SMS is the new black

A review of mass market mobile apps

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Pocket Express for Europe

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2009

I’ve not written much up from last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yet, but one piece of news that I did see was that Handmark is launching a European version of its popular Pocket Express application. To reach as much of the European market as possible they’re also making it available in eight languages – English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish.

The application offers, quick, simple, and FREE updates on news, sports, weather, stocks and shares and business story updates. They have relationships with everyone from Reuters and the BBC through to Agence France Press and various other content providers. It’s free to download on http://www.pocketexpress.eu and apparently it even comes with its own Mobile Concierge service.

I haven’t had chance to have a play with the service, but from the images it looks pretty good. It’s available across a range of the most popular Nokia, Sony Ericcson, Motorola and Samsung phones and they will be adding to the list (including Blackberry and iPhone) through the year.

It’s great to see a US player coming into Europe in this way. Many people that have conquered the US, not surprisingly, look at Europe and get scared – small individual markets, different handset preferences and perhaps worst of all a lots of different operators and different languages.

I remember working with the games publisher iFone and the issues they had porting games across a variety of handsets, operators and languages – it’s amazing how many varieties you have to produce when you start to multiply all those variables together.

But Handmark has done and well done to them. As Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark says:

“We have established a popular mobile service millions of people in North America rely on every day for accessing the content they need to stay informed and entertained on their mobile device. We are excited to introduce Pocket Express with local content for mobile users throughout Europe so they too can enjoy a better mobile experience regardless of what language they speak.”

Some of the key elements of the service include:

– More than 300 customisable news categories.

– Up-to-the-minute sports scores and statistics for hundreds of teams and leagues.

– Weather and ski forecasts for virtually any location in the world.

– International stock information from virtually all major North American and European exchanges, including NYSE, NASDAQ, London Stock Exchange, Euronext Paris, and Milan Stock Exchange.

– Real-time flight status and schedules for nearly all major airlines and airports around the world.

– Content provided by the world’s most trusted content providers including the Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Presse (AFP), AccuWeather.com, Dow Jones, and OAG.

– A “Store” that features popular, high-quality games and applications from top-tier developers, including Capcom, I-Play, Reset Games, and Mobifusion, Inc.

– Optimised data usage as it “caches” the information you have already used instead of refreshing all the information.

If you’re interested go to www.pocketexpress.eu to download it.

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Posted in Mobile Content, Travel | Leave a Comment »

New revenues from roaming

Posted by Admin on February 19, 2009

There’s been a lot of talk recently about roaming, in particular talk from the EU about regulating the industry. It’s one of the issues that confuses regular users the most – “I’ve just about worked out how much a call costs when I’m at home – but what if I go abroad?” Of course what happens in that case is that they don’t use their phone or use it as little as possible.

Well, one of the companies I got the chance to talk to this week, Roamware, announced products here in Barcelona that will enable operators to meet the new, proposed EU regulations and create new revenue opportunities.

The regulations include the introduction of tariff transparency, control and safeguard mechanisms for roaming use of data services. Roamware’s new Data Tariff Advisor does all of that and also increase customer retention, increase roaming data usage and reduce fraud.

To my mind the increased revenue bit is fairly simple – if people can be confident of the prices of using their phone abroad (even if it is a little higher than back home) they’ll use it more.

Posted in Travel, Voice | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Get train tickets on your phone

Posted by Admin on February 4, 2009

I missed this the other, but CrossCountryTrains has launched a new service that allows passengers to buy tickets online and have them sent to their phone.

It is initially launching as a trial and will run on the company’s York to Edinburgh route. If your travelling from York to Edinburgh (or back the other way) and want to use the service, it seems pretty easy to do so. Just go to the website (crosscountrytrains.co.uk) as normal to book your ticket and then sign up via the ‘m-ticket’ icon. The train ticket, which includes a security barcode, journey details and your name, will be sent immediately to your mobile phone as an MMS message.

All you have to do then to use the the m-ticket is present your mobile phone at the ticket barrier or to the train manager and show them the barcode ticket.

David Watkin, CrossCountry’s Commercial Director said:

“Our new m-ticket trial is yet another step forward for CrossCountry as it helps simplify the ticket buying process. Early customer feedback has been positive and comments from our customers have been vital to help us improve the service. People now expect to do so much more whilst on the move and we want to meet that expectation. We hope the trial will prove successful to enable us to roll out our m-ticket product across all CrossCountry services.”

