Mobile Fun release Desk Genie

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Desk Genie

This is an innovative desk stand for your phone.  As well as including an 8-in-1 memory card reader, a 2 port USB hub, having a variety of connectors to charge your phone, and running solely off USB power, it also claims to be able to hold any phone in portrait or landscape formats without any additional support!

The Desk Genie is apparently made from a special rubberised material, which is strong enough to hold an phone in portrait or landscape positions, and should even still hold the phone in place when the phone is vibrating, yet should leave no sticky residue on the phone.  For only £15 (+ delivery) this looks an interest device, if only to hold your phone at the right angle for use on your desk, let alone all the additional properties it has.

Mobile Fun do warn that with time the rubbery surface’s ability to hold a phone will fade as dust collects on the surface, but a quick wipe with clean water should restore it back to normal.

As for those mobile phones charging connectors: iPhone, Nokia (both 2mm and 3.5mm), Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG are all supported, as are the miniUSB and microUSB formats (the latter being the standard connector for many manufacturers moving forward).   This power connector does not use either of the USB ports on the device, although it would appear at first glance that this is a power only connector, so it may not be possible to sync and charge many devices (unless you use Bluetooth to sync between the device and your PC/Mac).

You can see more of the Desk Genie at Mobile Fun.


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Nimbuzz launch calling to compete with Skype

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Nimbuzz Logo

To compete against SkypeOUT, Nimbuzz have now launched their equivalent service, NimbuzzOut, which offers the ability to make international calls at a discounted rate.  In a similar style, you need to TopUp your account with credit, and are then able to make cheaper calls to landlines and mobile phones.  For example, a call to a French landline would cost €0.0135 per minute, and the same cost to a US landline too.  In comparison, SkypeOUT will charge€ 0.020 per minute for the same countries.

It should be said that Nimbuzz offers US$ or EUR€ pricing, not GB£, so you will always have some element of currency conversion in there.

NimbuzzOut is currently available on the Symbian and iPhone / iPod Touch clients, and will be rolled out to the other platforms in time.

More information is avaialble from Nimbuzz from their website here.


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Mobile Wi-Fi device coming to 3UK

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

3UK Mobile Wi-Fi Device

This is a picture of the new 3UK Mobile Wi-Fi device from Huawei, which is going to be available on 3UK soon.  Given the removal of the Huawei-specific D100 Router from the 3Store, and the move back to ZTE USB Mobile Broadband modems, we did wonder whether 3UK might be planning such a device.  It’s only 86 x 45 x 10mm (smaller than many mobile phones) and will allow “several” devices to connect to the 3G connection via Wi-Fi.  We understand “several” means 5 devices, although whether 5 all actively connecting at once will overload the 3G connection is another matter.

It can also be connected via USB directly to a computer, but early Huawei branded versions did not allow simultaneous connection via USB and Wi-Fi, so when connected via USB, these devices no longer shared the connection; we are not aware of whether or not this issue has been resolved.  You do, however, get access to an up to 7.2mbps down, 5.6mbps up connection when directly connected via USB.

Unlike the D100 Router, this device does have a built in 1500 mAh battery, and will recharge via USB, with up to 5 hours access.

We’ve seen this unit referred to as a MiFi device, which is actually a product brand name of a competitor, and not a generic name for these devices, but nonetheless, it looks very interesting, and we’re hoping to get a review unit soon.


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Ofcom release 3G coverage maps

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Ofcom

Ofcom, the mobile network regulator, have released their own 3G coverage maps, based on data supplied to them by the networks for 31st December 2008.  This gives you a good comparison between the networks on who and where you will find 3G networks.  Now, the biggest thing to remember is that in the areas of white on the maps, you may still have coverage, but only at 2G or 2.5G.  These maps at least give you a good guide to where you can be sure you definitely won’t be getting those nice fast download speeds.

Head here for the maps.

Update: Another option for UK coverage maps is GSMWorld, which can be accessed here.


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Want to share your Mobile Broadband…?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

3 D100 Wi-Fi router

We first covered the Huawei D100 Router as sold by 3UK earlier this year, but we now see it’s been removed from the 3Store (most likely due to 3UK concentrating on the ZTE USB Modem right now, which is not compatible with the Huawei).  Well, courtesy of Hot UK Deals, we’ve been informed that Carphone Warehouse are currently selling their stock of the 3 branded device at half price, which is £34.25.  That’s a very good price for the device, although it is limited to only working with 3UK, and, as already stated, needs a Huawei 3UK USB Modem to work.  However, once you have that, it will offer you the ability to share your 3UK Mobile Broadband connection with upto 4 other devices via Wi-Fi as long as you have access to a power socket.

