Russia’s new smartphone lays down challenge for GPS

When the MTS Glonass 945 Android device hit the stores earlier this month it was dubbed “Russia’s answer to iPhone”.
When the MTS Glonass 945 Android device hit the stores earlier this month it was dubbed “Russia’s answer to iPhone”.
But the first ever handset able to receive signals from both GPS and the rival Glonass satellite positioning system appears to be leaving consumers underwhelmed. Some have blamed its 11,000 roubles (£237) price tag. Others question why normal phone owners would need multiple positioning technologies. But it does serve one important purpose – demonstrating that Glonass works.
After decades of development, Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System, had begun to be used for state purposes. Many police cars, ambulances and public transport vehicles are equipped with receivers. The launch of the Chinese-built phone was the next step towards Glonass’ wider public acceptance. However, it has been met with something close to indifference.
“There is absolutely no interest in the device from the mass consumer – there is a multitude of analogous products on the market that support GPS only, and are much cheaper,” said analyst Eldar Murtazin from Mobile Research Group.
“The key point is, a consumer doesn’t care if it’s GPS or GPS-Glonass, they get their coordinates in either case – so why pay more?” Mr Murtazin explained that the GPS-only European version of the handset, the Vodafone 945, costs half the price. “For the device to be popular, it needs to be appealing and have an attractive price,” he said. “It’s not right to double the price just because they’re adding Glonass – especially because it does not give an ordinary user any real advantages for their daily positioning and navigation.”
However, Valeriya Kuzmenko from the phone network MTS disagrees: “The positioning coordinates are more precise, and it is especially important in city areas with many buildings, as well as out in the wild. “Also, a double-system device starts about twice as quickly as a single-system one – for example, when you get out of an underground car park and onto an unfamiliar street, your device might not be working for about a minute, and if you’re unable to stop, you can simply get lost,” says Ms Kuzmenko.

As for the price, she adds, it is the average cost of a smartphone with similar specifications. But still, Russia’s biggest telecom retail store Digital Centre ION has declined to stock the new phone – because, as the company’s PR manager Dmitry Khovansky points out, it is “a very niche product”.
“You can’t say it’s a sort of a ‘Russian iPhone’, as some people have called it. And it’s not just about the navigation – this particular model is simply not very popular. “People who buy phones of this price range usually choose models from brands like Samsung or LG. This phone is a bit too expensive for what it can offer – and for now, not many people are ready to rely on Glonass anyway,” said Mr Khovansky. He believes that the hand-held device has made it onto the market simply to show loyalty to Russian technologies.
But this could change in future – if the Glonass chipset becomes cheaper and manufacturers insert it in better-quality mobile phone models, he adds.

AFK Sistema, the company that promotes Glonass, said that many major world mobile phone brands were already in talks with Russia about the mass production of hand-held devices enabled with both navigation systems. In fact, soon companies may be forced to sell Glonass-compatible mobiles in Russia. By 2012, authorities aim to introduce duties of around 25% on the import of phones without the Russian navigation system. And although many perceive Glonass as a rival to the existing US monopoly, Russian officials disagree. They claim that their technology complements GPS, improving the accuracy and precision of the signal.
In future, Russia says Glonass will also work hand in hand with the European Union’s Galileo and China’s Compass network, when these two navigation systems are complete. And there is some evidence that it is already going international. Swedish company SWEPOS, a national network of satellite reference stations, has decided to use Glonass, saying that the Russian system is better than GPS at northern latitudes – and that two are better than one.

“Standalone GPS and standalone Glonass have about equal positioning accuracy, so 90% of our users are using dual GPS-Glonass system,” said Bo Jonsson, the company’s deputy head.
Mr Murtazin calls the agreement between Russia and Sweden an important political decision. “This way, Russia gets a partner abroad and can now show that Glonass is getting out into the international arena. So it’s great politically.”
Just like GPS, the Russian system was intended for army use in the late 1970s – but it later became a civilian project as well. The Soviet Union launched its first navigation satellite in October 1982, in the midst of the Cold War and a space and arms race. By that time, America had already sent up several GPS satellites.
In the early years of Glonass’s existence, a total of 43 satellites were put into orbit, with the authorities aiming for global coverage by 1991. That was the year the Soviet Union fell apart, and despite previously ambitious goals, by that time there were only 12 functional Glonass satellites circling the planet.
Even though the state managed to complete the constellation a few years later, during those turbulent post-perestroika years, the Russian economy suffered and so did the funding of the entire Glonass project.

