A recent meeting between movers and shakers in the mobile industry in the UK met up to thrash out how to make 4G a long term success in the UK market. Executives from Virgin Media Business, Alcatel Lucent and Three among others, sat round a table to decide what factors they think the UK market needs to make 4G work.
Here’s what they came up with:
While pricing is a good incentive, it isn't the only one. While it offers short-term benefits for the consumer, it isn't sustainable for the operators. The panel suggested a more sensible, longer-term pricing approach that benefited everyone. How that would work when both sides have contrary goals we have no idea.
The panel suggested that bundled pricing and offers is a good way to provide value for both the operator and the consumer. The emphasis should be more on value and less on cost to tempt new customers.
We can’t argue with that, after all value is the true measure of a deal, not just the price.
Another suggestion mooted by the panel is one of transparency. They recommended that the industry needs to be much clearer about what’s included in a deal and letting the customer know exactly what they are paying for. That includes complete access to the customer usage records.
No mention of shady practices such as unlimited vs. limited or fixed pricing that is anything but. Still, a suggestion in the right direction.
There are now plenty of 4G-capable phones, with many more to follow. The increased availability of this new hardware capable of making use of 4G is essential in order to make the whole proposition work. It isn't just about the handsets though, networks also need to have the capability, both now and in the future to be able to manage increased demand.
The panel also suggested looking further ahead than just 4G to ensure the UK is ready for what comes after. Short-term thinking isn't something networks can afford when they have to spend millions of pounds on network upgrades, so longer term planning and using the right technology to maximise capability is essential.
All those suggestions make sense and would make the mobile marketplace a better environment for everyone if they ever get adopted by the industry at large. If the operators want us to buy into 4G, they have to make it worth our while and ensure the content or application is there to make us want to use it.
Do you use 4G? Do you notice a significant difference in experience over 3G? Let us know below.
Filed under: Mobilephone News - by Paul Haldane @ 17:54
In an effort to stave off competition from the supermarkets, Carphone Warehouse are changing the way they manage prepay services. The new, low-cost upgrade service went live Friday in an attempt to keep control of the market share they currently enjoy.
The new upgrade service reduces the price of phone upgrades to prepay customers. This segment of the market has seen a surge since many phone companies stretched the contract length to 24 months. In an effort to still make their coin, Carphone Warehouse has moved to capture this shift.
The result is a new upgrade service that cuts phone upgrade costs for prepay customers. Phones such as the Nokia Lumia 520, Samsung Galaxy Ace and Sony Xperia E now cost anything up to half what they once did. These offers are available to anyone who has regularly topped up their phone monthly for the previous six months.
While the latest smart phones aren't yet available on this deal, the choice is a half decent one. The main challenge to retailers is getting the phones at a realistic price. Many phone manufacturers concentrate their main efforts on high end phones rather than mid-range of low end smart phones. That’s changing as the dynamics of the market changes, making it now possible to offer these deals.
This is a step in the right direction, as the main source of decent phones for prepay customers was always fairly limited. If you didn't want a contract, your phone choices were limited to a narrow range of new handsets, or second hand ones from eBay. This opens the market up a little as Carphone Warehouse brings more smart phones into their new stream.
As lovers of new phones, shiny gadgets and cutting-edge technology, we couldn't live without the newest phone. However, we can also understand the reluctance for new customers to want to be tied into a contract for 2 years. A contract where “unlimited” means no such thing and when “fixed price” has completely different meanings depending on which side of the transaction you’re sitting on.
We would be bored of our phone long before the contract was up and would likely be counting the days until we could change and get the newest release. Frankly, it’s not something that works in the consumers favour. It’s no wonder more people are eschewing contracts and shifting to PAYG.
This new Carphone Warehouse offering goes some way to levelling the playing field for prepay customers, although we think it could go much further. Do you think 24 months is too long to have the same phone? Let us know!
Filed under: Mobilephone News - by Paul Haldane @ 17:50
We love the Sony Xperia Z. Not only is it a gorgeous phone with a lot of power and panache, it’s also a solid, powerful contender for the best phone Sony has made in a while. Considering the quality of their stable, that’s quite the statement.
In order to up the ante somewhat, Sony is finalising a firmware update for the phone that makes it just that little bit better. The main purpose of the update is to improve the performance of the phone.
New firmware version 10.1.1.A.1.253 is either ready now, or within a couple of days to bring these improvements. It’s still based in Android 4.1.2, but brings a host of improvements and performance enhancements to the phone.
According to Sony France, who first told us of the new update, the improvements include more fluid Xperia Launcher, a new keyboard skin, new LED control, changes to the navigation bar, a world clock, prettier widgets, changes to soft keys and some improvements to the camera.
