Contact Richard:   +44 (0)121 663 0223 +44 (0) 7703 355045

Should your MSP be selling Telecoms services?

Telephone HandsetI was involved in an interesting round-table at my local User Group, AMITPRO, last month. The subject was Telecommunications and the question was – should I as an MSP be selling Telecoms services to my clients?

There are three types of Telecoms services that will be familiar to most IT Solution Providers and MSP’s.

  • POTS – Plain old Telephone systems
  • VoIP – Voice-over-IP
  • Mobile – Mobile Telephony, such as Mobile Phones and Mobile Broadband

POTS vs VoIP

The market for POTS is virtually non-existent. Nowadays, almost all multi-line business telephone systems (or PABX) run VoIP, at least internally, and analogue and ISDN lines are typically only used for external calls. There’s still an opportunity for MSP’s to provide these lines, but typically the margins are slim and best the MSP will end up with a small referral fee or tiny cut of on-going revenue. You could re-sell CLS (Carrier Line Select) services, where you help your client reduce their Telephone call bill by routing all externals calls via a cheap call provider, and I’ve seen some MSP’s make good margins out of this, but typically the POTS market is one you’re best off making referrals to trusted 3rd Parties who can better handle the work.

VoIP is the reason POTS is dying a death. It’s a solution that sits on top of existing LAN and Broadband Internet infrastructures, and it typically has a low cost of entry. VoIP is also typically associated with “free calls” by clients. That’s true to a certain degree – think Skype – but it sets a dangerous level of expectation that you need to be aware of. VoIP as a business telecoms solution certainly isn’t free.

Mobile Telephony

Finally there is Mobile Telephony. Everyone has a mobile phone, and mobile Broadband such as USB Dongles are now very popular. There are some great deals out there from the likes of O2 and Three – and IT Distributors such as Ingram Micro and Computer 2000 offer a mobile re-seller service for MSP’s which allows you to sell clients a handset along with an eighteen-month, two or three year deal, and receive a commission as a result – so why shouldn’t you, as an MSP, get a slice of those deals?

Well, the reason you shouldn’t re-sell mobile services, in my experience, is that it’s a major headache for very little return.

For mobile Broadband, the margins are too slim. With deals on the high street selling USB dongles with a 1GB allowance for £5/a month, where are you going to make your money?

For mobile phones, the advent of the consumerisation of IT and “Bring Your Own Device” (or BYOD) means that nowadays most people see a mobile phone, even for use in business, as a personal statement and want to choose from a myriad of available devices accordingly. This makes it very difficult for you as a an MSP to offer a small selection of handsets that you’re familiar with and more importantly, can be competitive on price with. The amount of time you’ll spend with your client deciding on the handset they want, and then trying to find the right price – only for them them to come back and say they can get a better deal on the high street – wipes out any profit you make. You could delegate this client work to an admin assistant to deal with, rather than an engineer, but the results will likely still be the same. By all means try it yourself, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So eliminating POTS and Mobile Telecoms, leaves us with VoIP.

Next, we’ll take a look at VoIP to see the pro’s and con’s of selling it as a solution to your clients.

*** Updated – 3rd February, 2012.

I’ve had some interesting feedback on my post, most notably from some of the larger SMB focused MSP’s who say they *are* making good margins out of POTS and Mobile Telecoms.

One such MSP said they’d done the following deals (quoted with their permission):-

“· A 20 handset mobile deal could make us £4-6k profit if it’s out of contract (they aren’t always unfortunately).

· A recent 100 handset VOIP deal gave us £20k commission (we don’t win a lot of these but the margins are nice for little work).

· Typically we’re seeing 10% of a customers spend on their landline bills and saving them money (this is a relatively east win, but it as a competitive market).

We end up providing support for the VOIP systems and the mobiles, especially BES Blackberry devices etc… so we thought we may as well make some cash from them and also improve the customer “stickiness”. We knew we didn’t have the skills in-house so we created this new business as a joint venture between ourselves and a local mobile reseller, it really is one of the best things we’ve done in the last two years.

