Monday, 29 June 2009

Countdown to cheap broadband TV

Broadband TV package prices look to be on the way down soon, with the news that Ofcom is set to slash the price that broadband provider pay to Sky for its premium channels.

At present, Virgin Media, Tiscali and BT are bound to pay Sky the princely sum of £23.50 for every customer on their books. However, early next year Ofcom is planning to cut this by a third to £16.50, on the grounds that Sky’s dominance of the pay TV arena is distorting the market.

Of course this spells a whopping cut to Sky’s revenue – and naturally they plan to challenge the regulation. But for us, should the reduction get passed at least, it looks like a result all round.

With a price reduction of that magnitude, providers will surely pass on the benefits to customers. Leaving us to enjoy cheaper Premier League football and movie premieres as well as more competitively priced broadband bundles. Roll on next year.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Time ticking on watch phones status as gimmicks?

Polarising opinion once again in the mobile phone blogosphere today are watch phones. The cause of the all the kerfuffle is the LG GD910. First sighted during Feb this year, it has now resurfaced on news sites after LG quashed rumours it was due in the UK in July.

The Mirror and Tech Radar are very firmly in the fans’ camp and even go so far as to list five reasons to invest in the phone. But elsewhere, naysayers are dubbing the LG GD910 little more than a gimmick.

Whichever assessment proves true, it seems that watchphones have been a hit with the public. In an exclusive interview today on Top 10 Broadband, the manufacturer of the sWaP phone claims that demand is five times greater than they’d been expecting. The firm, which only entered the sector a matter of months ago, also outlines plans for a host of new watch phones due later this year.

Personally, I think watch phones are pretty cool – in a kind of retro modern, golden age of Sci-Fi kind of way. And if, as the chap from sWaP suggests, they keep getting high-end features, I even think they might even shed their gimmick tag, too.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Is it all over for Ovi before its begun?

When Nokia announced that its Ovi application store was to launch with a massive 20,000 titles, it drew gasps from industry watchers. By way of comparison, the Apple App Store could muster just 300 when it was unveiled.

But not long after Nokia’s announcement appeared, it emerged that in fact that the word ‘titles’ was a little misleading. In fact very few of the wares on offer were to be bona-fide applications.

Now, it seems the disappointment surrounding Ovi has become even more palpable. A scan of the site earlier today revealed why. Pages were down all over the place. Meanwhile, of those that were working, loading times were punitively long.

But of course, most sites have teething problems. And given the kind of volume of traffic, this one will be receiving, it’d take an especially vinegary churl not to afford Nokia some grace to sort out the issues.

However, unfortunately the products are even more of a letdown. When we checked, just ten business applications were available. Conversely, thousands upon thousands of the titles were just shonky wallpapers or ringtones.

All in all, then, not the best launch ever. But at least Nokia will have a chance to remedy its fast-fading love affair with the British public when it unveils the N97 in June. Let’s hope it gets it right this time.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Your starter for ten: Can ISPs prevent exam cheats?

Recently, I offered to help a little Czech chum of my acquaintance with his A-Level film studies essay. It was to be simply a case of tucking and tidying up his prose and checking spelling. I thought it'd take five minutes of my time.

But when I looked at the piece it was a different story. Instead of an original work, it was a Frankenstein's monster of an essay, cobbled together from other people's travails he'd found online. After a while I gave up. I'd been chastened partly by my boy's lack of effort. But mostly I'd quit when it dawned on me that cheating in national exams is now much easier than ever before.

That's something that's been confirmed for me today by a report in the ever-reliable Register. In a great story, the site notes that exam boards are asking broadband providers to take a greater role than ever before in clamping down on exam cheats. In particular, they're asking for a hotline to be manned by ISPs' staff who'll be tasked with taking down exam papers as soon as they come to people's attention.

It's too early to tell how many providers have taken these extra measures. But it'd be hard to blame them if they didn't - especially since they're being expected to pay for it themselves.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Lost Nokia's fate in the lap of the cods

JCB’s handsets sell themselves as the most robust on the market. Nicknamed ‘Bricks’, they’re constructed from diamond-hard materials and by all accounts are tougher than a Russian Mafioso. But for all their manufacturers’ nails-hard posturing, it seems that a new challenger has emerged for their crown.

