BT targets broadband users with BlackBerry aspirations
BT has launched its own smartphone solution for consumers, designed to act as an extension of their broadband service. The handset is in direct competition with established players in the market, such as BlackBerry.
Launched with the tagline "Be one of the first to take your broadband out and about", the new service is called BT Total Broadband Anywhere. It is aimed at BT Total Broadband consumers who are keen to access their e-mail accounts and the internet away from home.
John Petter, managing director, consumer, at BT, said: "Communications services are converging and it is clear that customers want convenient access to the things that matter not only at home, but in the palm of their hands wherever they are."
The smartphone handsets are manufactured by HTC, who also make similar OEM equipment for other mobile operators. Two models make up BT̵7;s initial offering: the HTC S620, which is a familiar wide, flat PDA-style handset, and the HTC S710, which is the size of a regular mobile phone and additionally features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Both devices are powered by Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 and support wi-fi, VOIP, IMAP and Pop4 mailboxes (including Hotmail and Googlemail), Bluetooth, WAP and quad-band networks. In keeping with the trend in mobile devices, both feature a colour screen which rotates with the orientation of the phone and an MP3 player, although there is no touch-sensitivity with the displays.
The technical specification is acceptable, if hardly cutting-edge: the maximum resolution of the camera is 2.0 megapixels in the S710 (1.3 megapixels in the S620) and the maximum built-in memory is only 128Mb in the S620 (a meagre 64Mb in the S710). However, both phones support Micro SD cards for additional memory.
At the launch event, BT was quick to stress that the ToGo handsets are aimed at the average consumer, not the gadget junkie ̵1; hence the modest specification and their noticeable heft; the seductive svelteness of an iPhone or Prada phone is absent here.
However, with the target market in mind, the handsets are appropriate and are sensibly delivered to the customer preconfigured with their BT Total Broadband details ̵1; such as BT Yahoo! email and web links ̵1; as well as Hotmail and popular web shortcuts, such as bbc.co.uk.
Anti-virus software is also preinstalled and runs automatically. The software is supplied by US company Smobile, who provide a similar service for a number of mobile companies in the US; BT is its first UK customer.
To take up the ToGo service, subscribers to the BT Total Broadband package must pay an additional £5 per month on top of their existing tariff and in return will receive a handset. Only customers signed up to its top-tier BT Total Broadband package are eligible for the ToGo handset; this currently costs a minimum of £24.99 per month. The total cost per month would therefore be £29.99.
The much-publicised added-value features of BT Total Broadband, such as the Digital Vault back-up facility and Snap and Send photo management service, are also incorporated into the ToGo handsets. Data can be saved to the customer̵7;s virtual Vault space on BT̵7;s servers and photos taken with the handset camera can be similarly uploaded or disseminated. The handsets will also synchronise with the Home Hub when the customer returns home.
The Home Hub router sits at what BT refers to as the ̶0;the heart of the wireless home̶1;, acting as the conduit for high-speed internet access, VOIP telephone calls and Total Broadband̵7;s ancillary services.
BT̵7;s global presence ensures a worldwide wi-fi network for the ToGo handsets, utilising BT Fon̵7;s 82,000 hotspots in the UK and 190,000 worldwide, as well as a further 2,500 BT OpenZone hotspots in the UK and Ireland. The phone will automatically connect and sync with a customer̵7;s account when using a BT network, allowing free broadband phone calls. Alternatively, it can connect to any available wi-fi network, although free calls will not apply in this situation.
The service works on both Mac and PC computers.
Image: The BT ToGo HTC S710 handset