How to decide between a new Blackberry and the iPhone for your Business

This is a great question, especially with the growing popularity of the iPhone (even among enterprise) and the current market captured by the Blackberry. There are a couple of things to consider when making this important decision, whether you’re jumping ship or a newbie to the smart phone arena. I’ve divided the comparison into two categories, first functionality,
and second cost, certainly not in any order of importance as there is weight for both. But before we look at these two comparisons, why is it such an important decision? Well simply put, your phone has become a critical part of how you do business. With the added capabilities and features coming into play it is becoming even more important all the time.

Functionality:

So with functionality becoming increasingly important, this is where BlackBerry tends to be playing catch-up. Try a Google search on the two devices searching for applications and you quickly see a major short fall on BlackBerry. I find as a BlackBerry user myself looking to the iPhone or an Android as a potential solution to maximizing efficiency. That after all is what the functionality is for. To make my life more efficient, provide better service and give me more time to focus on other things. So as I dive into the applications on the BlackBerry to increase efficiency I am continuously

apple-iphone

running into brick walls. For example through my Google account I want to be able to access and sync my Gmail account. At best the Google application has many limitations. First syncing is not a true sync, such as draft emails don’t appear on my desktop until sent. The calendar function on the device is rudimentary at best. The ability to add a simple appointment for a specific time with details is impossible to date. Other functionalities such as Twitter applications put the device into cardiac arrest. Now with all this being said I am not looking for a device to tell me what tip I should leave, this I can handle. I’m speaking of everyday functions that keep me connected with my team, my customers, and on task. Unless I stay focused in my exchange environment (which is losing its attraction all the time) BlackBerry is losing its appeal.

Cost:

Once we get by the sticker shock of the hardware pricing – realizing these devices are so much more than just a phone – these devices are going to give me back time and efficiency, then we have the cost of operation to consider. This is where we see a big difference through our telecom cost audit and mobile management services on Tele-Watch. There is no doubt that these same wonderful applications that are increasing efficiencies are also driving up data costs to the carrier and soon if not already to the end clients. The iPhone in techy terms – is a pig – that’s a technical term. Now with talk of carriers taking away unlimited data in the US, and none really available (when you read the fine print) in Canada, this is a major concern. With BlackBerry costs fairly fixed and their data usage light, I at least know my costs and they are consistent.

With BlackBerry racing to catch up on applications, I will hold temporarily and see if the applications I need to be more efficient evolve soon. I hope this is not a wish unanswered.

Where do you stand on the iPhone and BlackBerry battle and has it worked out for you?

Why Offer a Communication Management Free Trial?

Why has a communications management firm that has offered telecom solutions for a decade decided to offer its proprietary management software on a free trial? It’s hard for me to write the answer without sounding like an advertisement, especially since as I write the reasons, it sounds like an ad to me – but that’s not the case. It all has to do with the evolving business climate in the US and Canada. We’ve adapted to it and want to help other firms do the same.

North American business has changed over the last year. At GILL Technologies, we’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal client base. Over the years, we’ve changed to respond to its requests for additional features and services and to keep GILL Technologies focused on best practices. In fact, what began as a cost audit company some 10 years ago has developed into much more. For example,  ClientCare (a component of our service) has become one of our most sought after services. Today, it’s one of the pillars of our business even though it really has little to do with the concept of cost auditing. By listening to our clients we discovered the value in being able to be their single point of contact for a technical support and services.

Tele-Watch evolved in much the same way. Companies need better control over their communications, period; most businesses will openly admit this. One crucial step to improve control is by acquiring timely, superior access to usage and spending information. This visibility gets crucial data to the right people in a timely fashion (not six months later). It drives accountability through the organization, because they know the nature of on what may be the largest business expense they face, as communications is quickly becoming one of the largest expenses possible for any company.

