I seem to be writing a lot about Yahoo! at the moment (of which more at another time), but last night I finally got up and running with Yahoo! Go thanks to a new N70 phone and some luck fiddling with settings.
After some early problems with connections to Vodafone UK, suddenly it started working, and by God it’s an amazing tool. Essentially it installs a suite of applications onto your phone which mean the phone is in real-time sync mode with Yahoo! Calendar, Address Book, Mail, Tasks and Photos. Previously, I’ve been mimicking this kind of mobile server-side life by synching iCal and Address Book between computers on OSX using .mac, and then synching to my phone. Yahoo! Go obviates the need for that, and I’m assuming (though don’t yet know) that if I was working in a Windows/Outlook environment I’d be able to sync that too.
I can’t emphasise how big a step this feels. With all the fuss about Web 2.0 calendaring and social sharing of events going on elsewhere, we’ve been in danger of losing track of the core piece of calendaring and contacts functionality – that adding a contact or a date or a task from a device makes that new data available to me on any other device in as near real time as we can get it. Oddly, it was Scott Gatz at Yahoo!, not one of the mobile mavens like Beattie or Lindholm, who really waved the flag for this:
The real exciting news is the Yahoo! Go app itself. This is one of those products that only comes along once in a while and words cannot do it justice. It’s one of those products that you see and say “oh, that’s how it always should have been” or “wow, now it gets interesting”. So why am I so excited? It seamlessly syncs your mobile phone with the web. Your device is just a live input to the web.
* Take a picture with your camera – it shows up on Y! Photos. That’s it. No sending to an email address, no waiting to upload. Just point, shoot, and its shared (I can’t wait til they add Flickr support)
* Meet someone, type their phone number into your phone, it shows up in your Y! Address book. No syncing, no cables, no button to press.
* Works in both directions – this is the killer one for me. I manage a lot of my addresses/phone numbers on the web and I always forget to sync. Also the idea of me being able to get all my favorite family photos on my phone without having to upload them to my phone rocks. It’s a slideshow in my pocket without having to every plug my phone in.
* IM & Mail too – you can do Voice IM on your phone. Your email box is totally in sync (kinda like IMAP for your phone)
I realize in writing this how excited I am about it, but how hard it is to explain why. If you have a Nokia Series 60 phone, drop everything and go get it. If you don’t, find someone who has one and get them to try it out and show you.
I agree with everything he says. But (and there’s always a but) I did have some issues with it:
- Installing and getting going is too much hard work. Mostly this is because Yahoo! is working around the messed-up mobile infrastructure, where phones are locked down and typically don’t naturally connect to PCs, but really, this is going to be a big brake on take-up
- Battery drain: after one day of use, I’m already finding my battery levels collapsing very quickly. To be expected, of course, the phone is doing a lot more work – but again, may worry people.
- Data charges – a classic problem. I just don’t know how much I’m spending. I’m going to wait a month before signing up to a data plan, so I can see how much data I’m using, but some kind of obvious data usage counter would have been useful.
- The Mail paradigm is interesting. What Yahoo! Go does is drop your Yahoo! Mail into your messaging environment on Symbian 60. This means that, suddenly, you get a lot more messages. I realised pretty quickly that I was uncomfortable with this: SMS just feels like a more personal, messaging type environment, where people can get me quickly, and email just felt too heavy-handed in there. So I turned Mail off. Which leads to….
- Switching services off and on is clunky. It should be really easy. For instance, when going on holiday. It’s possible but not obvious.
The biggest problem, probably, is that Yahoo! Go is a Symbian 60 only platform, which blows out a great many handhelds. This is reflective of the massive problems Y! faces in getting this out to the mainstream: the fact that the mobile sector is fragment and locked down by aggressive operators. Even something as innovative and amazing as Yahoo! Go is going to struggle against that.
But this is an enormous step forward. I really hope they make it fly. I’m already hooked