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What will the mobile internet bring?

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

Our cellphone series continues today with a look at how Google and Apple are looking to change the industry with their respective Android and iPhone devices (by the way, if you haven't seen the Android demo, check it out here). Each company has its own motives for getting into the business but they share a common interest in trying to make the mobile internet easier and cheaper to use.

If you ask the typical Canadian cellphone user - one who pays their own bills, by the way, and not somebody who has their employer pick up the bill - if they use the internet functions on their phone, the typical answer you get is: "What are you, crazy?" Ludicrous charges and really bad interfaces have so far made the mobile internet experience less than thrilling for many.

Google says that by opening up cellphones and allowing every-day people to design software for them, we'll see the same kind of innovation that happened on the fixed internet, which gave rise to companies and services such as Amazon, eBay, Skype, Facebook, Google et al. The company says we can't even imagine what sorts of applications will be developed if Android takes off.

Do you agree with Google? Should the features on cellphones be opened for design by everyone, and should the mobile internet be more like the fixed internet? What sorts of applications do you wish you could have on your cellphone?

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Comments

Robin

Quite misleading, as other than the proposed open sourcing of Android, little is new. It's extremely misleading to state that Apple and Google are changing the industry when other companies have offered 'internet capable' phones for a number of years. The PalmOS and various iterations of Microsoft's Pocket PC/Windows Mobile have long provided platforms for existing software to do exactly as you've attributed as being new with Apple and Google. The iPhone is proprietary device with more in common with Nokia's phones and their Symbian OS, and as such, it did not deserve to be included in that article.

Posted November 21, 2007 09:18 PM

Michael Armstrong

When I had to replace my old phone for a new bue to dying battery life, I looked at the data plans. Not only bandwidth per kilobyte was an issue but carries like Virgin would only allow you to browse sites through their own website and not even allow to enter in a URL.

Most was the case with other providers like Rogers .. unless you felt like spending 75 dollars a month on web access.

Oddly the only one I found at the time and allowed to browse anywhere the cell browser would allow (no JAVA or Flash support) was PC mobile which charge 5 bucks for unlimited browsing per month on a pay-as-you-go plan.

If other carriers had such a plan then the internet on cell phones would have some point.

As it is, my site which I adapted to cellphone screen, would have more use. (wap2.animelondon.ca) However since there really isn't a standard for small screen for cells what works on one cell may not work another.

At least the iPhone (and iPod Touch)are browseable with mods except no flash support. The 'zoom' feature and ultra-crisp screen makes it work... except for typing. Apparently a new online video service, video.ca, supports iPhone and PSP video formats.

Still bandwidth on cell isn't cheap and even Blackberry's newer devices will have wireless connection as well a cell just like the iPhone.

Still it seems odd that a grocery store chain has the best wireless package over the big players. Maybe Loblaws should start selling the iPhone. :)

(note to webmaster I click but nothing happens)

Posted November 22, 2007 02:15 AM

CDL

Canada

Why would anyone outside of business need mobile Internet? The real question is why are email programs so expensive? Telus offers a $15 "personal email" option but you have to have a voice plan over $30. I don't see how the two are related. This is unfair!

Posted November 22, 2007 05:04 AM

Michael

Toronto

Telus offers reasonable "Spark" plans that allow unlimited browsing to over 100 sites (including Google and Gmail, Hotmail, and CBC news). Ten dollars gets you voice mail, call display, and browsing. While the speed is sometimes spotty and the browser on my phone crashes frequently, at least there is a way of checking your e-mail on the fly without being cadged for data usage. One can access Yahoo's mail and read it, but replying doesn't work--if I were a conspiracy theorist I would blame Rogers for blocking this feature since Yahoo mail is licensed by Rogers for use with its high-speed service. It would be ludicrous to assume Canadian carriers in Canada are less than honest, competitive, and forthright in the services they offer to their customers. Right?

Posted November 22, 2007 10:30 AM

Iain

Toronto

Data rates must come down. The "innovations" that phones such as the iPhone offer are useless without affordable unlimited data plans.

Posted November 22, 2007 12:56 PM

Nathan Rajkhowa

Barrie

We are a VERY long way here in Canada when it comes to truly mobile internet. For one, all the data plans are just way too expensive and for what you get with those plans is very little. As one poster already pointed out. When it comes to phones and the inet, a lot of them are locked to the point where you cannot access rich media that run flash or java! For get even going to a better browser! What ever software your phone came with, that is all that is available. Plus or minus what your carrier may have to offer on their little sparse list. For the iphone or the google phone or any variant like it to be truly successful the rates or the plans must drop, more has to be offered to take advantage of the phones cababilities and last but not least the phones "features" have to be unlocked and work with any network or carrier you have! Not just the ones you have a contract with!

