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Jonathan Jensen on Thursday – Truphone, where next?

Just before Christmas I met up with Truphone CEO, Geraldine Wilson, to discuss Truphone’s aim to be the mobile solution of choice for people with an ‘international lifestyle’. I’ve been a big fan of Truphone but disappointed that 2008 didn’t deliver more in terms of a clearer strategy and a better customer experience.

Truphone is now focussing on building a family of products to deliver value to a global customer base that makes international calls or travels to international destinations on a regular basis. At the moment these services complement an existing mobile account by offering cheaper calls over WiFi (Truphone on a Nokia or iPhone), over 3G (Truphone Anywhere) and out of country (Sim4travel travel SIM). More convergence here is the plan with some potentially interesting outcomes, perhaps including a Truphone SIM card. Interestingly, Truphone believes that increasingly it will take business from landline providers, as well as mobile providers, as customers look for a single competitive solution for international calling.

2008 was the year when mobile app stores took off, with the Apple App Store making it easy for the first time, for all users to download new applications to their devices. Whilst other platforms like S60 and BlackBerry offer plenty of scope to find and install new apps, it was Apple that made it easy by putting everything in one place and making it accessible from the handset. The iPhone has also made WiFi on a mobile device mainstream and increasingly popular because it delivers faster ‘broadband’ connectivity than 3G or HSDPA. Increasingly, to deliver a great data experience you need multiple methods, including WiFi. Truphone sees the App Store as the start of a trend that will greatly extend their reach and put Truphone within the grasp of many more users. Plus, Truphone is well placed to exploit the increasing familiarity with WiFi on a mobile device.

2009 has seen Truphone kick off the year with the launch of support for a number of external communications platforms – Skype, Twitter, Live Messenger, Yahoo and Google Talk on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Truphone’s aim here is to make Truphone a communications hub on your device where you can manage more and more of your communications needs in one place. I’ll be coming back to this functionality in the future when I’ve had the opportunity to test it out. This year will also see a greater focus on the corporate BlackBerry market with support for central provisioning and central billing to increase Truphone’s appeal to enterprises. 

As the recent TruSaver tariff showed, future tariffs will increasingly support a flat rate component and Truphone will be looking to offer a range of tariffs to support the requirements of their customer base. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see a flat rate tariff soon with no, or very limited, event based charging for individual calls. Heavier users are certainly looking for simplicity and predictability in charging.

At the moment some UK operators treat Truphone 079788 numbers as ‘out of bundle’ for voice calls and SMS and charge them at a premium. Resolution of this anomaly is a priority for Truphone so I hope we’ll see this barrier to ubiquitous usage of Truphone numbers resolved before long as it’s a problem that stops many of us handing out our Truphone numbers to contacts.

The launch of new functionality on the iPhone and iPod Touch underlines the point that Truphone increasingly means different things on different devices. A consistent customer experience across all devices is important in delivering a clear message to customers about your proposition and it will be interesting to see how Truphone addresses this point. As a Nokia S60 user, I feel that ‘my Truphone’ is increasingly being left behind.

So, lots of plans and lots to do … 2009 is the year for Truphone to deliver.

Jonathan’s also at Sevendotzero.

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