3UK confirm the HTC Desire

Friday, February 19th, 2010

HTC Desire

We’ve received confirmation from 3UK that they will also be selling the HTC Desire (along with Orange and T-Mobile who have already announced their plans to sell the phone).  This is good news for 3UK as part of their plans to expand their Android range to over 6 devices by June, although at this stage it’s not clear if they will only be selling the HTC Desire, or whether they will be carrying the HTC Legend too.

As with all other 3UK devices, it will feature Skype on 3 (Free Skype Forever), Email on 3, Free Windows Live Messenger, and will also have the Spotify client installed too.

Although 3UK have only formally stated “Spring 2010”, we understand it should be available in April 2010.


Nokia 5230 now on 3UK, but not necessarily good value

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Nokia 5230 White

3UK announced on Friday that they are now selling the Nokia 5230 on their network.  As it’s a Symbian S60 5th Edition phone, it allows 3UK to promote more than just the basic phone features; as well as the typical Skype on 3, Windows Live Messenger, and Email on 3, 3UK have said the phone will ship with a Twitter client (it will be interesting to see which client they have selected for this), an integrated Facebook application, and it also supports the Spotify Symbian client allowing the use of Spotify (in case you want to use Spotify Premium on your 3UK mobile phone, you can add the £9.99 Spotify Premium to your mobile phone bill; see here for more details, although a minimum 6 month subscription will be required).  Oh, and if you are using Spotify on your Symbian phone, Spotify have recently released a minor upgrade for their client, which you will want to download from here.

Although it’s available on a contract, it’s also available on PAYG for £150, which sounds like a good deal…

Except, as raised by others (see Abul’s post here), you can buy the same phone SIM-free and network unlocked for £100 direct from Carphone Warehouse!  3UK have explained that Carphone Warehouse simply have better buying power (with their ability to buy the phones for sale across the whole of Europe), and hence can afford to sell the phone cheaper.

Either way, if you are looking for a nice Symbian phone (albeit without WiFi) which includes a GPS (and hence the new free Ovi Maps), in either Black or White, then head to 3UK or Carphone Warehouse.


3UK announce a billion minutes

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

3 logo

INQ £15 Texter 18month contract

A billion minutes may not sound a lot to most telecoms companies, but 3UK have just passed a billion minutes of Skype calls on their network!  That’s an impressive figure.  The billionth minute was made by Stephen Timms (Minister for Digital Britain) to the CEO of Merlin (a medical charity).  It’s nice to see that 3UK have donated a small number of 3 SkypePhones to Merlin to allow them to communicate whilst they are out in Haiti.

This is an impressive figure, and in fact, 3UK have said that they are handled over 3 million minutes of Skype calls are handled every day!


Twitter free on 3UK

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

3 logo

INQ £15 Texter 18month contract

3UK want to promote the use of Twitter, and so for the whole of February and March, access to Twitter will be free!  What exactly is and isn’t included?  Well, 3UK have stated that access to Twitter for tweeting messages and pictures will be free of charge, whether you are accessing Twitter via the mobile browser, or using the integrated client on devices such as the INQ Mini 3G, Sony Ericsson T715, or even the INQ Chat 3G.  If you already pay for Internet access on your mobile phone, then accessing twitter will not come out of your internet data allowance.

Although this is only a 2 month period, this means that right now you can use Skype, Twitter and Windows Live Messenger for free on your device.  As always, 3UK seem to be pushing the boundaries on what could and should be included within the contract, and we hope this promotion can be extended in the long term.


INQ Chat 3G Review

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

INQ Chat & INQ Mini

In terms of the majority of the software on the phone, it’s very similar to the INQ Mini 3G that I covered here and here, so what’s different about the Chat, what’s good, and what’s bad?

Well, that QWERTY keyboard is the main physical difference, and it is a very nice keyboard.  It’s similar to the Symbian QWERTY layout, and just slightly different to the BlackBerry layout (the Symbol and Shift keys are reversed compared to a BlackBerry, which makes it a challenge to get used to if you are a long term BlackBerry user).

