Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
- Telecom launched their 3G XT network. you can read the review of their price plans, mobiles and the reaction of competitor 2degrees.
- Vodafone has given away credits and is giving away mobiles in order to distract people from the launch.
- 2degees calls Telecom a bully cause they don't wanna share.
- Nokia's version of the iTunes Application store -Ovi- is launched.
- Vodafone might release information and price plans on the HTC Magic. New Zealand's first phone running the Android OS.
- Video game expo E3 opens it's doors in LA. Teaser announcements from Square-Enix (new game NIER, preview of Final Fantasy games), Lionhead (the people who brought you Fable) and Edios (Tomb Raider and Hitman, recently acquired by Square-Enix) are only a tiny fraction of the major news that'll we get. Look out for the new a UMD-less PSP and previews of eagerly anticipated games: Dante's Inferno, Batman: Arkham Asylum, White Knight Chronicles, Fragile and tones more. Can't be there? Well neither can I but check here for constant updates.
By Benedict Wee
Friday, May 29, 2009
By Benedict Wee
2degress CEO Mike Reynolds has called Telecom’s mobile charges underwhelming:
“If I was a customer I’d be asking: is that it..?” says the ex-President of Singapore telecommunications group Starhub.
He then went on to compare Telecom’s plans with that of Virgin’s network in the US, citing that even without the unlimited calling service we would be paying about NZ$800 for similar services. Mike then proceeded to talk about mobile contracts:
“Now is not the time to sign up to two or three year contracts. Soon we will be unveiling the 2degrees price plans as we countdown to our launch in August. I urge New Zealanders to hold off till then, when they can make a fully informed decision.”
So does that mean 2degrees won’t have contracts? Does that mean no handset subsidization? Or does he just want us to take up contracts with 2degrees?At the end of the day it’s the combination of price plans and mobiles that’ll make us decide whom to subscribe to. 2degrees can talk the talk but can they offer a better combination of calls and text? Will they provide the latest in mobile technology and save us from this time stasis of really old phones? Can I please not pay $6 if I wanna watch Susan Boyle on Youtube on my mobile? We’ll be lookout when August approaches.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The add ons are applied to both Monthly and Prepaid plans which makes me wonder why would someone bother to be under a contract with Telecom when you're charged the same rate as someone who isn't. For texts, TXT 150 is charged at 4 cents per text, TXT 600 at 2 cents and TXT 1500 for 1.2 cents which is pretty decent though they didn't specify if it's to different networks as well. If it is it's much cheaper than Vodafone who's charging 20 cents per text.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
By Benedict Wee
If you’re a Vodafone customer make sure to keep your mobile close to you tomorrow. They’ve just announced on their website that they’re giving away 1 million in credits to 1000 Prepay, On Account and business customers, although it wasn’t made clear if it’s $1000 in air time or just $1000 into your account. You don’t have to do anything and they’ll call your mobile if you have won.
In related news, Matty from Breakfast on channel one has hinted that the surprise Vodafone will announce tomorrow morning has something to do with free calls for life for a lucky viewer. That is pretty sweet. I hope they giving away HTC Magics as well.
This is a pretty good marketing campaign to overshadow Telecom's XT launch on friday.
Vodafone Thanks a Million
Breakfast on One Twitter
By Benedict Wee
TV One’s morning current affairs shows-Breakfast and Good Morning- dedicated their tech segments to mobiles today. Breakfast previewed 4 phones; the Nokia E71, the Samsung F480, the Telecom R6 and the Sony Ericsson C510a from Telecom’s XT network while Good Morning did the Nokia Xpress Music 5800, the BlackBerry Storm and the 3G iphone.
First up, we’ll talk about the Breakfast review, done by Ben Gracewood; Breakfast Gadget Guru and tech blogger. The first phone he talked about was the Telecom R6 -an entry level phone at $149- for those who just want a phone to call and text. It also speaks and has predictive text input in Maori which is a nice feature. Can’t say much about the phone except it falls under my ‘quick replacement phone’ category.
The next phone is the ancient and expensive F480 ($599). It was released in May 2008 and was the official phone of the China Olympics. Ben mentioned the widget interface (which is present in all current Samsung smart phones except the i7500 which runs Android) as an iphone knockoff but I’m more inclined to believe it copies the Android OS. Whatever the case, this phone is old and its interface is archaic so my recommendation is the same as Ben’s, do not buy.
