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THOUGHT: HotSpot Providers needs to better understand the Mobile Devices World
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 31.05.07 - 13:55:01 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 10524x
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Another day, another city and another coffee shop which offers a public HotSpot. So far so good I thought and fired up my Smartphone since I wanted to do some E-Mails, etc.
Doesn't matter if it is a free HotSpot or one which costs, most HotSpots requires a login on a web frontend which is generally fine for me even if completely useless if it is a free HotSpot (like the one bellow). Anyway - it's okay and not bothering too much except if you get what I just got when I've tried to use the HotSpot in the cofffee shop I'm currently relaxing:

Hello? I'm using Internet Explorer - in this case the Mobile version but it's also an Internet Explorer as you can see here:

So what's the point by offering a public W-LAN these days but limiting it to Windows PCs and Mac's? These HotSpot providers better need to understand that there are more devices out now which supports W-LAN and I'm not only talking about Windows Mobile Smartphones and Pocket PCs but also  about Nokia's smart N-series devices which supports W-LAN also. If a public HotSpot is reduced to the operating system (which it is in this case since I've proofed that I'm using Internet Explorer (Mobile)), the HotSpots better closes down.
On the other hand, most other HotSpots, which at least allows a login from a mobile devices, aren't providing the best user experience at all or how comes, that you get such a login page at Starbucks if you use their T-Mobile HotSpot:

Is it that hard to either provide a mobile device optimized layout as well (even the::unwired is doing it) or to reduce the overall look and feel to the important stuff: rates and login?

I don't get it at all. Sure, I've also seen good examples where the login from a (Windows) Mobile device worked perfect but these experiences are definitely outnumbered. So please - can I ask all HotSpot providers for the favor to verify the login mask experience from mobile devices (and no - I'm not talking about Laptops or Notebooks since these devices are portable, not truly mobile).

What's your experiences with public HotSpots?

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by modgnik on 01.06.07 - 00:06:34

I hang about coffee shops and restaurants most days and the ones that have WiFi either charge too much or have discontinued the service. None are free. I live in Durban, S Africa and use a 3G/WiFi enabled Smartphone. I have also noticed less and less people using laptops and the ones that do, use 3G/HSPDA. There are two hotels that I can login to and use their ADSL for 300 mins a month as part of my home package. But am I going to go there specifically just to grab some free data to browse a few web sites? I dont think so. Network data here costs 20c euro/mb for 3G & HSPDA and 5c/mb for Edge, and that's on PAYG. If you take a Bundle it's even cheaper. Surfing the web via WiFi via a Smartphone in a public place, is I think, a dead loss - well here in Durbs anyway. Whereas at home I prefer my phone to the pc. The local municipality here is considering a city wide Hotspot, now that's a different story.

Posted by Vinit on 01.06.07 - 11:00:05

Hi Arne,

I am from Bombay, India. and the wifi scene here is pretty sad. none of 2 big coffee chains, Barista and Cafe Coffee Day, offer free or paid wifi. heck, over half of the staff id not even aware of the term wifi. Si mostly rely on cellular network for browsing, which is also painfully slow. (around 50kbps)


Posted by bidi on 03.06.07 - 07:00:11

I never understood the hype around WiFi. Going to a coffeeshop and "quickly checking my e-mail"? It's a joke! Log in to a hotspot (unless it is free and even then it is troublesome enough in most cases) means you have to grab your credit-card, type in a lot of data to get access. In most cases, you buy a time-budget of 30mins minimum, which you either don't need to "quickly check emails" or which is too short if you want to do serious work. I seriously believe that all this hype around WiFi at hotspots is driven by US users who for quite some time had inferior mobile systems or suffered from just too high data-prices. To me, WiFi is really useless. I never switch it on on my mobile device. The only use I have is with my laptop if I have to spend time in airport-lounges. If you have an hour downtime waiting for a flight, then it's worth the hassle of typing in all the data for login, grabing your credit-card etc. Anything esle: GPRS is more than enough for checking your mail on a mobile device, it's always available and with Exchange Push Mail, you are constantly up to date anyway.

Posted by Arne Hess on 03.06.07 - 12:06:25

Thanks for all your thoughts. Please let me explain why I'm still using W-LAN and why I wrote this thought. While it is great to have UMTS or even HSDPA (and you can bet that I'm using it extensive as well), not all devices have it inbuilt today. There are still many great (Windows Mobile) devices out there which are supporting 2.5G only (for example the HTC Excalibur or the Glofiish X500+). So if you want to get the benefit of highspeed data, you either have to use at least EDGE or better - if available - W-LAN. I'm not going to talk about W-LAN in my home environment where it has definitely benefits over WWAN but I'm talking about public places.
Another reason I like to use W-LAN is roaming. Part of my job is travelling abroad and if you are anywhere within Europe, using UMTS/HSDPA in roaming conditions can become a pretty expensive experience. If you are on the other side of the ocean (USA), it becomes even more expensive and it makes sense to use W-LAN in international roaming instead of using WWAN via EDGE, UMTS or HSDPA. No, I'm not talking about receiving E-Mail headlines but sometimes (or better quite often) I'm receiving press releases with photos up to 5 MB! If you are going to download this to your mobile device (and upload it after to the site again) and you are in international roaming, you better have some pocket money left in your account to pay the next invoice.
Another way I'm using my mobile devices is to watch my home TV and DVDs (see my experience from Boston last year here). Imagine I've watched Kill Bill vol. 1 via a UMTS connection while in Boston (keep in mind, place shift streaming takes something between 1- 1.5 MB per minute).

So there are some good reasons, why W-LAN still makes sense. Either because your devices isn't a 3G device (for which reasons ever) or you are international where roaming fees are way too much.

So you see, it has benefits (sure it always depends on each usage pattern) to use W-LAN if available. And if W-LAN is available/offered - I expect from a service provider, that I can access it from any device which has W-LAN capabilities. I's not acceptable, that it does a "smart" OS/browser sniffing which keeps me away from logging in to the service.

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