Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Voda Live! Review

The nice chaps at the New Media Age asked me to review Vodafone Live! for this week's publication. I thought I'd drop it in here too. For far more detailed commentary on the transcoding and initial niggles you should check out Forum Oxford which had a very detailed string of commentary from different sources but the below is my take in a strictly monitored 600 words.

Vodafone Live!

There were high hopes for Vodafone’s re-launched mobile offering both in terms of an opening of the walled garden and a fresh approach to pricing to match other unlimited offers in the market. And, while there are things to commend in the new offering, ultimately it fails to fulfil the expectations of a typically well executed and committed advertising campaign that promises “The Internet is now Mobile”.

Access At face value Vodafone Live! combines the best of Live! with email and the open internet. This is an operator offering so every device is configured to take you to the right place as soon as you hit the browser key.

All the pages within Vodafone Live! are free but I was constantly irritated by the reminders when heading ‘off deck’ that I would now be charged – particularly when I have one of the new “unlimited” (not quite) bundles. In fact, I was also instructed to leave the browser completely and re-start if I wanted to enter Live! again. I suspect that Live! is only free as long as you do not make a foray into the open world mid-session. This pricing and presentation structure is a relic of the walled garden environment and really should be discontinued.

The presentation within Live! itself is excellent: always clear and amongst the best design we have seen from an operator both in terms of the aesthetic design and in the understanding of user flows.

The use of advertisements is also clear and not over the top and provides a good “best practice” example for others to follow.

In the open web offering, there has been much blog commentary concerning niggles with the new transcoding software and I have to confess that it is not as bad as fear made it. It does depend on the site itself though: at times you have a wonderfully rendered page and at others it looks as though the page has passed through a blender. A hint to Vodafone: I would certainly have chosen better rendered sites than the “Suggested Favourites” to show off the true capabilities of the software.

Initially, I was nervous on hearing about Vodafone placing its own headers and footers to open web pages. I feared it might be used to place ads rather than provide for extra user functionality. At the moment, it seems, the user comes first and you have several options available to you such as bookmarking, going to the next page etc.

I did find RSS reader frustrating to use. The directory that is there does not need to be termed RSS and can be used to populate the directories elsewhere. It offers the ability to fetch your own but I could not successfully conjure up my own blog or any of my favourite feeds and gave up in the end.

Being the open web I would also expect that I would receive search results from the web first before search results from within Vodafone itself. Another walled garden hangover but a minor quibble.

The bottom line
Live! shows significant advances and is a well-intentioned attempt to allow the user to gain broader access to the web. If I am disappointed it is only because my expectations were high. Vodafone has long been the thought leader in the UK and T-Mobile’s web’n’walk has been out for close to two years now and, aside from some design advantages, it really offers nothing better. Additionally, Vodafone’s own advertising sets the expectation of the “Internet is now Mobile” and the service does struggle to meet that promise.

No comments: