A strange headline, but that is the claim being made by a Nicaraguan commander who strayed into Costa Rican territory (and replacing their flag with the Nicarguan one). They were using erm, Google maps and it showed that they were clearly still in Nicaragua. The country’s own military maps apparently show the correct border, but he chose to use the Google version (presumably on his phone) to navigate across the border. Costa Rica, who lack a standing army, were understandably alarmed. It’s no the first time that Google has run into problems with it’s borders. Cambodia recently took offence at Google Map’s border with Thailand, which led to a hasty redrawing of the maps. In future, expect Google to add a warning along the lines of ‘not to be used for military invasions’.
Many people refuse to go to the doctor, especially when it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STI). The fact that few young people are willing to visit an STI clinic is one of the reasons for the rise in the diseases, especially among men. It would appear that embarrassment (and maybe just lack of time) is a large part of the problem. People certainly are interested in getting medical advice. When the TV programme Embarassing Bodies, added an STI checker to their website, nearly 1/2 million people used it. It was so successful that the NHS funded the site as it was helping them to get in touch with some hard to reach patients.
It looks like the solution to STI diagnosis could come from the mobile phone. Going one step beyond just a symptom checker, researchers are developing a small device that attaches to a phone or PC. It can analyse saliva and tell you if you have an STI and if so, which one. The idea is to sell the devices for less than £1 from vending machines in places like night club toilets. This is just one of many initiatives to make your phone into your personal doctor – in the future our mobiles will be an essential part of our medical programme.
It would be unwise to under estimate Indian ingenuity when it comes to technology. Most industry observers expected Sharp to bring out the first phone with a 3D screen (no silly glasses required), but instead an Indian technology company, Spice, has been the first to bring one to market. Not only that, but it costs the princely sum of $97! Of course, the question remains as to whether phone users want or need a 3D screen. Yes it can benefit the TV or film experience, but is it simply a <insert obscure 80s band reference here>fad gadget </insert>?
The latest figures for Q3 show that Apple are now the forth largest mobile manufacturer behind Nokia, Samsung and LG. Shifting 14 million phones in the quarter, the company overtook RIM’s BlackBerry for the first time (see previous iphone sales stats). Apple have benefitted from the launch of the iPhone 4, so it is quite possible that RIM will jump ahead of them later this year. Nokia still sell 8 x the volume of phones than Apple at 110 million … that’s more phones that Apple have ever sold! However the Finish manufacturer has a massive range of handsets, whereas there is just the iPhone 4 (and 3gs) – pretty successful for a single model.
What is interesting is how Apple has made it into the top 5. Basically some of their main competitors: Sony Ericsson and Motorola have given up the fight. What I mean, is that having made losses for some time, they have stopped being global manufacturers and concentrated primarily on smartphones in regional markets: Motorola in the US and Sony Ericsson in Europe. Nokia and Samsung, have been successful at providing the basic phones, especially in emerging mobile markets. However, they are making the shift to smartphones. Samsung have a real contender to the iPhone in the Galaxy S. If you don’t care about the Apple logo on your phone (yes, there are some people outside the media industries who really don’t care) then the Samsung phone is an excellent choice.
Of course, Apple still make more profit than all the others put together. As I keep saying, with that kind of success why would you need to take over the world and become the biggest? What’s wrong with being the most profitable?
If there’s one thing that technology manufacturers will never learn, it’s that the technology doesn’t drive consumer demand. It’s the consumers who drive the technology. There are a litany of technologies that failed due to lack of consumer adoption: Sinclair C5, The Segway (it’s there, but it’s still niche), interactive TV (it was considered a real competitor to the internet in the 19902) and video calling. In fact the mobile space is particularly good at assuming that having the technology is simply enough to get consumers using it. When 3g first came out in the UK, the network Three focussed on video calling, as if we were all crying out for it. It didn’t make sense. Video calling had been available on fixed lines for a while, and the internet was capable of offering something similar (for a lot less money). Given that there hadn’t been a wide adoption at that point, why would people suddenly start doing it on their mobile phones? There are certain situations where a video call can be useful or fun, but for the most part they are few and far between.
I was somewhat surprised to see that Apple thought they could re-invent video calling with their FaceTime on the iPhone 4. The TV ads are even reminiscent of the early 3g ads. OK, to be fair Apple have been successful in redefining consumer technologies before. Their combination of beautifully design products with a great user interface has ensured their success. However, there is nothing significantly different about Apple’s video calling that should bring about a shift in consumer adoption. I haven’t seen any figures, but there are no reports of FaceTime taking off, and certainly amongst my friends, none of them use it.
However, the front facing camera on the iPhone 4 does have a useful purpose. Women use it as a mirror to do their make-up. A friend pointed this out a few weeks ago. I thought it was a great idea, but didn’t know if that many women bothered with it. But they do! I’ve spotted quite a few people using their iPhone 4s front camera to do their hair or make-up on The Tube. I love the fact that no matter what technologists try and throw at us, ultimately the consumer will pick up the bits they find useful, and run with it. It happened with SMS. It was never supposed to be this big. But teenagers adopted it as it was fast and cheap. They’re now doing the same with BBM (BlackBerry Messenger).
A few years ago a company invented a system called The Mosquito. It emitted an annoying high pitched noise that only teenagers could hear. It was used around shops and shopping centres to stop them hanging around. It was controversial and the matter was taken to the European Court of Human Rights. That aside, what the teenagers did was to record the noise on their phones and use it as their ringtone. They could hear it, but their teachers couldn’t. So it meant they could still use their phones in class to text each other without the teacher knowing. Who says that today’s teenagers have no imagination?