GILL Technologies responded with Tele-Watch: a proprietary software application hosted on the cloud and available from any web enabled device on a secure platform. Tele-Watch is absolutely amazing in how it presents important communications information. We developed it to let clients view their communications usage, expenses and services just the way they need to. Again, we improved a component of the service that really had little to do with the cost audit concept,  but again through our clients’ guidance we developed reporting tools that change the way a company manages communications.

So now, our challenge is to utilize what we created to grow our business. Bear in mind that our primary focus is to save companies money, however. We never want to lose sight of that mission. Tele-Watch is a software solution, but rather than take the typical approach of, “Let’s sell our software,” we made what I consider the bold statement of saying: “Lets give Tele-Watch to our prospective clients, let them feel the difference in single point of contact with ClientCare, and while this is occurring, show them how we can save them money. It’s a Win-Win-Win!”

OK, now I really sound like an advertisement! But when you think about our philosophy, it really makes sense beyond its raw promotional value. We save companies money. It’s our core mission. That’s why clients establish a relationship with us. Tele-Watch and ClientCare build relationships that last for years, if not indefinitely. So why not introduce people to the whole concept while we evaluate the benefit of the relationship in hard numbers?

That’s why we offer a Communication Management Free Trial, giving you the chance to sample our range of services as a prelude to securing long term savings and excellent service. I hope you can see beyond the sales pitch and appreciate the concept. I don’t know – did I fluff it up too much?

Like I said, North American business has changed, and you need the chance to make informed decisions, and today’s technology should allow it. Shouldn’t you able to test drive a service even at the enterprise level? What do you think?

Android Phones in Canada: Why So Shy, Rogers?

Note: Shortly after this article was written, Telus added the HTC Hero to its stores, making it the second Canadian carrier to add an Android-powered phone.

One notable challenge in the Canadian wireless market is consumer expectation. Canadians can see new phones enter the marketplace south of the border and want them with comparable plans as soon as possible. When Rogers introduced the iPhone it discovered that pulling an (expensive) plan out of thin air for a product Canadians had waited on for months drew considerable ire – enough to force a limited time, low-cost 6 GB data plan. Everybody loves the iPhone, but it’s still far from the best for wireless cost reduction.

Rogers is approaching a similar watershed with phones powered by Google Android. Alone in offering phones powered by the operating system, the carrier has been able to mostly keep these offerings under the radar, but that’s about to change. Android 2.0 is a major update that promises iPhone-rivaling functionality and it’s linked to a high-profile hardware release: Motorola’s Droid smartphone. Even if Rogers doesn’t adopt the Droid (something that’s hard to imagine, considering it’s the only carrier with Android-powered phones at all) the phone has generated tremendous buzz for its OS, and Canadians are listening – they get the same ads, tech news and websites as Americans.

Fortunately for Rogers, Verizon’s Droid doesn’t have an iPhone’s style, or a special data plan – it’s billed the same as any other smartphone for comparable service – so chances are Canadians won’t have the same meltdown over Rogers’ onerous data prices. Naturally, the prices will still be ridiculous compared to the US market; most US Droid users will take advantage of a US$30 per month unlimited data plan while Rogers’ 5 GB plans – less than the typical “unlimited” ceiling in the US – cost CAN$80.

So Rogers may dodge iPhone rage, but they still have to contend with Canadian impatience at waiting for the Droid and other phones that are heavily advertised across the US. In this case, the company may be pursuing the right strategy by releasing Android-powered phones gradually, with a low profile. That seems to be the strategy behind adding the GW620 LG Eve to its catalog with minimal publicity, even though it’s a feather in the company’s cap – Rogers is the first North American carrier to offer it. One can only hope that a Rogers Android release comes with more hype – and inspired enough of a consumer backlash to inspire the company to offer an “appeasement” data plan, like it did for the iPhone.

Where’s Canada’s Net Neutrality? Why Does It Matter to Mobile Users?

Last month the FCC drew up policy guidelines that strongly favored net neutrality: the principle that providers should not block or impede legal internet traffic. This is an important principle for users on several fronts. Without strong net neutrality an ISP might censor websites, or slow down data transfer speeds because it dislikes particular traffic patterns. Net neutrality keeps the internet working properly – at least in the US.

