back to article Panic in smartphoneland

Google is set to give the mobile phone business a body blow today - the second punch in the guts it's had this year. Apple delivered the first blow, by turning the operators' subsidy model upside down - as well as making rival manufacturers look like knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. But Google's arrival may prove to be more …


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  1. Io McKinnon

    Regarding Google Earth..

    You said - "As with Google Earth, sometimes it's better to start from scratch."

    In actuality, Google bought Keyhole, who already had a product to market, so in this, your analogy fails.

  2. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Here's looking at you, kid....

    Excellent article, Andrew, and the answer has been staring them in the face for years and is still crazily relevant after all these years. And it is hard to conclude, that it is even more so today, thus to prove it the right course of action/thinking.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    killer app

    Well, if you're at a bus stop in Sheffield it is. Go to, stick the bus stop number in and get a link to the real time bus info for that bus stop.

    works on my N95, and better than the text message your-next-bus thing

    </ shameless plug>

  4. Tom

    Demand for mobile data

    If they are so concerned that no-one is using the Internet on their phone, maybe they should make it cheaper...? The main barrier to me using it is the ridiculous cost. This is especially true for "casual" users who aren't going to buy some bulk data access package - we're the ones who end up paying £3/MB or something similar.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A quick look at the profitability of Nokia's multimedia and enterprise business units"

    You must indeed have taken a very quick look, given that the MM unit has been very profitable (with a high margin), and the ES unit became profitable in Q2 and Q3 this year.

  6. John Latham


    Or use this:

    Should work on any WAP1, WAP2 or HTML browser.


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We are not all the same

    What do people want from mobile devices? What will people want? Well it depends on who you are, where you live and how much money you feel is worth spending. Not everyone needs a Smartphone or even a phone that is smarter in some way. The software is only one factor - don't forget the form factor! The hardware does matter. The trick is to understand your customers and have flexible platforms, both hardware and software. One solution, like the iPhone, is not going to 'do it' for everybody. But you need to start with the customer not the OS!

  8. Abdul Omar
    Thumb Down


    I can't help wondering what exactly Google can bring to this party?

    I envisage trying to call someone only to be asked "Do you feel lucky?" then get connected to a miserable failure or somesuch witty by ultimately unproductive nonsense.

    No I think amanfromMars has got it right for once and the mobile Windows platform is looking more attractive than ever.

    Google are quite good at highlighting holidays with "fun" graphics but I can't see them actually building workable hardware.

  9. Red Bren
    Thumb Up


    Nickj, your link generator also works for buses in West Yorkshire. And it's more convenient than storing a bookmark on my SE P990 for every bus stop I use.

    There is a fundamental flaw with the system - if a bus service is cancelled, the system returns the timetable entry for the next bus, rather than telling you that your bus isn't coming.

    It would also be nice to be able to specify a particular bus service where multiple services all use the same stop.

    It's not a killer app yet, but it's getting there!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    N95 at a Sheffield bus stop

    You've got a 400 quid phone and you're looking up bus timetables?

    Get a 30 quid phone and call a taxi.

  11. Simon Greenwood

    re: @nickj

    I wondered if that might be the case - South and West Yorkshire share the same YourNextBus system.

    The disappearing bus is an artefact of the back end software: buses are supposed to be being fitted out with GPS so they can be tracked in real time. The reality is that First (and probably Stagecoach) are ordering new buses with GPS but not upgrading existing stock, so that for much of the time, YourNextBus is assuming that the bus is on time and simply removing it from the route when it believes it has passed the stop. Ain't technology wonderful?

  12. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Google does hardware

    "but I can't see them actually building workable hardware"

    Google makes very workable hardware - you're using it everytime you do a Google search. One can argue that they've built the world's biggest computer. The performance and uptime of this hardware is very impressive.

    "start from scratch"

    Cheers for spotting that Io, I've restored the missing "not" :-)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cost per MB is low

    TMobile 30MB / month EUR 10.-, Vodafone 200MB / month EUR 20.- serves me well. I think price is no issue or shouldn't be. I had even a dataflate rate before, I think they go for EUR 25.- or so, in any case it is affordable.

    My concern is more battery life. I still think devices draw too much power and run too hot, that includes mobile phones, smart phones, laptops.

  14. Mark Daniels

    HOW THE F%$£%"£$%£ IS IT FREE..??????????

    I have to say, I personally object quite a lot to the 'free / subsidised by advertising' business model.

    The reason is that, everybody pays just a little more for everything, regardless of how / where and even IF they use somebody else's service.

    I happen not to use Google. It's a choice thing.

    I can not recall the last time I clicked a 'paid for by advertising' link on any website. I tend to do my research using lots of media, including websites, about whatever it is that I am in the market for.

    But, and this is the nub of the matter..... the price of what I am buying is just that little bit higher for me and everybody else buying that product and service, because that company / service provider IS paying Google for some 'click thru' revenue, even though it generates [less than 5%] a very small amount of revenue.

    But I'm still paying for it, even though i don't use these 'free' services.

