Mobile Directions

Last night I attend the Sydney Windows Mobile User Group which I can only describe as having the highest device per square metre of any user group I’ve attended.  With presentations from James McCutcheon (J3Technology), HTC and Fujitsu there was no end of new devices being shown off.  I definitely got the impression that this group was not developer focused with only 3 out of a room of 20+ people admitted to being a developer.  Despite this James did a great job of talking through the new features of Visual Studio 2008 that pertain to mobile developers (to be honest the list is quite short!)

What really interested me were the new HTC devices, particularly the HTC Touch Dual and the HTC Shift.  The Dual is the next incarnation of the HTC Touch which I have been armed with until recently. Unfortunately there are two limitations to the Touch that make it untenable as a long term device for me 1) There is no keyboard/keypad and 2) There is no HSDPA support.  IMHO the Dual hits the spot as it is still has that slim, sexy look but has both a slide down keypad and HSDPA support (warning: the current model will not work on the Telstra NextG network – there will be another revision next year with this support).  The other device in this space is the HTC Touch II which simply improves on the HTC Touch to include HSDPA support.  There is still no keyboard/keypad however HTC have provided a funky SIP that might mean you can get away without a keypad.

Now the HTC Shift is a device that caught my attention when they announced it a while ago but until yesterday I hadn’t had the opportunity to play with it.  Unfortunately I’m not sure it completely lived up to my expectations.  As with all the other UMPC devices I’ve seen it seems to have a lot of rim space – space that borders the screen that isn’t what I’d classify as useful.  This makes it look and feel like a rounded brick.  However, the screen is awesome and definitely very readable.  This is in contrast to the keyboard that is not only small but imho unusable – I’d prefer the keyboard on the k-jam or my HTC TyTnII which at least is designed for single digit entry.

The other devices that were on show were from Fujitsu – particularly their offering in the UMPC space looks to rival what HTC are doing.  In fact the Lifebook U1010 (and the next model in this series) look to be a better combination of look and feel than the HTC Shift.  Like the Shift, the next model will incorporate HSDPA support to make it a true data capable device.  What I particularly liked about this device is that the keyboard, although as small as the Shift keyboard, was more usable.  Further Fujitsu have incorporated a nipple (right thumb) with left and right mouse buttons (left thumb) to make it easier to work with the device when you are literally on the move.  As a convertible with full touch aware screen this device is likely to get good adoption from those wanting something that will (almost) fit in your pocket!

The last point I want to point out is that I attended Mobile Monday where the topic was all about mobile payments.  It’s interesting to note that PayPal are doing a lot of work in this space and that there is definitely some mixed thoughts on how this area will pan out.  There seems to be the old school way (using SMS and similar services) v’s the mobile web way (ie browser based, similar to what happens on the desktop). As devices move to being more data capable are we likely to see users move towards surfing the web and making payments that way?  Of particular interest to me is the ability to do person-to-person payments – for example to split a restaurant bill. This area is clearly very young but rapidly expanding as the demand for better mobile services grow.

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