It sounds like a great system and there’s nothing worse that faffing around looking for your ticket when you need to leave to get to the station. If you know it’s on your phone you know you won’t leave that behind. I just hope that it isn’t ruined by jobsworth train staff that don’t believe you when you show it to them.

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BA to allow texting on flights

Posted by Admin on January 26, 2009

BA has announced today that it will start to allow people to send text messages and emails on flights, starting in the autumn. The first route that will be enabled for this is the new business-class only London City Airport – New York JFK route.

The technology is provided by Mobile OnAir, the company that is also providing inflight mobile services to carriers including Ryanair and bmi.

A BA spokesman said: “The service is aimed at people in the Square Mile. We believe the route and the new technology will offer an appealing package to business travellers. There are no plans for voice calls at the moment but we will listen to feedback from passengers. The customer is in charge.”

We first reported on bmi’s plans in December and think this is a very good idea.

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Text not talk on planes

Posted by Admin on December 17, 2008

I picked this up from The Times on Monday – it says how the airline Bmi has decided to allow its passengers to send texts whilst aboard flights between Heathrow and Moscow, but not make voice calls. The service is being launched on a six-month trial basis.

Peter Spencer, managing director of Bmi, said: “The trial will help us address some of the social and etiquette issues regarding the use of mobile communications devices inflight and provide valuable customer feedback which will be at the heart of deciding how the service is developed and rolled out across the remainder of our mid haul fleet. We have chosen not to implement the voice call option as part of the trial.”

What this means is that data is connected (so you can browse using your phone or laptop/dongle combination), but the voice is turned off as the airlines are worried about the Dom Joly style “I’M ON THE PLANE” moments.

I think this is a smart move. Apart from Ryanair looking to make yet more money for a shoddy service (apparently some airlines are looking to charge £2 per minute for calls – I assume that would be Ryanair), the main reason for allowing mobile usage on flights I suspect is coming from business travellers wanting to stay ‘connected’. But the main objection is from passengers dreading the thought of being trapped on a plane with hundreds of inane calls to the office going on.

Well, this way they can keep both sets of people happy. Most business users would get more done if they stuck for text and email for the duration of the flight; while non-mobile consumers can keep the peace and quiet.

Posted in Travel | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

mobiEXPLORE – mobile phone travel guide

Posted by Admin on December 9, 2008

A few weeks ago Gideon Multimedia launched a travel guide for mobile phones, called mobiEXPLORE UK. The idea is that it marries the portability of a guide book, but the always-on and always updated aspects of the web. With mobiEXPLORE UK on your phone you can have access to the most current information wherever you are and whenever you need it.

It’s easy to for users to download:

Go to http://uk.mobiexplore.com/ on your computer and follow the three steps on the screen
Or go to www.mobiexplore.net on you mobile phone and click on the link – this will give you the option to download the application there and then without the need for a PC
There is also the option to download the application via an SMS request

And it’s proving to be very popular – in the first 3 weeks since launch, it had been downloaded over 70,000 times.

I asked the European MD of Gideon Multimedia, Vedran Prazen, a few questions about the service:

What cities does it cover?
MobiEXPLRE UK covers over 100 locations across the UK, including London, Manchester and Edinburgh, offering insight into points of interest, local history and facts about the area. For the most popular locations (for example, London and Manchester) you will find more in-depth information including an easy to navigate street map, tube map (for London), information on places of interest such as museums, nature, shopping and spas along with restaurant and accommodations listings.

Is it as detailed as a ‘Rough Guide’ for example?
MobiEXPLORE UK is a mobile application and as such the content has been tailored for mobile use – it would be a bad move to try and squeeze the content of a book onto your mobile phone! But because the application fuses offline and online content users can access restaurants listings offline – and still have the option of receiving up to the minute weather forecasts, news and special offers by going online – something a guidebook is unable to do.

Could my mum use it?
Sure – we designed the application with this audience in mind … if the typical, non-techy Mum can download and use the application with ease then we know we’ve done a good job.

What do you think is the future of mobile applications?
If we are talking features, then essentially the only limit is one’s imagination.

