Blogging, telecommunication and entrepreneurship are all picking up in contemporary Pakistan. In this context, let me share a quick review I did of a recently launched value added service of Telenor. Telenor has branded the service as PicShare. The service’s back-end is based on a relatively new mobile value added service company called PixSense that has some Pakistani origin.
I have the opinion that Telenor appears to be the most data savvy among the cellular companies operating in Pakistan. Picture sharing and blogging are getting popular and it made a lot of sense for Telenor to have this service and nothing better than selecting a Pakistani back-end company to deliver the results.
Here is the review of the service itself (using Telenor EGE service on a Nokia 6300):
I signed up for the service (cost = Rs 30/mo + Data Charges for image uploads) from the main Telenor website. The menus, that were not very neatly done in terms of graphics, asked for my cell phone make and model and then showed me some bleak (blue) screenshots of the phone’s menus and explained where to go and what to select.
While I was at it, I received a confirmation email from firstname.lastname@example.org that CONTAINED my password. Normally, this is not the industry practice as plain email is not safe from being snooped on the network.
The application was easy to install via the ‘get application’ button on the Telenor’s website. However, since the application requires a number of access permissions (communication for data transfer and user data for accessing photos and videos stored on the phone), a number of permissions were required to be set. The application itself was not smart to tell which of the permissions are missing so it was cumbersome to visit the complex tree of the application access menu and make sure that these permissions are in place. It took me five to six tries before I was there and every time the application just gave a simple error message ‘check permissions’. I guess putting the intelligence of ‘what permission is actually missing’ can enhance the usability of the application.
Once I fired up the application, the application asked for my telephone number and PicShare password. I guess the telephone number should have been automatically picked up by the application at least. I hoped that I do not have to go through this process every time I use the application and I was right. The next time I started the application and it was intelligent enough to remember my login details.
Once inside the application, it showed the sole snap that I had taken up today. The snap got uploaded automatically probably because I selected the option which allowed this. The background nature of upload did not allow to gauge the speed of the transfer. I guess that was fast. I was hoping that as a courtesy and display pro-privacy thinking, the application to tell me that so many applications have been uploaded to the web from my phone.
I hurried to my notebook to check out the results on the web and this is the Achilles heel of the Telenor PicShare in my opinion. Since the application is from PixSense, Telenor has sort of out-sourced this (or probably that was the only way of doing it) to PixSense. While connected to the Telenor’s website to access my recently uploaded photos, it resorted to frames with the inside frame being called off the Pixsense web servers (http://picshare.pixsense.com). Web developers have long abandoned use of frames inside the web pages for good reasons. Even on a wide-screen desktop of my notebook, I was getting horizontal scroll bars and the two vertical scroll bars (one for the main page itself, the other for the embedded frame) was cumbersome and for a while took me back to 1995 when frames were still being used.
The PicSense online interface for viewing and managing does not allow direct URLs so that the uploaded images cannot be used directly – a great disadvantage to those who blog. Since the service is ‘all about sharing’, it makes sense that this requirement should have been considered. The system does allow a ‘download’ button to download the jpeg image to your computer. I tried sharing one of the snaps and the presence of frames completely confused me about what was happening while the ‘sharing’ page opened up. Once the page reappeared, it gave the option to share the stuff via email or via SMS. I shared the collection by providing it another of my email addresses. An email was received moments late that contained the shared image’s thumbnail and a URL which opened after some delay but once again, with a number of frames.
My overall experience with the service and the application can be rated at 3/5 with lots of room remaining for improvement in the application logic, user notification, privacy and the main web interface on the web.