A GPS is the other key difference to the INQ Mini 3G, and to be honest, it sometimes took it’s time to get a fix, but generally worked ok.  The included Google Maps worked well with the GPS.  Unlike Symbian devices, there is no configuration control over the GPS settings, so no facility for changing the Positioning Server over to Google to help speed up the initial fix.  One downside of Google Maps was it was expecting numeric key input, and that meant pressing the Symbol and the relevant key to emulate a number; it was a shame it wasn’t aware of the QWERTY and mapped keys allowing a single key press for functions.  As with all Brew OS devices, there is no cell ID location function within Google Maps, which limits you to waiting for the GPS to find a fix; if you are used to a device that can also use cell ID location information, then this seems to impact the fast “locate me” type functions when you know roughly where you are and just want to seatch for something local to your position…

In general terms, the integration of the Social Networking apps remains a key selling point of this phone, bringing together Skype, Facebook and Twitter, and linking the first two into the Contact List too.  Personally, it felt like the Twitter app was more of an add-on, with less integration than the other two, and no facilities for downloading contacts or avatars like the Facebook and Skype apps offer.

It’s nice to see the INQ Hub included as standard on the INQ Chat 3G (see here for how to access from the INQ Mini 3G), and overall the phone seemed a nice device.  For a device which can be described as a smartphone (although only just, given it’s limited to Java apps) the battery lasted well over a day, and unless you are using Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live Messenger and Skype constantly, should easily last two days.  With all 3 apps turned on, it still managed to last over a full working day, which is certainly a key timeframe.

Compared to Symbian, the lack of worrying about Access Points and just letting the device go ahead and connect to the Internet for you was a nice refreshing change, although for many it may fell like a level of control has been taken away from you.  Of course, with no WiFi support, the only option is 3G connectivity, which helps with the simplification.

So, overall, you may think my opinion is that this is a good, cheap phone worthy of consideration…? Well, I’m afraid it wasn’t as perfect as I would have liked…  Firstly, start running all those Social Networking apps together, and the phone often freezes when one of them is performing an update in the background, which can leave the phone locked for a minute or two, and although it doesn’t come with the Social Networking support out of the box (yet), buying a Nokia E63 and adding Gravity (plus the 3UK specific Skype and WLM apps) gets you very close, with the additional benefit of a true multitasking OS, and WiFi support too (although no GPS).  If it wasn’t for the device feeling so underpowered, then I would be supporting it as a worthy device, but it did occasionally leave me very frustrated.

So, if you don’t want to run all the Social Networking apps all the time,but want a device with a QWERTY keyboard, and the ability to use your favourite Social Networking sites out of the box, then certainly go and try out the INQ Chat 3G; you may be pleasantly surprised at the functionality on offer given the price, and hopefully a firmware update, or software updates will resolve the responsiveness issues I found.

As always, thanks to 3mobilebuzz for the loan of the device, and if you want more information, or to purchase an INQ Chat 3G, then head to the 3Store to see more.


Truphone release new Android client

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Truphone v3 on Android

Truphone have released v3.0 of their Android client, which now offers Wi-Fi calling, so as well as other Truphone users, you can also call Skype and Google Talk users free of charge.  The Tru Friends feature allows you to see whether your Truphone contacts are online.  Also, Truphone have improved the IM facilities for all the platforms they support (Skype, Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo, MSN and even Twitter).

There are a couple of gotchas though; you’ll need to uninstall the old version first, and Truphone are currently only supporting HTC devices (G1, Magic, Hero), but they are planning support for the Motorola Milestone and the new Google Nexus One soon.


Skype coming to a TV near you…

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Skype Logo

Both LG and Panasonic are working with Skype to produce the capability of accessing Skype directly from within your TV.  Although it’s likely you’ll need to purchase an additional TV webcam (which will feature the camera and microphone), both manufacturers will be offering Skype within their Internet-connected TV ranges, allowing you to make and receive calls (and even make HD video calls if you have sufficient bandwidth).  It should be noted you need the webcam even for just audio calls, as the TVs won’t ship with microphones, so the only microphone available will be from the combined webcam / microphone unit.


3UK now selling refurbished handsets

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

3 logo

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

In a move said to be supporting the “Make do and Mend” movement, 3UK have announced that they are now selling refurbished handsets, which currently includes the Skypephone S2, the White Skypephone, and the LG KF310, although this list will vary as stock changes over time.

If you are interested, head to the 3UK Refurbished Handsets page on the 3UK website.


