Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Comments on HotSpot@Home

From the SciFi Tech blog comes a compilation of comments on T-Mobile’s service. Should we be worried that UMA is covered as a topic in a “Science Fiction” blog? It’s clear that cellular/Wi-Fi is not sci-fi any more.

I wanted to offer up some comments on the reviews:

"Unfortunately, the service needs some ironing out. Say I walk into a Starbucks. If the cellular signal remains strong, it can take up to three minutes for my phone to switch to Wi-Fi and stop consuming my calling plan minutes. That's because, in an effort to save battery power, the phone sniffs around for Wi-Fi connections only every once in a while… I also dislike the available handsets." , BusinessWeek

As Olga freely points out, there is a trade-off: save battery life, or save a minute of a phone call. Apparently when T-Mobile decided to save on battery, the result is a service that needs ‘ironing out’. Another reviewer called the battery performance on the t409 "absolutely stellar". Oddly enough, over the past years, the primary complaint about GSM/Wi-Fi devices is battery life.

PS - Billing doesn't change when you walk into (or out of) a hotspot. The call is billed at the start rate (cellular or Wi-Fi), regardless of where it finishes.

"Calls over the Wi-Fi network sounded exactly the same as GSM calls. True to their word, we [sic] didn't notice that our phone had switched from one to the other, except in one rare circumstance…. It isn't hard to find cell-phone users who have problems with reception, even in their own homes. With HotSpot@Home, not only is reception no longer a significant issue at home, with Wi-Fi networks at work and wherever users frequent, the service offers customers more control." , infoSync World

"Call quality was nothing extraordinary…. Overall, we're very pleased with the service. The GSM/Wi-Fi transition could be a lot smoother, and we wish that we could actually use the Wi-Fi to surf the Web (Web surfing is unfortunately stuck to EDGE speeds — a bummer)." , CNet

There is a common misconception here. When on Wi-Fi/UMA, using packet services, all the traffic goes through the EDGE/GRPS engine on the phone and in the network. So for now it looks like all packet data traffic goes through EDGE. It doesn’t, and with faster phones it will become clear this is a broadband experience.

"One benefit, which I didn't expect, was that calls made over Wi-Fi actually sounded clearer than those made using the cellular network…. The hype over the iPhone certainly drowned out T-Mobile's launch of HotSpot@Home, which was too bad. T-Mobile's new service is a revolutionary in its scope. , MSNBC.com

Calls sound clearer because they get onto the wired network faster, meaning less packet loss. I also believe is it “revolutionary in it’s scope.”

"[The two phones] sound terrific; over Wi-Fi, in fact, they produce the best-sounding cell-phone calls you've ever made. But the screens are small and coarse, and the features limited…. T-Mobile has found a way to embrace and exploit [Wi-Fi] to everyone's benefit. The result is a smartly implemented, technologically polished, incredibly inexpensive way to make over your phone lifestyle. , The New York Times
"...the best-sounding cell-phone calls you've ever made." Now that's a quote!

"My tests with this wireless network and its companion mobile phone were so underwhelming — when it worked — that I'd suggest anyone with even the tiniest bit of tech savvy wait for something better." , The Chicago Tribune

"The switch from Wi-Fi mode to cell-phone mode mid call is so smooth, it's shocking that this technology really works. If my cell-phone coverage at home was terrible, I'd say sign me up! The limited selection of phones is a major drawback. I can't imagine going back to a boring phone like the Samsung I tested." , The Orange County Register

I’m not sure how Eric at the Trib and Tamara at the OC could have such different experiences. Perhaps Eric was under-whelmed for the same reason Tamara was 'shocked'. It just works. Frankly, I can see how both sides of the coin apply. The key (and frankly boring) advantage of HotSpot@Home is that nothing dramatic happens. Seamless mobility means calls just switches networks, it’s boring. That's UMA, it's boring because it works.

"The big beneficiaries of this service will be International travelers. You can carry the phone with you, say to Rome. The phone will connect to a Wi-Fi network, and allow you to call home as if you were calling locally. The bad news is that if you have to call someone in Rome, then it becomes an international call." , GigaOm

Here’s another ‘it’s so good it’s bad’ comment. Yes, when you’re in Rome with a US phone and you need to call someone in Rome, it’s an international call. But that’s how your mobile phone works today. So that’s the ‘bad news’. Of course the good news is anyone you call in the US is still a local call, and when someone calls you from the US you pay US local rates. I think it makes things better.

"The promise of WiFi phones are great — bypass the slow cell-phone networks when you are near a Wi-Fi hotspot. But the realities of wireless computer networking — with closed networks, firewalls, and other incompatibilities — make them hard enough to log onto with a laptop, never mind a phone." , Business 2.0

From this review, I’m not sure if Eric got a phone to trial. The service is called HotSpot “@Home”. It’s not for attaching to any and all random Wi-Fi access points in the world. It’s for your home network. From the reviews above, apparently it is pretty easy to log in with a phone, let alone a laptop.

"I've been using T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home from Poland this week and I can honestly say that the service is a lifesaver if you're a frequent pond-hopper." , CrunchGear

Excellent news. T-Mobile did a great job keeping the service simple, unlimited calls over any Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world for just $10/month. No wonder the comments are good.

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