GPRS Tools: Gmail for the mobile

I really didn’t feel the need for GPRS until I had to travel to Bombay last month, and realised that I would be without email access for most of the time.

I’m on Airtel and they have two options: Rs.499/month (billing is on a per-day basis – Rs.16 per day on which you access), for which they take the same amount as a deposit, and the other is 10p for each kb accessed. I chose the former.

Since then I have installed the Gmail application, Mundu Radio, the yet to be released Plus application from STAR India, GoTalkMobile and Opera Mini. Over the next few days, I’ll review each application one by one. First up is the first I installed-

Gmail for the mobile:
The Java based Gmail application has been around for a few months now, though Google has only recently done a press release on the application. Unlike has been claimed, the app is not India specific and anyone with GPRS enabled and a phone that supports Java can download the same by pointing their web browser to http://gmail.com/app . Most Nokia phones on a Symbian OS will support it.

The Good:

– Excellent interface – the text is readable and accessing content is as easy as in gmail
– Functionality is the same as in Gmail – you can star mails, add labels, archive, delete, mark as unread. The same as Gmail.
– The dictionary is also enabled, so typing a message is easy.
– Also, once you get used to the keypad shortcuts, using the app is even easier. For example: pressing 7 twice allows you to delete a post. Pressing 3 twice allows you to mark post as unread.
The Bad:
– Long messages get truncated.
– It’s (understandably) not possible to view or download attachments (to transfer to PC via Bluetooth).
– The mail takes time to load, and if GPRS connectivity is poor, it just hangs.
It’s difficult to compose a message since it takes time for contacts to load, and there’s no default option of simply typing out new contacts.
– Even once you type in a new email address to mail to – it’s first added to the contact list, and then you have to select it.
– There’s also no ‘reply to all’ for messages.
– No means of accessing labels.

In spite some issues mentioned above, Gmail for the mobile is still a killer app for me.

Next: Mundu Radio

Additionally…just some thoughts on GPRS:
India has an estimated 2-3 million GPRS users, which is fairly low – that’s 10 percent of the approximated (as of today) 200 million subs. While voice remains the core business for most telcos, beyond a certain point, the voice business is expected to stagnate and value added services are expected to grow. With that, the demand for applications that require a data transaction are also expected to increase. Now what drives GPRS? Content and services. However, there are usability issues with the mobile.

People don’t know how to do GPRS settings and it is expected that future sim cards will have softwares for detecting the phone type, and automatically configuring GPRS settings. The other issue is that not everyone knows how to access the Internet on the mobile via the mobile – having to open a browser and type the webpage address is too much to ask of them. Hence, pre-configured clients are the way to go, and I’m reviewing some of these pre-configured clients.

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13 Comments

  1. Rs.499/month (billing is on a per-day basis – Rs.16 per day on which you access),

    So, is it 499 per month and then 16/- per day you access on top of that ? If so, what’s the 499/- for ? Activation fee ?

    A cpl of my friends were trying to activate the GPRS settings in Blore. And just like you mention,ran into several issues with getting it setup. A call to the airtel support did no good. They had to finally visit the airtel store to get it setup correctly.

    -pranav.

  2. The lack of penetration of GPRS is also because a very large number of phones are monochrome / low end phone that just dont support it.

    Its changing though, GPRS phones are finally falling through the 5K barrier so it should take off soon….

  3. One of the reasons why I switched to the E50 was to get EDGE support and as fate would have it, the two weeks after I’d picked up the phone, Airtel’s GPRS service went screaming southwards.

    Over the past couple of days, after having booked an MTNL triband conn (oh the irony!) it has come back to reasonable life again. Gets me around 7-11 KBps and works pretty fine.

    What I used to do with the old Razr was to use opera mini to get gmail, but not the standard version, but either the mobile version (http://m.gmail.com/) if the bandwidth was yucky or the HTML version (http://mail.google.com/mail/h/) and put an end to the truncation worries.

  4. Shyam: the E50 browser looks great, but I’m not too sure about having to scroll both horizontally and vertically to access a site. It might be good for a webmaster (pun intended :D), but I’d prefer to have my content repackaged for easier viewing. Also, my 3230 doesn’t have much space…
    btw: what do you think of the N73?

  5. Pranav: It’s basically Rs.16 per day of access. No additional charges (apart from the service charges in the bill).
    There’s an additional, refundable, deposit of Rs.499/-.

    I didn’t have a problem with GPRS activation…only that it took a few days to activate (additionally) Airtel Live on my phone, to try out Indiagames’ Tadkalive.

  6. Adi: I wouldn’t worry about the handset prices. The secondary market is very active, and the phones will percolate down to the sub Rs.5000 level…
    I think Nokia’s 6600, which is among the best phones from that co, will hit the Rs.5000 mark in the secondary market within the next few months, if it hasn’t already.
    The secondary market, incidentally, is one of the driving forces for launching new models, and phasing out old ones.

  7. I don’t know which ‘abroad’ comment 7 refers to. Web access on mobile is not free in the ‘abroad’ that I live in, and the cost is subscription-based. So contract users may pay a fixed sum for a large-ish data transfer limit, while pay-as-you-go chaps have to, well, pay as they go.. (Sorry too lazy to go pick my mobile bill and give you more exact details).

    So if the gentleman knows something different about free mobile web access in the UK, please let me know… I shall be happy to switch ūüôā

  8. Well, as I understand, you must be getting WAP allowance with O2 mobile or Vodafone per month, that comes free with your subscription.

    In proportion to the regular subscription rates here, the Rs. 500 is just a little bit too much.

  9. Thanks, Abhishek. It is not WAP, but full functionality GPRS access that one gets for some £7-8 per month, which is about 1/3 of the base rental (without 17.5% VAT). So it is not a small sum of money.

    What % of Indian mobile users have contracts versus pay-as-you-go deals? With the latter it is harder to assess what they can afford..

  10. Dont buy the Rs 499 pack until you get the settings for you PC and mobile. Your Airtel cutomer care won’t support you to tell the settings for the same.
    You may loose your valuable money for a month if you dont have the settings.

    I have recharged with Rs 499 but I could not access internet because I dont have settings regarding that and customer care service is worse in Bharti Airtel. You never get settings for GPRS.

    Maheswar Nayak
    A 4/5, Tapoban Abasan
    Durgapur-13
    Phone no. 0932841539

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