Unfortunately, Canadians need to contend with much more primitive polices – or really, a lack of policy at all – courtesy of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC. Canadian law kicked some aspects of internet regulation under the CRTC’s banner long ago and now the body doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. The CRTC’s inactivity used to be praised when Internet users were still afraid of state censorship, but that era’s gone. Nowadays, Canadian ISPs threaten net neutrality on several levels:

  • ISPs slow down peer to peer network traffic. The argument that this targets pirates is swiftly disappearing as peer to peer protocols are increasingly used to deliver legal content.
  • Infrastructure providers slow down bandwidth that it sells to wholesalers, reducing viable competition.
  • In 2005, Telus blocked access to sites maintained by the union representing Telus workers who were currently striking. No matter how you feel about that sort of thing, shouldn’t you have been able to see for yourself?

Canada has no net neutrality legislation and the CRTC’s slow, minimal regulation have the potential to become even bigger problems in the wake of the smartphone revolution. As Canadians demand mobile internet access and use technologies like VoIP to bypass onerous fees, larger carriers have an ever-stronger motive to provide tiered service, where getting unencumbered access will cost extra.

If you plan on employing a smartphone fleet carrier meddling won’t just increase your cell phone bills – it may change your core operations. If you’re counting on high mobile connectivity for specific business functions and carriers decide the traffic you want is “premium,” you might have to settle for a sub-optimal solution. Right now this scenario only covers a small number of cases, but it’s the cases we can’t think of that need protection the most. That Canadian policy threatens business innovation isn’t some far out conjecture; Google and Amazon have both asked the CRTC to stop allowing traffic shaping.

As a mobile telecom expense management firm this is a special concern for us. GILL Technologies has a special degree of competency in mixed telecom, particularly wireless internet. We want to provide competitive solutions that help clients reach new levels of success, but to do our best, we need an environment that will respect the online medium and let it act as a level playing field for competition. It’s good for businesses, good for consumers, and we hope the CRTC understands that.

Four Ways to Save on iPhone Bills Now

With its carrier-exclusive plans and heavy data usage, Apple’s iPhone represents a special challenge for telecom expense management. If you’re looking at it from the a global point of view as part of a wireless fleet there are a number of tactics professional auditors can use to make sure the iPhone has the smallest possible impact on fleet billing. Individual users may seem to have fewer options, but in their case it all comes down to using the iPhone intelligently. Let’s look at four ways to keep your costs to a minimum.

Choose Low-Minute Plans: Carriers are usually generous with plan minutes because voice is one of the most economical services for them to deliver, and in many cases people use far fewer minutes than they’re entitled to. AT&T’s plans feature unlimited mobile to mobile at all levels, so think about who you’ll be calling as well, and whether they’re likely to be on a landline. If you’re a Canadian Rogers customer, pick your My5 (your five unlimited local numbers) carefully.

Save it for WiFi: Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, data is far and away the biggest cost pitfall on an iPhone. Even if you are on unlimited data there’s some cause for concern. If you’re a Rogers customer in Canada you may hit the ceiling of even their high capacity plans, and US AT&T customers may hit cost sinks while roaming. Take advantage of the iPhone’s WiFi capabilities whenever possible to avoid excessive data charges. While automatic WiFi detection does drain your battery faster, it drains your wallet less – make sure to keep it turned on.

Fring and Skype: These Apps are powerful cost savings tools whenever you’re in WiFi range (EDIT: and now with AT&T, even within its 3G network). Fring is an application that lets you talk through a variety of applications including MSN and Skype, bypassing standard long distance voice charges. There’s also a dedicated Skype application. Any billable usage is part of your data or Skype charges, (for paid features) making this especially useful for long distance calls.

