SOCIAL networkers are among the winners from the country’s extended 3G mobile network coverage and support. New Zealanders can now check and update their Bebo, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and even their YouTube accounts from the comfort of their mobile devices almost anywhere in the country. Not only this; the competitive data pricing offered by both Telecom and Vodafone means that it’s not as expensive as you may have presumed.
The obvious benefit of having access to your social networking sites on your mobile is, well... mobility!
You can instantly upload a photo of you and your friends at the top of the Sky Tower or hanging out at the beach without having to wait to upload it to your home PC first. Not only that, but you can keep your friends and followers posted on your adventures as they unfold with real-time status updates, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
“Social media is best when we’re out and about, when we’re doing something,” says Vodafone’s External Communications Manager Paul Brislen. “That’s when you want to be updating your Facebook page or your Twitter account. If you just update with, ‘I’m sitting at my desk looking at my PC,’ people get a bit bored, so you’re better off to update these things when you’re out in the world.”
“Social Networking, particularly micro blogging, is all about timeliness,” adds Liz Wilson, Telecom’s Head of Mobile Marketing. “It’s important that you can make your statement anywhere, anytime, and mobile access is the tool that enables this timely interaction.”
How do I get started?
The setup process differs between social networking services, but in most cases you will be required to have already set up your account on a PC before you can access it on your mobile. In the case of Twitter you’ll be required to synchronise your account with your mobile by entering your mobile details into the settings section of your Twitter account. “Once you’ve set up your Twitter account, you can add mobile devices from there,” explains Brislen. Telecom customers can set up their mobile Twitter in a similar manner, or they can set it up using shortcode 8987. On both networks you can set up exactly whose Tweets you will receive by text, and you can even turn off updates for set periods.
Many smartphones – such as Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry – allow you to download applications that provide direct and customised access to your various social networks. They’re typically free (with the exception of a few paid Twitter applications, although there are free applications as well – see last month’s Essential Apps feature). Alternatively, you can access the sites manually, the old-fashioned way, by entering the URL into your mobile’s Web browser, although the interface and general experience won’t be as pleasant.
Telecom offers Facebook updates via SMS to a user’s mobile phone, which can be set up online or by texting ‘F’ to 3223. “Notifications include new messages, friends’ status updates or friend requests. Users can also update their status, search for phone numbers, or upload photos and videos from their mobile phone,” says Wilson.
Finding the right device
Most current 3G handsets can access your social networking accounts, and many even have integrated functionality with some of the services. “Social networking access is on the top page of our TWorld portal, and is embedded in some devices,” says Wilson. “The Samsung C5220, for example, has a soft key on it that takes the customer straight to Bebo. Likewise the Sony Ericsson C510 has a short cut for upload of video and photos straight to YouTube and Facebook. The mobile also has an inbuilt application that allows a customer to receive their friends’ status [updates] as a scroll across the bottom of the home screen, like a news ticker.”
While the likes of Twitter supports even 2G handsets, you should typically look to 3G handsets if you wish to get the most out of the more data-intensive social networks like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Ultimately, you should consider which features of the various social networks you intend to utilise when making your choice of handset .
“You do really want a faster connection to be able to download video, and same with MySpace for music,” says Brislen. “If you’re listening to a band, you want to be able to access the site in its entirety. YouTube’s great on the iPhone because it’s a 3G device and it’s got a big screen, but on my BlackBerry, running on GPRS, it’s probably too small and too slow. You could do it, but it just wouldn’t be a good experience.”
How much will it cost?
This will depend entirely upon how you use your social networking. If you’re using your Facebook, Bebo or Twitter accounts via text messaging, it’s free to receive text updates to your phone. However, if you update your status or post a Tweet, you’ll be charged at the standard text messaging rate – in most cases, 20c per status update, comment or Tweet.
If you’re using mobile Internet connectivity (such as an iPhone or BlackBerry’s Web browser or social networking applications), you will be charged at the standard data transfer rates of your mobile plan. If you’re in this boat, be careful when using data-intensive features of the various social networking sites like streaming video clips, listening to music or browsing lots of images. You may not have to think twice about this at home, but when using mobile broadband you could be in for a hefty bill if your social networking habits are unchecked.
Of course, if you have a wi-fi device like an iPhone 3G, you’d do well to take advantage of any wireless Internet hotspots or networks you might be lucky enough to have access to. In this case, you’ll only be drawing on the Internet connection and it won’t contribute to your mobile data bill.
Chris Leggett on the road
So, I decided to hit the road and test out this mobile social-networking business. On a quick drive around town, I noticed some nifty scooters at The Retro Scooter Co.
Now, I’ve always fancied myself on a scooter, so I decided to take a few snaps and get the opinion of my Facebook friends on what colour scooter I should buy. The Sony Ericsson C510 asks whether you’d like to upload to Facebook immediately after taking a shot, which takes the hassle out of the whole process.
Typing everything using the text-message method takes a little getting used to, but now that I was all logged in, I was treated to a stream of my friends’ Facebook updates on the phone’s home screen. It’s a nice touch that means I can catch up on my friends’ day at a glance.
Mt Eden was the next stop for a picturesque profile photo (which was also immediately and painlessly uploaded to Facebook) before heading over to the Sky Screamer Bungy Ride in central Auckland. I decided to test out my iPhone’s social networking functions at this point.
Now, I’m a prepay customer, so I don’t have mobile Internet – but after a quick stroll up the road to Esquire’s cafe, I was soon using wi-fi Internet for the price of a coffee.
I decided to update my Twitter account with a picture of my terrified self all strapped in to the Sky Screamer – just to surprise everyone with my work assignment for the day. And by this stage, I’d received some scooter feedback from my Facebook friends; it sounds like red is definitely the colour for me.