a box that looks like a wi-fi access point. It plugs into your broadband. To your phone, it appears to be a cell tower. Without it, we get a single bar in the house, with it from three to five bars depending on where in the house you are.

It makes the phones useful in the house, since our street is a dead zone. otherwise.

The Airave cost $99 to buy, and then $5 a month. Our previous provider, Verizon is rumored to have their own femtocell about to come out for $249 and no monthly fee. They have been lauded for the no monthly fee, but personally I feel comfortable with Sprint's five dollars a month. OK, sure after 30 months I'll be paying more for the Airwave. On the other hand, Sprint has all those $5 checks coming in each month to motivate them to keep up their end of the infrastructure. Verizon could find the sales of the femtocell's flatline, and decide screw it, it isn't worth keeping up the servers that your signals go to since they aren't getting significant income anymore from it. It may seem cyncial of me to attribute such cynicism to them, but remember, this is the company that charges $3 a month for you to maintain your phone's address book online.

I've read where some think femtocell's are cop-outs by the cell companies. They will have to put in fewer cell sites if people adopt femtocells. I'm not sure that is right. They would have no control over what areas people are covering. There might be a cul-de-sac with femtocells in four of the five homes, and then a whole street where no one is comfortable enough with technology to even know femtocells exist.

I think the only way that they can be used to defray building out towers is if the cell companies actively recuited people to use them based on their location, and gave them incentives (like free femtocells and free installation) to use them.

That being said, today while walking the dog, I reeived a call while at the end of the street. As I took the call, I heard the beep that I hear in the house telling me the call is going through the Airave. Except, I was several houses past where I lose contact with our Airave. Someone on that corner has one too. I know several of my neighbors there--I need to check it out.

The Airave supports three simultaneious calls. With three of us in the house, it is conceivable someone on the street or in a neighboring house could block one of us from calling. Unlikely. There is apparently a way to limit the phones to your own, but I've read it does not work, and I've not tried it.

Now, if a certain family down the street were in range of my femtocell, I'd have to rethink my options before their six girls get into their teen years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

eBooks from Google

From JKontheRun I learned tonight that Google has a new mobile page where you can read 1.5 million public domain books. I tried it just now on my Instinct and it works great. Go to http://books.google.com/m .

I've already bookmarked a couple books I've wanted to read.

As long as you have a web connection, you'll always have something to read.

Update #1: I should have played with this more first. This isn't working right on my Instinct under Opera or the internal browser. On Opera Mini, it gives you a book not found error. If you click again you do get to the first page but won't advance to the next page. On the internal browser, it won't load.

I have reported the error to Google's Feedback page.

Update #2: (2-7-09) Google responded yesterday :

Thank you for your interest in accessing Google Book Search using your mobile device. Currently, this feature is only accessible on smart phones with webkit browsers, such as the iPhone or Android phones.

Our team is currently working to expand the number and types of devices that support the mobile edition of Google Book Search. We appreciate your continued feedback and suggestions on ways to improve the mobile browsing experience.

Sincerely,
The Google Book Search Team

I hope they do make it readable by non-webkit browsers. What's wrong with standard HTML? While I hope to have an Android phone next, for a least a year I won't.

For the first time, Google has ticked me off. It will pass. I use a lot of their free services and do appreciate them.

However, some good news. Waterbound, a poster on a thread I started on this topic over at Buzz About Wireless, the Sprint forum, told me it works for him in the Bolt Browser. I Googled for a referral code, and went there and downloaded it.

That now makes three browsers on my phone : the built-in one, Opera Mini and Bolt. One more and I'll have as many as I do on my desktop.