SBC Partners with Boingo - Hotspots

Boingo recently announced that they have added SBC Freedom Link hot spots to their portfolio. (I would include a link to the announcement, but both of the links that I was sent were broken when I tried them)

That's wonderful for Boingo, but I'm not a Boingo customer. I'm an SBC customer, and I can add Wi-Fi access to my account for just a few dollars a month. What I'd like to do is use all of Boingo's hot spots through my SBC account.

Last year, our survey data showed that only one percent of online consumers had paid for using public Wi-Fi. I'd pay for Wi-Fi if the footprint were large enough - but it's never my service provider extending its footprint. It's always a service provider that isn't necessarily selling to consumers.


More Misplaced Customer Service Dollars (Wireless Carrier)

As I blogged earlier this week, I recently switched wireless carriers. This afternoon, my old carrier phoned me to conduct a customer satisfaction survey on my experience with their customer service representative. I answered five minutes of questions regarding my level of satisfaction with my phone call - not the wireless carrier's phone service.

The survey process was outsourced to a third-party who was completely uninterested in the reason that I called customer service initially. (The reason that I called was to confirm that my service contract had been canceled.)

Here are some of the questions that they asked:

(each question was prefaced by (and, yes, they said this phrase about ten times) "On February 22nd, 2005 at 3:34pm PST during your call to Carrier X's customer service department…")

- Was the service representative friendly?
- How many times was I transferred during the course of my call?
- How many calls did it take to resolve my issue?
- Was the service representative knowledgeable about my issue?
- Would I recommend "carrier X" to a friend based on my experience with their customer service?

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Missed Wireless Customer Service Opportunity

Well, I finally succeeded switching wireless carriers yesterday. I initially decided to switch carriers because my own carrier was selling new handsets to new customers at a lower price than to existing customers. Having spent some time analyzing carriers' ARPU numbers, I know that my $100+/month phone bill for the past five years is well above that of their average customer. I decided to leave.

I phoned my old carrier to ensure that my service was indeed canceled once I knew that my new service was working. I was first placed on hold for more than five minutes. Once a very distant-sounding voice finally answered, there was a "yeah, whatever"-type attitude. No questions asked about why I was switching.

I turned around and phoned my new carrier. The call was answered much more quickly by a very friendly voice who spent quite a bit of time walking me through the initialization, answering questions about services, answering questions about 3G deployments, etc.

Very different experiences.


Takes a Licking/Keeps on Ticking

Well, I successfully purchased a new mobile phone today - I think. My old Motorola Timeport could be a new Timex commercial. I've dropped it about 200 times. Accidentally kicked it and watched it skid across pavement. The plastic has chipped off in such large chunks that I can see the circuit board inside. The antenna has an elbow that allows the top end to spin 360 degrees. The carrier's logo sticker is long gone. The screen is going. There are varying shades of brightness in the text characters. Even my grandparents mock it, but it still works, and I get better coverage with this phone than anyone else I know. I've very reluctant to let go.

I couldn't find the new phone that I wanted in a local shop so I went online. My experience was reminiscent of eCommerce in 1995. At first, I tried a major (and I mean MAJOR) online retailer because they were offering the phone at the same price as the carrier, but with only a one-year contract. I spent 15 minutes on the site attempting to buy the phone - I just couldn't figure out the process. I didn't even abandon the shopping cart because I couldn't figure out how to get the phone in it. We're launching some new research here on configuration engines - I'm going to suggest that we add mobile phones to the list.

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What ' s in the fine print? (phone shopping cont.)

6. If you cancel service within 30 days of the purchase of your phone, but do not return your phone as required, you will be responsible for payment of the $175 early termination fee in addition to all airtime, access and other applicable charges incurred prior to the termination of your service. (Didn't I buy the phone? I paid sales tax.)

5.Though we make every effort to preserve user privacy, we may need to disclose personal information when required by law wherein we have a good-faith belief that such action is necessary to comply with a current judicial proceeding, a court order or legal process served on our websites.

4. Our web servers automatically recognize a visitor's domain name (such as .com, .edu, etc.), the point of entry from which a visitor enters our site including web pages, User Guide CDs or banner ads, which pages a visitor visits on our site, and how much time a visitor spends on each page. This information is not linked to any personally identifiable information about the visitor. (Somehow this information isn't being fed into the process to improve the web site)

3. Phones subjected to neglect, misuse, water damage, wear and tear and the like are not eligible for any return or exchange program. (Wear and tear = use?)

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Do you DRIV3R while driving?

