You may or may not know, readers, that there is an album that falls into the easy listening musical category by a lady called Robin Avery entitled: ‘The way that you hold me.’ It is described thus: “[The record] is a smooth jazz album that expresses love in many ways, at times adding pop, Caribbean, and R&B flavours.” It sounds like a dreadful prospect and, the Informer can confirm based on a quick online sampler, lives down to all expectations.

The only reason this gets a mention today is that it ought to be the name of a song about the iPhone 4 which, it turns out, has a rather frustrating idiosyncrasy. Were this to be summed up in a lyric written by Ms Avery, it might run as follows (in the smooth jazz style):

With your warm embrace so light, and your gentle touch so deft

Promise me you’ll never let me fall.

Just hold me on the right, don’t hold me on the left,

‘cause if you do I’ll drop the bloody call.

The problem, it seems, is the location of the antenna on the new model (queued for this week by a substantial number of devotees) is located on the bottom left hand side of the phone. When held in the left hand for a call, the antenna is covered and the call drops. This should be a pretty serious problem for Apple, whose response is simply to advise the people who queued all day to get their hands on the new phone just not to hold it in that way. Even by Apple’s standards this is breathtakingly dismissive.

The firm also said this week that it has discovered that: “White models of Apple’s new iPhone 4 have proven more challenging to manufacture than expected, and as a result they will not be available until the second half of July.” They’re a funny bunch.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all the Apple hubbub, Motorola kept the Android flag flying with the launch of the Droid X. The phone will be available through Verizon Wireless from July 15th, with the Blockbuster on Demand video platform integrated as part of the V-Cast Video service. Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Google was on hand to point out that there are now 160,000 new Android devices being activated daily.

And Google’s march into the telco space continued uninterrupted this week with the news that, after a year of invite-only beta trials, the internet omnipresence has made its Google Voice service available to anyone from the United States who wants to sign up for it.

The service is Google’s latest bid to shake up the establishment, and offers a single number that can be applied to existing accounts, be they home, work or mobile, as well as a number of other web-based features. It also offers free national calls and text messages. In a post on the Google Voice blog by product managers Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, the firm revealed that it has racked up over one million users of its service in the US since it started inviting consumers to test it.

Moving on to Nokia now and the Finnish handset vendor finally seems to have got a clue. In the wake of much criticism over its uninspiring handset portfolio, especially in the upper tier, the Finn has decided to its Linux homebrew OS, MeeGo, on high end N-series devices going forward. It’s hardly a vote of confidence in the Symbian Foundation.

The flagship N8 will be the last device to run Symbian, with the forthcoming N9 bringing MeeGo to market in late 2010 or early 2011. Nokia has undertaken a number of organisational reshuffles lately in a bid to rediscover a sense of direction and on July 1st Mary McDowell – one of the Leading Ladies profiled recently by telecoms.com — takes up her position as head of the new Mobile Phones unit, while responsibility for Nokia’s top tier smartphone strategy is now shouldered by Anssi Vanjoki, head of the new Mobile Solutions unit, which comprises all of Nokia’s MeeGo and Symbian activities. There is glory to be had for Vanjoki in this role if the company rediscovers high-end success, but there will be nowhere to hide if it doesn’t.

The MeeGo platform is Linux-based  and effectively combines Intel’s Moblin platform (aimed squarely at netbook devices) with Nokia’s cross-platform application environment, Qt, and the cellular integration work Nokia has done in Maemo.

That’s not stopping Intel sticking its fingers into other pies, however. The US chip shop is currently rumoured to be porting the Android platform to x86-based architecture. To date, Android has been popular on ARM-based chips, which are more energy efficient, but it sounds like Intel is gearing up to introduce an x86 compatible version of Android later this summer, perhaps paving the way for bigger than netbook or tablet type devices?

Fighting the threat from the likes of Apple and Android on a second front, Nokia has also moved to make its Ovi app platform more attractive to developers by dropping the price of a developer licence to €50, down from the old charge of $200 for a developers ID, and waiving the submission fee for Symbian applications to be signed. The idea is to lower the barrier to entry for application developers and it is one that is much needed.

