I’ve now moved my blog from Blogger over to this self-hosted site. Blogger was a good place to start out writing online but I’ve been feeling increasingly constrained by Blogger’s inflexibility. Plus I always have this nagging doubt that Google will send Blogger to the Google graveyard in the cloud where it will join its compatriots; Reader, Talk, Buzz, Wave, Notebook, Labs, Jaiku and many others.
The format of the blog is work in progress as I’ve got more flexibility. I’ve moved all my historic content over and aim to be a bit more prolific with content now. Thank you for all your support and I’m looking forward to continuing to share my thoughts over the coming years.
Today Adyen announced the launch of their Shuttle Chip and PIN reader to complement their existing ecommerce and mcommerce payment solutions. The EMV compliant Chip and PIN card reader connects to an Apple or Android mobile device via Bluetooth and replaces the need for the usual POS card devices.
The standout for me is that Adyen enables retailers to take the payment processing piece to the consumer, rather than expecting the consumer to go to the payment processing; i.e. queue up at the back of the store for the privilege of paying. This is the Apple model where strolling retail staff can process a payment on the spot for the customer. This creates a much better customer experience and I bet it reduces breakage. How many times have you taken a look at the queue at the till and thought no way! John Lewis does a great job making staff available on the shop floor to assist customers – think how much more effective they’d be if they could also take payment.
One of the intriguing things I find with new Apple devices is how they change the way I use mobile devices. Until I start using a new device I can only guess at what some of my use cases will look like. When I received my original iPhone (the 3G, for business) I expected to use it in a similar way to my main handset, a Nokia E62. However the user interface, App Store and general ease of use meant I used my phone more and more and in ways that had been just too painful on the Nokia. For example, whilst there were plenty of S60 apps around, finding them and side-loading them from my PC was frustrating and predicated against the whole activity.
I was initially sceptical about how useful I’d find an iPad but trying out a friend’s iPad convinced me it would be transformational. When I started using one, the crossover occurred with both my MacBook Pro and my iPhone. I was doing similar things but in a more convenient and enjoyable way. Plus the iPad lent itself to new activities like reading books and watching TV shows which previously I hadn’t bothered to do on mobile devices.
I recently won an iPod Touch, a device I wouldn’t have considered buying because of the overlap with my iPhone 5. However it has proved surprisingly useful as a media device. I don’t need many apps on it, leaving plenty of space for more music and video than I can fit on my iPhone.
The iPad Mini intrigues me because although it replicates the iPad in terms of functionality, the smaller screen size introduces another dimension. As an ereader the full size iPad is big and heavy. The iPad Mini is much more user friendly in this space. Travelling on the train also feels like an occasion when a smaller iPad would be more convenient. Will the lack of a Retina display be an issue here? Not sure, although the rationale for no Retina display in terms of performance improvements seems a reasonable trade-off. It remains to be seen whether the iPad Mini will outsell the iPad over time; when it gets a Retina display I think it will. I suspect the iPad Mini will prove transformational in use – and if I get one I’ll let you know!
Telnames recently released a new iOS app to allow customers to buy, build and manage their telname .tel website. Whilst it’s always been easy to do this via their website the app makes it even simpler, especially when you want to change contact details on the go.
A telname is a great way for small businesses and individuals to create a simple mobile friendly website with contact details and brief information about the business. Telnames summarises the functionality …
Each telname has one page containing:
- A short description including your logo or profile picture
- Up to 20 pieces of contact information (including telephone numbers, email addresses, web links, and social media links)
- A map and address location
- An offer where you can describe your goods or services on promotion
- An image gallery containing up to 5 photos
- A video displayed on your page
- An additional information section
- A design wizard to personalize your background image for desktops, iPads and tablets
Have a look at a couple of telnames I’ve created – giraffeinascarf.tel and sevendotzero.tel
Unlike other sectors of the financial services market, we rarely see new entrants in the UK banking market because the bar to entry is so high. Obtaining a new banking licence is a massive challenge (ask Metro Bank!) and developing the systems required to support a range of banking products takes a significant period of time (ask Tesco Bank about their yet to launch current account!).
The UK banking market needs more competition from providers who can deliver customer centric services in the way consumers want to consume them. This means products from people who understand consumers and who are not driven by protecting legacy products. So far new competition has been very limited; examples include Metro Bank who went down the banking licence route and Virgin Money who bought Church House Trust and then Northern Rock.
An interesting alternative is the model followed by Marks and Spencer who got to market very quickly by offering a M&S branded, HSBC backed, account. M&S Bank is part of HSBC but operates under the M&S brand, in M&S stores, thereby leveraging the brand values associated with M&S.
What the UK banking market needs is a white label enabler to help brands and new providers get to market quickly by providing the banking licence and banking systems that act as a barrier to new entrants. In the US, Bancorp Bank offers what they term ‘private label affinity partner programs’. New providers can offer their customers branded banking services that are actually provided by Bancorp Bank, i.e. deposits are held and protected under Bancorp Bank’s licence. M&S Bank benefited from the existing financial services relationship between HSBC and M&S, however there is no evidence that either HSBC or another bank will start actively marketing this wholesale business model.
A white label banking provider would enable both providers along the M&S Bank model and new providers who see smart, mobile device based services as the future of banking. In the US, Movenbank is bringing their unique customer proposition to market via this model. In the words of Brett King, Movenbank Founder and CEO, banking is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do. So which bank will go for first mover advantage in the UK? Anyone?
