Roaming Rip-off

At home, a Gb of mobile data costs me €15. Over a period of two weeks while on vacation, a mere 13Mb cost a whopping €56! Roaming data charges are inexplicably heavy, and a serious deterrent to uptake of the mobile Web. Add to this the fact that many Web sites are ill-equipped to offer a good mobile experience (often delivering big pages with many unnecessary graphics) and it’s a wonder that anyone would bother using a mobile Web browser while on vacation.

But I did, partly because it’s the only time that I’m forced away from desktop (including laptop) facilities. The experience, apart from the cost, was mixed. Adaptation is not yet universal, so many of the Web sites were unusable. Those that adapted still had basic usability issues, such as fixed-width layouts where the width didn’t match the mobile device. I encountered home pages that announced mobile versions of their sites, but the links merely led to descriptions and pictures of the mobile sites, not the sites themselves. I also encountered a form where the layout was such that I could see the field labels or the fields, but not at the same time. I encountered many Ajax sites that simply could not work on either of the devices I was carrying.

I did have some good experiences though, such as the well-structured mobile weather site and the mobile Wikipedia site. Simple and direct, exactly what is needed in a mobile context.

One little annoyance I had not expected was the “signal dance”, where one has to wave in the air with your mobile to get enough signal strength to receive the next page. This was very annoying, and several sites had a lot of trouble maintaining a session with me if I failed to keep the signal throughout. Maybe some kind of session persistence feedback would be useful for mobile services. All it would take is a timestamp at the top of the page saying when my session will expire unless I reconnect, and what I can expect will happen if the session expires. This kind of reassuring feedback would take much of the worry out of using mobile Web services (such as e-payment or e-banking where premature termination of an ongoing transaction could have expensive consequences).

The vacation is over and I am back to using the mobile Web at my local tariff, deferring the big screen experiences until I get to my desktop. This pattern of usage is likely to be with us for years to come.

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Comment Free Zone

Comments are closed.