But it’s not all puerile content for teenagers, there are some truly excellent services as well. For me it’s worth having i-mode just to have streetmap.co.uk in my pocket wherever I go. For a bargain price of only 25p per month, you can look up any street or postcode and have the map sent directly to your phone, just like when you use the site on your computer. This is a huge help for me, since I’m forever heading off to meetings and forgetting to print out a map before I leave. Another very useful feature is the BAA live flight information, something that I made real use of when I had to collect my wife from the airport last week. O2 has assured me that there will be a similar service for train times, but it hasn’t gone live yet.
Of course there are also news services, sports channels, TV gossip services and music and video download services available. Put simply, there really is something there for everyone. One of the most impressive aspects of i-mode is the navigation system – not only is the i-mode button and standard four-way navigator intuitive and easy to use, but every i-mode handset has to employ the same navigation method. This means that if you change your handset, you don’t have to learn how to navigate i-mode all over again.
Another great i-mode feature is page caching. This means that when you jump back pages, the transition is instantaneous, since that page will have been cached locally, so there’s no need to download it again. This is particularly useful when you’re moving around a map in streetmap.co.uk, since the various areas will be cached. However, I’d like to see more pages cached, since the caching is very limited – to be honest I’d like to be able to reserve an amount of phone memory for caching, and have all pages cached until that area was full.
An i-mode phone is also equipped with push email, just like a BlackBerry. So, if you absolutely have to get your email wherever you are, you can just have it all forwarded to your i-mode phone, although you’re obviously going to have to pay for all the data that you receive. The beauty of the push email is that you just forward your email to the phone when you need it, that way you’re not constantly bombarded with email all day. My advice would be to never give out the actual email address of your phone, that way you can avoid spam while maintaining a useful mobile email option when necessary.