Vodafone 555 Blue

Vodafone 555 Blue: Getting the most out of the Favourites

One of the things that I felt really strong about from the very beginning is the Favourites feature. We have been through a few iterations of how to do it and it was invented even before Facebook launched the new Groups feature and before Google+ introduced the circles feature.

The idea was that out of your whole Facebook friends, you really may not be close friends with absolutely everybody. So we wanted to have a way to filter all the incoming status updates to only show the most relevant of your contacts. This way you will not miss important updates of your closest friends in a long list of Farmville-Spam.

Managing your favourites has the effect of the News Feed showing updates from your favourite friends in a seperate tab and your phonebook showing also only the list of your close friends in the same tab. We also created another seperate application that combines these two into one simple view.

Another not so straightforward goodie is that you can add any person from your contacts directly onto your homescreen. So your best girlfriend/boyfriend can be added here any you will see their avatar appearing. This gives you direct access to their profile with just one click.

Managing favourites is as simple as going through your contact list and mark people from the options menu.

Vodafone 555 Blue

Vodafone 555 Blue – Tips: Importing contacts

In order for everybody to get the most out of the Vodafone 555 Blue I have decided that I will start to post a few tips & tricks that may or may not be so very obvious in the beginning.

One of the features that I am personally really excited about is the automatic merging of Facebook and Phonebook contacts. So for every contact that can safely be matched, the phone will automatically merge the accounts. Safe matching is currently defined as having the same phone number or email address.

The automatich merging will happen when you:
– Import contacts from SIM
– Import contacts from Facebook
– Import contacts from PC Suite
– Add a new Facebook friend

So for example when you add a new friend on Facebook that you already have in your phonebook, the next time your device synchronizes, the Facebook profile will be added to the existing phonebook entry. We really liked this, give it a try 😉

As a recommendation, it will work best if you import your Facebook friends at first as per the normal device setup flow and then import your Outlook/Windows contacts using the PC Suite. In some versions of Outlook, the PC Suite can be a bit hard to use. Just go to the contacts section first and wait for your Outlook contacts to load and after that do a phone synchronization. The PC Suite can be downloaded here.

Vodafone 555 Blue

Vodafone 555 Blue: Understanding synchronization behaviour

I would like to explain the synchronization behaviour of the Vodafone 555 Blue a bit further. With its default settings, customers should not be required to make any changes in order to get a great experience. Still there are some ways to finetune the experience and I would touch on them here:

Synchronization behaviour
The device will regularly connect to the Facebook servers and look for updates. The interval is fixed and can not be modified. As a customer you will see a little animation in the top of the status bar when the device is doing background transfers. It is worthwhile to understand that Facebook data is synchronized at different intervals. In every interval, the device will look for new messages, notifications and status updates in the newsfeed. Roughly four times per day, changes in the addressbook and other more static parts of the phone are fetched. This means that some pieces of data (e.g. a new friend) will not appear in the phonebook immediately.

These are the setting options (Facebook settings -> Background updates):

This is the most important information (messages, notifications, phonebook) and it is recommended to leave this on “auto”. Manual will give you a completely static experience and you will have to actively refresh the resepctive apps all the time.

News Feed
This is setting will control the prefetching of the News Feed. If you leave this on “auto”, your news will be constantly loaded and you will see the counters going up automatically. If this is set to manual, the News Feed has to be refreshed to be updated. The benefit of manual refesh is that it will save GPRS data volume as a manual refesh will only poll the last 200 items max.

News Feed pictures
When we designed the device, we realized that pictures in the News Feed account for about 30% of all data usage. Setting this option to “Manual update” will only load images in the News Feed when they are viewed. The effect is a big savings in GPRS data volume for the cost of having to wait for the pictures to load while browsing.

News Feed picture size
Unfortunately Facebook does not provide a picture size that would exactly match the screen resolution of the Vodafone 555 Blue. Therefore we decided to go with a smaller size of images by default to make the experience really fast. If the default size is too small, you can change the picture size to high resolution. The effect will be that the device will load a much bigger picture from the Facebook server (about 4 times as big) which will look better for the cost of increasing the loading time and GPRS data usage. As a user, you can experiment with this setting to see what works best for you.

Vodafone 555 Blue

Building the Vodafone 555 Blue

This is a really exciting post. I am writing this just a few days prior to the public announcement of the Vodafone 555 Blue.

It’s been an amazing ride and certainly one of the most exciting things I have done at Vodafone ever. So this was/is my gig: build the world’s most affordable feature phone with the deepest/best quality Facebook integration. The objective was not to preload a Facebook client onto this, instead rather integrate the Facebook functionality into the natural places. So now we have Facebook messaging being one component of the overall messaging experience, your albums are part of the gallery, etc. What we have built is really the most natural way to use Facebook. I wish I could call it “Facebook phone”, because this is what it was designed to be.

Looking back at the project now I am really thankful for being able to work with a lot of great people in Vodafone, TCT and Facebook. For us here at the Vodafone devices team, this has been a bit of disruptive approach in how we run device projects and I am happy that the whole team has been so receptive for all the unconventional ideas/methods I pushed for. What I am really proud of is that we managed to run this project much more in a hands-on startup fashion than other traditional projects and it proved to be the right way to do it. While Vodafone usually rather has more of a serious image (compared to silicon valley startups) towards the outside world, I think people would be amazed to see how cool it can be to work at Vodafone.

Roughly two more weeks to go before we hit the public and I am eagerly waiting to hear what people will say.

This is where you can find the product page http://www.vodafone.com/vodafone555blue.

Update 25th of July’11: we will annouce in two days from now. Location looks quite nice – Soho Hotel in London. I am really curious how the press will receive the Vodafone 555 Blue. We will have samples to give away – excited 🙂 Unfortunately I am not allowed to update the Facebook application page, yet. Although the device just leaked a few days ago with images and partly wrong spec. I guess nobody really gets it like this, there is just too much inside you can not explain in one line.