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The airbnb epiphany - mobile devices truly have come of age

In which I book a flat in Paris using airbnb

Had a really good online experience last night. The Davies’ are off to Paris for Easter to celebrate our daughter’s 21st birthday (I know I know I don’t look old enough). She will already be there so transport and accommodation for the remaining five of us ain’t cheap and takes a bit of shopping around. I booked Eurostar and then looked for accommodation for 5 people

The daughter will have a flat in Paris by then and the small army of mates she has invited over will be laying claim to that space. A hotel can get expensive. An apartment was the answer.

I ended up on www.airbnb.co.uk for the first time. I’m not into renting a room in someone’s house whilst they are there but airbnb also do whole house rentals. I booked 2 flats. One for the week that we go over at the beginning of Feb to do some flat hunting, open a bank account and get an NI number. The second for the family for Easter weekend (bear with me).

I found a nice 3 bedroom place in Montmartre but needed clarification as to what constituted a “bedroom”. You see some places where a curtain down the middle of the room turns that room into a 2 bedroom flat and one of the beds is an airbed. I’m after quality.

I sent a question to the owner and retired upstairs. In bed an sms came in with the answer. 3 proper bedrooms with proper beds. Sorted. I was going to leave the booking until the morning but noticed a red button on my phone inviting me to confirm and pay for the reservation there and then.

Clicking on the button took me to the Play Store, downloaded the airbnb app and let me finish off the transaction. Totally seamless. A serious joy to use.

This ranks with Uber as one of my recent “discoveries” of highly useful and functional mobile applications. I also now manage my bank account from my mobile.

The point is that up until fairly recently I wouldn’t have touched financial transactions with a bargepole when using my mobile. I didn’t consider it a secure enough device. Now I’m spending thousands of pounds at the click of a button.

What’s changed. First of all the bank made a point of stressing that it would cover any losses incurred as a result of use of the phone app. That was good enough for me. That also removed the barriers for me to use the phone for other financial transactions.In fact these days I am far less reticent about storing my credit card details with online retailers than I used to be.

My phone really is becoming my global personal management device. I do everything through it. I also use 2 Chromebooks. One in the office and one at home. I used to think that the phone would one day replace a PC. All it would take would be a screen and a dock next to the keyboard – see my CES 2012 non report which mentions this.

Reality is that is what I already have. The Chromebook, which is a considerably cheaper device than my phone, is effectively that keyboard and docking device in one. That’s because nothing of real value is stored locally on either my phone or my Chromebook. It’s all in the cloud.

If push came to shove I could do without my Chromebook, as long as I had my phone. This actually sits quite nicely with my CES 2015 post earlier this week. In that post I discussed the fact that we never see revolutionary new products at such trade shows. However  mature products can eventually look revolutionary when you look back and compare them with their functionality at launch. I used the iPhone as an example.

Now I look at the whole concept of the mobile device and see that it really has become the stand out revolutionary gadget that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure that the current “wearable” revolution/fad is going to have the same legs. Unless wearable devices are just the evolution of the mobile phone form factor and we have a cheap and perhaps disposable User Interface device to replace what we now call a handset.

I can envisage walking in to a room and using a display in that room in order to see the emails/IM/video coming in on my by now tiny handset that sits in my watch or on my keyring. We already have the prototype of such displays with the TV and the Chromecast.

I  have regular hangouts with my daughter who currently lives in Toledo (she gets around). I see no reason why these hangouts shouldn’t happen on the TV, voice-controlled. We are almost there. Slap low cost displays around the house and you could do the same thing in any room. The only thing missing is the camera on top of the display. Mere detail.

This all came about from finding that airbnb was a joy to use. Life really is now all about the mobile device and the cloud1.

I’m digressing a bit but the one surprising change in the market is the reduced dominance of the mobile service providers. Telecoms services are rapidly homogenising into a single service set with fixed line broadband perhaps being the leading play. Mobile/cellular connectivity is just something you use when nowhere near a wifi connection (that’s the way it’s going even if it isn’t quite there yet.  It’s certainly true where home use is concerned).

It’s a tough old game, telecoms. For years telcos have been fighting against the race to the bottom. Who can provide he cheapest services. To counter this they have tried to introduce added value services. TV is the only successful such service that people are willing to pay for.

The telcos problem is that for a service to be a winner, such as airbnb and Uber it has to be independent of the telco. These revenue streams are denied to them.

Back to the science fiction of now almost the only thing that is really stopping me reducing my reliance on the old fashioned keyboard UI is the fact that an open office isn’t the right place to hold a conversation with your display. I also don’t want to spend my whole day talking to a computer. Furthermore voice recognition tech will really need to do something about ending sentences. On my droid I have to say “period”. Who on earth calls a full stop a period???

Mere detail…

1 yes yes ok I know life is really all about happiness and wellbeing etc with a dose of number 42 thrown in for good measure:)

Published by Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of trefor.net, writer, poet, philosopherontap.com

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