In terms of business models I think the future of mobile applications mirrors that adopted by mobiEXPLORE. Free to the end user but supported by targeted, non intrusive adds and additional services. The key to a successful application is making it useful and relevant – what does it offer and why should people want it? These are the boxes that need to be ticked and this is where I believe the future of mobile applications lies.

Have you got anything else in the pipeline?
Absolutely – the next step for us the ten other mobiEXPLORE projects in Europe along with several other mobile services that are in the very early stages of development…so we are certainly keeping busy!

Posted in Ad-funded, Travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Search for restaurants on your iPhone

Posted by Admin on December 3, 2008

A new app has been launched for the iPhone and iPod touch that gives you access to Zagat Survey’s ratings and reviews of restaurants, hotels etc. It contains details of over 40,000 venues and also includes photos, menus, Google maps, click to call capabilities and functionality that allows users to make instant restaurant reservations.

Zagat Survey has worked with Handmark to create the application and Evan Conway, Handmark Executive Vice President of Marketing says: “ZAGAT TO GO ’09 is a must have mobile app for any frequent business traveler or restaurant enthusiast with an iPhone or iPod touch.”

It’s available from the Apple App Store for $9.99.

Posted in Mobile Search, Travel | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Mobile data costs to be capped

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2008

That was the news from the EU on Friday. The details are that there will be a price cap of 11 euro cents (9p) on texts sent while roaming and a cap of 1 euro per megabyte (83p) on the price of downloading data.

As the French minister for industry and consumer affairs, Luc Chatel, said: “We want to avoid so-called bill shock, when someone gets back from a holiday and gets a nasty surprise.”

Although some people in the industry are complaining, I think that it is only a positive move for both consumers and the industry. Obviously this will reduce the chances of getting home and seeing a mobile bill that is greater than the cost of the rest of the holiday, but perhaps more importantly it reduces the fear of bill-shock.

The reason most people don’t use data services (on holiday or not) is that they don’t know the cost and so they assume that it is expensive. Within most contracts the costs are complicated to work out and so the fear is, ‘if I press this button will I be charged a fortune.’ So to avoid that, they just don’t use them. It is not the cost itself, but the fear that the cost will be huge.

To my mind, it is not that the costs have to come down (although I welcome it if they do), but that have to be more transparent so that I (and everyone else) can easily work out the cost of doing something beyond just talking and sending text messages on the phone.

Now the EU has made this announcement – it is expected to be ratified and come into force in July 2009 – it is up to the operators to do the same for non-roaming charges and make them simple and easy to understand for users.

You can read more from the BBC here.

Posted in Industry, Mobile Broadband, Operators, Travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

BAA launches text service

Posted by Admin on November 25, 2008

If you fly much you’ll know the frustrating period between check-in and departure. For me it seems that the airline either insists on getting everyone to board the plane as soon as they are through passport control; or delays the flight for hours at a time. And because most airports now insist on being ‘silent’, making you constantly check the screesn to see what’s going on with your flight, you can’t relax and have a meal or do a bit of shopping without running to a screen every 5 minutes.

Well, BAA has done something to try and deal with this by offering free SMS updates on the status of your flight if you register online.

Duncan Garrood, commercial director at BAA, said: “This easy-to-use, free text service will enable passengers to relax and enjoy the departure lounge without the need to intermittently check the airport information screens.”

The scheme will be paid for by companies within the terminals using it to send messages about shopping and currency exchange offers. At the moment it’s just for Heathrow, but will be extended into BAA’s other airports in 2009.

I think it’s a great idea. As a consumer, I don’t mind receiving an ad if I know that it pays for a service that I derive benefit from. Of course, like all of these things the proof will be in the pudding and I wonder if people will have a legitimate claim to have missed a flight if they get an erroneous message.

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Boarding Pass by SMS

Posted by Admin on October 24, 2008

A story on Travel News today is announcing that Lufthansa passengers flying from Heathrow can have their boarding pass sent to them by SMS or email. The message contains a barcode that allows the passenger to pass through security.

What a great idea as a way to reduce check-in time (a huge pain in the arse bum) and almost ensure that tickets don’t get lost or forgotten. Everyone carries their phone around with them and of course everyone can work out what to do when they’ve received an SMS from the airline.

I hope more airlines start to do this.

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