Watch for Errors: iPhone bills are famous for their complexity; at one point, some heavy users received bills consisting of 50 or more pages. Like most carriers, iPhone plan providers do not have a flawless billing regimen and may make mistakes that add to your bill, such as charging for individual text messages even when you have an unlimited texting plan. Inspect your bill for inconsistencies and don’t be afraid to call your carrier with questions.

Of course, these tips don’t just apply to the iPhone, but many new smartphones. If your mobile unit has WiFi capability and the ability to download VoIP applications take these tips to heart and they’ll save you money. For a business-oriented solution you need to go beyond personal use tips, however, particularly when it comes to monitoring your bills for errors and inefficiencies. You need a cellular expense management plan. Contact us to get started.

The Canadian iPhone Monopoly Ends – but Don’t Expect Better Pricing

The big news in Canadian mobile telecom this week is the end of Rogers’ monopoly over the iPhone. In about a month all three major Canadian providers (Bell and Telus join Rogers) will offer it, begging the question: Is it going to get any less expensive?

Good question. In a sane wireless industry competition over such a popular product would rapidly drive costs down, but the reality might be disappointing. Telus, Bell and Rogers have a history of “competing without competing” – that is, rearranging their mobile contracts to give the appearance of serious competition without actually providing a clear advantage one way or the other. Remember, this is an industry where all three big providers decided to charge you for incoming text messages despite the excellent margins they already enjoy, even though one of them refusing to do so would have given it a significant boost in popularity.

So to be brutally honest, don’t expect to be able to shop around for a better iPhone deal – but you might be able to find a better deal for you. Instead of significant savings, iPhone users will probably win more freedom to purchase plans that suit them better. Shop around for plan features like voice and data that suit your needs, but expect to pay comparable prices no matter the carrier. Rogers’ data plans are so infamously expensive that you may get a bargain there, but carriers are probably taking a very close look at AT&T’s problems dealing with high iPhone data usage on its own networks.

Ultimately, finding the best iPhone deal will require you to monitor your own usage carefully. If you’re using one as part of a business fleet we have the tools to track your voice, data and other service usage with remarkable precision – and if the new carriers inspire you to upgrade to an iPhone, we can get you the hardware the tech support to do it smoothly. Contact us to start the process.

Ontario’s Ban on Handheld Phones in Cars Starts October 26th – Let Us Help You with Our Bluetooth Special!

Mark October 26th, 2009 on your calendar, because that’s the date where you’ll no longer be able to use a handheld mobile phone in your car. This will have a major impact if your sales and service staff or other personnel are expected to keep in touch on the road. They need the tools to talk to you without breaking the law.

Fortunately, our ClientCare procurement staff has picked hardware that will help you switch to hands free calling (which is still permitted) while keeping your costs down. This is the kind of Cellular customer service we routinely offer to our clients. The law represents such a big shift that we’d like to share our advice with the public, along with a special offer.

To help you update your mobile fleet we’re offering a special price of $39.95 on the following headsets:

  • Motorola H500

MotorolaH500

  • Nokia b101

NokiaB101

  • Samsung wep450

Samsung WEP450

We’re also offering the Samsung HKT450 Visor Mount for just $69.99

Samsung Visor

This offer expires on December 6th, 2009

This is a small part of our procurement services. ClientCare can help you perform virtually any upgrade within your budget, and we provide ongoing tech support for all of the hardware we manage. Call us to get started – and drive safely!

How to Transfer Cell Phone Ownership

Canceling your cell phone before your cell phone plan’s term is up it can get very expensive. Most carriers’ cancellation fees are calculated at around $20.00 per month remaining on your contract — and in some cases, there’s no cap.

If you know someone that willing to take over your mobile plan’s term, transferring your contract is a fairly pain-free process that will allow you to avoid paying a cancellation fee. At the consumer and small business level, many mobile users don’t even know this is possible, but it’s a great way for the average person to do some personal, mobile cost reduction.

