Monday, July 24, 2006

From Music, Video, Email and Office - What do you really want in your phone?

I can remember sitting in meetings years ago, listening to vendor A tell us what the killer application was going to be. It was cutting edge stuff I tell you, it was going to blow the socks off the customers and increase ARPU (Fancy acronym in telecom for how much money we can get per month per user) 3 fold. What was it? Voice activated dialing. How to implement it? Spend about $50,000,000 in network infrastructure and people could use by using a short code. They would spend hours more talking because they would be able to dial anyone (once they spent about 2 weeks setting up voice tags with numbers) quickly and handsfree. Since the legislation was coming to ban the use of mobiles without handsfree, this was the one product that would make sense.

Well, I am glad to say after our user trial we abandoned the product. Sprint went ahead and launched this lemon which still exists today I think, but the 3 people who use it probably don't know that now phones have this built in. Since Flash memory has come down in cost, we can finally put enough horse power in the devices to get this service working where it should be, and that is in the hand of the user.

So now lately comes the Q phone from Motorola. I chuckle when I hear the name, because this product name actually was a phone from Qualcomm in the late 90's that Motorola sued them over, because it was a competing clam shell design to their StarTac. They lost, but since that phone was a monumental waste of fragile plastics, they are winning in the end because this new Q actually is a reasonable product.

It is a lower cost device that puts the power of the Blackberry into a unit that is smaller and more intuitive than any RIM device on the market today. It has been reviewed so many times that I am not going to even give that a go, just that it is what you pay for: a stripped down Email device that can't do much more than that. It lacks common sense features such as dial from email and takes many excesive clicks to get to standard functions. My favorite review is by and really does a nice job.

But I digress. What this post is really about is what can we do for you???? What is it that you want in a phone? I am so tired of people telling me in meetings that the customer wants feature X, we spend millions to bring it to market and then it flops. I mean look at Push to talk Over Cellular (POC/we can't call it PTT because then Nextel/Sprint will sue) for Sprint and Verizon. Do people want POC or are they only happen with that in the Nextel that their company provided them? Is it the delay that prevents people from using it? Some people say it is only that, and now are pushing this again. My view is that with minutes in plan getting cheaper and cheaper (With MetroPCS and Cricket it is $35 a month for 42,000 minutes) do people want walkie talkie style, or would they be happier with regular full duplex voice and argue with each other at the same time, without having to say over, over?

I do see some neat things coming, with IMS, or IP Multimedia Sub-system. This technology allows the content to combine services, such as Text, Voice and POC into various products. Chat while watching TV on your phone with your friends. Chat and talk while playing multi-person games on your mobile. Will people watch TV on their 3 inch screen? They are, not many now, but they are. I even have heard of now phones having video out jacks for monitors/TVs so that you can download the content on your phone to then play on your home TV/Monitor. Gaming was a concept a few years back and Nokia went after it with the N-Gage. Well, try to find titles for that today. People don't want all of this on their mobile, at least not yet with the current screens, especially if the device can't even make a phone call in that one moment people actually use their mobile for a mobile (see my post on why that is)

But I just don't think we know yet what the next killer application for the US will be. I did a paper back in 1997 stating that the only feature people would ever want in a mobile device is email. So far I have been pretty close to being a prophet on that, but the future of wireless is extremely bright with High Speed data services getting MegaBytes of data to mobile phones. The world is our oyster, the problem is that we have no clue what to do with it.

If you stumble on my post, send me a shout out on what you want for your new phone. Could it be you want the new N93 from Nokia that is a movie camera and multimedia device (don't call it a phone or the Nokia police will get ya) or do you just want something better than the Q like the HTC product lines. I am willing to bet that most want just a phone first, then email/SMS, then a camera, then that other crap as long as it doesn't cost too much.