Office in Your Pocket

Office in Your Pocket

Office in your pocket

 

Maren Bennette
Maren Bennette

Maren Bennette, associate editor, blogs his own personal mobility trials, tribulations and ultimately, his success at getting his own ‘office in his pocket’.

Back in May this year, BT launched its BT Total Broadband Anywhere, all-inclusive fixed mobile convergence bundle consisting of a BT ToGo smartphone, plus BT’s Total Broadband service for the home.

When the user is in range of a WiFi hotspot, the handset connects to the web and provides the users with cheap calls on the Total Broadband for the home side of the package. When out and about, users tap into the 10 megabit monthly allowance, plus 50 call minutes and 50 texts on any network.

Not a bad package overall, but how is it actually faring in people’s pockets? I decided to blog my experiences with BT, its services and devices, over the past few years and months to show you what end users really need and want.

In early 2006 BT announced its Fusion service that offered voice and data communications over GSM and WiFi. It seemed like the answer to all my mobile technology needs so I signed up. Two years later with only 45000 subscribers nationwide BT pulled the plug on new sales. Fusion was defused.

So it came as some surprise when a short while after the announcement of the discontinuance I was attending an event where Rakesh Mahajan, BT Global Service’s global director of mobility solutions, was waxing lyrical on the subject of, err… BT Fusion. I asked him what he was talking about, given the recent announcement, and he told me that he was talking about BT Corporate Fusion which was deemed to be a big success, not the consumer Fusion, which wasn’t.

Still I pressed him on the discontinuance so he went on to explain that most retail users had signed for the service thinking they would use the phone to send and receive emails and surf the web (Ed: No kidding!) but they hardly ever did because of the clunky user interface and woeful mobile operating system.

It was the same for me; after trying web access a few times I gave up

because the screen characters were too small to read, and it was hard to navigate a site using a standard mobile phone keyboard. Nor did I send emails from the phone because I could only log into my web mail service which wasn’t optimised for mobile usage. SMS worked fine, but I didn’t need a special service tied in with a fixed line broadband service and mobile WiFi access to send a text.

Of course, I still had the 250 BT Openzone minutes per month to use, but to do so meant carting my laptop to the hotspot then going through the time consuming boot up process. I only did so when I had absolutely no alternative and had to be online. But at least I could use the phone to quickly establish I was actually in an Openzone area, which was handy.

 

What I really wanted – and indeed, what every small businessman like me probably wants – is an easy to set up, easy to use service so when I am out and about I could do most of the things I do on my laptop. I wanted an office in my pocket. And it appears that BT wanted to give me one as now they have launched their Total Broadband Anywhere service and the BT ToGo handset.

At this point aficionados of smart phones will no doubt exclaim, ‘it’s an HTC S620’. And they would be right. But it’s more than just that. Loaded with a BT-tweaked Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 operating system rather than the standard Mobile 5 and pre-configured by BT to access email and the web via GPRS and WiFi networks, my BT ToGo is my new best gadget, not the least because it is so easy to use whilst delivering so much in the way of features for both business and pleasure, and I can make phone calls too.

Within a week of getting it working I have moth-balled my old GSM phone, my i-PAQ and video i-Pod, and even discontinued my second ADSL and landline service as I now have all the backup I need in my hand. Not only am I now truly mobile, but I have shed excess weight and saved money too. A result!

Now before anyone accuses me of being in BT’s pocket here, I must point out

that I am a fully paid up subscriber and went through the process any other person would do to get my new BT service; in other words, I experienced pain! The ordering and delivery was straight forward; it took just two days to get the phone with all its accessories and the new SIM card in my hands, and by the way, the new package price included the BT Broadband Talk VoIP handset a Softphone application for my PC and a separate 05620 number, but when after five days and three calls to the help desk I still didn’t have a signal on my shiny new smart phone I began to think I had made a big mistake.

The delay, caused by the fact that BT had neglected to switch on my new SIM card, meant not only was I unable to play with my new toy here in the UK, but I had deliberately ordered it just before going abroad, intending to try out the BT FON service which provides free WiFi access when in range of associated access points, of which there are reputed to be some 100,000 around the world. I was doubly disappointed.

I still had my old Fusion phone with me so I wasn’t out of touch, but nor was I able to test this interesting, and potentially money saving aspect of the BT Total Broadband Anywhere service.

But enough of the gripes; what are the good points and the bad points of my new ‘office in the pocket’ handset and service?

 
THE GOOD POINTS

The phone: The BT ToGo HTC S620 Smart Phone is a marvel of technology. The screen is very clear and even the smallest font can be read without squinting. The Qwerty keyboard, whilst small, can be used even with my stubby fingers. The navigation controls, whilst not as intuitive as an iPod, are easy enough to use once you have read the Quick Start Guide and played with the phone for a while.

The Windows Mobile 6 operating system is a doddle to use. MS Office Mobile and other applications allow me to view PDF, Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents, which is all I would want to do on a small screen device like this. There are also pre-loaded BT services applications that make the phone even more easy to use. It’s a dream!

The ActiveSync 4.5 application that ships on a CD with the phone not only allows me to sync the phone with my primary laptop, but also because of the 64MB inbuilt memory in the phone, I can port my contacts, calendar and emails to my backup laptop with absolutely no hassle. This is a small but important boon, as it means I have instant PC back-up in the case of a catastrophe, rather than having to go through the hassle of system and data restores from my hard drive.

The service: The network connectivity is very good; the GSM radio is better than my old phone which means I get a stronger signal than before, which is important where I live in the middle of rural Cornwall. The GPRS data service benefits me too, as it means I can send and receive emails and surf the web almost anywhere I go. The WiFi radio is equally good. I can make and take calls, get my emails and surf the web via my BT HomeHub even when I am in my garden office.

The complete package of broadband access, BT Talk VoIP handset and softphone, plus WiFi hotspot minutes here and abroad, is excellent. It is also good value for money, especially as I am saving by cancelling my second ADSL and landline, but not everyone would be able to make such a saving.

The other bits: Last but not least, I can use all the other mobile phone and PDA accessories I have bought over the years, including the Bluetooth headset, the mini USB phone charger, the two gigabyte Micro SD memory card and even my swish leather iPAQ belt case. This has saved me a not inconsiderable sum of money, which always helps, especially these days. The Bad Points: I would have liked a touch screen, a la iPhone. It’s not a need to have, but it would be nice to have. My guess is that BT will soon be offering the HTC Touch phone recently announced once they have tweaked and tested it with their service.

The battery life leaves something to be desired. If the WiFi radio is switched on I know I will need to charge the battery sometime during the day. Having said that, just today I received the extended life battery that BT supplies free of charge, no doubt to avert any user dissatisfaction issues.

Presence is missing. This is a network service rather than a function of the BT ToGo phone, but to be a real unified communications tool, the BT Total Broadband Anywhere service should show the status of my key contacts. Of course, that’s if they want me to know it!

 
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