I just wanted to give you another side to it.”

Really interesting feedback which I’m grateful to receive, and I’ve included it here as I believe it confirms that for a small MSP to make a profit in the Telecoms space, you need to be working with either larger clients or larger volumes, and to partner with somebody who can deliver the services cost effectively where you are unable to.

I think that for the majority of smaller MSP’s who typically work with smaller clients who don’t have corporate mobile contracts, the margins aren’t worth the effort required and they’d be better off focusing on their core competencies.

The point about ending up supporting VOIP systems and mobiles is a really important one though, and the focus on my next blog post! See you then!

Three Cool Travel Apps I Use

I mentioned in my last blog post “2011 – My Year in Review” that I’d done a lot of travelling and that I’ve been looking at ways to make my travelling more fun.

Therefore I thought I’d share a quick blog post with three apps that I now regularly use when on the road.

Waze

imageAvailable for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Nokia – Waze is a free Community based traffic and navigation App. I initially downloaded Waze because I’m a tight-skate and didn’t want to shell out for one of the traditional paid-for Sat-Nav apps, but now that I’ve got it installed, I love both the concept and execution.

Fundamentally, it’s a free Sat-Nav app. Give it a destination, and it’ll use GPS to give you turn-by-turn instructions on how to get there. In practice, I found it good for short commutes – but frustrating for long-distance journeys. The on-screen display and voice instructions just aren’t as accurate as say, Co-Pilot Live, which is why I went and bought Co-Pilot for those longer journeys.

Waze ScreenshotBut Waze’s secret weapon is that every trip you make feeds back anonymous information on your journey to Waze, who then learn from this feedback to improve all future journeys for all Waze users. I’ve already watched Waze “learn” as I ignore it’s suggested route and instead take a route I know is quicker due to local road conditions, and the next time I take that route Waze adjusts its instructions accordingly.

Waze also gives you the opportunity to submit reports on traffic jams, hazards and road blocks as you travel. Other Waze users in the area are immediately updated to these issues, and can compensate accordingly.

Finally, I the fact that you can spot other Wazers on-screen whilst you are driving and then wave at them out of your car window. At least I hope I’m waving at other Wazers, and not just completely baffled (and probably scared) strangers.

Download Waze for free from http://world.waze.com/

 

EchoEcho

EchoEcho LogoEver out and about, planning to meet up with friends? Queue a series of SMS or ‘phone calls to try to find a mutually convenient location to meet up. Can be a challenge – especially if one of you doesn’t know the area.

EchoEcho is available for all major ‘phone platforms, and Windows Phone (sorry, couldn’t resist…) and allows you to send an “echo” to any of your contacts. If they also have EchoEcho installed, they’ll reply to your Echo with an… Echo… and you’ll be notified of their current location and visa versa. If they don’t have EchoEcho installed, they’ll receive an SMS that asks them to click a link to respond – you’ll then receive their co-ordinates anyway.

The fact that the App works with both users and non-users of the App is a stroke of brilliance, and opens use up well beyond your normal geeky circle of friends.

shot_000003If you’re worried about privacy, then rest assured that EchoEcho only sends your co-ordinates when you respond to a request, and not on an on-going basis. Additionally, although EchoEcho will scan your contacts to automatically find other EchoEcho users, I’ve clarified with the EchoEcho team that it will *not* contact any of your contacts without your permission.

A fantastic application that I now use on a day-to-day basis – at least with those who aren’t scared of revealing their current location with me (and yes, that does mean I’m suspicious of your clandestine movements if you don’t respond to my Echo).

Download EchoEcho for free from http://www.echoecho.me/default.aspx

 

LocalMind

LocalMind LogoLocalMind is an app that allows you to send questions and receive answers about what is going on at certain locations, typically bars, restaurants and the like.

It picks up on your FourSquare, GoWalla and Facebook Places check-ins, and allows other LocalMind users to see the location you’re currently in and send you questions about it.

