Monday, November 26, 2012

Global Mobile Stats - Google Our Mobile Planet

In a project called Our Mobile Planet, Google's been collecting mobile stats from 27 countries. Dan Swinhoe from IDG Connect Global has picked this data apart and written a very nice post titled The App Revolution: How this Varies By Market. Here's a few interesting tidbits from Swinhoe's excellent piece:

  • Japan is the most ‘appy', but Germany is amongst the most keen to pay.
  • According to 148apps, the Apple store has 719,452 apps available, and to buy them all would set you back a hefty $1,307,715.69.
  • Angry Birds Star Wars is currently dominating the App store charts.
  • By the end of the year, over 45 billion apps will have been downloaded - around 15 billion of those from Google, but you can expect Android to take the majority share in 2013 due to the sheer number of devices being sold using the search engine's OS. 
  • Microsoft's own appstore is yet to make significant inroads in any market but, depending on the success of its Surface tablet this could well change after Christmas.
  • Custom-app building continues to grow, today's estimates putting the average cost of development at around $30-40,000
  • According to a report by Appaccelerator, Apple has become the chosen platform for enterprise app development, with 53.2% of developers picking iOS for corporate app development.
  • In all the charts, no matter what system or country, games feature heavily in both free and paid for.
  • While things such as social media and certain business software are now fully-apped, other areas are still a while off. For example media outlets are still struggling to cope with apps (web is still a struggle for many), while the largest programs - CAD/CAM and other large engineering/graphics programs simply are too big and complex for apps and mobile devices. At least for now.
Be sure to check out Dan's full post linked here and also take a look at Google's Our Mobile Project - all pretty interesting stuff.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wireless and VoIP Services as Carrier of Last Resort?

The shift continues for the traditional telecommunications companies away from copper based voice and DSL data services to wireless and fiber. One of the road blocks that appears to be loosening are the  Carrier of Last Resort (COLR) rules for carriers.

COLR rules are currently set at the state level (not the Federal Communications Commission) and regulate that every American has access to telephones service along with other utilities like electricity and water. A number of states have either passed legislation or are considering legislation that would end traditional landline rules and allow these services to be replaced by wireless (cell) or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Bills have emerged in Mississippi, Kentucky, New Jersey and California. Ohio's Senate Bill 271 is a good example of legislation currently being reviewed by lawmakers to cut traditional landline services. 

Opponents to these changes argue landline elimination could increase phone bills, reduce quality of service and impact 911 service. AARP Ohio State Director Bill Sundenmeyer is quoted in a recent post at Community Broadband Networks saying:
... besides preserving social contact, land-line phones are needed to protect seniors' health and safety. For instance, some seniors use the phone line to transmit routine health information from equipment in their home to their doctor's office.They can make an evaluation of a person's heart and how's it working, of their lungs, etc. That information would be very difficult to transmit over a cell phone.
There's more. Even though the FCC has stayed out of COLR regulations, leaving them to individual states, AT&T submitted a letter to the FCC back in August asking the FCC to effectively reclassify the public switched telephone network as an "information service", effectively removing all PSTN regulations and obligations. What does this mean? I think Bruce Kushnick describes it pretty well over at the Huff Post Tech Blog:
This means that almost all of the remaining wires, networks or even the obligation to offer services over those wires and networks are all removed -- as much of this infrastructure is classified as "telecommunications". The Public Switched Telephone Networks, the utility, would suddenly be reclassified as an information service. Sayonara any telco rules, regulations and oh yes, your rights. Your service breaks... tough. Prices go up and there's no direct competition -- too bad. Networks weren't upgraded -- so what. Net Neutrality? Neutered.
I'm not sure where you live but I'm in a relatively rural area of a fairly populated state. I've only got one wireless provider option at my home unless I climb up to the very peak of my roof where I can usually catch one bar of another provider. After the 2011 Halloween snowstorm cell service was out for almost a week at my home while landline service did not go down. 

Wireless service is great when it works. Wireless as carrier of last resort - someday yes but not just yet. AT&T has opened a window and the FCC now has an opportunity to step up and put a logical transitional process in place. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Are My iPhone Text Messages Sometimes Blue and Sometimes Green?

Lately I've been getting this question a lot. Here's what's up.

Green messages on your iPhone use a voice text protocol called Short Message Service (SMS). SMS was developed way back in 1982 and designed to run on voice networks using a separate channel used for signaling. Technically SMS was easy to implement and, with the popularity of mobile phones, it became very popular really fast. Messages are limited in length 160 characters and as a result many of us have learned to abbreviate words using text-speak shorthand.

iMessage is different. It's Internet Protocol (IP) based and does not require a voice connection. You can use IP based text services like iMessage on cellular data networks along with WiFi networks and your computer.

Now here's the big advantage - you don't need a text message plan to send and receive iMessage based texts. You do need some kind of text message plan to send and receive SMS (green) messages.

When are messages green? Here's a few common scenarios:
  1. You or your friend have not updated your iPhone to iOS5
  2. You or your friend are not registered with Apple iMessage. 
  3. You or your friend are in a place where there is no cellular data signal but there is a voice network signal.
  4. You send a message to someone not on the same network as you and only one of you has an iPhone. For example, you've got an AT&T account and your friend has a Verizon Wireless account. If you both have iPhones and both have data connections iMessage will work cross-carrier. 
  5. You're on the same network but one of you has iMessage turned off. To turn iMessage on and off on your iPhone use Settings -> Messages -> iMessage On/Off
Is SMS sticking around? Not for long with "free" services like iMessage and this is rapidly becoming a problem for the providers. SMS has been a huge cash cow for wireless providers earning an estimated $114.6 billion in 2010.