Thoughts about where phones have come since the Nokia 3410

Over the course of this year, I’ll be going camping a few times and I don’t want to take my Desire S with me for several reasons (expensive to replace and a short battery life being two examples). In light of this, I’ve obtained a 3410 to use during these occasions.

Back in 2004, I was in possession of my last Nokia 3410. It lasted a good few years – In fact it lasted longer than any other phone that I’ve had since.

This phone was pretty much indestructible. Just a few examples of what it survived…

– Getting left behind on a train (Kudos to the stranger who handed it in)
– Being knocked out a 1st floor window
– Taking several ‘swims’ in drink
– Having a teenager as an owner

It survived everything I threw at it and the only damage was a crack on the screen cover which seemed to randomly appear after taking the train somewhere, getting off and checking my messages. Being an old Nokia, the cracked cover was sorted by getting a new cover for it. Something that I was going to do anyway at the time.IMG_20120608_120715

Once I opened the parcel containing the replacement 3410 phone, I came to a realisation. This phone is awesome. Don’t get me wrong, it’s basic and you could almost say it’s archaic compared to modern standards. However the interface is smooth and it does exactly what it says on the tin. The other realisation I came to is that getting a 6610i to replace it was a terrible choice. So was the w550i that replaced that.

Actually the W550i wasn’t that bad. Just the power connector on the cable was flimsy.

Back on topic, the there are two things that amaze me:

The first is just how far we’ve come in 8 years or so – we’ve gone from low resolution screens, basic internet connectivity and no bluetooth, to the all knowing smartphones that we have now. This also brings the question, where will we be in another 8 years? Will we just have slight improvements upon the existing technology, or will we be on a radically new generation of phone which by far surpasses the current standards, with new control methods and user interfaces.

The second is just how reliant we’re becoming on smartphones. Some people can no longer wait until being at a computer to check emails and social networks. We want to see things in real time, as they happen. We can no longer wait a few hours to see if our order has been shipped, or to see when Person X commented on photo Y on Facebook.

I guess another question is, who will ‘rule the roost’ as it were – back in 2004, Nokia were at the forefront of mobile boom, especially when mobile phones became more available to the younger generations around the 2000 mark, but since the smartphone boom, it’s pretty much down to Apple and Samsung to fight it out – as far as hardware goes anyway. Don’t get me wrong, HTC and Nokia are still putting some good handsets out but most people seem to go the way of the Samsung Galaxy S-Series, or whatever iPhone is going.

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GAME – Thoughts on how to not lose it…

So upon reading that the GAME Group has been saved by a buyout worth about £1, I got thinking about where the chain has gone wrong and what could potentially make it a decent place on the high street for picking up games…

Cut down on duplicate stores in the same area

This has been partly done to an extent, with loss making stores being closed down a couple of weeks ago. I can remember going into Crawley a while ago and there were three stores all within a 5 minute walk from each other. A little wasteful to say the least – I think the group would have been better retaining the larger store and removed the smaller ones. That way the overheads would be reduced and thus more profit would be fed back to the company from that town.

There are other towns that have multiple stores in the same place – If I recall correctly, Portsmouth has / had multiple stores within a short distance.

Appeal to PC Gamers more

At the moment, in all the GAME stores I’ve been to, I’ve noticed (as have many people) that the place is geared towards the console market fairly heavily. There are next to no PC peripherals available and there is a very limited selection of games – mainly budget ones.

Although a lot of people prefer digital distribution and in many cases, digital distribution is the only way to obtain certain games, there is still a chance to cash in on this market. For example, adding more PC peripherals to the stock (such as gaming mice / keyboards – even PC upgrades). Branching out to another target audience should attract some more people and thus, put more sales through the tills.

Have store based tournaments

An idea to make people come in – have a few consoles set up in larger stores for tournaments – using PCs isn’t really viable due to the expense of frequent upgrades, but a console will generally have a longer lifecycle and thus be cheaper to run.

By having multiplayer tournaments, it will encourage more people into the store. More people coming in, is equal to more potential sales.

In my opinion, the best way to set this up would be to have a small fee for entering (for example £3 – £5), with a prize for the best player(s) – such as either store credit or a new release. The combined entry fees should reimburse the cost of the prize, thus in theory a loss shouldn’t be made as long as enough people turned up.

This would also help GAME become a destination for gamers to socialise as well as pick up some new games.

Take a look at the way pre-owned sales are handled

Preowned sales – although the console deals really aren’t that bad, the games can be a tad overpriced to say the least – a preowned copy of a recent game can still more expensive than a new version at the local supermarket in some places. A review of the pricing system on preowned goods to bring it down a tad and provide more of a bargain for the customer – the better the deal, the more chance of the customer returning for more.