LocalMind ScreenshotQuestions I’ve received when I’m out and about include “Are the bartenders friendly?” and “Is the pub crowded?”.

I’ve asked questions like “What’s good to eat?” and “Do they have live music on?” when I’ve been exploring myself.

It’s a simple concept, but when you’re out and about, especially in a new town or City, it’s one way of finding out where you should think about exploring. I like the idea a lot!

LocalMind is available for iPhone and Android at http://www.localmind.com/

***

Have any travel apps you’re a fan of? Want to connect with me on FourSquare? Do share with me via Twitter or by leaving a comment below!

How to Protect the Data on your Laptop or Mobile Device – Part Two

SmartphonesRead Part One of this article here.

***

I recently wrote about the lessons I’d learned from losing my laptop computer, and the measures I’d taken to ensure my devices and data were protected going forwards.

I was lucky enough to have my laptop returned to me, but what would happen if you lost a mobile device such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet?

Earlier in the week I looked at tracking your lost device, but now I’m looking at protecting the most valuable part of any Laptop or other mobile device – your data.

In yesterday’s article I looked at using Encryption and Device Lock mechanisms to protect your mobile device data.

In the second part of my guide on how to protect the data on your laptop or mobile device, let’s take a look at how you’d recover your data if you ever lost the mobile device that data is stored upon.

Backing up your basic Data

For all mobile devices – including laptops – there are a plethora of backup  which involve synchronising your essential data – such as contacts and calendar – to the cloud, enabling you to access that data from other devices and restore it to the same or a different device.

For Android users, Google already does a great job of making sure most of your basic data (such as contacts and calendar) is synchronised to the Cloud. Additionally, using an app like AppBrain ensures that all those apps you’ve installed are quickly and easily restored to any new device – albeit you’ll need to re-configure their settings. You could also use an App like SMS Backup+ to backup all your SMS, MMS and Call Log entries to GoogleMail, and Google+ ensures all your phone camera photographs are automatically synchronised on-line too.

If you’re using Microsoft Exchange or GoogleMail for your e-mail, then your E-Mail, Contacts and Calendar are typically automatically synchronised to a central server. Re-connect any device to Exchange or GMail and this information will be downloaded to the new device.

Even if you’re not using a Smartphone but an older more traditionally mobile phone – a service like Mobyko enables you to backup all of your photos, videos, texts, calendar entries and contacts on-line – so if you get a new device, you don’t have to manually re-input them all.

Typically though, all of these Cloud Synchronisation methods are aimed at backing up your most basic data – E-Mail, Contacts, Calendar, etc. What about the documents you work with such as Spreadsheets, Music and more?

Backing up your Files and Documents

A more robust Cloud based Backup solution will give you the option to select pretty much any set of data to back up, limited only by the capacity of the Cloud Backup provider you use.

Typically, this data would include your private documents such as Spreadsheets, Word Processor documents and more – but could easily be extended to include Pictures, Music, Videos and just about any other type of data you wish.

imageApple’s iTunes software already does a good job of backing up your iPhone, iPod or iPad – meaning if you lost your device, typically your music, apps and purchases are easily transferred to a new device – even if your original device is not available. With iOS 5, iPhone and iPad users also have access to Apple’s free iCloud service – which backs up your e-mail, contacts, calendars and documents to the Cloud.

But for more flexibility, a service such as Dropbox is a must-have.

Dropbox LogoA free Dropbox account gives 2GB of Cloud based storage away for free, and has software clients available for nearly all major platforms – including PC, Mac, iOS and Android.

Dropbox works by making sure that any data stored within a folder you create as home for your data is automatically and near instantly backed up to the Cloud, and additionally can be sychronised to any other device you choose too.

For myself, I have Dropbox installed on my Laptop PC under Windows 7 and within my Dropbox folder have sub-folders containing all everything from work to travel documents. I then have Dropbox installed on my Notebook PC so that if I’m travelling I have access to all my work, and any changes I make are automatically backed up on-line and synchronised to my laptop.

Furthermore I have Dropbox installed on my Android Smartphone, iPhone and iPad, so I can quickly refer to any of my documents in a flash.