    So, HOW THE F%$£%"£$%£ IS IT FREE..??????????

    And don't get me started on that piece of s"£$%"£$%, that hunk of junk that is neither a good phone, nor a good media player, nor a good....... [bugga, i've started] that Apple ship and morons buy.


    PS : Yes, I am aware this has turned into a rant, but as Tyke, I get mighty pissed off when I know I'm being robbed, but bloody furious when I know there is nothing I can do about.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Giving software away to help promote their own business

    I see an antitrust suit looming over the new Microsoft.....

    Do Evil

    I vote for a Google Do Evil Icon please...

  16. Ian Michael Gumby

    A gps enabled phone not as acurate as a dedicated GPS unit?


    Guess again. Unless you're talking about a Trimble unit for survey work.

    All the units are "accurate enough" depending on the number of satellites that they can receive and how good their math is. Usually within 1.5 to 3.0 meters.

    The "google" OS is linux which happens to be the same OS used by Nokia's 810N.

    (Albeit, its not a phone...)

    So I don't think there's the panic .... yet....

  17. Aitor

    Price, screen

    First of all, it is the question of price per MB.

    some have argue that price is not so great.. well, it is except for casual web browsing and perhaps some emails (without attached files please!). This discounts your mobile as your "internet access point".

    So it must work as a standalone gadget. But the screen will allways be way too small for everything except messaging or voip.. but, hey, wait, we have no qwerty (or azerty for you germans), so no quick mesagging, except if you hace a brick, err, a full keyboard.

    So size DOES matter after all...

  18. Andrew Baines Silver badge

    Google Earth

    It's great - I can a hi-def image of what my house looked like 5 years ago.

  19. Mark

    Here it is

  20. Rick Brasche

    @ Ian "GPS" accuracy

    There actually is a difference, because marketing folks (professional liars) are selling phones with Differential GPS. This doesn't use satellites at all but uses triangulation between towers and their known, fixed locations. It's not GPS at all, and IMHO, for them to sell it with the term GPS in the name should be fraud. Also saw it on Verizon as "eGPS". And to add insult to injury, it's a charge-per-use or limited subscription service thru Cingular/AT&T and still requires the purchase of software for some devices. Accuracy for these is demonstrably worse in any given location than a true GPS counterpart.

    Adding on a real GPS receiver, or making sure the device has a SiRF type chip installed, gets you true satellite based GPS and at that point, your accuracy is as good as how many birds you can see-which is often dependent on how good the antenna is. the bluetooth enabled external GPS receivers are pricy, but usually effective. Tho again AT&T/Cingular locks some model phones so you can't use any old GPS application so you're stuck buying theirs and, guess what, paying a subscription fee.

  21. Mike

    @Rick "Real GPS"

    Not challenging, but enquiring. I am casually acquainted with an engineer who worked on "Assisted GPS" for mobiles, and I got a backgrounder on it. Some phones do indeed use "real" satellite-based GPS. The "Assisted" part is where the system uses triangulation to get a rough position and uses that to speed up acquisition.

    Now, it's entirely possible that some operators (e.g. the ever-slimey Verizon) are doing something else. It wouldn't surprise me if Verizon even shut off existing real GPS on their customers' phones, but that doesn't mean that real GPS on mobiles doesn't exist.

    Note to Vulture-Central: If we must have silly icons, can we have a propeller-beanie for nit-picking about technical content? :-)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Ad based phones...

    I imagine a phone, that while I'm in an important meeting, will go:

    *beep beep - now for sale at some hardware store in the US: hammers, only $4,99*

    (which is more rediculous because I don't live in the US, but americans tends to think everybody does)

    It'll be loud, intrusive, and I'll get kicked out of that meeting - or the other participants will drown my phone in my coffee.

    No - an ad-based business model at least for my phone, does *NOT* appeal to me.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    @John Latham - cool, much better than mine, I wondered why they hadn't done it...

    @JonB - lol - I walked out of the shop with without paying a penny, even so, on your figures, (400 - 30)/(taxi-bus fare) = 70 taxi rides = 35 nights out = 17 weeks @ 2 nights per week. I'd rather have the phone. Plus it's a data modem so it's bye bye BT which saves £20-30 a month on the contract. Plus potential for profit on the pub quiz :-)

  24. Anonymous Coward

    mobile telcos? RipMeoff, please!

    I have a Neuf telecom Twin ( - it's a gsm/wifi phone powered by linux (I can see the fanbois bowing - lol). I chose that phone mostly because it has wifi, guess what, it was not produced by a any of the big 5 (Nokia, Samsung ....) and has VOIP/wifi built-in so I can call home from the hotel at no extra charge ... real cool thing. When I see what they charge you for using their "slightly higher" speed networks, of course I am NOT going to use it, duh! They already charge us more here, in france, for normal calls - the big three agree on prices and have been sentenced several times, now they have to pay the fines, so they go on agreeing on prices ... and the consumer pays even more ... when is it going to stop? Even my provider, an ISP, uses one of the big three networks ... iVive le racket!