CT is considering a law that would not only ban the use of cell phones without a headset (i.e., hands free), but also ban use of a Blackberry, PalmPilot, video game device, personal DVD player or other similar electronic device. They are claiming that newer technologies on cell phones could pose more of a danger now than ever.

The extent to which consumers multi-task is a bit extreme, but I think this law oversteps the lines of trusting individuals to use common sense and exaggerates the current capabilities of the technology. I will admit to sending emails while at traffic lights in S.F. (Haven't gotten through more than 10 on my 20 minute commute to work so not that productive.) The notion, however, of playing a video game (e.g., DRIV3R, 3D Slam Ping Pong) on a 2"x2" screen or even a 3"x4" screen while driving seems to be a bit much. They are looking to prevent fairly far-fetched scenarios. Restless children, eating, and using other electronics in the vehicle must rank higher on the list of accident-causing incidents than playing video games while driving.

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Ringtones - in your car?

I'm not making this up. I was speaking to a company yesterday that broadly falls into the category of telematics service provider.

Ever left the keys in your car? Left the lights on? Turned on your turn signal? Seems as though those beeping sounds - which I think are actually meant to be annoying (that's the point) are too mundane.

Automotive manufacturers want to give consumers the ability to personalize their cars like consumers do their phones. The MB/Swatch "skins" project didn't really work out - that one they've tried. Now, the automotive OEM's have caught on to the buzz of ringtones and downloads.

Imagine leaving your keys in the ignition now and hearing the "Boss" shout at you via one of your favorite Springsteen songs from the 70's or the latest in hiphop. If you can replace a beeping sound in your car with a song, why not a recorded voice "Honey, you forgot your keys."

Where does it stop? In the future, will I be able to download a tune to my microwave? That's an annoying beep.

I imagine that this type of a service will happen and it will be very attractive to those who are now teenagers and accustomed to this level of personalization.


Cool Things I Saw at HP Labs

I had the chance to spend a morning at HP labs last week. I wasn't thinking much of it until I pulled up and noticed quite a few Asian visitors having their photos taken in front of the building as if it were say ... the first McDonald's or Mt. Rushmore.

Whenever I'm there, I always have the sense that there are a lot of really, really bright people working on really cool technologies. Always exciting to talk to them and see what is on the horizon in the next three to five years.

- "James Bond" pen - I think it has another name, but anyway, there is a camera in the pen so you can take a snap shot in a sense of what you are writing on a form and then use your mobile phone to send it back to a server/application to be processed. Meant for purchase orders and the like from the field. Available today.

- Location-specific mobile marketing - and I don't mean special offers for the city of San Francisco. Your location can be pinpointed down to the aisle you are in in Target. They call it an opportunity. I call it scary.

- Embedding RFID in movie posters so that you can more easily download trailers, ringtones, etc. associated with the movie to your mobile device. Funny to picture people pointing devices at posters, but could help spur growth in premium data services from the mainstream.

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Did you see the Robots?

Verizon Wireless continued its advertising blitz with a 30-second spot during the SuperBowl. The ad featured Kid Rock, Shaq, and Deion among others. That was fun - especially the basketball chasing Shaq.

More interesting, did you see the Robots towards the end of the ad? I think it's a preview of what's to come - cross promotion among carriers, Hollywood and mobile content developers. Twentieth Century recently signed a deal with Sorrent to license their movie content - first of which will be Robots - for mobile applications (e.g. ringtones, mobile games, wallpaper, etc.). Soon we'll see short codes in TV ads just like we see Internet URL's today.


When is it coming to a tiny screen near me?

I've been meaning to upgrade my 2001-era Sprint Motorola Timeport for months now - just waiting for the right phone to come out. After spending the morning at HP Labs looking at very cool, next generation video applications (more to come on this) ... and having read what seems like dozens of announcements from Verizon this week on available video content for their new Vcast service, I headed to the nearest Verizon Wireless shop to see if I could pick up a phone. I know the service is not available in San Francisco yet, but I wanted to be ready.

It was one of those conversations with the salesperson -

Salesperson: "V-what"
Me: "Vcast, (with an emphasis on the "T") the new video service. I would like to buy one of those phones."
Salesperson: "We aren't carrying them, but we will."
Me: "When?"
Salesperson: "Don't know."

I'm going to try online next. Stay tuned.

Verizon has promised to lend me a trial unit as soon as I get to a city covered by EVDO. Will take a lot of patience for me to wait until March ... especially when I'm taunted each day with a new announcement of content that is not yet available to ME!