I therefore always have the latest copy of my document with me, whichever device I’m using.

The added benefit of Dropbox is that because everything is also stored on a secure central server, I can also access any of my documents from any other PC in the world via a secure login. What’s more, if I want to share documents with another Dropbox user – I can simply right-click a folder and grant them permissions (ranging from Read Only, to full Edit) and the document appears on their device for their use – and they can do the same with me.

Knowing all of your data is continuously backed up and available wherever you are in the world gives real peace of mind. Never lose or forget a document again!

Obviously, you need to be aware of the capacity limits of your free Dropbox account – start using it to backup your large Music or Picture collection and you’ll soon run out of space – but Dropbox do offer a paid for premium  account with much greater capacity should you chose.

There are a plethora of other free and optionally premium backup solutions out there too – such as Mozy – and many other Synchronisation tools such as SugarSync and Windows Live Mesh – and there’s nothing stopping you using more than one service! On my Home Server in addition to having a local NAS based backup, I also use Mozy for home documents, SugarSync for my Videos, and Windows Live Mesh for old Archived documents. All are accessible from a web-browser from any device, so I figure there’s no harm in having your data backed up in more than one place!

 

Full Device Backup

For real belt and braces backup of your mobile devices, you’ll want to take a full device backup in addition to cloud based backups of your ever changing data.

A full device backup will backup all the settings on your device and often all the Operating System files too, meaning that if you ever experience a faulty device or catastrophic software issue then you can quickly reset the device back to full working order by restoring from the original image backup. The restore will then be complimented with your most current data from your Cloud backup.

Android Smartphone and Tablet users have a number of other options for full device backup. Check out Titanium Backup Root and Sprite Backup amongst many others.

StorageCraft ShadowProtect LogoFor Laptop computers and Netbooks, I use StorageCraft ShadowProtect to make a full image backup of my PC once it’s created and store this locally on a USB Hard Disk kept at home, as well as on a spare data partition. In conjunction with a Recovery CD or USB Key Disk (provided by StorageCraft) this means that even when I’m on the road travelling, in the event of a particularly nasty software failure I can restore my PC back to a working state using the original image, and have a backup stored at home in the event of a total Hard Disk failure.

Whenever you’re making a local backup of your device, always make sure that  any backup of your laptop or device is password protected (most backup software has this option) to ensure the data contained within that backup is safe. Otherwise a lost backup could offer someone the chance to snoop at all of your private data in one fell swoop!

 

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this short guide, born out of the fact I thought I’d lost my own laptop, useful!

By making sure you use tools for tracking your lost laptop, smartphone or tablet, implementing both a Device Lock and Data Encryption, and ensuring that all of your data is backed up and synchronised to the Cloud, perhaps in conjunction with a full device backup – you should feel assured that in the event that you do lose your mobile device, you’ve given yourself every chance of recovering it and can rest safe in the knowledge that any data contained upon that device will remain secure.

Thoughts or feedback? Do you use different tools or strategies? I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment or get in touch!

 

3 Free Tools for Tracking your Lost Laptop, Smartphone or Tablet

I recently wrote about the lessons I’d learned from losing my laptop computer, and the measures I’d taken to ensure my devices and data were protected going forwards.

I was lucky enough to have my laptop returned to me, but what would happen if I lost a mobile device such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet?

Take it from me when I say that when you lose a device, your first thoughts turn to ascertaining whether the device has been accidentally lost, or actually stolen.

Fortunately there are a raft of Tracking and Anti-Theft software available – and in many cases, free of charge. The caveat with all of these methods is that they’re dependant upon an active Internet connection being live. If you have a continuous 3G signal – great, you’ll be on-line most places. But if the device is Wi-Fi only then you’re reliant on the device being actually connected to a Wi-Fi signal.

With that in mind, here are the three free tools I’ve installed on my mobile devices to track them in the event of a loss.

