Designed in 2 Minutes?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

GPRS on Nokia phones

I have a Nokia 6100 - a good all-round phone with lots of features such as the ability to run Java programs and connect to the internet via GPRS.

GPRS, for those who don't know, stands for General Packet Radio Service and provides a way for wireless devices such as phones to transfer packets of data to and from a base station network. GPRS is analogous to broadband DSL which a home user might use to connect to the Internet, as it's always-on and works over a digital system rather than the older analogue WAP protocol. It's also quite a bit faster than WAP.

Currently most mobile service providers charge per MB for GPRS data access. Prices are extortionate (in the region of ukp4 per MB) and so I don't usually access the internet from my mobile unless I absolutely have to.

But this presents a problem to phone designers. Sometimes I'll have been trying to accses my saved bookmarks, or check some GPRS settings for a friend, for example, when I'll accidentally select a URL to visit. Before I have the chance to cancel, the page has loaded, appeared on my screen, and cost me on my next bill.

The problem is this: how do you confirm that a user really wants to initiate a data transfer when the connection is always-on? Imagine if every time you clicked on a link in your web browser your computer asked "Are you sure?"!

Perhaps you could have some sort of inactivity timeout so that if the user hasn't made a data transfer in over 30 minutes then the phone assumes the current session has finished and will then ask again the next time they try to access data.

However Nokia seemed to pull a cop-out and just not confirm it at all. Much to my phone bill's dismay...


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