Posted November 22, 2007 01:25 PM

Mike

Ottawa

While you raised the point that rate plans are marketed and priced in a confusing manner, you didn't mention that the CRTC is failing Canadian consumers, namely;

- They could force carriers to include all hidden fees such as system access fees, 911 fees, etc. in the price of their plans.
- It is an absolute travesty to have to pay monthly for detailed billing. The very nature of all telephone systems includes the ability to create call accounting records. It's highway robbery to have to pay this monthly fee simply to have data the carrier has already collected printed onto a piece of paper.
- When you buy a GSM phone from the carrier, it belongs to you, not the carrier, and should NOT be SIM locked to any one carrier. I believe France has a national law preventing carriers from locking GSM phones.

Much was said in your series about mobile data, but the majority of users want improved BASIC service, including better coverage, more minutes, and the inclusion of voice mail and call display without having to pay extra for it. Most of could care less about mobile Internet, MP3 music or embedded digital cameras.

Another point I feel you missed is that the next revolution will not be driven by Google and Apple, but user freedom. An increasing number of modern cell phones include WiFi capabilities. As WiFi is everywhere and usually free, users have installed the Skype VoIP client on their phones and essentially don't even need a carrier anymore. With WiFi, you can browse the Internet to your hearts content and completely bypass the carriers network. The carriers know this, (Wonder why the Apple iPhone is not for sale in Canada?) and notice how none of them offer phones with these capabilities! Such phones are easily purchased on eBay or elsewhere on the Internet.

Perhaps the carriers should realize they would have a lot less subscriber churn if they met our basic service needs and stopped loking for ways to milk us for more money!

Posted November 22, 2007 01:32 PM

Steve Heard

Until service providers bring down the cost of internet usage, there's no point designing phones that make the internet experience easier. I have tried out simple usage like getting weather reports and sports scores. However, this had such a big impact on my monthly bill from Aliant, that I gave it up and have no intention of trying it again.

Posted November 22, 2007 02:35 PM

Harold Hotham

Well I am just an old f**t. I talk with other old f**ts. I like my cell phone so I can look up their phone numbers and call them to meet at Tim's for coffee and old f**t conversations.

I dont need a camera, games, internet, or the hundred other TOTALLY useless features on my cell phone. Isnt there a bit of a problem when the manual to use my phone is nearly 100 pages?

We need just plain cell phones to do what they are supposed to do; make vocal calls. Some of us could even use LARGE buttons on them.

Are any of the cell manufacturers listening to the aging boomers? Nope.

Posted November 23, 2007 12:53 PM

Adrian Corscadden

Robin,

I think I am going to have to go ahead and disagree with you. The iPhone and Android are bringing something completely new to the mobile internet scene. It is true that Palm, Windows Mobile and Blackberry have brought 'internet capable' devices to the market, but these devices only render a very limited version of the internet. New devices are now rendering webpages as they would appear on a regular browser. This is a huge step forward for mobile phones.

Posted November 23, 2007 08:19 PM

Andrew Currie

Toronto

I agree that outrageous data charges are currently to blame for the lack of interest in the mobile internet in this country, but it also seems that it the last week or so carriers are playing one heck of a game of catch-up!

I believe that it's all a preemptive strike against the launch of the iPhone early next year. Power users will likely pass on it, but Apple's device has at least shown the general public how useful the mobile internet can be!

Posted November 24, 2007 06:00 PM

Chris

Vancouver

There are basically 2 cellular networks in BC that are controlled by a handful of carriers. The first is CDMA which you can get service from Bell, Telus, Presidents Choice, and Virgin. The other one is the GSM network which is basically controlled by Rogers. Some might say that there is Fido, but guess what? Rogers owns them. So what is my point? Well, after Rogers became the sole provider for the GSM network, we have had our choices reduced in terms of providers and voice/data plans. I remember when Fido used to have an unlimited data plan, but when Rogers bought them, that option was removed.