Enter Nokia, whose handsets have, in truth, enjoyed a rep for durability for years. In today’s Sun, you’ll find a decidedly fishy tale of how Glen Kerley mislaid his Nokia handset while walking his dog on a beach and was in the process of buying a new one when his girlfriend received a call from the missing mobile. Turns out that the phone had been found by a fishmonger in the belly of a 25lb fish and had defied seawater and the fish’s gastric juices to keep on working.

Relating the story Andrew told how his girlfriend looked askance at him and said: “Your old mobile number is calling my phone.”

He added: “She said some guy was going on about my phone and a cod so she handed it over to me and he told me where he had found it. I thought he was winding me up but he assured me he had caught a cod that morning and was gutting it for his fish stall and that my Nokia was inside it - a bit worse for wear.”

From Nokia’s point of view this is surely the kind of PR that money cannot buy. And couldn’t have come at a better time. Not least because this week it’s fending off reports that its Nokia 5800 handset is hamstrung by defective speakers. The latter in particular is embarrassing for a handset that is spearheading Nokia’s XpressMusic range and upon which so many of the company’s hopes are pinned this year.

In the meantime, I expect the Finnish mobile phone giants to make much of this story. As far as they're concerned, if ever there was a good day to bury bad news this is surely it.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Orange's future looks less bright after consumer victory

Ever felt like suing your mobile phone provider? Sure you have. Was your bugbear with unclear roaming charges? Or maybe it was unheralded and unfair changes to the terms of your contract? Perhaps it was atrocious customer service, or appalling network coverage.

Most likely if you’re a 3 customer it was all of the above. That’s certainly the case if this torrent of abuse is anything to go by. As a 3 customer myself I can only relate. I live in the urbanised locale in north London where you’d have thought a clear reception would be a given. Not so. I can actually barely get a reception in my house. There are even problems when I’m in town, with Soho’s high buildings leaving me out of range and unreachable for the duration of shopping trips for discs of shiny black plastic. This is more often than my GF would approve of.

But this week it seems there’s something to cheer about - for Orange customers at least. Yesterday the Daily Mail reported that Tom Prescott of Richmond has won a case against his mobile phone network. According to the report, Orange attempted to keep him in his contract despite his failure to get coverage in his office or home in Richmond. Mr Prescott is now £500 richer after damages were awarded and is free of Orange’s attention.

He told the paper: "It has taken me three months in court to get it cancelled. I felt bullied by the company, and dealing with Orange was awful. I hope people who have the same problem now realise they can do something about it."

If we're to believe the responses to the outcome, this is a seismic event and opens up the prospect of hordes of disgruntled network customers launching legal action. You can almost hear the sound of 3 customers drafting legal correspondence across the land. And that other sound? That’s the swearing as the same people once again try to make a phone call only to be denied

Whether this results in Orange improving its network or in mass migration and payouts, this little victory for consumers is something worth celebrating. The future for consumers with mobile phones might not be Orange. But after today, it’s certainly brighter.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Samsung new phone is Well Weapon

Have you ever used the phrase “Well Mexico”? Or even “Well Weapon”? Have you? If you have it’s odds-on you’re a fan of the much lamented Channel 4 show Nathan Barley. If you haven’t you need to know that it was a coruscating study of east London fashion victims. Or as they were dubbed by creator Charlie Brooker "self-facilitating media nodes", with the programme destroying with extreme prejudice this crap coterie's excruciating and pig-thick attempts to be cool and edgy.

The show didn’t run for long, with poor ratings ensuring that a second series never arrived. For those who keep the faith however one of its highlights was the souped-up Wasp phone that the series' super villain Nathan Barley favoured. Here it is in all its gaudy glory:

What a monstrosity. But someone, somewhere didn’t get the joke. And that someone appears to be Samsung. At the Mobile World Congress this week it unveiled its Beat phones, which in their laboured attempts at cool seem to be aimed at Nathan Barleys the world over.

The phones feature a scratch mode that lets you move your fingers over the handset and in theory cut up the records like you’re Terminator X. Of course in reality this is nothing more than a shonky sound effect that you’re bored of trying out after about five minutes

It’s less a function and more akin to those novelty presents that you get from unimaginative friends that feature Mr T saying six fun phrases. The difference is Mr T saying “Quit Your Jibba Jabba” will never get old.