Personally, I’d like to be able to buy more retro games as well, but then again I can’t imagine the market being that large. Either way, the odd N64 game wouldn’t hurt.

Staff training

The staff members at my local store are fantastic – enthusiastic and most certainly gamers themselves. However, this isn’t the case across the company – I’d suggest better training to bring staff up to date on games, so they can better interact with the customers and even suggest sales (for example “I see you’re buying game X – might I suggest from experience that you may enjoy game Y once you’re done”)

So there we go – a few thoughts on what might help GAME pick up the pieces, clear some debts and hopefully become more of a consumer friendly, profitable business.

Is the humble MP3 player a dying breed?

So I was sitting at my desk the other day doing some sort of work. I’ve got my phone sitting in it’s holder and I’m happily typing along, with my MP3 player plugged into my ears, listening to music.

Enter some random person. He asks…’why are you using an MP3 player.’  The man does kind of have a point. I’ve got my phone sitting on the desk, which is capable of doing everything but the dishes and yet I’m using my Creative X-Fi for music instead.

It’s for the same reason that I don’t belive that the MP3 player is a dying breed. Aside from the fact that some MP3 players produce better quality sound and that some people just don’t want to take the jump to a smartphone, there is another reason…

.. we have phones now that can do everything and sometimes that’s a little too much. Allow me to explain:

Bob is working in an office,writing up a report on the efficiency of something or another. He has his MP3 player plugged in to drown out some of the background noise and so that he can concentrate better on the task at hand.

After listening to the same album on repeat for a while, he decides that something else would be good. He picks up the MP3 player, changes album and continues working on time.

Bob gets the work done, gets promoted and gets a fat pay rise.

Now meet Eve. She’s also writing a report on something or another. Let’s call this report ‘Procrastination for the Masses’. Like Bob, she has music on to drown out the background noise. A minor note is that she’s using her iPhone for it instead.

Like Bob, she just put one album on initially and it begins to grate after a while. She picks up the iPhone to change track. While she’s got the phone in hand, she replies to a text message and notices she has an email. The email is from Facebook, saying that Herp McDerpington has invited her to an event. Naturally she goes to Facebook to accept the event invitation. Then she goes onto Twitter to let others know of the event.

The cycle continues. Eve misses the report deadline. She gets fired. Then loses all her money. Then dies due to Hypothermia, as she can no longer afford the heating bills.

So the example was a little..over dramatic and exaggerated. But I think that the MP3 player has a place. A place for the Luddites who won’t get smartphones. A place for the people that just want to get stuff done. A place for the audiophiles that want to listen to higher quality music. But most of all, I belive it has a place in history – as the item that began the steady decline of the CD. The item that succeeded where MiniDisc failed.

Spotify…keeping the silence out of mind…

Out of all the things I run whilst I’m on the internet, this one gets the most use. Essentially it’s a music player that has access to millions of tracks, all potentially for free.

The free service does have a few drawbacks – main one being that you get the occasional advert between tracks, but it’s a lot better than commercial radio in terms of frequency. Ads are few and far between and to be honest I don’t even notice them anymore – if I go back to the commerical radio reference, I can’t remember the last time that the radio in my car tuned into one, and there wasn’t an advert playing at the time. Spotify Free (the invite version of free), has around a 90% music, 10% advert split for me – that said apparently it also depends on what you listen to.

There is a free version that doesn’t need an invitation (Spotify Open), but it caps your streaming to 20 hours a month. If you can still get it, and have a friend with invites availible, I suggest you go for spotify free. There is no cap.

You can find entire CD’s to listen to – meaning you can try before you buy, without the more paranoid among us worrying that the RIAA are going to sue for piracy. The amount of people I know that have bought a CD based on a few tracks, and then found they’ve shelled out for 3 good tracks, and 10 tracks of dross is unsuprisingly high.

You can also connect it to Facebook, after which you can see the public playlists that your friends have made availible, which comes in handy – especially when you want to recommend a song or artist to another person. Apparently you can do this without Facebook, but it’s not something I’ve bothered to do.

One other perk is that the interface if friendly and easy to get to grips with. If you’ve used iTunes, you can see where some of the inspiration has come from, but it’s a fresh take on a old trick.

That said, there are paid for versions that I’m told are excellent – they allow compatibility with certain smartphones for music on the move, offline mode where you cache some of your tunes and other bonuses. I’ve not taken the plunge in this because I’m a cheapskate – which is pretty much my only excuse.

So that’s a very brief look at Spotify for you. It probably doesn’t cover half the basics, but then again this post was thrown together in about ten minutes 🙂

Thoughts on Windows Live Messenger 2011

So about a month ago my computer told me it was time for WLM to be upgraded again. Once you get over the initial reaction, it’s not too bad.

