I can’t believe I fell for it.
I can’t believe I fell for it.
Do you live in the United States?
Do you own a cell phone?
Are you currently under, or have you ever been under, a cell phone contract?
If you answered yes to all three of those questions, do yourself a favor and read this article by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. Or if you don’t want to, or don’t have the time to read the article, just watch Walt’s video of it; the video is basically the same content.
The gist of what Walt is trying to say is this: the current state of cell phone service is broken. The cell phone carrier companies (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.) have too much control. Here are three examples of the carriers’ having too much control.
1. When you become a customer to one of these carriers, you have to sign a long-term commitment, usually a 2-year commitment, which has pricey consequences if you choose to break it.
2. When you become a customer to one of these carriers, you have a small selection of phones to choose from, and each phone is provided by the carrier itself.
3. When you get that phone, you can barely customize the phone to your liking beyond choosing a color scheme and ringtone.
Mossberg gives a careful analogy between cell phones and computers, explaining that we don’t put up with the tight-grip of control when it comes to computer, television, or land-based telephone service (Would you ever consider buying a computer that let you customize the desktop wallpaper and the startup sound, but did NOT let you install any applications?).
So, America, why do we put up with this bullying? Most of you would probably answer, “I don’t have a choice. I have to give in to the companies.” And you’d be right. These companies have too much control. Mossberg writes that there are 2 ways to break the control. The first one is mostly beyond our control: government. If the government mandates a change, we will eventually be freed from the carriers’ grips, but that would take several years.
Walt’s second suggestion, however, is what I am interested in: Disruptive innovation. What is disruptive innovation? Let me paint you a picture.
Drivers: What happens when an accident causes a stretch of highway to shut down or slow to a halt? People find a different, faster route.
Music-lovers: What happens when CD prices become outrageous? People learn to share music over P2P networks for free.
Geeks: What happens when a router somewhere on the Internet goes down? Packets find another route that works.
Disruptive innovation is what happens when large numbers of people (or data packets :-D) are forced into something outrageously inconvenient. Disruptive innovation changes the status quo. It’s happened dozens of times in the past, and it will happen again.
I know that disruptive innovation will eventually cure this disease under which we currently live, but what can we do now? The only thing I can think of is to stop signing these commitments. I urge you, dear reader, not to sign any more contracts with the phone companies. They will try to convince you to upgrade your phone and renew a 2-year commitment but please don’t do it.
It’s too bad I’m trapped for one more year in my contract with T-Mobile.
For a quick recap: Last Monday (June 11th) at WWDC 2007 (Worldwide Developer’s Conference), Apple announced that the iPhone will not have an SDK (Software Development Kit). This means that developers will not be able to write software that runs natively on the iPhone.
Apple announced that instead of an SDK, they’ve brought Safari to the iPhone. Safari is a Mac Web Browser (recently Safari was released for Windows). This means that developers WILL be able to write software that runs in a browser, that will in turn run on the iPhone.
This announcement was met with a plethora of boos, like this post from Gizmodo:
Fast And Furious: No iPhone SDK Means No Killer iPhone Apps
The Digg article referencing that Gizmodo post has several comments expressing the Digg crowd’s sentiment:
“Thank you Mr. Steve Jobs for helping me make my decision to buy a PS3.” [link]
“That ‘SDK’ for the iPhone is a slap in the face to developers.” [link]
[Steve Jobs] showed a lot of disrespect to all those people who came out there hoping to hear something exciting they could work on. He basically told a bunch developers waiting to build great apps to go build a html page. [link]
Steve Jobs should have listened to Ballmer. “DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS!” [link]
It’s clear that many people were expecting Apple to release an SDK like Microsoft does for the Windows Mobile platform.
Months ago, when I first heard that Apple would not release an SDK, I agreed with these quotes. I thought the iPhone would be a joke, that it would flop, and that it would be undeserving of being called a “smartphone.”
But after learning that the iPhone’s Safari will be able to run full-fledged Ajax applications, I’ve completely changed my mind.
Honestly, why is it such a bad move on Apple’s part? As a developer, I am much more willing to write a web application, which I have been doing for a living for the past two years, than learn another programming language so I can write applications that run ONLY on the iPhone. If you are a developer, which would you rather do? Perhaps Steve Jobs is thinking about “developers developers developers.”
Software can be written right now that would run on the iPhone at release. Dozens of existing web applications will run on the iPhone at release.
My only gripe with Apple’s decision here is this: I’ve always been reluctant to purchase a mobile data plan (they’re too expensive). If all my apps must be web apps, and I don’t have access to the web, it would seem that I’d be completely unable to run anything. So I’d be forced into a data plan.
Didn’t Google JUST release a product that helps take web applications offline? Yes, Google Gears promises to do just that. Currently, Google Gears is available for Firefox and Internet Explorer. But if you look at the fine print:
With Google Gears, it will be much easier to develop web applications that don’t require a constant internet connection. I think this will be an awesome partnership that helps broaden the possibilities for mobile applications (at least for those of us who might be without an unlimited data plan).