“There was simply not enough money to keep the system afloat, and there’s no secrecy about that,” explained Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. With 21 functional satellites now in orbit, Glonass covers the entire territory of Russia and about 80% of the Earth.
The constellation was meant to be completed by 2011, but a spacecraft launched last December carrying the last three satellites veered off course. It is thought to have fallen into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
To ensure global coverage, there should be at least 24 functioning satellites.


Android users vote unanimously: ‘we hate Apple’


Smartfans are becoming intensely divided in their loyalty over their chosen platform, as Fandroids unite to voice their collective dislike for Apple’s iPhone more vociferously than ever.

That’s according to the latest Business Insider survey, at least, which found that more than half of Android users would never consider buying an iPhone purely for the reason they ‘hate Apple’.

When asked what might entice them to switch allegiance to Apple’s side, 55 per cent of the surveyed voted “Nothing: I hate Apple”, while 31.2 per cent are put off by the walled garden nature of the iPhone and would only consider a move if Apple makes it work better with non-Apple apps and products.

The poll received more than 2,000 responses, of which the majority already own smartphones and are not of a mind to change platforms when they are due for an upgrade.

While that may not necessarily suggest a sea change in the market, it does hint that Apple would have a harder time to win over a growing populace of Android users that is as uncompromising as its own fan base.

Despite the outcome of the survey, it’s highly unlikely that Cupertino would change its stance when it comes to ‘openness’ of iOS. Not as long as its iDevices continue flying off the shelf anyway.

That said, Google is catching up fast and recent sales figures have already revealed that Android was the most popular platform in the US, UK, France and Germany in the first quarter.

It has still some way to go before it surpasses iOS in global market share, but many analysts have already forecast it could become the market leader by the end of 2015.










Plans for mobile network on the tube put on ice


Operators and Mayor of London say plans to install a network on the underground are still a reality but will only happen after the Olympics.

Plans to install a mobile network on the London Underground have collapsed after all parties involved in the scheme encountered “genuine problems” according to the Mayor of London’s office.

The four operators, Everything Everywhere, Three, O2 and Vodafone confirmed plans had been abandoned for the meantime, but said they would continue working to bring a network to the tube.

“We have been working closely with infrastructure partners and London Underground for some time with the hope of delivering mobile services to the London Underground and are disappointed that it will not be possible to deliver such services in time for next year’s Olympic games,” a joint statement said. “As a group, we will continue to positively explore all other avenues available to us in order to provide a service at a later date.”

In February it emerged that Chinese network vendor Huawei was involved in the bidding process to supply the London Underground with mobile services in time for the 2012 Olympics.

It had been reported that the vendor would supply the infrastructure for the roll out at a subsidised price – estimated to be worth £50 million.
Transport for London (TFL), which runs the underground has always maintained that any mobile network installed on the tube would have to be funded by a vendor.

But now it seems that any possible installation of the network will only happen after the London Olympics.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “We are grateful to the companies who explored the possibility of getting full mobile coverage on the tube, although disappointed the genuine problems encountered could not be overcome on this occasion.” 

The spokesperson said separate plans to equip part of the underground with Wi-Fi connections would still go ahead.

“Our efforts meanwhile will be focused on guaranteeing a major expansion of Wi -Fi coverage in Tube stations in time for the Olympics.
We are proceeding with great energy and haste to deliver that improvement, which will mean Londoners can then use their mobile devices to pick up their emails or access the internet while passing through our stations.”





Happy Mother’s Day…Check your Facebook



Almost 1.5 million mums will receive messages via social media this Mothering Sunday, according to new research from phone and broadband provider TalkTalk. And a quarter of a million of these good wishes risk going unread as mums won’t be expecting – or checking – online.

The research also reveals that 17 million mums are hoping for a card this Sunday, but a heart-breaking one-in-ten (1.7 million) will be left disappointed.

Perhaps surprisingly though, mothers prove they are grateful for any message, however it may be sent – more mothers (20%) than children (14%) think messages sent online are as personal as paper cards. So sons and daughters shouldn’t be fooled into thinking their mums see online messages as second best.

Tristia Clarke from TalkTalk said: “Social networking sites are now used as the primary form of communication for much of the UK; that’s why as many as 1.5 million mums should expect their Mothering messages to be delivered over social media this Sunday.

“And children can rest assured that mums do understand the digital world – more mums than we might think view digital messages as a personal way to receive warm wishes on Mothering Sunday.”

Mothers’ expectation vs. the painful reality…

1,685,000 mothers who are expecting a card will be disappointed

380,000 mothers who are expecting a text will be disappointed

725,000 mothers who are expecting an email/ecard will be disappointed

220,000 mothers who are expecting a social media message will be delighted

150,000 mothers who are expecting a video will be disappointed

Check the latest TalkTalk broadband deals here.