Next up is the Sony Ericsson C510a, priced at $399. Ben mentioned it has facebook integration which is pretty neat but other than that it’s your run of the mill Sony candybar phone with adequate features that will suit non-smartphone users. I do not recommend this either as it is about 2 years late into the mobile party and the world is pretty much moving on to phones with better designs and features.
Finally it’s the $900 Nokia E71. Ben calls the phone “manly” in comparison to the Sony one though I do not agree. It’s black and has a qwerty keyboard, giving it the “blackberry” look which executives –of both sexes- are fond of using. Ben didn’t say much about this phone (cause there’s nothing much to say) but it would have been nice to inform the viewers that it had wifi capabilities. I personally would have reviewed the Blackberry Bold 9000 instead of this one cause it’s newer and has a better OS.
Ben also mentioned on his Twitter account that he wanted to talk about the HTC Magic but there wasn’t any time. On the bright side, Vodafone will be coming into the studio at 7.40am tomorrow on channel one with a big surprise so it’ll be cool to see what they have in store for us.
The mobiles reviewed on Good Morning were done by Adam Brown, the first being the Nokia Xpress Music 5800. He got the price wrong (it’s more closer to $900 than $800 without a plan) but the description he gave was pretty accurate; wifi, maps and the standard Nokia interface (it’s called Symbian btw) though Adam should’ve also mention that it’s compatible with the Ovi store which went live yesterday. I agree that the phone is worth the purchase but only if you do not want to fork out the extra $230 for a 3G iphone and are a Nokia fan. Look out for offers by Vodafone this Queen’s birthday weekend to see if they’ll offer a discount. (Fun fact: This is the phone James T Kirk was using when he drove his step dad’s car over the cliff in the movie Star Trek and you can download themes from the film made specially for the 5800 online)
The next phone featured was the 3G iphone. Nothing much to say that hasn’t already been said. Adam was accurate on his information, though why he’d choose to review the iphone when a new one is being announced very soon is beyond me. If you’re thinking about getting it wait till the WWDC on June 8th for news on the 3rd gen iphone before making a purchase. Am sure the newer model will come with better features.
The last phone introduced was the BlackBerry Storm. At $1199 it is really not worth it. Adam highlighted the biggest flaw -no wifi- which makes BlackBerry’s first foray into the touch screen market a major disappointment. Reviews of the phone (which includes US politicians) have been pretty negative and its successor has already been hinted at. So this phone gets a no-go from me too.
Incidentally, all the phones reviewed by Adam are only available from Vodafone. Perhaps they’re trying to get rid of the old stock before the big announcement tomorrow. In the meantime, I want to repeat my caution to those thinking about jumping to any network; just wait for all three to launch before making a decision because prices are going to be competitive and we’ll be the ones benefiting from it.
You can watch the Breakfast review here
and the Good Morning review here.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
By Benedict Wee
Why I like it
The DSis screens are 17% bigger than those of the DS lites (3 inches) at 3.25 inches. Big screens are always a welcome addition.
DSi download games/applications:
Ever got sick and tired of changing your DS game cartridges when you wanna change games? Me neither. But for those who find this task arduous the DSi allows you to download games from their online DSi store thus saving you time of swapping aforementioned carts. These games are however, not the immersive kind that you’re used to. They’re simple mini games targeted towards the non-gaming crowd but still, some of them incorporate the DSi’s internal camera in order to play them so it is pretty fun.
You can also download applications like the new (and vastly improved) Opera web browser as well as the Animal Crossing clock/calendar and calculator. Most of the downloadable stuff cost DSi points (which you have to purchase via credit card) but Nintendo will start you off with 1000 DSi points for your new system (available till October 5 2009) which makes the deal pretty sweet.
The DS lite’s Opera web browser was a badly made piece of junk that was expensive and had a poor user interface which was slow and clunky. The new DSi’s browser is an upgrade to that mess and it doesn’t require the purchase of any peripherals. Just head on to the online DSi store and download it via the DSi for free. Its performance is much better too.
SD card slot:
For SD cards (obviously) where you can store your (ACC formatted) music files, photos as well as DSi download games.
The DSi plays audio files but they’ve gotta be in ACC format which means a tedious conversion process via iTunes. Also it seems that the DSi can only read up to 100 songs so your choices are limited. I’d stick with an ipod to cater to your music needs.