Just one example is Google Reader. I’ve always wanted to be able to use Google Reader on my mobile phone while offline. Then after reading some of my feeds, to be able to sync back up, marking as read the feeds I’d seen, starring the feeds I’d starred, and keeping unread the feeds I hadn’t yet seen.
With iPhone Safari + Google Gears, things like this don’t seem too far off.
Yesterday, I had an ultimate Frisbee game scheduled for 6:30pm. It was my third pre-season game. Our first two games took place at “Kennet fields.” For some reason, I thought that our third game was scheduled to take place at “Stetson fields.”
So it’s 6:15 and we pull in to the Stetson Middle School. There were several sports fields, but every one of them was already occupied by either softball players or lacrosse players.
We spent at least 20 minutes driving and walking around the school looking for our fellow ultimate Frisbee players. No luck.
It would have been the perfect time for me to make use of my mobile phone’s Internet capabilities. My phone has a 3-inch touch-screen and a slide-out keyboard. Packed in its holster, my mobile phone should have been ready to rumble, bridging me to the Internet so I could get help.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a data plan. Why? They’re just too expensive!
Am I just being too cheap or are these plans still too expensive for casual use? I would love to check my Gmail, read my Google Reader feeds, navigate Google Maps, have access to my Google Calendar, browse Digg, and otherwise just surf the Internet, all on the go.
My phone allows it (I have the T-Mobile MDA).
I definitely could benefit from the use of it (like yesterday).
It’s just too expensive! My phone bill is currently about $80 per month, and adding a data plan would add $30. I just can’t justify paying $30 per month for this. Am I alone here?
Why isn’t the cost of these data plans coming down? The iPhone is rumored to have a $30 data plan. Cingular‘s data plans range from $35-$45. Verizon’s data plans range from $30-$40. Sprint‘s data plans range from $40-$60.
Update. Turns out, Cingular has a pretty nice plan at $20 (Unlimited MEdia Net Data and 200 Text/Video/Picture Messages). Thanks for the heads up, readers!
Maybe it’s just me, but I won’t be adding a data plan to my account until the cost comes way down. I might consider it at $15 per month. At $10 per month, I’d switch carriers to get the mobile access to the web. But for now, I’ll have to do without.
The official Google Blog today has a story about a new phone from Cingular, the BlackBerry 8800. This phone has GPS, so when using Google Maps for Mobile, the map automatically centers around your current location, with a blue flashing dot “exactly where you are!”
That’s all really exciting, but does anyone else find it weird that The Official Google Blog is basically running an advertisement for Cingular (AT&T) that screams “Switch to Cingular!”
And what about Apple’s iPhone being available only for Cingular customers? Probably more blatant than Google, Apple is screaming, “Switch to Cingular!”
To me it’s awfully mysterious that these guys are pushing consumers to switch to a specific carrier. Do Google and/or Apple have any kind of partnership with Cingular?
Maybe it’s just that Cingular is the carrier that’s pushing the hardest to make these kinds of partnerships. Whatever the case, other carriers (T-Mobile, I’m looking at you) need to step it up or they’ll start seeing mass exodus.
Has anyone been successful writing a J2ME application and getting it to work on a T-Mobile MDA?
Google today released Google Maps for Mobile as a Windows Mobile standalone application, not a Java midlet. It has GPS support, which is very cool for those with a GPS-enabled phone.
So far, in addition to this release, Google has released Google Maps as a Java midlet, and a Gmail app as a Java midlet. All of Google’s other mobile offerings are in the form of mobile-friendly websites, such as Google Reader Mobile and Google News Mobile.
Update: Google released a new version of Gmail Mobile, and this new version does not work on the T-Mobile MDA with the JVM offered here. The old version of Gmail Mobile can be downloaded here, and I confirm that that version works.
Today, Google released Gmail Mobile and the application is AMAZING. It works on many phones without hassle. But some phones, like the T-Mobile MDA (HTC Wizard) require a little trickery. This post will show you how to get the app running perfectly.
Before I go any further, here’s the disclaimer: I make no guarantees that this will work for you. All I claim is that it worked for me!
The reason Gmail Mobile requires a little extra tinkering to get it to work on the MDA is that the MDA doesn’t come with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The JVM is what allows you to install .jad files, and Gmail Mobile is a .jad file.
All you need are:
Here is the 5-step process to get the JVM for the MDA and get the app running on your phone:
That should do the trick. If you have any questions, post ’em in the comments and I’d be happy to help ya.
If this story helped you out, Digg It!
Lastly, for those of you who are a little wary of this JVM and want to know more about where it came from, the site I originally got it from is called XDA-Developers. Check ’em out.
You can now use text messages to access Google Calendar. Simply send messages to GVENT or 48368. The following commands are available:
You can also add events to your calendar by sending a message along the lines of:
Lunch with Sandra at Java Joe’s 12:30 pm Saturday
Google’s SMS service will interpret your event and add it to your calendar. To use any of these queries, you have to have your cell phone registered to your calendar. You can do that in the calendar’s settings under notifications.
I wish they provided a way to retrieve the scheduled events for a specified day. A query like get 06/15/2006 would also be very useful. Oh well! I’m happy for the three commands they did provide. I’m sure I’ll be using them some point.