Blog/20090224 Browsing by SMS

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2009-02-24

This is a very interesting story http://whiteafrican.com/2009/02/15/mobile-xl-sms-browser-for-mobiles-in-africa/

Guy, and his team at Mobile-XL, have built the XLBrowser. This is a J2ME (Java) application that utilizes SMS to provide instant access to global and local information using almost any mobile phone. The XLBrowser’s interface allows users to select and instantly receive information, news, sports, finance, entertainment, games, music, and more. Costs appear to be slightly more expensive than a basic SMS message.

with even more interesting comments: In a comment on the story, Reinier Battenberg then does the sums, and concludes:

As this is a J2ME application, the alternative, Opera Mini, will run on the same types of phones, and, with images shut off, will give you about 44 times more value for money. (and 411 bonus characters to waste on the http request)

(According to the discussion, that figure is probably roughly correct, for details see the discussion itself.) During a recent trip to Zambia cf. Samfya, I had a related experience, that also made for an interesting cost comparison:

Interestingly, it was easy to set up a mobile data plan on a Zambian Zain SIM, and data rates (certainly when comparing email with sending text messages) were quite cheap. A text message costs about 300-500 Kwacha, while a short email (send via Google mail for mobile) costs about 30 Kwacha, making email a factor of 10 cheaper. (1 USD is about 5000 Kwatcha, ZMK). (For related comments, see mobile). In many ways, using google mail on mobile, or using Opera mini were the fasted ways of sending email or browsing the web. Although texts need to be entered via the keypad on my W810i, this was still faster than accessing the internet in non-optimised way via a dongle. (By the time you'd logged into web mail, got to the compose page, the message on the phone was already written and sent. Of course for longer messages the querty keyboard gives you an advantage, but shorter emails were faster on the phone.)
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