Thoughts on WLM 2011

Right from the screengrab above you can tell that Microsoft have clearly made some changes. One downside I’ve noticed is that before you could give it the option to remember your username but not your password, whereas in 2011, this functionality has either been removed or put somewhere less obvious – meaning you can either remember everything and let anyone at the computer log in as you, or go through typing in your email address everytime – which if you have a long address can get tedious after a while.

Once it logs in you get confronted with what can only be described as a mess – see the below (low quality) screengrab:

As you can see, Microsoft have managed to shoehorn MSN home / Bing into it, with only a small section on the right for your contact list, with enough space underneath for an advert. So far it all feels a bit grim – at this point I was tempted to go back to the previous version, but I thought I’d trial it for a bit.

Also, WLM asks if you want to integrate facebook – this is actually quite neat. Microsoft have used their share in Facebook to an advantage. Once you integrate Facebook you can speak to people on facebook chat, without using that horrifically slow, unreliable browser based version via FB. In case you hadn’t realised, I’m not a fan of the browser client. One downside I have found is that if you add someone on facebook, it generally takes a while for WLM to catch up – leaving it till the next day should suffice though.

It’s easy to see why MS have done this – with the number of people on facebook still increasing, more people are being moved away from WLM – by integrating Facebook, MS can retain some of their share of the Instant Messaging pie, by appealing to both userbases.

You can also move away from the cluttered version of WLM, and revert it to something with a likeness to the old version. To the right of your status / inbox count, there is a button that you can click to shrink it back down to the contact list, and one advert – much better than the cluttered view.

One thing that has changed is that your name is….well…just your name – I’m assuming that this is to do with the Facebook chat integration. On the plus side the second custom message box it still there and upon updating it you can optionally update your Facebook status.

So…to summerise:

Pros

– Incorporated Facebook Chat

Cons

– Can’t save the username alone in the welcome screen

– Initial appearence is clunky and cluttered

Basically if you hate the web based Facebook messenger and can put up with a little more clutter it’s worth taking a  look at WLM 2011

Tweetin’ Twitter

So I’ve had a look at my twitter account, and have been scratching my head a little, wondering what purpose it fulfills as far as the internet goes, and compared to the other main social networking widgets.

Facebook / MySpace / Twitter – A quick overview

Facebook

If you want a general place to store pictures, update the people you know with what you had for breakfast, and contact details, you have Facebook. I’m not going to go into the origins of facebook, but suffice to say as demand grew for facebook, more people were abandoning MySpace accounts.

MySpace

For those that want Facebook and refuse to be conformist to the current social networking default and/or want to promote your music, you can use the internet wasteland that is MySpace. This was once the king of social networking  – about 4 years ago. It allowed HTML savvy account holders a chance to make a truly unique page, while not so savvy people a chance to use a code generator resulting usually in an account hack by some rogue code. I’ve spent many hours fixing profiles that have been borked in this way.

MySpace went down the pan as Facebook grew – people were drawn to the conformist, yet easy to use interface provided. People still use it to put music onto if they do some recording, but compared to Facebook, it now resembles a piece of tumbleweed rolling in front of the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ in some western film, despite the site management attempting to add many facebook features over the year, such as status updates in a feed, and apps to annoy everyone.

Twitter

Twitter seems to have very basic features. You have status updates, and can tweet a picture with said update, and can reply to other updates. I’m probably missing a few details, but that’s the gist of it. Admittedly one thing that is nice is that we don’t have to read about “Person X wants your help in *insert facebook game here*”, but I hide those updates anyway. It’s not as widely used as Facebook, but then not a lot seems to be.

So..what can you do to make Twitter useful?

First of all, if you have a smartphone, it’s probably best to get some sort of app for quick & easy access. I’m using TweeFree on my Palm. It takes 3 screen presses to be able to see the timeline on my account, which is a lot quicker than using a computer.

Add a few things relevant to your likes on there – for me I have bit tech, wired science and breaking news. This way if I get bored on the train or whatever I can flip up my phone and look up all the headlines of things that might be interesting.

Also, it could be used for Microblogging – look to the right of the page. You’ll see a bar with my Twitter account, and the few updates I put on there – it’s a way of letting people know your thoughts, without writing a massive blog, or trawling through whatever facebook has on it.  Some bloggers might want to update their site daily with a short update.

Which brings me to the last thing, aside from seeing what your comrades on are up to. If you’re doing a sponsored walk for example, you could tell your sponsor to follow you on Twitter, and then they’ll be able to make sure you’re doing it, as long as your phone has GPS and location updates turned on. (Example taken from one of the members of bit)

So…it’s not Facebook, nor is it trying to be. Not for me at least – more like a customised RSS feed, a tool for my current blog, or just another way of being nosey and seeing what people are up to.

For the record my Twitter is Brooxy927. I’m not a Twitter nut, but I see some uses for it, and I’ll keep using it 🙂

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