June 13, 2006
A ChargeBox is a set of lockers designed to charge batteries of phones and other mobile devices.
Created by British Boxbrands, ChargeBoxes have six lockers with each locker containing four different chargers. The user picks the appropriate locker for their device, opens the door and attaches the device to a charger inside. Payment is then made either with a GBP 1 coin or by sending an SMS to a specific code. Once payment has been received, the door can be locked and charging begins. The device is charged for 40 minutes, or less if a user is in a hurry and doesn’t need a fully charged battery.
The system offers a charging solution that covers 90 percent of handsets on the market, and also replenishes batteries of Blackberries, PDAs, iPods and PSPs. The first machines will be placed in easyInternetcafes, Novotel hotels, Vodafone stores, and various airports. One hundred ChargeBoxes are being launched this month and BoxBrands has ambitions to have over 1000 in the UK by the end of 2006.
In a world that’s addicted to communication, and where mobile devices have reached almost universal adult penetration, drained batteries are a definite chokepoint. While we’ve seen similar examples of public charging points, they’re far from commonplace, and would be a welcome addition to hotels, gyms, airports, train stations, hospitals, coffee shops, cinemas, festivals, shopping malls, etc.
If you’re an vending machine enthusiast, this should be right up your alley. And if you work for a mobile phone network, why not sponsor ChargeBoxes in high footfall locations? Good for your brand, and you’ll benefit directly if consumers are able to spend more time on their phones. 😉
Over at Gizmodo, Brendan Koerner continues his featured series on Low-End Theory. In this installment, Brendan compares the psychology of low end cellphones to that of low end wines in restaurants, and describes what the standard features for a $35 cellphone should be and why.
Over the next few years, social networking on cell phones is poised to go from being the latest mobile trend to becoming the mainstream standard. BusinessWeek published an article on Saturday worth reading, but here are a few key points:
– MySpace is aiming to offer its service through all major U.S. mobile carriers by 2007.
– 33.2% of 18-24 year-olds post photos from their phones to Web sites, almost double the number that download mobile games.
– 45% of “active” Web users have visited social networking sites.
– Nokia is planning to have Flickr integration, letting users post photos to the Web from their phones.
– Mobile-only networking sites like Dodgeball are partnering with Web sites like Orkut.com to gain greater relevance.
This isn't exactly news considering the source – but it's still interesting to look at these figures reported in Mobile Entertainment in light of the Power to the Pocket trend we bang on about. A new survey from Nokia says:
Two thirds of people globally say a music-enabled mobile phone will replace their dedicated MP3 player, according to research from Nokia… What's more, one in two people are already using a mobile phone as their main camera, while a third are using it for surfing the web… Specifically, 44 per cent of respondents use a mobile phone as their primary camera, with India being home to the most prolific mobile photographers (68 per cent of respondents)… Furthermore, 36 per cent of respondents claim they are browsing the web on their mobile devices at least once a month. Japan leads the way in mobile Internet usage, with 37 per cent claiming to go online on a daily basis… Finally, 42 per cent of respondents want their printer, PC, stereo, TV and mobile device interconnected.
Mobile Entertainment: Nokia: phones will replace MP3 players
Virgin Mobile is set to introduce a new mobile phone plan where customers can speak for free with a small catch. The program dubbed SugarMama (interesting choice of words) lets people earn one minute of talk time by watching 30-second commercials on a computer or receiving text messages on their phones and then actually answering some follow up questions to confirm they were "paying attention" to the spots. Virgin Mobile said customers can earn up to 75 minutes of free talk time per month, not exactly a lot of time considering the average teen mobile phone owner spends about four times that during a typical month. Pepsi, Microsoft's Xbox and the American Legacy Foundation have signed up as advertisers. There a couple of reasons why this initiative is doubtful to take off. First, attracting a market. Trying to get an audience segment excited about free talk time when the reality is that the majority of teen mobile phone bills are paid for by parents is challenging to say the least. Secondly, I believe the notion of forcing a teen to re-call an advertisement to earn the free talk minutes is also a relatively weak proposition. For the most part this audience does not like to be told what they need to do or have to do. And what happens if they answer the questions wrong, they don't earn the minutes? Although the concept of offering free talk time in exchange for paying attention to advertising may sound interesting to you and I, I don't think the concept will pull well with the intended target.
Nathan Bales represents a troubling trend for cellular phone carriers. The Kansas City-area countertop installer recently traded in a number of feature-laden phones for a stripped-down model. He said he didn't like using them to surf the internet, rarely took pictures with them and couldn't stand scrolling through seemingly endless menus to get the functions to work.
"I want a phone that is tough and easy to use," said Bales, 30. "I don't want to listen to music with it. I'm not a cyber-savvy guy."
An interesting story about consumer revolt to bad design and lack of simplicity.
Read the AP story here (courtesy of Wired News)
From Seth Godin's Blog:
That's how much the typical family in the US spends on telecommunications. It's certainly one of the highest discretionary items in a typical budget, and it's particularly surprising given that long distance is a fraction of what it used to be.
So, David Troup points us to Helio, a phone/toy for teenagers and those that think like them (the phone, with built in music and video capability, and fully integrated with MySpace, is primarily sold at record stores, at least in NY). I give them credit for tapping into a desire that consumers are already voting for with their dollars. Is it a killer app for geezers like me? Nope. And that may be exactly why it works.
What's more valuable to consumers: their cellphones or the data stored on them? Services like MightyBackup, Verizon's Backup Assistant and Sprint's Wireless Backup offer cellphone users peace of mind by wirelessly backing up phone data.