Given that this does have these limitations, what are the options for others?  Well, the Solwise 3G Router may help out; although it’s designed as an ADSL router, it has a 3G failback capability (ie when the ADSL line is down, it will use a 3G USB Modem instead).  Now, because this isn’t being sold by any particular network, it’s not limited to one mobile network, and also supports a whole range of USB Modems, including a number of ZTE models as well.  It can even support some mobile phones being connected via USB if you have one lying around spare.

As the Solwise has both an ethernet port and Wi-Fi capability, it can act as a nice portable connection sharing device too. The Solwise is a little more expensive at £60 though (although for another few pounds you can get a Euro plug adaptor for the same device given you the ability to use it across Europe; although use a local SIM or be prepared for some horrendous data roaming charges!).

Both these devices still have one problem; the USB Mobile Broadband Dongle has to be physically located close to the main unit (and hence a power socket); if this location does not have the best 3G signal, then you should head over to Mobile Fun, who sell external aerials and signal boosters for the majority of USB Modems on the market (and have some generic ones for those without external antenna sockets).  Finally, it’s not clear if Carphone Warehouse are selilng the Black or White variant (or if you get a choice when ordering online), so it may be prudent to go to your local store if you are looking for a particular colour.

We should say that T-Mobile have a similar unit, but it’s only available with a new Mobile Broadband contract, so if you already have a device, there’s no wasy way of purchasing one…


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3UK launch SIM Zero

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

3 logo

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

We’re not quite sure what to make of this, but we are certainly intrigued; it’s not Pay As You Go, it’s not a traditional contract option, and it’s not quite a 30-day rolling contract either…

3UK will, from tomorrow, start selling the SIM Zero contract from their 3Store.  Having already released a £9 per month contract, and then networks such as Orange released a £5 per month contract with a 3 year (yes, really!) minimum contract, and now 3UK have set the ultimate challenge, a contract with zero cost per month.  Of course, they aren’t the first to try this, with a similar pricing model having been available from Virgin for a while…

It features the same basic prices as the PAYG option, and includes many of the same facilities, but I guess the difference is that instead of needing to constantly topup your phone, you will simply get a bill at the end of each billing cycle with the costs you have spent.

So, calls will cost 20p per minute, texts 10p each, it’s 30p per mb of data (no word if you can add the standard Internet Addon though, giving upto 2GB of data for £5 per month), and like many SIM-only deals, will come with a 1 month minimum term and then 1 month’s notice to cancel (which makes it a minimum 2 months term to us…)

Of course, as this is 3UK, there are a whole range of additional benefits too; Free SkypeSkype calls and messages (upto 4,000 minutes and 10,000 messages per month), Free Windows Live Messenger (also 10,000 messages per month), Free voicemail in the UK; in fact the only difference between this and a more expensive contract from 3UK is there are no inclusive 3UK3UK minutes included.

This looks like it might be a very interesting option for those who want a contract, but are not heavy users, and with the inclusion of the Skype Free Calls Forever, it may well suit many people; for those that don’t already have a compatible phone (especially for the Skype part of the deal, 3UK are happy for you to buy a PAYG phone like the INQ1 or Skypephone S2 and use this SIM in the phone).

More details will be available from the 3Store tomorrow when this tariff formally launches.

Update: 3UK have confirmed that the standard £5 per month 2GB Internet data Addon is available on this tariff.


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Want to access GMail from your INQ1 phone?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

INQ1

INQ1 Silver £15 per Month, Free 3 to 3 calls at 3M

INQ, the makers of the INQ1 phone sold by 3UK have reminded us that it’s possible to access your Google Mail (GMail) account directly on the INQ1 phone.  Actually, it’s possible to access a whole raft of mail accounts on the phone, but INQ have pointed us to 2 different ways of accessing GMail (which, to be fair, apply to quite a large range of the 3 UK mobile phones).

Email on 3; the first method is to use the Email on 3 solution.  If you have this installed on your phone, simply launch it, and select to add a new email account, and there will be an option for Google Mail

GMail itself; the other option is to download the Google Mail client, which is accessible on the INQ1 via Switcher > Google > Google Mail

Of course, it’s best to have internet access enabled on your phone, which is possible whether you have a PAYG or contract version at £5 per month / 30 days), as this will help to get the most out of this phone.  Finally, don’t forget that the INQ1 is a Skype enabled handset, and hence, even without a data tariff, you can use it to access Skype for the Skype Free Calls Forever promotion.


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BillMonitor approved by OfCom

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

BillMonitor

We first covered Bill Monitor here, and since then they have made a number of updates to their free service, which looks at your mobile phone bill (you can either enter the overall details manually, or for some networks, it can access your last few recent online bills automatically).  These updates include keeping their tariff data up to date, improving their roaming options, and a website redesign.