The thought of two cameras (one on the cover, the other inside on the hinge next to the microphone) on the DSi would lead one to put this feature in the ‘pros’ section of the review but its disappointing resolution lands it in this category. Both cameras are 0.3 megapixels which makes me wonder why they even bother featuring them at all. In our current technological environment I’d expect at least 2 megapixel dual cameras even though they aren’t selling mobile cameras with that kind of resolution anymore. The low-res cameras won’t be able to take anything decent without a generous dose of lighting and what you’ll end up with most of the time is dark shadows on your screen where your friends should be.
The photo editing program included in the DSi is pretty neat though, but it is kind of pointless when you’re drawing funny faces on the aforementioned dark shadow-friends on the screen.
Another not-particularly-useful-nor-fun feature of the DSi allows you to record your voice (up to 10 seconds) then play it back in varied tones using the synthesizer program. If you like to make one-sentenced swears like a chipmunk then this an application for you.
Why I do not like it
No DSi Cartridge Games:
Yes you can download games from the online DSi store but as I’ve mentioned before, they’re not your full-fledged games. The debut of a new console should be complimented by software that shows off the improved graphic/processing capabilities of the system rather than push something trivial like downloadable games. When the Xbox 360 was announced, Microsoft marketed its upgrade from predecessor Xbox with great looking games like Perfect Dark and its Live! Arcade service (where you download old arcade games and amateur developer-made ones into the 360’s hard drive) was only listed as an extra feature. Sony did the same with its Playstation 3 and its online store.
The games are coming however, but it’s going to take a while. Nintendo has talked about it but they did not announce any titles which means you’re not going to see a full DSi cart game till probably next year.
What makes the lack of games worse is that when they are eventually released they’ll be region locked. Till the DSi, Nintendo has only implemented locked hardware and software on their home consoles which meant that we could play videogames that we would not usually get in this part of the world. A good example is Japan where quirky games like Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! (the Japanese equivalent of Elite Beat Agents) and Super Robot Wars W, where you control different robots from famous series (Voltron, Gundam SEED, Full Metal Panic! etc..) are exclusive only to their native land due to licensing issues or the reluctance of western publishers.
Another big problem is that the region lock means that we’re usually at the end of the stick when it comes to getting games. Like Australia and Europe, our televisions, dvds and consoles are of the PAL variety. This means that games take longer to get published (because software in PAL regions are subject to multi-translations by law in the EU) and that the games we get are infinitely more expensive (due to the higher exchange rate).
This major fact alone should turn one off to buying a local set and resorting to importing or even worse, piracy.
No GBA slot:
Means that you’re going to have to stick with your DS lite if you wanna play all your old GBA games or use that rumble pack.
Really terrible battery life:
One of the proud features I used against the Sony PSP was that the battery life on a DS lite was incredibly long. On the lowest light setting you could play a game for about 15-19 hours before needing a recharge which made traveling with the handheld really convenient cause you don’t have to bring the charger. Even on the highest screen brightness it could last you 5-8 hours which is still amazing.
The DSi however lasts for about 9-14 hours on its lowest brightness setting and 3-4 hours on its highest. That is one whole tier lesser than its predecessor! It would be forgivable if the DSi was using different proprietary game software (the PSP uses a disc which takes a lot of power to spin and read) but they’re talking about the same DS games which you can play on your DS lite. It is not energy efficient at all.
Nintendo’s new handheld does some things right but many others wrong. At the end of the day the main purpose of having a portable console is to play games on it and the frills that the DSi offers aren’t appealing enough to tempt a gamer into making the purchase. The introduction of DSi downloadable games aren’t impressive (facebook has better ones and they’re free) makes this a hard sell to those who already have a DS. For non-gamers, the DSi should offer better bells and whistles (2 megapixel camera with flash perhaps?) and be slightly easier to use (why can’t I use mp3s to play my music?) because there are other daily devices out there -like mobiles- that allow them to the same thing and more.
If you already have a DS lite stick with it. If you’re looking to get into the handheld gaming scene get a DS lite or if you’re willing to wait, do so. Nintendo has a habit of improving the specs of their portables yearly so you might see an improved device announcement towards the end of the year.
DS lite and DSi specs on IGN
Kotaku DSi Games are region locked
By Benedict Wee
Nokia’s application store (similar to that of Apple’s for the iphone and ipod touch) has gone live on Vodafone Australia and in other countries such as Ireland and Singapore.
