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    Still no iPhone on the horizon in Canada

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver November 20-26, 2007; issue 943

    High Tech Office column

    Following the iPhone’s initial U.S. debut, Apple has released it in the U.K., France and Germany. But despite recurring rumours, there has been no Canadian release, though the iPhone’s GSM technology would make it a natural fit for Rogers and Fido.

    (Though the iPhone is not officially available in Canada, quite a few iPhones are listed on Craigslist Vancouver.)
    If Rogers is negotiating with Apple (and I’d be surprised if it weren’t), it’s keeping the details secret. But even without an iPhone announcement, the company has been pretty busy. For example:

    •In July, this column looked at RIM’s Blackberry 8300 Curve, which does a nice job of combining always-connected e-mail with multimedia features like built-in music player and digital camera, together with a usable QWERTY keyboard. Now Rogers is offering the updated 8310 Curve adding GPS and Second Voice Line Service, letting users access two different phone numbers on one device. (Sadly, the 8320 Curve, which adds WiFi, is not available in Canada).

    •In mid-October, Rogers rolled out faster high-speed packet access (HSPA) data network service in the Vancouver area, Victoria, Kelowna and Whistler, following an earlier southern Ontario debut. This lets Rogers claim first-place for data speed among Canadian mobile providers, outpacing former champ Bell Mobility’s EVDO. HSPA came with a set of VISION services making use of the added performance. These include video messaging, video on demand (including limited YouTube access), XM Satellite radio stations and access to Rogers’ MusicStore. All this requires new phones; I’ve been able to try out a couple.

    Motorola’s Q9H ($249 with a three-year plan) is an updated version of last year’s Q. Sleeker than the Blackberry Curve series, it also includes always-connected e-mail with multimedia features, GPS and a full mini-QWERTY keyboard. Unlike the Curve, it can use high-speed HSPA. It’s powered by Microsoft’s newest Windows Mobile 6, but ironically includes non-Microsoft Opera web browser and Documents to Go software to work with Microsoft Office-format documents. I was disappointed with its battery life, however; while promising 19 days standby time, I found myself having to recharge it every second day or so, even when I wasn’t using it.

    Not everyone needs a smartphone or a full QWERTY keyboard, even to make use of high-speed data networks. I had loan of an LG TU500, at first glance, a fairly conventional flip-cover mobile phone. Its support, however, allows it to be used for video calls with another video-supporting HSDPA-capable phone. Video calls were fun, though I’m not sure they’re a feature I would use regularly. Rogers is charging $0.25/minute for video calls.

    Rogers’ Vision Mobile Internet plan has a “limited time promotional price” of $5 per month and a regular price of $10 per month. That includes 10 megabytes of data use per month, with additional use billed at $0.03 per kilobyte. And as with other mobile packages, there are added costs for many services: $10 per month for GPS on the Q9H, for instance. Video-On-Demand charges are $2.50 per video clip, giving users 24-hour access to that clip, or offering an array of other packages for video and/or radio access.

    And that’s the catch. I’m happy that Rogers is offering higher-speed mobile networking, but I remain unhappy at the cost and that it’s difficult to know what real-time use is going to cost prior to signing a multi-year contract. (In contrast, AT&T’s iPhone plan in the U.S. charges a fixed-price US$60 per month for unlimited data use.)

    Several mobile phone manufacturers have responded to the iPhone’s appeal with new models, which, like the iPhone, feature large touch screens.

    None of them, as far as I can tell, are officially available in Canada, however. For instance, instead of the touch screen Voyager model (available on Verizon in the U.S.), LG referred me to its Shine phone, available on Telus, Rogers and Bell.

    It’s thin, sleek and metallic. But sorry – for Canadian users waiting for the iPhone – and for an affordable data plan, it just won’t do. •

    addendum (Dec 11 2007): reader Amy Isabel notes: " mention that the HSPA network is faster than the EVDO network.
    While this is true, what you fail to mention is that EVDO 2.0, commonly known as EVDO Rev-A, was launched this past summer all over Canada and while it doesn't download as fast as HSPA, it definitely UPloads faster.  HSPA is still crippled from EDGE-like network speeds for uploading".

    Thanks, Amy!

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan

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