Samba free mobile broadband

I recently applied for, and was accepted into, a trial for the Samba Mobile free mobile broadband service. Samba provide a 3G USB dongle for which you are able to build up credit by viewing video ads via a Firefox extension which also installs a “battery” icon in your navigation bar showing your available credit in days. The more ads you view, the more days of credit you get.

Once you’ve built up enough credit, you can browse the Internet as with any other 3G dongle. According to the paperwork that was supplied with the welcome pack, the dongle and SIM are provided by Nutshell Mobile, which in turn is an MVNO running on the Three network. The supplied ZTE MF112 dongle is the standard Three device (with a paper Samba logo sticker covering the Three logo!), complete with the same standard 3Connect software that Three supply. It all worked flawlessly on my main Windows machine (although I wasn’t able to send/receive texts or view my account details as presumably these features aren’t available on the Nutshell/Samba SIM) and I was even able to get online using my spare Linux machine thanks to the Sakis3G script.

It’s worth pointing out that there are no ads forced upon you as you use the service, so it doesn’t get in the way of your normal browsing. You just need to remember to keep topping up your credit by viewing ads, which is pretty painless and something you can easily do with the sound turned down while you’re doing something else. I would expect the service to stop working when I run out of credit, but I wonder if it would continue to allow me access to the Samba site to build up some more credit on the go.

The Samba website is fairly basic (complete with the misspelt “live alot” tagline) and sparse in information – I have no idea, for example, what the monthly data transfer limit is – but it’s early days and I’d expect that the site would be fleshed out prior to a public launch. Samba might also want to consider switching to a courier service more reliable than CityLink as it took me well over a month to receive my welcome pack!

Ideally, I’d like to see Samba develop their own multi-platform client software that provides a way to view ads and remaining credit without forcing users to use Firefox (not that I have anything against Firefox, but it’s not my primary browser), and maybe provide other ways of getting online such as MiFi hotspots to support a wider range of devices (think iPod and non-3G iPad users), but these things could come later.

I think the Samba Mobile service has the potential to be really popular with consumers, because it offers a useful service for free that would be fairly costly if  bought directly from an operator such as Three. I only hope that their is enough advertising revenue to keep the service afloat, as it would be a great shame if the service wasn’t able to get off the ground.

Manage your phone with floAt’s Mobile Agent

If you have a recent (T610 or newer) Sony Ericsson phone, floAt’s Mobile Agent is a great tool for your PC. It allows you to manage your phone’s contacts and messages and do other nifty things such as allow you to pick up and dial calls from your PC. It’s great with Bluetooth but most features also work with USB or serial cables. And, like the best things in life, it’s free!

fMA

Get a better mobile deal

Inspired by an article by Martin Lewis, I recently contacted O2 (my mobile provider) to renew my mobile phone contract and instead of going through Customer Services, I called their Customer Retentions department on 0800 0288 151. As a result I was able to get a a shiny new Sony Ericsson W880i for free on an 18 month contract priced at £25/month including 1000 any time/any network minutes and 200 texts. This would normally cost £40/month (Online 40 Talker) and that’s with 100 fewer texts.
The key is to be persistent – I asked for my PAC code (which is needed if you want to migrate to another network) on a couple of occasions and was on the line for a total of 35 minutes, so it’s a good job that O2 foot the bill for the call (as long as you phone from a landline – remember that 0800 numbers are not usually free from mobiles and sometimes don’t even count towards your free minutes allowance).
I really wanted a 12 month contract so I could upgrade again after year but O2 weren’t forthcoming with any particularly good deals and I’m happy to wait the extra 6 months for the amount I’ve saved.

I was also offered insurance for £7.50/month which I declined, then £6/month with a £25 excess which I still didn’t bother with – over the term of the contract it works out at over a third of the value of the phone which seems very pricey.

Opera releases free mobile browser

Opera Software have announced the worldwide release of Opera Mini, the full Web browser that runs on almost every mobile phone, including low- and mid-end handsets.

I’ve tried it, and I’m very impressed – it’s an improvement over the default browsers included on my Nokia 6100 and Sony Ericsson K750i – and it’s available as a free download. Go to opera-mini.com to find out more.

(via digg)