The Ovi store, which allows you to download applications, themes, and games as well as syncing your calendar and contact lists and accessing your files from your PC via your mobile is available for Nokia S40 and S60 models with the N97 being the first phone to have the store pre-installed in is system. The store is said to be able to learn your tastes over time and anticipate what you want as well as offering recommendations based on your geographical location.
The launch has begun pretty slowly though. With its window closing soon (May) Nokia would be pressed to make available their online store to the rest of the world which means that it should hit us pretty soon.
(Update: Ovi is now up. Go to http://www.ovi.com/services/signin to register and sync your Nokia phone)
Nokia Ovi Store
Monday, May 25, 2009
By Benedict Wee
New Zealand Telecom is being accused of deploying playground-bully tactics by telco provider 2degress. The new mobile network provider, which is set to launch in August, has claimed that Telecom has refused to interconnect with 2degrees’ local “Homezone” calling service which has resulted in them not being able to provide said service, thereby cutting them out from the market.
2degrees have alleged Telecom of being blatantly anti-competitive and accused them of abusing their current market power. Chief Commercial Officer, Bill McCabe said in a statement on the 2degrees site:
“This is a piece of aggressive, bullying behavior that betrays Telecom's insecurities about competition from 2degrees' new mobile network, which is just months away from launch.” (Update: Just announced on NZI Business, 2degrees is taking Telecom to the communications commission to seek a ruling on this matter, apparently this has happened before with Vodpahone.)Annnd the claws are out!
By Benedict Wee
Friday, May 22, 2009
Yes. I’ve been moaning that Telecom provides really old phones and their 14 (from 60) mobile plans are really arduous to go though but recent news has shone a (very) hopeful light on their new XT service with hints of new mobiles.
Mobile phone blog MobileCrunch has spotted hints of the yet-to-be-announced new iphone courtesy of New Zealand Telecom’s Twitter account:
“We are in negotiations with Apple… we are very focused on the 3rd gen iphone.. we will keep you updated” (10:37AM May 20th)
When asked further to clarify by another user they replied:
“Correction, we did not say we’re launching iphone, all said was that we’re talking to Apple & we’re focused on 3rd version.” (4:14 PM May 20th)
Does this mean current 3G iphone retailer Vodafone might lose the exclusive rights to the new iphone? Or are the two providers going to have to share the market space? There isn’t any solid confirmation yet but at least we know that there is a huge possibility that Apple is going to announce the new iphone during WWDC on June 8th. Whoo Hoo! (Update: An administrator on Vodfone NZ's official forum has said that Vodafone will still sell iphones, though which ones -presumably the 3G and the new one- are not specified)
What about the Palm Pre? When other tweets asked it replied:
“more device launches are planned. Cannot confirm (or deny) PalmPre at this point.” (1:26 PM May 20th)
So Yes? No? Maybe? Like before we got to wait for an official announcement from Telecom. However, I do take comfort in the fact that they acknowledge the existence of new mobiles in the market and are willing to get with the times.
Lastly, I leave you with a glimpse tweet about the new handsets and social networking services that they would be offering:
“New range of devices will include 19 exclusive devices, 2 world firsts and 5 NZ firsts. #XTLaunch” (10:37 PM May 20th)
“Telecom will launch a 'Bebo Phone' for easier content updating and exclusive content for our Bebo users” (10:34 AM May 20th)
“Yahoo!Xtra oneSearch, Music Store with 2.7M tracks, Social Networking brands right at our customers fingertips #XTLaunch” (10:33 AM May 20th)
“Some social network services are priced subscription, some per MB, and some free. More detail closer to launch” (1:24 PM May 20th)
Telecom New Zealand's Twitter Account
Thursday, May 21, 2009
By Benedict Wee
The seemingly infinite archaic price plans offered by Telecom have been whittled down to 14 choices from the current 60. In addition, changes have been made to call charges; you don’t have to pay extra when calling non-Telecom lines and charges are per second rather than per minute after the first minute.
These changes are made in conjunction with the launch of their new 3G network Telecom XT. They’ve also hinted at their data charges, stating that they will be similar to Vodafone’s $1 a day causal rate with a cap of 10 megabytes.