To make matters worse, the providers for the CDMA networks all have unlimited data plans with 2 providers (Presidents Choice and Virgin) with very competitive prices (like $5-10 for that option). On the other hand, Rogers still provides cheasy data plans that really apply to phones from the 90's where WAP websites were the trend of the day. I mean, the most reasonable data plan I could get without breaking the bank lets me have 20mb of data! Wow Wee! On my phone, I could surf to the Rogers website and that would be 1.5MB right there. GOd help me if I accidentally hit the refresh button! WAP websites are the thing of the past and Rogers doesn't really understand what WAP is OLD technology. So, basically, Blackberry and smartphone users are basically restricted to checking and writing emails instead of being able to do some really cool things with their phones.

I phoned up Rogers the other day and asked them why other carriers can offer unlimited data and they cannot and they simply could not give an answer. Well, I'll tell you what it is, it's called a monopoly... a monopoly over the GSM network.

I strongly urge everyone to write to the Competition Bureau and file a complaint because something really needs to be done about the situation. Rogers just cannot compete because they don't have to... and they know it.

Posted November 24, 2007 09:14 PM

john karsai

Toronto

..and some of us want a cell phone that will simply make and receive telephone calls. No camera, no internet, a simple portable telephone with useful size keys and a screen that can be read by those of us with less than perfect vision. I have an old bag phone that still works well as long as it's plugged into the car and the power output is far superior to the newer ones with (for me) entirely useless features.

Posted November 25, 2007 12:27 PM

Al

WE welcome Minister of Industry's Jim Prentice decision to offer new players into the wireless industry. It is about time, CANADA!

Posted November 30, 2007 06:39 AM

Chris

Victoria

The main deterrent to development of mobile internet services are carriers themselves. Telus Mobility, for example will not allow any third party software to run on their network unless they have a business interest in the project. They cut in to the profit of small third party software companies making their projects less feasible and prohibiting product development.

Imagine if you signed up for cable internet and your ISP told you that you could only use their news site and their email client. Imagine that they also told you that the only software you could install had to be from them. That is what Telus does for mobile phones.

Google has recently made a push to open this up, however. They are bidding for airwaves in the US and hopefully they will come to Canada as well. Their whole premise is that they want to put pressure on the industry to open up globally.

Posted November 30, 2007 05:42 PM

Benny

Edmonton

Openning up the source may be good for a small portion of people. People likes customization but dislike complexity. Android would be ideal for those who sits in front of computer for hours in a day. For normal consumer, a pre-designed and convenient OS would be great. The purpose for consumer to own a mobile phone is time-saving. Too much of choice may stagger the take-off of Anroid.

However, it is a great idea that google comes out that, "not building up a phone, but thousand of them." Consumer will benefits when comparing with what we can have now. Indeed, the hardware is still on the hand of phone makers. Software is still just the secondary when selecting a phone. Receptions, capability and functionality are still the vehicle. Software is the driver, who can be anyone, but not everyone will like the vehicle. Buyer preference! That's why there are so many dealers that can try to cater the supply to fit consumers' need.

Just a thought!

Posted December 3, 2007 03:02 AM

Patches

With the introduction of devices like iPhone and Android I am certainly looking forward to a future where I can take high quality photos, audio or video, dictate a story with with the ability to take notes and live quotes on the spot, call/email my clients/sources/whoever, and have it posted, mailed or on live news within minutes of completion, and ALL from one stylish, easy to use, hand held device.
Such things are to come much sooner than many would like to think what with the rate of development of new, better, faster, smaller, stronger technologies. We have but to wait a mere decade or two, or less.
The next step from there of coarse will be direct implants in the body/brain but now were delving into the realm of sci-fi and cyber punk. Give it enough time though and will have it and probably a lot sooner than anyone can imagine.
I don't need to highlight the usefulness such devices would have for journalists, activists, business people, and consumers alike. With enough time (and money) the possibilities are endless and limited only by our imaginations. Anyone who thinks other wise needs to wake up and realize that this is only the dawn of the information age.
I can't wait. ;P

Posted December 16, 2007 02:57 AM

Doug

Edmonton

Open source is always good, especially when it pits our real home based experts against the establishment.
Instead of offering a gazillion functions with complex menus and paths to make it happen, our industry would like choice bundles that offer functional foundation packages (phone, email) and user specific add ons ..... such as scan / rf capable, notes (with template forms, for attendance check list, everyday safety checks and other functional daily task checkers), priority "to dos" and data transfer. We are trying to get the complexity out and the basics in, and all in a very very very simple format.

Posted December 17, 2007 06:24 AM

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