It usually just takes a quick call to your carrier. Call your carrier’s customer service line and ask for a note to be placed on your account that authorizes the person who’s agreed to carry the rest of your term to take possession. Next, the other party calls your carrier to confirm that they are indeed taking over the contract. If both parties have all of the necessary information and have accounts in good standing it should be a smooth process.

Performing this task for several units as part of cellular expense management for a mobile fleet is a bit more of an elaborate process — the kind of thing I specialize in as part of my customer service duties — but one of the things we pride ourselves on at GILL Technologies is the ability to cater to both individuals and fleets, so that your communications are always simple, hassle-free and cost effective.

Who Matters More: Customer or Contract?

As app-centered wireless heats up it’s time for regulators to decide whose rights take priority.

This past July and August the FCC began investigating AT&T and Apple’s practices in earnest, especially after Apple allegedly rejected a Google Voice application (or according to Apple, “continues to study it”) intended for its highly profitable iPhone App Store. This is cause for concern because Google Voice gives users access to a number of features that serve as alternatives to core iPhone features – including the ability to make long distance phone calls for free. From a cellular expense management perspective Google Voice is a tremendous boon: a money-saving utility that can reduce the costs attached to any applicable cell phone plan.

Apple claimed that Google Voice would “alter the iPhone user experience,” something which it works very hard to protect even if it is notoriously vague about what exactly that means. The Google Voice App might have gone too far by offering an alternative UI and by harvesting user data in a fashion Apple considers to be a security risk.

On the other hand, if Google Voice were allowed iPhone users would still be able to send standard text messages and pay for long distance through AT&T’s network if they wanted to. They would simply have an alternative – and of course, that alternative is in many ways far, far more appealing than what AT&T and Apple are willing to offer. The App would have offered more choice – that’s competition at work.

This is an important issue for telecom expense management because it gets best results from a truly open market, where consumers and analysts alike can hunt down the best offers from a broad playing field. If individual smartphone brands are allowed to keep users from taking advantage of apps that provide superior service, it becomes harder to optimize smartphone costs. And if the FCC allows this kind of anticompetitive lock-in to proceed, competitors will be tempted to follow suit, leading to a smartphone market that cripples possibilities for its users.

Four Reasons Why your Mobile Phones Leak Money

As your mobile phone bills pile up, ask yourself this: “Why are they so expensive?” The answer probably is not because this is simply how much your cell phone fleet costs. Understanding your cell phone plans is the first step to cost reduction. Over the years we’ve seen common problems crop up again and again. Here are four of them to consider the next time your bills arrive.

Billing Errors: Everybody makes mistakes, including major carriers like Bell Canada, Rogers, AT&T and Sprint. Some experts have found error rates as high as 30%. Carriers forget to include discounts, or charge you for pay per minute/unit services you never used. This is why a cellular expense management audit is such an important step in finding you savings.

Extra Units: When your employees leave or switch roles, what happens to their cell phones? In a surprising number of cases the answer is “nothing.” The phone still appears on your statement and still costs you money. In some cases, employees end up with two or even three units associated with them as they change roles, get new phones, and never get the new ones transferred or deactivated.

Inefficient Use: Some of your plans for the mobile fleet may not survive actual use. You imagine salespeople who constantly use voice and email to keep in touch with the head office, but it turns out that it’s more effective for them to compile all of their reports and send them from a computer. Some employees with company phones never even use them, and of course, there are always issues with employees misusing their phones. You can avoid this all with a regular usage breakdown by employee. Our telecom expense management software Tele-Watch does just that.

Unnecessary Services: Unnecessary services are a form of inefficient use. In these cases your staff uses company phones all the time – but they don’t take advantage of all of the features you’ve paid for. They don’t send email, or leave hundreds of unused minutes behind at the end of every month. Pooled minutes, customized plans and bundling can all help, as long as you know your options.

While you can combat many of these problems on your own, some of them require professional help. That’s why we’re here. Contact us for an initial telecom audit and we’ll show you how to plug up the “money leaks” in your current billing.