In addition, Telecom featured new (and I use that term loosely) mobile handsets that would be available with their new network. They include smartphones like the Samsung 8300 (ugh), Blackberry Bold (old you mean) and the Palm Treo Pro (why not Pre?) with 3G phones like the Nokia 3120 and N85 joining the Samsung F480 (all of em’ ancient). What hasn’t changed are the prices of the mobiles which are still high; the 3120 costing $299 (Vodafone’s giving it for free plus a 4 GB card with a 24 month plan) and the N85 at $1499 (the iphone 16GB is $1129 without a plan).
The Nokia 3120 Classic. Can't argue with that!
It would be nice to see the 3 (4, sorry Telstra) mobile providers using a new smartphone each to represent their company. Since Vodafone has the iphone 2degrees and Telecom could fight over the Palm Pre and a phone running the Android OS (HTC Magic please!). That way, consumers would be persuaded to stick with their current provider and at the same time be comforted with the fact that their current telco is in the forefront of the price wars and that they are actually interested in keeping their customers.
Also, 14 different price plans is still a long list to read through when you’re looking for a telco. UK’s Orange network has 4 prepaid and 8 monthly plans while O2 has 5 prepaid plans and 6 monthly plans, all of which are relatively easy to understand though I wouldn’t mind going through a draconian selection process if the mobiles they were offering were heavily subsidized which they’re not.
This being said, Telecom and Vodafone still have around 2 months to get their act together and change their price plans and handset subsidizations before 2degress comes out with its claws unsheathed. Till then I’ll be waiting for the new iphone announcement in June, which incidentally coincides, with the Palm Pre US launch date.
Sources - NZ Herald Telecom pledges simpler price plans on XT
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
New Zealand will have another mobile communications provider to choose from this coming August. 2degrees is tossing its hat into the ring which has -until now- been dominated by Telecom New Zealand and international network operator Vodafone.
Once president of Singapore’s second biggest info-com company; Starhub, CEO Mike Reynolds says that most countries have at least three network operators to keep up healthy competition and commented that;
"There is no other comparable country that has to suffer such poor value in the mobile market and that can be attributed to a lack of a vibrant competitive environment."
He made no comment on Telstra’s cellular service. Presumably cause he doesn’t see them as a threat or he does not even know about them.
Indeed the three operators have been far too comfortable in their attitude when competing for mobile users. The call rates are high, the plans archaic and -in the case of Telecom and Telstra- the phones they offered, ancient.
Speaking from personal experience, I was mortified when I found out that making a call costs 89 cents a minute for a prepaid Vodafone plan and I gave up trying to remember the cost of a call with a prepaid Telecom one as it was unnecessarily complicated. In Telstra’s case I was scared off by the single mobile phone they were offering with their monthly (2G!) plan which you could only get if you subscribed to their landline and broadband service.
So how will this new provider be different? As of today there have been no news on plans or handsets and all we got is a half-baked ‘you could say it’ll be cheaper’ statement made by Reynolds.
Here’s what I’m hoping for -
1) Better calling rates: I studied in the UK last year and the calls I made to my mates locally and family overseas in a month amount to less than how much I top up in a fortnight here in NZ. Charging (almost) a dollar a minute is daylight robbery.
2) Better monthly plans: Subsidizing around $120 for a mobile when you sign up for 24 month plan (Vodafone) and even lesser for a Telecom one is a major rip off. Other countries like Singapore and the UK offer over $200 off a handset with a 2-year plan. In some cases competition is fierce enough for telcos to offer certain mobiles for free.
3) Newer mobile models: For God’s sake please bring in newer mobiles. Vodafone isn’t very guilty of this but Telecom seems content to stick to phones that my mom used 5 years ago. As for Telstra, they have only one mobile which pretty much speaks for itself. In an age where information is but a mere click away lots of NZ dollars are given to overseas based online shops (or similar sites like ebay and craigslist) which sell the latest handsets and this money could be better circulated in the local economy.
So will 2degrees live up to its promise of a better mobile experience or will it just be another playground bully vying for our money? We can only hope that they do but till then we will have wait for the price plans and handsets to be announced. I’m pretty optimistic because Starhub was (and still is) my favorite communication provider when I lived in Singapore. They were the first to offer free dial up internet followed by free incoming mobile calls then same rates for voice and video (3G) calls and eventually free landline calls with cheap IDD rates. Granted we might not get similar deals cause we’re considerably larger but there should be something in the works that give the rest a run for their money.
TVNZ: Third mobile telco rebrands as 2degrees
Scoop: New Zealand Communication Appoints CEO