The official list includes:
- Option to disable notification light
- Navigation bar and soft keys changed from grey to black
- Xperia Launcher to run smooth and faster
- LED notifications enabled for stamina mode
- Recalibration of white balance in camera
- Faster loading for camera app
- LED light pulse instead of blink
- General OS performance improvements
As the camera is one of the strengths of the Sony Xperia Z, this is probably of interest. The camera is a highlight of the phone that is about to get even better. According to Sony, the phone gets algorithm changes to improve Auto Mode so that the image quality is improved. The update will also lower load times for the camera app and white balance has been tweaked.
While we won’t know how much better the phone will be until we get the update, any tweaks that improve the user experience are welcome. Considering how much we like the phone as it is now, anything done to speed it up, smooth it out and enhance the usability is good news. Improvements to an already great camera are also most welcome.
As long as the firmware adds and doesn't detract, this is all good news for existing and potential Sony Xperia Z owners. We particularly like tweaks that improves the UI performance and lets apps load faster. We’re not known for our patience after all!
Do you have the update yet? If so, let us know your impressions below.
Filed under: Mobilephone News - by Paul Haldane @ 17:42
HTC announced that they were doubling production of the HTC One to meet the demand they are seeking across the world. Anyone in the UK who ordered one of these phones will probably be painfully aware of the shortage, as the waiting times for a new model is now being counted in weeks rather than days.
The HTC One is an excellent phone with a lot to offer. It’s sleek, well put together, powerful and a real contender for the crown of king of the smart phones. The sheer capability and the fact it looks so good too is what seems to be driving sales. That’s good news for a phone manufacturer who has seen more than its fair share of problems.
The HTC One was always the outsider, designed to take on the might of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 as well as the iPhone 5. It’s a competition we wouldn’t have laid money on, especially the fact that the HTC One competes well against all of them.
The aluminium case, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7Ghz quad-core processor, the 2Gb of RAM and the new camera setup makes it a very compelling case indeed. Not only does it look and feel good, it weighs less than 140g too. However, none of that comes close to being the strongest selling point of this phone, that’s the screen.
The screen of the HTC One is one that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a 4.7” full HD display with 468ppi. The colour is amazing, contrast is just about perfect and the reproduction is simply great. We said before, this screen is our benchmark and we’re saying it again.
The inclusion of the Sense 5 UI running over Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2 makes it as easy to use as it is pretty to look at. That’s why demand for this phone is so high. You lot seem to recognise quality when you see it, even if you haven’t considered HTC a contender before.
So, from mid-May, that’s now, HTC are ramping up production of their flagship phone to meet demand. While that won’t help you if you’re in the queue, it will help you if you’re still on the fence or are waiting for your current contract to end before getting one. When you do, you know where to come to find the best price for your existing one!
Filed under: Mobilephone News - by Paul Haldane @ 17:39
In more OS update news, Microsoft have released their plans for an OS update later this year too. The Windows Phone blog says there is an update coming soon, but that it wasn't Windows Phone 8.1.
Microsoft’s Michael Stroh added this little bit of news on the blog after extolling the virtues of the new Nokia Lumia 925, a phone we covered last week.
"The new update, which is expected to start rolling out to existing Windows Phone 8 phones later this summer, brings back support for FM radio (we heard you!) and makes the Data Sense feature of Windows Phone 8 available for more carriers to offer," he said. "The update also makes it easier to select, download, and pin tunes in Xbox Music and improves the accuracy of song info and other metadata—something I know music fans will appreciate."
The blog post also notes hundreds of other small quality improvements and compatibility with Google’s new CalDAV and CardDAV. The latter will ensure the OS will continue to play nicely with Google apps.
With the Windows OS slowly gaining ground and having overtaken BlackBerry in the OS market share race, it is time to add a little more refinement to the system. With Android polishing Key Lime Pie, Apple working on iOS 7 and BlackBerry soon to be releasing BB10.2, it’s high time Microsoft gave us a release too.
It’s a relentless race to offer more, better and faster and one, for once, that works in the consumers favour.
How useful UK users of Windows phones will find the FM radio and Data Sense is up for debate. However, the increased accuracy of music metadata and the host of smaller fixes and improvements to the OS should make all our Windows Phone lives that little bit easier.
While we have yet to see any major issues with Windows Phone 8, there is always room for improvement and hopefully this is the first of many. If this isn't Windows Phone 8.1, then we have even more to look forward to this year!
Do you use a Windows Phone? Are you a convert or just wanted a Lumia? What are your impressions of the OS? Tell us about your experiences below!
Filed under: Mobilephone News - by Paul Haldane @ 17:31