Is it better to send and to receive?

Rogers AT&T Wireless recently announced two-way text messaging for its Digital PCS phones, a technology that, according to one analyst, will not satisfy customer expectations.

Knox Bricken, an analyst in the area of wireless mobile services with Framingham, Mass.-based Yankee Group, said factors such as network delays and network latency take away the instantaneous factor from instant and text messaging. She added that complications with text input may also impede the user experience.

“It takes so much longer to type,” Bricken said. “It is like 12 or 14 clicks to say ‘Hello.'”

But with some words, users won’t have such an onerous task, according to David Robinson, vice-president of product management for Rogers AT&T. Some of the new Digital PCS phones such as the Nokia 5165 and 8260 come with the added feature of predictive text.

“With predictive text, if you want to type a word, you simply press the numeric key that contains the letter in the word you are typing, and the intelligence of the software figures out which word you probably meant,” he said.

But the Yankee Group’s Bricken said there is no way the software would be able to predict words beyond a certain level.

“It can’t always predict,” she said. “When it screws up, then you have to do more typing to undo it.”

Though Robinson agreed predictive text periodically makes mistakes, he said it is very sophisticated software. He said there is always the ability for the user to turn the predictive text feature off, and “use the old method.”

According to Bricken, the two-way text messaging market in Europe is in high demand.

“(In Europe) it really has become a learned habit.” However, she noted that in North America “the learned habit on a phone is to talk. I don’t think instant messaging and short messaging services (SMS) will overcome those barriers any time soon.”

Bricken attributes this to differences in market dynamics between Europe and North America.

“Our access to computers is a lot greater and we are used to fast service,” she said. “(In Europe) they didn’t have very high expectations going into it. I think customers have higher expectations in North America.”

Robinson said the two groups which will immediately start using two-way text messaging are the business and youth communities, adding that the under-24 group is virtually “100 per cent Internet-connected and know all about e-mail and messaging. They are just used to it.”

Robinson explained that the cost of text messaging is significantly less than that of voice messaging. He said users don’t have to worry about paying long-distance charges for sending text messages anywhere around the world.

The cost factor is considered a positive feature for the youth market and the cost-conscious, Bricken said.

Approximately one million of the 2.2 million Rogers AT&T wireless phones have the ability to receive messages, Robinson said. Several hundred thousand have the ability to also send them and he anticipates there will be hundreds of thousands more in the near future. From this point, Robinson said, virtually all Rogers AT&T wireless phones will come enabled with two-way text messaging.

Rogers AT&T is offering two-way text messaging free of charge until the middle of the first quarter of 2001. Following that, prices will vary depending on the number of optional services.

Rogers AT&T is on the Web at