The Future of Mobile is the Software

Posted by Mike Brittain on December 27, 2007
Mobile / 1 Comment

I’ve been mildly anticipating the release of the Verizon Voyager phone ever since I got my iPhone. Mind you, not because I like Verizon. Rather, I have been curious to find out what an “iPhone Killer” looks like.

I have been digging around this morning for information about the new Verizon phone. My interest is in the overall software experience and usability, as well as any info I can find about the web browsing experience. I don’t believe that the iPhone’s success is hinged on the fact that it has a touch screen. Sure, that provides a certain wow-factor, which in turn is provided some of the phone’s initial success. But adding a touch screen to a phone doesn’t make it successful.

Watch this video from If you’re familiar with recent iPhone ads, you will remember that much (though not all) of the of the switching between landscape and portrait formats are user-initiated. This puts the user in control. This is something I do regularly based on my comfort. What I noticed in SlashGear’s walk-through is that the Voyager seems to force the user to switch between portrait and landscape format.

Some other things I found interesting:

  • For text entry, the user kept opening the keyboard. If the keyboard is so much easier to use, then why bother making a in the first place?
  • After text entry, the user switched back to the touch screen. Well, actually, near the end of the video he just gave up completely and stuck to the keyboard (!).
  • Making a phone call caused his previous location search to disappear.
  • The touch screen doesn’t seem that stellar. Looks like it takes multiple “taps” at times to get the screen to react. My personal favorite is when the poor guy tries to flick the screen to scroll the results.


The thing that Apple seems to have done so well with the iPhone is not literally the touch screen of the hardware, but the integration of great, usable software.

I haven’t had a chance to use the mobile web browser from Verizon, but from what I’ve read, I think it still dumbs down web pages to make them fit on your mobile phone. I didn’t believe that the iPhone’s version of the Safari web browser would be very good — who wants to look at a huge web page zoomed out so that all of the text will fit into a microscopic space? But it really is a fantastic piece of software. It’s easy to zoom in and out of the sections you want, AND… what you get on your desktop is what you get on your mobile phone (minor exception being Flash content).

What really sets me off about a company like Verizon is that the recent commercials for the Voyager emphasize the “touch” experience. Somehow, just by adding a touch screen, Verizon has secured success in selling this phone. Oh, but “that’s just the half of it” (reveal: keyboard). What happened to the old “less is more” adage?

WANTED: Alerts for the New York City Subway

Posted by Mike Brittain on July 26, 2006
Mobile / Comments Off on WANTED: Alerts for the New York City Subway

I would give my right arm for a decent alerting system from the MTA in New York. I get into the subway during rush hour probably once every two months to find out that there is some delay or service disruption that causes me to completely re-route, or even walk to work. Short email alerts that I could route to an SMS email address, or even the email client on my cell phone, would alert me to trouble before I got to the train.

Seems like the DC Metro is already doing this. I’m going to test that out over the next few weeks and see what the alerts look like. If you’ve used this service, I’d like to hear your comments.

To add salt to the wound, the MTA recently released a podcast service to provide news and service advisories. While podcasts should typically be subscription-based, I’m curious as to whether these will actually have follow-up casts, or whether they are a one-shot deal. The weekend service advisories might be somewhat useful, but I can get that already in a format I prefer — email. And anyone who has access to a podcast would definitely have access to email. In my opinion, this is a wasted effort, in terms of time and costs of producing and marketing these podcasts. Besides, podcasts are not real-time, especially for an iPod. They have to be downloaded from the Internet when you are syncing the device. I can’t get to that info when I’m entering the subway station.

Real time information, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I’m after.

Still Some Snow Left Out There

Posted by Mike Brittain on May 03, 2006
Mobile, Personal, Skiing and Snowboarding / Comments Off on Still Some Snow Left Out There

It may not seem like ski season, but I was testing out my mobile snow reports application again tonight to find the likes of A-Basin and Snowbird are still reporting nice, spring conditions:

New Snow: 0"
Base: 133"
Surface: Spring Conds.
Open: 71% (60 trails, 4 lifts)

Not too bad for May. I think I could deal with that…

Shake Shack WebCam

Posted by Mike Brittain on April 13, 2006
Mobile, WWW / 3 Comments

That’s what we all need, a webcam at the Shake Shack. But since there isn’t one, I give you Shack Watchers ( [ed. This site died in 2011].

Take photos from your cell phone when you’re walking by Madison Square Park, and post them to Flickr using the tag “shakeshackline”.

Oh, and have a burger for me while you’re there.

Snow Conditions on Your Mobile Phone

Posted by Mike Brittain on February 27, 2006
Mobile, Skiing and Snowboarding / Comments Off on Snow Conditions on Your Mobile Phone

I’m launching a preview release of a new service I’ve been kicking around for the last few weeks. allows you to get snow reports delivered to your cell phone. To check the daily snow conditions for your favorite ski resort, send a message from your phone to the email address listed at For example, try it out by sending the message: “Vail”. What you’ll get back a report with the amount of new snow, the current base, snow surface conditions, and percentage of terrain that is open.

When you get back from the slopes, let me know how it worked out!