However, the big news is that they are the first (and currently only) website approved by OfCom as a Price Comparison Calculator for mobile phone bills.  We really like BillMonitor, and recommend everyone should use it once in a while to check two things:

  • Firstly, whether you could save money by changing to a new network; this is especially key when coming towards the end of your contract tie-in period.
  • Secondly, often the mobile networks will introduce better rates, but rarely move customers onto these newer rates automatically; by using BillMonitor, you may be able to save money (or, if still in contract; get more for the same amount of money).

Well done to the guys at BillMonitor for their accreditation by OfCom (you can read OfCom’s statement regarding BillMonitor here).


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OfCom announce new 0870 rules for operators

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

OfCom

Telecom operators may not like it, but OfCom has just announced a new set of rules for 0870 numbers (which, many years ago, would be included in voice minute bundles, but haven’t been for some time).  Of course, we say, simply head off to http://saynoto08070.com and find out an equivalent number that can come out of your minutes, but OfCom new rules, which come into effect in August, may make it a little better for you…

Firstly, they are trying to encourage all telecom providers (of fixed and mobile phones) to include the minutes anyway, and not separate them out (they are also hoping to reduce the cost of calling these numbers).  But for those that do separate them out (and charge for them), the customers must clearly know how much they are going to be charged; if the call will be charged at above normal geographic rates, then there are now strict rules on the how prices must be publicised on promotional material and at point of sale areas.

OfCom state “Under the new requirements CPs [Communication Providers] will be obliged to include a prominent statement in advertising/promotional material whether or not 0870 calls are included in inclusive packages and bundles. One other new requirement is that CPs will only be permitted to refer to 0870 calls as ‘national rate’ in their advertising and promotional material and retail bills where their 0870 and national geographic prices are the same as for geographic calls”.

This should hopefully bode well, and we’re hoping that many of the mobile networks include 0870 in their voice bundles again.


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last.fm to kill off mobbler?

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

mobbler Screenshot

We’ve been a big fan of mobbler, the Symbian S60 client for last.fm, which allows you to scrobble your tracks (record what you have listened to), and also access and play last.fm radio streams.  However, this week, last.fm have made two statements which may not help mobbler

Firstly, due to the lack of an established ad business, last.fm have found it difficult to find advertisers to cover their costs outside of 3 main countries, UK, USA and Germany, and hence all subscribers outside of those countries will need to subscribe and pay €3 per month for access what will remain the “free” service here in the UK.

However, the key issue is their second announcement, which signals the end of 3rd party clients using unofficial API calls to access the streamed music.  These old APIs will be switched off (potentially by the end of next week) and new music streaming APIs will be used instead.  These new APIs are available to developers to use within their clients, so, unlike some news reports, last.fm are not preventing 3rd party clients from working, simply ensuring that they use the right code to access the streams.  There are 2 key points:

Firstly, only subscribers will be able to stream music, unless the developer of the client enters into a specific deal with last.fm

Secondly, last.fm have said that their license prevents the streams being streamed to mobile phones.

Ironically, further clarification seemed to have muddied the water even further.  last.fm have stated that this decision is not “set in stone” (which seems bizarre if it’s a licensing issue).  Also, last.fm official Android and iPhone/iPod Touch clients do not seem to be affected by this.  Finally, they have confirmed that the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, as it is does not contain a SIM card, is not affected, and the 3rd party client Vagalume will still be ok (presumably if it supports the new API).  What’s odd about this is that a common method of connecting the N810 to the Internet is via Bluetooth and a mobile phone, so ironically, you will be able to listen to last.fm on an N810 whilst out and about, but won’t be able to listen via your Nokia E71 using Wi-Fi at home (as it’s a device issue, not the actual network connection)…

last.fm need to reconsider this; limiting music streaming to paying subscribers should help ensure a steady revenue model to cover the costs of paying royalties, and allow all users to continue to enjoy the music they want to listen to.

It should be pointed out that there are other 3rd party clients affected, the Pocket Scrobbler on Windows Mobile and FlipSide on the BlackBerry will also be affected.  However, neither the Vodafone S60 last.fm client nor 3UK‘s INQ1 phone will be affected, as these only supported scrobbling (which remains free and unchanged) and had no music streaming support.

Update: last.fm have now stated “I’m working with third-party mobile client authors at the moment, and I’m fairly confident that we can allow them to use the new API in mobile mode for subscribers” and “I am working to make sure that existing mobile clients like Mobbler will get grandfathered in”, and last.fm have re-confirmed that only paying subscribers will be able to stream music; why they didn’t simply state this, along with the change in API we don’t know, instead of announcing and now, in essence, withdrawing their statements over mobile phone streaming.


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