  25. Chris Coles

    Is anyone sure that they have all the answers? Google certainly does not.

    We are living in the overhang from the past where, when the old 78RPM record was created and at the same time, others realised that, if you could find a good singer and a good song and you put them together on one side of that disc, people would queue up to buy the disc for the simple reason that the purchase gave them access to something they had not been able to do before. They could carry the singer and song into their homes to enjoy at their leisure. They owned that performance. Nothing changed through 45RPM, reel to reel tapes, (I have a Beatles album on reel to reel), cassette tapes, 8 track...... you name it.

    The particular features seem to have been forgotten. Someone sought out the singer and the song, checked their provenance and ensured the quality of performance. The product gave the purchaser a quality purchase. Something to treasure.

    On the other side, the singer and song writer became successful precisely because their success was linked to the success of the manufacturer of the product, the disc, or tape...

    For the time being, because the original systems are still in place, the customer can still get access to a quality product. Someone has earned a living from seeking out the singer and the song. But for how much longer?

    Yes, for the time being, kids can get their song for free, or nearly so. And, again, the likes of Napster and Apple have a steady stream of product to sell. But for how much longer?

    I see the product in full circle. There will come a time when some bright individual will start the whole process all over again. Why? Because the existing model will not deliver that "Special" gift.... a quality product, worked on and defined by someone with the aiming point of making a good income for themselves and others around them, by providing something the general public cannot get otherwise. The circle will come right back to the beginning. Anyone remember Skiffle? it was all the rage just before the Beatles arrived.

    So the idea that you can use a simplistic model to pay the singer and the song writer,....... sometime in the future when they have satisfied some bureaucrat that they deserve a piece of the pie, is to my mind, an unworkable structure that will, in time, collapse. Not because it can be imposed, but because that wonderful thing the free market place will let it happen.

    Right now, Google think they have an answer. Yes, in a way, they do, but for how long and for which services? Their only interest is the likelihood that a proportion of the users of their system will "hit" on a link to an advertiser. They have a captive market.... for advertising. Nothing more.

    They do not have a "special" product, only a captive customer, ....... and then only if that customer buys a phone with their new operating system.

    So what is the base market for the mobile phone platform?

    I have repeatedly challenged that while the major income stream from such devices is undoubtedly voice, the base market was always security. The primary reason for giving a phone to a young girl by her parents is not so she can talk her head off to her friends, (the primary income stream), but to be certain that, if she gets into a scrape, she can phone home, or a friend and get help.

    The primary market, the base of the pyramid of the market is personal safety. The pinnacle is all those expensive tools that make the new phones specifications so impressive.

    Google do not own the rights to that base market place, personal security. Neither will their new operating system. None of their new partners own the rights to sending an image from their customers wireless phone in either the USA or Japan, where the image carries location details, for example, GPS location information.

    Nor, do any of them own the copyright IP for the world use of such a system. Only the people around an individual, an Englishman, who filed an innocuous patent in 1989.......are able to say with any certainty that they have some rights to that base marketplace. He did, after all, think of it first.

    So anyone coming forward with a system that addresses that primary base of the pyramid, personal safety, will automatically exclude Google and their nice new operating system. Parents will buy the phone with the safety feature. Every phone gives them voice, of Google or whatever.... Only one will give them certainty of safety for their daughter.

    Food for thought Google, with all your money and market power, you do not own it all and what is there, is on the open market...........

    In my humble opinion, the Google strategy has a fatal flaw, it simply does not control, or address, the base market for a mobile phone.

  26. Chris Coles

    Comment not for publishing

    I add this to back up my previous comment. No one has heard of me. I am a British inventor that filed, and eventually, in 1998 was granted, the first of three US patents, (I had to abandon the UK and European as I was destitute and could not afford to continue in Europe at the time, 1992), and a Japanese patent. and also

    We tried to found GPNS based upon the patents, but no one would acknowledge that we hold the rights not only to the phone, but also the operating system, the right to transmit and all the back end functions. So we have been stuffed into a corner. But as time moves forward, we are now in the position of not only owning some patents that will, yes, run out in 2012, but also all the copyright IP on the GPNS web site.

    Sooner or later, they will have to deal with us.

    The inventor? Me, Chris Coles.

  27. Scot Grimmer

    Expanding Markets - Beyond the US and Europe

    I think its worth considering that for many new web users outside the mature markets of US and Europe their first and possibly primary contact with the web may be through their mobile phone/device. This could start to mark a shift in the services offered by handset manufacturers, carriers and software/service providers. In these areas which starts to spread.

  28. Joseph

    Dunno about you guys in EU....

    ...but in NA, the biggest roadblock to smartphone adoption is the cost (for both internet service and the cost of the phone).

    Put quite simply, people are not willing to mortage their house to just to be able to check their hotmail account while driving home from work. If the price was reasonable (say $5/20 MB), I would imagine more people would be using it.

  29. Gaius


    I can guarantee there's no overlap between "smartphone buyer" and "wants to sit through an ad before making a call".

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