Prey Project

Prey Project LogoThe Prey Project is a lightweight, Open Source (i.e. free of charge) application that is available to install on any PC – Laptop, Netbook or Desktop, Apple Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Linux or Android device.

The application is quickly downloaded and installed, and using a single e-mail address you can protect up to 3 devices for free. There is also a Pro version available that allows you to protect many more devices and beef up your security further.

In the event that your equipment is lost, you visit the Prey Project Web-Site and through the Control Panel report your device as missing. Over the next twenty minutes, Prey then tries to communicate with the device and send you back a report via e-mail that highlights the devices GPS location, any Wireless networks found nearby and if available, a photograph taken using the devices webcam.

You can also perform actions such as set off an audible alarm on the laptop, display an alert on the devices screen (such as a message with your contact details) or lock the laptop keyboard – only to be unlocked by the password you specify.

When I lost my laptop I was fortunate enough to have Prey Project installed on it, but the laptop was never connected to the Internet so I never received a report. Once I’d got my laptop back though, I watched as within a few minutes of being connected on-line, Prey Project e-mailed me with me GPS location of my laptop (with me at home!) and a screenshot of me in front of the laptop. Prey Project is not fool proof, but you never known when you might need it!

 

Find my iPhone

Find my iPhone LogoThe Find my iPhone service is bundled free with any iPhone or iPad, and for those running iOS5 using iCloud, it’s bundled in.

In short, once installed upon your iPhone or iPad, you can use any other iOS device to find it and protect your data.

You can track your device using GPS to show a Map Location, and you can remotely play a sound or send a message to the device – regardless of whether it is muted or locked.

You can also remotely lock the device, and if you choose, remotely wipe the device protecting your data.

If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad – go and grab the free Find my iPhone app from the App Store now and set it up. It’s very, very useful.

 

Android Lost

Android Lost LogoMuch like Find my iPhone for iOS, Android Lost for Android Smartphones is a free tool that once installed enables you to remotely track your device, lock it, send messages to it, or remotely wipe the data from it.

But Android Lost also allows you to do many other things, such as take a photograph using the forward facing camera, use text to speech to make your phone say a message out loud (“I am lost! Please pick me up!”), notify you when the SIM card is changed, send a list of incoming and outgoing calls from the device via e-mail, forward your calls, erase any attached SD Card, read the phone status (to show Battery life, IMEI, SIM Card ID and more) and send commands via SMS from other mobile phones.

It’s hugely powerful, and as it is free, is an absolute no-brainer for any Android owner to install on their device.

 

Conclusion

In this blog post I’ve just covered PC, Apple Mac, Blackberry, Linux, iOS and Android devices – but as a former Windows Mobile and Windows Phone owner, I know there are similar tools for those platforms.

I’ve got Prey installed on my Laptop, Netbook, Android, iPhone and iPad, as well as Android Lost on my HTC Sensation, and Find my iPhone on my iPhone and iPad. Overkill? Maybe – but the overheads of these tools are so low, that there’s not much downside to installing multiple tracking tools on the same devices.

The key here is to install these apps and tools *before* you need them, because as I’ve already found out, whilst you think it’ll never happen to you – it’s very easy to lose a mobile device!

Tomorrow I’ll be writing about the measures you can take to ensure your precious data is safe in the event of a lost device.

 

My Mobile Phone Experiment, Part Four – Thoughts on Windows Phone Mango

After recently saying goodbye to my HTC HD2 Windows Mobile 6.5 device, a few months ago I started an experiment. Grabbing a SIM Only Deal from mobile carrier, Three – I would, in turn, use an iPhone, a Windows Phone device and an Android device for a few weeks at a time each, using them in anger as my sole device for day-to-day activities, both business and leisure.

You can read about my original motivations for this experiment here.

You can read part one of this experiment – my thoughts on the iPhone here.

You can read part two of this experiment – my thoughts on the Windows Phone here.

You can read part three of this experiment – my thoughts on Android here.

The overwhelming theme coming out of my review of Windows Phone was “It’s all about Mango”. Every irritation, bug and missing feature I mentioned seemed to be fixed by the upcoming Mango update that was released in September.

