Apple Keynote at WWDC


No doubt there is some excitement going on at the WWDC. So far (and I will do my best to keep updating this post) this is the list of notable feature upgrades they have made to the iPhone OS 3.0:

iPhone OS 3.0
3.0 Software is FREE for all iPhone owners and $9.95 for touch owners (and available on June 17th)

New Business Models (entrepreneurs, take notice) — In-Application Billing! Finally!!!
Push Notifications!
Cut/copy/paste. Works across all apps
Tethering is now supported.
MMS now available.
Want to undo? Just shake the phone.
Adding Spotlight: now search across your entire phone, apps and details within apps!
iTunes: Rent and purchase movies right from the phone!
iTunesU now also on phone.
HTML5 support in Mobile Safari. Javascript 3X faster.
Autofill
Users can play your own music (from your library) inside applications
You can also send a “remote wipe” command to wipe your data remotely! (with MobileMe)
Login and it will show you a map of where your phone is located! (with MobileMe)

Random Stats:
40,000,000 iPhones/touches sold already
1,000,000 SDK downloaded

iPhone 3GS
“s” stands for “speed”
Up to 3 times faster than the 3g model
iPhone 3GS has a new camera (3.2 megapixel)
Video capturing is now possible on the iPhone 3GS!
30 frames per second with auto focus, exposure control, and more

Oh … and either iPhone 3.0 can show you real-time health information (with proper accessories, of course):

USSD: Lost in the Crowd?


All day long I am surrounded by BlackBerry and iPhone apps and business models. After listening to an intriguing talk by Nathan Eagle, a Professor at MIT, I started to think about how a single application can be developed to reach everyone in developing countries (a much larger proportion of mobile phone users than those in developed countries). Nathan mentioned that some applications in developing countries use USSD protocol as opposed to SMS or data-rich applications. I wanted to learn more.

Here are some of my findings:

USSD (“Unstructured Supplementary Services Data”) is a mature core mobile-network technology similar to Telnet; it is session-based. In fact, it is as old as GSM technology — and guess what — it works on EVERY GSM-based handset from a Nokia 1100 to a BlackBerry Bold.

Mobile software developers are constantly trying to find a way to write (code) once and reach many (different handset models). USSD can work for some application types, but not all. USSD will not offer feature-rich capabilities, but it can send and receive data through sessions (no data is saved on the device), allow for navigable menus, and it can interact with billing accounts on-file with wireless carriers.

After doing some research, it seems as though this technology is predominantly being exploited in developing countries, where there have been some very creative uses of USSD applications.

Here are some of the many uses this technology can provide (at a much cheaper cost than SMS messaging — a huge consideration for communication in developing countries):
– Mobile banking and payments
– Point-of-sale banking (using your mobile prepaid account as the source of payment)
– One-time password request notifications
– Weather services
– Menu-based navigation of corporate or city services
– Advertising
– Voice Chat
– Roaming

As it stands, USSD technology is being underused primarily due to a lack of available applications and content providers, a lack of understanding, and a lack of motivation at the operator level. Only recently, Bharti and Vodafone have productized this medium by launching USSD portals; largely however, this technology is under-developed and under-utilized.

Comments on a LinkedIN thread about USSD showed the following benefits of USSD technology (post from Gaurav Sarin):
1) Handset agnostic – 99% compatibility of active handsets
2) Easy Surfing – browser based experience for customers
3) Free content discovery for customers – since most operators do not generate CDRs of USSD sessions
4) Real Time session with the server – faster & more secure than SMS
5) Higher reliability as compared to SMSSMS has a 70 -80% successful delivery rate

What are your thoughts on USSD?