FusionOne, a developer of premium mobile services, created MightyBackup, a wireless services that provides simple, automatic data backup and restoration. Automatic backups ensure phone book lists are constantly protected, and if a phone is replaced, stolen, lost or damaged, MightyBackup simply sends the user's contact list to a new phone. No hardware or pc connection needed – it all works through the phone's connection to the network, with data stored in a central database.
Verizon's Backup Assistant is powered by FusionOne, and Sprint recently launched Wireless Backup, which synchronizes a phone's contact list with a copy on Sprint’s servers. All services are offered at around USD 2 per month. In Brazil, Vivo offers the same service under the name Vivo Agenda. (Note that these services don't work for all phone models.)
Considering how many consumers use their cellphones as their primary address books, offering them a secure, automatic and wireless way to prevent data loss is a sure winner. This might not be a unique idea, but it plays to an underserved market: it's a service every cellphone user needs and wants, but one that isn't readily available everywhere.
While most cell phones tout an abundance of bells and whistles, two companies are focusing on the substantial market for simpler phones.
Founded by Arlene Harris, a telecoms veteran, and her husband Martin Cooper, who helped develop the first portable cell phone for Motorola in 1973, GreatCall is a new wireless company that will target baby boomers and their parents. While the network isn't yet operational, GreatCall's Jitterbug, a combination of handset and service provider, will soon start shipping phones. Manufactured by Samsung, the phones have big buttons, a bright screen, easy to read text, and loud and clear sound. One version (Jitterbug OneTouch) is simplified even further, its number keys replaced by three emergency buttons: one for 911, a second for Jitterbug's operator, and a third for a personalized direct dial number.
Operators are an important element of Jitterbug's services. Besides looking up numbers or placing calls for customers, operators can program a phone's contact list over the network. Each customer is also provided with an individual webpage that can be used to edit the phone list, or set service options, which means that children or grandchildren can help their less technically adept relatives configure their phones. Jitterbug's pricing has yet to be set, but plans will be available from USD 10 per month.
Last year, Vodafone launched a somewhat similar service in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Vodafone Simply combines no-frills phones with uncomplicated price plans. Though certainly easier to use than most phones, Vodafone's attempt can't rival Jitterbug's extra services and meticulous design.
Jitterbug is an inspiring example for entrepreneurs who'd like to develop products or services for older consumers. Who will do the same for other industries? How about combining computers, software and broadband service into one easy package?
How's this for a little swerve ball: Linksys – the brand you associate with your WiFi at home – have launched a mobile phone. Users can use any VoIP provider with the phone and the high end version doubles up as a web browser. Betanews says:
The entry-level WIP300 includes SIP v2 support, 802.11b/g compatibility, 1.8-inch color LCD display, backlit keypad, signal strength and battery level indication, and a USB charger interface among other features. The higher-end WIP330 offers a 2.2-inch display, and adds a web browser, Quality of Service support, and support for auto provisioning.
More trouble for the carriers?
BetaNews | Linksys Launches Wireless-G Phones
BusinessWeek reports that Samsung plans to build prototype phones that will be powered by Direct Methanol Fuel Cells.” From the article: “The deal also marks a huge vote of confidence in a little-known company. MTI Micro, which had sales of $8 million in 2005, is one of a handful of outfits seeking to bring hydrogen-based fuel-cell technology into more common use. Its Mobion fuel cells have already appeared in industrial handhelds from companies like Intermec, a unit of Unova, and have drawn the attention of military contractors developing devices that soldiers will use in the field. Under the deal, which lasts through the end of the second quarter of 2007, the two companies will jointly research the use of methanol-based fuel-cell technologies for use in cell phones. Any patents that come as the result of the research will be assigned to MTI.”
Skype has teamed up with two firms to provide an on-the-fly, $2.99 a minute, interpreters service in more than 150 languages for callers using the VoIP service. It relies on the oldest medium for intercultural communication: human interpreters.
Conversations using the service can include up to five callers at a time. Average connection time to reach an interpreter is claimed to be 45 seconds or less. Interpreter costs are automatically charged to the caller's SkypeOut account.
The service uses Voxeo's Prophecy voice platform to automate the process of transferring the call from Skype to Language Line Services, which provides the translators.
CTIA 2006 — Disney finally unveiled its plans for Disney Mobile, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that will market itself towards parents that want to keep better track of their kids. Unlike some other kid-targeted handsets that focus on very basic handsets that have limited calling features (like the FireFly), Disney Mobile is aimed at children ages 10-15. More specifically the service is targeted to their parents, with complete parental controls for such things as spending limits and what times/days the phone can be used. GPS tracking is even included.
Two handsets will be available at launch, one each from LG (right) and Pantech. They will cost $59.99 at retail, though other pricing information has not been announced. Disney Mobile is slated to begin service this Summer, but you can register now for updates and the chance to win a free year of service.
Features of the LG DM-L200 include:
- 262K color TFT, 128 × 160 pixels
- 1.3 Megapixel Camera/Camcorder with Flash
As if you needed anymore terrifying news regarding your children being in mortal danger every minute of the day, here's something that simultaneously allays and intensifies those fears. It's called the BabyMo and it's an actual working cellphone from Comminc8, a delightfully named British company that claims the cellphone is just fine for 4 to 8-year-olds. Not much information has been released, but we can take a wild guess that it won't have a 10-megapixel camera included. So other than lining Communic8's pockets with gold, any ideas as to what kind of purpose a cellphone for the little ones serves? Any gadget loving parents in the house that would consider such a thing for their children?
For a more interesting kids phone program, check out the post on Disney Mobile
Gadget for Baby – BabyMo Cellular Phone [HandCellPhone.com]