I’ve been a big fan of Things for a couple of years. The ability to manage tasks and projects across iPhone, iPad and Mac is great and the user interface makes Things a pleasure to use. However having to manually sync via WiFi is a pain and forgetting to do it before going out can mean the iOS app is out of date and useless.
I’ve been using Things Cloud Beta for a few weeks now and it completely transforms the user experience. Whichever app you fire up is current and wireless sync is just a distant memory. Tasks that are moved to today are also now highlighted, making it easy to see what’s new and either accept or defer them.
Despite being a beta, Things Cloud feels fully formed and I hope will move out of beta soon. If you use Things I’d definitely recommend downloading the Mac beta app from the Things website and checking out the instructions for setting up Things Cloud.
Probably the biggest deficiency of mobile devices is the battery life. Anyone who makes extensive use of the full functionality on a device like an iPhone will face the dreaded low battery warning long before the end of the day. Unless I know I can charge my iPhone during the day from the mains or my laptop I always carry a portable charger, basically a Lithium Polymer battery with a cable to connect to the iPhone.
|Powerfreakz Evolution Solar 3000
and Evolution 2500
A couple of years ago I reviewed the Powerfreakz Solar Charger and the team at Powerfreakz were kind enough to send me examples of their new solar charger, the Powerfreakz Evolution 3000 Solar, and its non solar sibling, the Powerfreakz Evolution 2500 to review. Both chargers are charged up via the mains, however the 3000 Solar can also be charged via sunlight or, if close enough, an artificial light. The 3000 is the bigger unit, weighing in at 114g and the 2500 comes in at 88g. Each device is supplied in a case with an array of charging tips for the usual suspects; Apple 30 pin, micro USB, mini USB, Nokia, Samsung etc. The mains power adaptor comes with four adaptors to cover most of the world.
In use both chargers do a good job giving my iPhone 4S another lease of life; around three hours to charge the iPhone and this uses up most of the capacity of the chargers.
The 3000 Solar is more versatile however I prefer the compact design of the 2500 – it’s small enough to slip in a pocket.
When I looked at the Rogers One Number service I thought why don’t we have this in the UK. It’s the first new service from a mobile operator I’ve seen in a long time that would make a significant difference to my mobile usage.
One Number lets you use all your mobile services – voice, text, MMS – from your PC or Mac using your mobile number. Video chat is also available if both parties are signed up to One Number. The contact list on your phone and PC is automatically synched. One Number recognises that consumers want the convenience of a single point of connectivity with the convenience of multiple devices.
The coolest feature is switch call. This lets you switch a call from your PC to your mobile phone or vice versa mid call. So you’re chatting on your mobile when you walk in the door; just switch the call to your PC for a more relaxed chat. You only pay for the mobile portion of the call and the other party is none the wiser!
You can also call any Canadian number using your computer from anywhere in the world for free – brilliant if you’re away on business or holiday.
So how did Rogers launch One Number? They worked with CounterPath who delivered a solution to Rogers that converges voice, video and text on a single number over multiple devices using their Softphone platform.
More info at www.rogersonenumber.ca
Maxroam has long been a favourite for global roaming, especially for avoiding outrageous data roaming bills from your home operator.
Today Maxroam has announced their MVNO agreement with Vodafone UK. This gives users similar rates to other UK operators when in the UK and Maxroam’s competitive roaming rates when elsewhere. This is a great product for users who spend a lot of time in the UK as there’s now no need to also have a local SIM card.
Maxroam SIMs are the usual mini SIM size but can easily be snapped into a micro SIM to be compatible with iPhones and iPads. Nice touch and very consumer centric.
According to the Maxroam website UK rates are:
- Call UK number – 13p per minute
- Call rest of world – 13p per minute
- Send SMS to UK number – 10p
- Send SMS to rest of world – 10p
Data is charged at:
- 250MB – £5.02
- 500B – £8.36
- 1GB – £15.05
More information from Maxroam here.
Last week I spoke to James Varga from miiCard
. The miiCard proposition is very simple – it allows you to prove who you are when transacting online. How many times have you opened an account online and not only been asked to fill in lots of details but also to send in copies of bills or cancelled cheques, to ‘prove’ who you are? This process doesn’t necessarily prove anything and is a terrible customer experience. miiCard changes all that by allowing you to use a pre-authenticated identity when applying for or using services online. Imagine you want to apply online for a mortgage; using your miiCard at the start of the application proves you are who you say you are and saves rekeying lots of information. Both parties gain from a simpler, more secure, application process. Or on a dating site, wouldn’t you rather date someone who has proved who they are? Or buy on auction sites from people you know you can trust?
How does miiCard work? When you set up your account you enter your online banking credentials which miiCard uses to identify you as the owner of the bank account. That bank account will have been opened using identity documents and now that identity is used to create your miiCard. Your personal data is secure at all times; miiCard never actually sees it and it is not stored on any system. miiCard uses Yodlee, who have many years experience managing financial transactions, to handle the bank authentication process.
Once miiCard goes live on service provider websites, consumers will start to see the value in having a miiCard. miiCard brand awareness will also increase as consumers start to see it on more and more websites. In the early days I can see accepting miiCard being a competitive differentiator; availability of a miiCard authenticated application process would certainly make me more likely to use a particular service provider.
This video gives a nice summary of the miiCard proposition.
Incidentally, miiCard stands for My Internet Identity Card. You can follow miiCard on Twitter at @miicard
You can sign up for miiCard here.