(photo credit: Courtesy)
Opposites are rampant in the trillion-dollar global telecommunications industry. Mobile phones can be "smart" or "dumb," while e-mail is either "pushed" or "pulled." One local startup is reconfiguring the divisive lines between them with a free application that makes dumb phones smart by allowing a wide range of mobile phones to receive push e-mail (a system that is always on and sends new e-mail instantly and actively to the user).
One of the first wireless devices outside of Asia to capitalize on this push e-mail technology was a handheld device ironically named after a luscious fruit: the BlackBerry. Thanks in part to the BlackBerry's overwhelming popularity, a number of other push e-mail solutions have cropped up in the market for mobile devices in recent years. What was formerly only a feasible solution for businesses because of the expense is now fast, simple and - best of all - free.
Like many innovations, it started with a need. The telecommunications vendor Emblaze was searching for a less expensive way for its sales and marketing agents in the field to receive instantaneous e-mails on their mobile phones.
"When we started looking into it, we realized that the BlackBerry was just too expensive and the other existing devices required special, high-end devices that were also complicated and expensive," says Moshe Levy, the CTO at emoze, which is owned by Emblaze.
"We decided to develop a solution of our own that would enable any mobile device to get e-mails. Later, we thought it would be good for any data to be accessible, like calendar, contacts, messages from blog forums, and rss feeds."
In 2006, emoze launched the world's first and only free push e-mail application. Unlike the BlackBerry, which duplicates data to an outside storage server before sending it to the handheld device, emoze only transfers messages when the device is connected.
"This solution makes emoze much more secure," says Levy. "We're using a sophisticated platform that can identify the mobile device and the server user."
Another difference between emoze and its competitors is that it compresses data so that the user pays less for downloads. Until this July, emoze only supported about 150 different mobile devices, but with the launch of its new Java client, the application will be compatible with more than 800 mobile devices - smart and dumb alike.
Emoze offers the basic application for free, but it only supports a single account. For 12 euros a year, users can upgrade to the PRO version, which allows the configuration of multiple accounts (Outlook, gmail and Yahoo - to name only a few) as well as permitting more downloads. The application gets top scores for its usability (it's easy to install), high speed delivery time (much faster than the BlackBerry), low RAM usage and minimal battery drain.
The downside of the free emoze application is that it only supports the configuration of one e-mail account at a time and support is relatively slow - especially for small bugs like the ability to change the notification alert sound on some mobile devices. One other concern is the automatically added emoze signature that cannot be changed. With the release of the new Java client, emoze hopes to solve previous complaints about handset limitations and will provide a much broader range of mobile devices, including Windows Mobile, Symbian, pop3 devices and many more.
It's a great programming challenge to make the application compatible with so many different types of mobile devices, and emoze expects the debugging process to take time to perfect with its new Java client.
According to Levy, tens of thousands of users download emoze every week, and the platform is designed for the mass market so they hope to eventually reach millions of users.
"Our major breakthrough in this area is that emoze allows even simple phones to synchronize all of their e-mail accounts and on-line data," he says. "This makes the system a lot less expensive than sending an SMS, and we believe that once users start using it, they will prefer it to the traditional SMSs."
For the e-mail junkie, emoze is certainly an appealing innovation. After all, what could be better than getting e-mail, calendar events, tasks, downloads and any other on-line data you want on your cellphone? Then again, before you throw out your laptop, don't forget the limitations of receiving e-mail (even if it is fast, secure and pushed) on a screen the size of a cellphone.
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