Weekly Wrap: Gobble Gobble
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 28 09:00:00 GMT 2003

It's like the tryptophan-induced drowsiness set in a few days early, delivering a slow week.

The biggest news this week was the launch of wireless local number portability in the United States. Starting Monday, consumers are now free to switch carriers and take their number with them. Until now, losing your phone number was carriers' most effective anti-churn device. Some carriers looked to pick up unhappy customers, while apart from consumers being the obvious winners, handset makers are looking to gain thanks to all the incompatible standards and networks forcing a lot of consumers to change phones when they change carriers.

Some media reports seemed to be disappointed that "only" 80,000 people switched the first day -- this, of course, coming after warning people they'd endure nothing less than sheer hell if they tried to switch this week -- but that's about two and a half times the number that could be expected to switch on a normal day.

Sendo showed off its upcoming Symbian/Series 60-based handset, the X, this week, giving the first up-close glimpse of the device, and not offering too many more details than we already knew, except confirming that's it's a pretty damn cool device. The X, and the Siemens SX1, which should both be out in the first couple months of the new year, will highlight Nokia's risk in licensing the Series 60 interface for devices that will offer its own models stiff competition.

European carrier O2 unveiled the continent's first over-the-air music download service this week, and while the move shows some forward thinking, plenty of questions dog the launch. The service's files are only 1MB so as not to choke the GPRS connection (too badly), and even using AAC encoding, that means they can't be of very high quality, and for GBP 1.50 per song, that may not fly with users. The service-specific player also has to be tethered with a cable to the certain models with which it's compatible, and uses SD cards, letting it hold much less music than hard-drive based MP3 players like the iPod.

O2's parent company, mmO2, also said this week it was looking to strengthen its pan-European alliance that's intended to make roaming easier and battle the purchasing clout of Vodafone. mmO2 said it was looking to add Bouyges Telecom of France, Cingular or AT&T Wireless in the US, and a Greek carrier, while adding it had no interest in selling its German network, which has been the subject of lots of sale speculation.

With fear of sounding like a broken record, more news of how camera phones are working themselves into everyday life and culture: a curated show of camera phone images, SENT, will be held early next year in LA. The show, while focused on low-res images, isn't so much concerned with proving art can be made with the devices as it is with using them as tools to democratize media.

While more and more consumers pick up advanced handsets (like camera phones) with cool features like color screens, some fixed-line carriers are looking to make their phones a bit more like their customers' flashy mobiles. While European landline operators have been offering fixed-line SMS for more than two years, they're only now starting to add things like color screens to their fixed phones. A couple large carriers also say they'll offer fixed-line picture messaging next year as well.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Douglas Rushkoff slates carriers for shunning user-created content, while Howard Rheingold wonders what media god Marshall McLuhan would say about today's mobile world.