HTC Pro 7 HandsetSo in an attempt to give Windows Phone a fair shake of the stick, at the end of September I once again borrowed from my friend Steve Silk at Staffordshire University the HTC Pro 7 phone, and duly updated it to Mango – or Windows Phone 7.5

Updating to Mango

Firstly, the update process itself was fairly easy – once I’d impatiently “forced” the update through the Zune software using these instructions.

The update itself took around 90 minutes, with little or no intervention required on my part.

Features of Mango

Once the update was completed, I jumped straight in and was… well… fairly underwhelmed. The Windows Phone interface is mostly unchanged, which is no bad thing as I like the tile-focused home-screen.

The Live Tiles feature (wherein icons on the home-screen can display live information about people or apps) is now supported by more 3rd party apps, but in reality I didn’t find myself staring at the home-screen to catch live tile updates very often. Still, Live Tiles remains a nice feature and the interface is very clean and easy to navigate.

One change I wasn’t fond of was that the Phone Search button is now dedicated to the Bing web-search engine. This may be irritating for anyone like me who prefers context sensitive searching within apps, as it was in Windows Phone 7, but I guess it’s a matter of preference.

Multi-Tasking

The biggest change in Mango for me was the addition of Multi-tasking. Windows Phone didn’t really allow you to switch between apps. You were often left loading apps up from scratch after you’d gone to read an SMS or make a call. Now, you can multitask. Sort of…

In reality you can only multi-task up to 6 apps at any one time. It’s better than no multi-tasking at all, and I hear the arguments over resource use affecting usability – but still frustrating in use as I almost always have e-mail, SMS, Web Browser, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare open. Use one other app, and one of those previously opened windows closes meaning you have to re-load it next time you want to use it. The fact that most Windows Phone seems underpowered compared to their Android and Apple competitors would give some idea of why this feature is the way it is.

The back button (which allows you to scroll through previously used windows) remains a neat feature. I found myself wishing that feature could be ported to iOS when using my iPod Touch.

Music wise, Mango is easy to use as a media player with the lock-screen offering the ability to pause, stop and skip tracks. I also like the Zune software’s interface on the PC, and maybe even prefer it to the woeful iTunes.

Irritations

What I didn’t like was the lack of PC-like file system – anything you want to get to and from handset needs to be via the Zune software, or rely on 3rd party plug-in’s. I know it’s only a minor irritation, but I like being able to drop files onto the SD-Card directly – a feature Mango doesn’t allow.

One less than minor irritation is the Internet Explorer 9 web-browser. Whilst it boasts some great features including full HTML 5, it just doesn’t sit well with me and I found myself getting really irritated with how slow it was to display web-pages – especially moving back to a previously loaded page. As far as I can tell there are little or no 3rd Party Web Browser options on Windows Phone, and so if you don’t like IE (as I don’t) then you’ll flat out of alternatives. I found myself really missing the slick and smooth Dolphin Browser on Android. I’m sure there is all sorts of statistics to show how IE is a faster browser, but I found it clunky and slow.

Using when travelling

In-Car support is excellent. My in-car Bluetooth hands-free kit  connected first time and allowed features such as Contact sync and then subsequently connected each time without any intervention on my part. Leaving Bluetooth switched on in this way doesn’t seem to drain the battery life – very cool! But the coolest feature for me was the in-car SMS Voice options. When an incoming SMS is received, Mango tells you who the message is from and asks you if you want to listen to the message in-car. It does a fine job of reading messages out, even down to “Sad Smiley”, “Happy Smiley” or “Kiss, Kiss” and gives you the option to reply. Sadly, Mango voice recognition isn’t too hot at recognising spoken words – and even the simplest of responses needed to be “dumbed down” to work. For instance, saying “Thanks Mom, see you soon.” had to be changed after four failed attempts to “Thank-you Mother. Goodbye”. Not quite as warm a response…

Bing Maps is included as an app, and is a decent tool to help direct you to locations. It’s no replacement for a dedicated Sat-Nav though, with no automatic re-calculation of route if you make a wrong turn, and a tiny on-screen display with not even the most basic spoken turn-by-turn information. Again though, it’s better than nothing – and it more or less helped me to most of my destinations during the course of this experiment.

Overall, the in-car versatility of Mango is something I’d rank highly.

Battery Life

Talking of Battery life, it remains good in the Mango update. I could get around a day and half’s average usage without requiring a charge. Irritatingly though, when plugged in to charge the ‘phone turned itself on. Whether this is a HTC fault or a Mango fault or indeed a “feature”, I don’t know. The “Battery Saver” feature remains cool – turning off Push E-Mail and other non-essential features when the battery runs low.

Social Networking

On the integration front, Twitter is now integrated into Mango. It’s an overdue feature, but one that compliments Mango’s already excellent Social Networking features. You can look at a contacts profile, swipe to the right and see a list of recent SMS, swipe again to see their latest e-mails, Tweets, Facebook updates, Photos and so on. Very cool.

No Google+ support whatsoever. Not entirely unexpected, but as a Google+ user myself I missed this integration.

The Facebook integration is good, especially for the camera. It enables you to give a title to photographs and tag people before uploading the snap. Disappointingly though, there’s no notification of the success/failure of a Facebook photo uploads. I found that some FB photo uploads failed (presumably due to a bad carrier signal) but I didn’t have the option to re-try them, and so had to re-create the uploads from scratch. It’s small features lacking like this that can build into bigger frustrations.

The Facebook app under Mango is not so good though. Like IE9, I found it slow and clumsy, and so reverted to using the Mobile Web-Interface instead.

Contacts

Within Mango you can create groups of contacts – such as business, friends, family, etc. This is a neat future that I found using a lot to quickly find and catch-up with different types of contact.

I’ve still yet to “get” Xbox Live integration where you can supposedly connect and play games with XBox 360 friends. I’ve yet to find anyone else who uses it either.

E-Mail connectivity still lacks Exchange Tasks and Notes support. As even iOS 5 added this recently, it’s flabbergasting that Microsoft don’t support their own e-mail server software as well as their competitors now has Exchange Task support built in, but included in the Calendar rather than as a separate app (Thanks to both John Clark and Andy Parkes for helping me find this feature!)

You now have the ability to combine mailboxes into a single view, and the Calendar pulls in information from Facebook as well as Exchange. This is useful.

As I’m a Google Mail user, I found the GMail support underwhelming. The e-mail interface as a whole is nice and clean, but GMail features such as Archiving are missing. I understand why this is – why would Google create a feature rich app for their Windows rival – but you get a better GMail experience under iOS, so Windows Phone is lacking here. Please don’t ask me to migrate to Hotmail as a suggested alternative either…

Conclusion

In conclusion – Mango is the ‘phone O/S that Microsoft should have released initially. It shores up a lot of features missing from Windows Phone 7, and adds some very cool other features too. I loved the Social Networking integration, and the SMS Voice features as part of a strong In-Car setup were very cool.

I could easily live with Mango as my main ‘phone, but… I wouldn’t choose to do so knowing that both Android and iOS5 are available on the market too.

That’s really disappointing for me, as I really like Windows Phone and I secretly hoped Mango would sway me to choose WP7 as my main platform.

But, despite the nice interface, both Android and iOS have much better 3rd Party App support, much more powerful handsets available, and Android especially is much, much more configurable.

Where I see Mango making a splash is at the slightly lower consumer end of the market. Mango does a *lot* in handsets that, on paper at least, are not as powerful as their Android or Apple competitors that are also more expensive to buy. For most people who aren’t real power users, Mango will be a great option – although statistics show that only one in fifty mobile devices currently sold are Windows Phone.

But, Windows Phone includes every feature that your average Social Networking/E-Mail reading/Web Browsing/casual Photographing user might want.

However, if you’re a power user on any level – then my conclusion is that the latest upmarket Android handset or iPhone are probably the better choices for now.

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