Whether or not another mobile television initiative is much needed, meanwhile, is something that will probably divide opinion. Firmly in the yes camp are O2, Orange and Vodafone, the UK operations of which announced this week a joint pilot of a 3GPP broadcast system called Integrated Mobile Broadcast (IMB). The solution is delivered by Ericsson, IP Wireless and Streamezzo and the trial will run for three months from October this year.

Plenty of operators have turned their back on Europe’s ‘official’ mobile TV technology, DVB-H, giving it up as a bad job. But IMB, a standardised 3GPP technology recently endorsed by the GSM Association, holds promise as it makes use of the TDD spectrum most operators with 3G licenses already have.

According to the three operators, the pilot will demonstrate the capabilities of IMB in delivering both live streaming video and offloading traffic from existing 3G networks by broadcasting and storing content on the device. IPWireless will supply the core 3GPP broadcast technology, Ericsson will provide integration services and a media platform and Streamezzo, recently acquired by Amdocs, will provide the user interface.

O2’s parent company Telefónica was busy trying to solve its Brazilian conundrum this week, by selling off eight per cent of Portugal Telecom to unnamed buyers believed to be existing PT shareholders. The Spanish incumbent was motivated by an expectation that it would not be allowed to vote as a shareholder in PT on its own proposal to buy PT out of the Brazilian venture they jointly own, which controls local carrier Vivo. So it sold eight per cent (it will retain two per cent) in the hope that the recipients would vote in its favour.

Telefónica’s bid to assume control of Vivo is born out of frustration at its inability to execute its favoured multiplay strategy in the Brazilian market. The Spanish firm already has a fixed presence through Telesp, and is keen to merge the two Brazilian operations and take a converged offering to the lucrative enterprise market. Portugal telecom thinks the idea’s a proper stinker and won’t play ball.

In happier news along similar lines, Russia’s largest wireless carrier, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) is to merge with fixed line operation Comstar, in which it owns a majority stake. MTS currently owns 64 per cent of Comstar and already consolidates the company’s earnings in its financial results, but the merger facilitate the full integration of MTS’s and Comstar’s subscriber bases and enable the cross-selling and bundling of broadband and television services to MTS customers.

As a result, the move would create additional cost savings, beyond the $200m of cost synergies MTS already benefits from since it purchased majority control of Comstar in October 2009.

Mikhail Shamolin, president and CEO of MTS, said: “We believe that the merger of MTS and Comstar is attractive for our shareholders because it will accelerate the delivery of our “3i” strategic goal of realising growth through increasing customer value, by providing our customers with a broad, innovative and integrated offering of mobile and fixed line telephony, high-speed internet access and pay-TV services.”

It was the Femto World Summit this week in London and, on Monday, the Informer met with what felt like the entire sector ahead of the event. Positioned front and centre as the latest convert to the cause was US rural carrier and AWIW debutante Mosaic Telecom.

On Monday, Mosaic, which operates in Wisconsin, contracted Nokia Siemens Networks to roll out a standards compliant 3G femtocell solution using kit from Airvana. “Femtocells ensure subscribers enjoy the best indoor mobile voice, video and data services, and help offload traffic from the broader 3G network,” said Rick Vergin, chief executive officer of Mosaic Telecom, blinking in the limelight.

The Informer also met with Vodafone, which finds itself in the interesting marketing dilemma of claiming to have a superior 3G network but also trying to sell femtos to users to boost poor coverage.

“This is all part of our best network strategy,” said Lee McDougal, senior manager for network, messaging and call completion at Vodafone UK. “We know that this [lack of coverage in buildings] is a problem that all operators around the world suffer from. We don’t want to deny it exists. So we’re being upfront in saying we can’t give you coverage absolutely everywhere and nobody can, so we’ve spent the time and effort developing a product that can solve this problem.” McDougal said the strategy has given Vodafone something of a first mover advantage in admitting the problem and getting existing and potential customers accustomed to the solution.

Which isn’t a million miles away from Apple’s response to the connective shortcomings of its new iPhone.

Take care

The Informer


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