the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Swisscom (Im)mobile

in Mobile , Monday, May 29, 2006

This weekend I again had the opportunity to observe just how hollow the hype of my mobile provider is. I was in Spain, and I wanted to know what the weather forecast was. So, surely my all singing, all dancing 3G phone could help me here? Nope. On trying to launch the browser (I can't really qualify it with "web") I just got a connection error. Even though I was on the Vodafone Spain network, and my provider, Swisscom Mobile, is a Vodafone partner. Really, by now, all this should just WORK! I expect that if I search through the Swisscom website, I might possibly find some obscure document detailing equally obscure things I could try to do to resolve the problem. In fact, a person with my sort of profile might do just that. But most people, and most of Swisscom's customers, have got better things to do. Again, it is sold as a commoditised, mature service. It should just work, and it should work across borders. But even if it did work at the roaming connectivity level, would this have solved my problem in Spain? No. Had I been able to access the Vodafone Live service, what would I see? Er, ringtone adverts, the video clip of the week (so I can justify my video-capable phone to myself?) and SwissFriends Chat, a dating site. Ok, I can see the marketing, revenue driving arguments here, but even these are very, very narrow minded. The phone "knows" where I am, for heavens sake. Why not exploit this to offer services that are so useful that they become second nature, really driving revenue? What about some genuine out of the box, lateral thinking ? Oh, sorry, this is a mobile operator we're talking about. No chance. Of course I could still use the phone as a modem for my Palm, although of course only by foregoing the bright, shiny new 3G service and falling back on direct international roaming rate to my ISP. Being persistent, and having actually gone through the painful process of setting this up in the past, I did so. The speed of the resulting connection would actually put much effective 3G throughput to shame, in fact. I see in an article at The Register today that a bright future is foreseen for "nomadic" software, if only the phone manufacturers play along. Never mind them - the operators are by far the biggest obstacle. Meanwhile, I fully agree with John S. Rhodes' opinion that phones are supposed to be, well, phones.