Mobile VOIP client updates

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Nimbuzz Twitter

It’s been a busy few days.  Firstly, Nimbuzz announced a fairly major upgrade within their client such that they now have much better twitter support within their application (shown above).  The full feature list for this new version includes:

  • Full Twitter client – Timelines, Tweet, DM, Searches, Trends, Profiles and much more!!
  • Kinetic scroll – available for Symbian 5th edition touch screen phones  (e.g. Nokia 5800, Nokia N97, N97 mini, Nokia 5730, Nokia  X6 )
  • Chat History – see all your past conversations
  • Pop-Up notification – for new chats and other events whenever Nimbuzz runs in the background
  • DTMF tones in calls – now you can press 1 in a call
  • NimbuzzOut rate calculator – see the rates for calling to different countries
  • Upgraded UI –  new chat screen layout & contact list layout

Also, NokiAAddict wrote a handy guide to setting up and configuring the Nimbuzz client to support a SIP VOIP account, which may be useful for those trying Nimbuzz for the first time, but want the additional benefit of standard SIP support, and as NokiAAddict are UK based, the guide shows using a UK VOIP provider.  See here for their article.

Then, Skype announced the launch of their Symbian client entering Beta for a select range of handsets (S60 3rd Edition FP1 and FP2, but no S60 5th Edition touch devices at this stage).  This includes:

  • Free Skype-to-Skype calling
  • Call phones with Skype credits or subscription
  • Receive calls on your Online Number
  • Instant Messaging
  • Group conversations
  • File sending and receiving

Now, remember that this Skype client uses the 3G / WiFi connection to actually make the call, Skype are recommending users have an unlimited data contract, and of course, for 3UK users, you will still be better using the slightly more limited Skype for 3 application, as this uses the 3G voice infrastructure for the call, and doesn’t come out of your data allowance.  More information can be found here and the user guide can be found here.

Finally, Truphone have just announced a major design update to their iPhone application.  This new version includes:

  • New look and feel
  • Streamlined sign-up
  • In app guided tour
  • Tru Friends presence
  • Speaker phone support
  • Improved IM and chat with multi-chat switcher
  • Full Twitter integration

Truphone on iPhone

What’s certainly clear is that all these 3 companies are innovating in the mobile space, and offering their customers alternatives to traditional mobile calling plans.


Truphone updates

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Truphone iPhone v3

I met up with James Body of Truphone last night, and had a nice long chat about where Truphone and other companies are going in the next few months.  However, the exciting solution is the Truphone Local Anywhere solution, that I’ve talked about before, should launch early next year.  Because Truphone are supplying the SIM which talks to their infrastructure backend, it allows them to provide some nice features you won’t see on other solutions…

When they launch, they will have support for UK and US, but not just will you be able to roam to the US at nice low rates, but on that single SIM, Truphone are able to provision you both a UK phone number and a US phone number (in fact, they will over time be able to provide multiple different country phone numbers on that single SIM).  This is the cool bit; irrespective of where you are located, the SIM will work the same way…

  • If someone in the UK rings your UK number, they will reach you
  • If someone in the US rings your US number, they will reach you
  • There will be clever CLI management functions to allow you some control over the Caller ID presented to your callers as well.

Basically, the person you call doesn’t need to know you are roaming, doesn’t need to know which country you are in, and can also reach you on what is (to them) a local number.  Because your outbound call is being routed through Truphone, the call cost to you is lower than normal roaming rates too.

The benefits of this are items such as:

  • The convenience of a single SIM with local mobile numbers in multiple countries
  • The ability to transfer their current mobile number to Truphone
  • Great value domestic calls, SMS, and data in their home country
  • Low cost international calling to the world from their home country
  • Significant call savings, when visiting other countries
  • The feeling of being local, wherever they go

This is powerful.  For those regular international travellers or even international businessmen, this is a well designed solution.  As we mentioned earlier this year when we first covered Truphone Local Anywhere, data will also be available as part of this solution.

James was sporting (amongst many other handsets) an iPod Touch and a 3UK MiFi (which are being bundled together by 3UK; see here), and was having no problems with utilising the iPod Touch for VOIP calls over 3UK‘s network.  In fact, a solution like Truphone on an iPod Touch, or Skype on an INQ Mini 3G may well suit many families to allow easy and cheap communications between everyone without needing lengthy phone contracts (calls to other Truphone users, like Skype, are free of call costs).

As Truphone have pointed out here, using an iPod Touch over WiFi with the 3UK MiFi allows apps such as Truphone and BBC iPlayer to work as the iPod Touch sees a WiFi connection and is not aware that the traffic will then pass onto a 3G network.  The same trick can be used with the iPhone as well, of course.

Thanks to James to taking time to talk through this and many other matters last night, and here at UK Gadgeteer we look forward to some of the other Truphone developments during 2010.

Update: When first published, this story had a number of technical inaccuracies which have now been addressed; apologies and thanks to Truphone for the corrections.  For more information on Truphone Local Anywhere, head to the Truphone website, or look at this PDF presentation giving the details of the new service.