SMS 20 Year Anniversary

sms.pngOne of the news items at the moment is that SMS has reached its 20 year anniversary. I happened to be working at Vodafone 20 years ago at the time when the UK TACS system was being replaced with GSM. I remember us developers being put in a room and asked to think about what applications there might be for SMS. As it happened, the largest application turned out to be raw SMS sending/receiving by users.

I suppose the lesson here is the usual adage not to take technology and think how it might be used. Instead, innovation usually comes from identifying problems and then finding suitable solutions that might or might not include new technologies.

Noka Qt

qt.gifThe Register has recently observed that… 

"In a presentation at the Over the Air developers meet, Nokia admitted things were not going well, with developers reporting that "developing for Nokia platforms sucks. So Qt is being presented as the solution"

In June, I had some reservations regarding Qt, in particular how complete would the APIs be? …

"I am curious how deep Nokia will go with Qt. It seems that Nokia will be heavily relying on Qt to simplify development and provide for improved mobile user experience. Will Qt really give developers enough (API) control to allow them to forego the Symbian API for the majority of applications?"

Since then it we have been told that about 10 to 20 per cent of developers will have to dip into native APIs to get the functionality they want. Also, there has been a start at describing how Qt and Symbian can work together. Clearly, this isn’t simple. It involves understanding how to inter-work the different exception handling mechanisms, strings, geometry, containers, images, data, and approaches to multitasking.

Reading this was a ‘deja vu’ moment for me. It’s so similar to the time when Microsoft announced Windows Mobile .NET compact framework in 2002. The premise then, as now, was to provide a (semi) cross platform runtime that would also ease development.

So what happened with Windows Mobile .NET compact framework? As mentioned in my posts ‘Selecting a Windows Mobile API’ and ‘Runtimes, Frameworks and Fragmentation’, it never fully realised its ambitions due to problems of fragmentation of runtime, exclusion of frequently used platform APIs and difficulties of using the two programming idioms together.

In terms of Symbian and Qt, I suspect most serious applications will also end needing to use platform APIs that aren’t in Qt. If this is the case then developers will end up having to learn more (Qt AND Symbian AND how to bridge them) rather than less. Furthermore, documentation becomes confusing for newcomers because there are two ways to do some things. It may not be immediately clear when to use Qt or Symbian – especially as this will depend on the exact needs of the application.

While Nokia has admirable aims and goals I am not sure the end result will end up being the remedy Nokia management might think.

Experiment with 2 Way SMS

esendex.gifWant to experiment with 2 Way SMS free-of-charge with a chance to win £1000?

Esendex have a SMS developer challenge. All successful applicants will be provided with a free Esendex virtual mobile number and business SMS account with credit to use up to 250 outbound SMS to support their entry.

"By default the virtual mobile number will be a UK number. Esendex may, at its absolute discretion, be able to make virtual mobile numbers available from other countries."

Beam it up Scotty

beamitupscotty.gifJust came across this new site. It allows you to send content to your (or another person’s) phone.

Beam it Up Scotty is not only free but also (optionally) converts and compresses media to make it more suitable for your phone.

At first, I was sceptical and thought it was just someone harvesting phone numbers and email addresses. However, the corporate information and data protection pages show it’s written by a company in Germany. Hence, under EU data protection laws, they can’t misuse or sell your data unless they pre-declare they are doing so.

I gave it a go with Symbian .sisx and Java ME .jar install files and the SMS messages arrived quickly and downloaded OK. This is a great free way for developers to get apps to remote users.

This is such a useful service that it’s bound to be over-used and withdrawn once the SMS costs add up. 


sendsmsbw.gifI have recently updated my freeware SendSMS application. It’s a J2ME program that allows you to send SMS messages via Clickatell rather than via your network operator.

This has the advantage of much lower cost, the ability to send flash SMS messages (instantly displayed) and the possibility to change the ‘from’ attribute to be any number or even a textual string for anonymous messages.

There’s also an older ClickSMS version written in C++ for 1st and 2nd Edition phones. This allows you to use mobile numbers in the phone’s PhoneBook.

Selling Your Software

sharewire.gifIf you sell your mobile software direct to consumers, check out Sharewire who offer payment by premium SMS, interactive telephone voice response, credit card, Paypal and now, LUUP.

Sharewire describe LUUP as follows…

"We are please to announce the launch of an exciting new payment method for your customers which offers the same payouts as Credit cards or Paypal. LUUP is an e-wallet, a bit like PayPal, but with some important differences;

– Customers can pay by SMS as well as online. To pay by SMS, they send the same codes as before to the same number but instead of billing their phone bill, we bill their LUUP account. Online, customers simply enter their mobile number and PIN code. Sharewire will only support the pay by SMS method.

– LUUP is open to anyone over 14, unlike Paypal and credit cards.

– LUUP is more secure. Like Paypal, customers don’t need to give their card details, but because LUUP uses the mobile phone it is less open to fraud

However, customers must register for a LUUP account before they can use it. Therefore, for products up to EUR 5, we will offer the first product a customer purchases for EUR 1 to encourage registration. This enormous discount is paid for by LUUP and will not affect your payout. In other words: you can sell your products for 1 Euro and still get paid the normal 60% of the regular price! You do not have to do anything to apply; at the end of next week, our payment screens will include LUUP as a payment method. However, you can decide you do not want to offer your products for 1 Euro (and get paid the normal rate).

We encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity and let your customers know they can get your content for 1 Euro.

LUUP is available for customers from the UK, Germany and Norway only."

At the same time, Sharewire have introduced a ‘free’ pricing model where people can download your application for the normal cost of an SMS. You, as a developer, just pay for an SMS bundle to deliver the application. This is great for trial versions or free applications that provide a service that’s paid for another way.

As always, this isn’t an advert and I get nothing from this. Sharewire is just a service I have used in the past and recommend. In fact, I was one of their first customers.

How Consumers Really Use Smartphones

nokia.gifThere’s a very interesting report by Nokia on how consumers actually use their smartphones. The research is based on installing an application on 444 users’ phones that monitors all activity. Here are some results…


Most surprising for me was the amount of web browsing people are doing. Furthermore, 47% of this is outside the operator portal. This ties in well with the Telephia study last month.

13 Jan Update: The link to the study is no longer available. Tommi’s S60 Applications Blog says this information is now available on request only by emailing Dr. Jan Feller at

Mobile Marketing

sms.jpgHelen Keegan has written a lengthy article on Mobile Marketing. It’s a great summary of ways you can implement mobile marketing.

Most applications I work on tend to be products that my clients have been selling stand-alone or part of a service. However, one or two have been marketing applications and I have found these have had a higher (commercial) success rate because of the following…

  • The applications (WAP, SMS, JAVA or Symbian) tend to be given away which encourages takeup
  • The development is usually (well) funded by a big brand
  • Big brands are currently hungry few new ideas based on phone applications
  • Applications have a limited lifetime well-suited to the limited lifetime of some popular phones (i.e. it’s possible to just support today’s popular phones and forget about forward and backward compatibility)
  • The requirements and timescales are linked to major marketing campaigns which means they have pace and don’t stagnate

However, the following need to be carefully managed to ensure users don’t get disillusioned…

  • Phone setup, particularly MMS, Mobile Internet and Bluetooth settings
  • MMS costs , SMS costs and (particularly) data costs