Which Network?

We are delighted to announce a new partnership with Which?  - The leading consumer advice magazine in the UK. Which? has a long history of helping consumers to make the best decisions about what to buy, from cars to washing machines, and we are delighted to be able to help them advise cell phone buyers on which network will perform best for them in the areas that they intend to use it most.

Which? are more than just a magazine, and serve as an important consumer rights advocacy group, protecting individuals from the organisations they deal with on a daily basis. Which? help protect consumers from power and information imbalances that are present in markets, and therefore we consider them a perfect fit for us. We started OpenSignal to correct a problem of imperfect market information; mobile phone users didn’t actually know how the network they were signing up with would actually work for them.  By publishing independent, crowdsourced, maps of mobile coverage we are able to put some power into consumers hands by helping them to understand the previously unknowable – the true state of mobile coverage in the areas where they live and work.

The OpenSignal coverage checker

The OpenSignal coverage checker

Consumers can now get information on handsets, network price and network performance all in one place, a fantastically useful resource for anyone planning on, or thinking about, buying a mobile phone.  We hope that by combining our maps with the consumer expertise of Which? we will be able to get closer to our aim of making network performance information an integral part of any mobile purchasing decision. This deal with Which? brings us a step closer to fixing the imperfect information problem that has led to consumers signing up with networks that won’t give them the best service.

You can see our coverage maps on the Which? website here, where they are used on the page which helps users make purchasing decisions that are related to telephony. We hope that this partnership will allow our maps to help an ever broader range of people, and that when people are considering buying a new phone or changing network they will no longer simply ask which network gives me the best price? But also which network will give me the best coverage? 

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Join the OpenSignal and WeatherSignal Beta

We’re making it easier for the OpenSignal/WeatherSignal Android community to access and test the latest features by introducing a Google Play Beta Program.

By joining the Google+ beta communities and then opting-in to receive updates, you’ll get the latest development versions of our apps delivered automatically to your devices.

For OpenSignal
Join the Google+ community here
Then opt in to get Google Play beta updates

For WeatherSignal
Join the Google+ community here
Then opt in to get Google Play beta updates
We’ve got some really fun new features going into WeatherSignal – rich contextual awareness (Atmos speaks!) and you can now collect data on how far you’re walking (not shown in UI, but you can export to CSV).

It’s a little complex (clicking two links, I know!) but you only have to do it once :)

For iOS users, you can sign up here – we have a big overhaul on iOS cooking, it’s looking gorgeous and working lovely but there’re still a few things we’re scratching our heads over.

Posted in App Update, Help Needed!, OpenSignalMaps Android App, Quantified Self, WeatherSignal | Leave a comment

Does the Galaxy S5 have temperature and humidity sensors?

tldr; No.

The Galaxy S4 surprised the world by adding Sensirion’s SHTC1 chip – a tiny, low power chip that can take accurate measurements of relative humidity and ambient air temperature. These readings are used in S-Health, we also collect data from the chip in WeatherSignal – a real-time weather crowdsourcing app (join the biggest mobile meteorological network: download the app).

Much has been made of two of the Galaxy S5’s new additions: fingerprint & heart-rate sensors. An Infra-red gesture sensor – which could possibly be hacked to provide surface temperature readings – and RGB ambient light sensor have also been added, these will likely have more of an impact as they passively monitor the environment while fingerprint/heart-rate requires effort from the user. But what of temperature and relative humidity?

Sources have been a bit confused, the official S5 site does not mention these sensors but GSM Arena, generally a reliable source for phone specs does list humidity and temperature sensors. So we decided to take a look at our own data.

Although the S5 is not officially released for another 2 days, we’ve seen numerous S5’s sending us data – almost 70 in fact, from 15 countries (Korea we expected to see as the S5 is already on sale there, the US, Israel, Brazil are also included). Among the data we collect is a one-off scan of device specs, this forms the basis of our Android Fragmentation reports, we also provide this data to device testing firms and OEMs.

Across all 69 Galaxy S5’s, covering 9 distinct precise models (e.g. SM-G900L, SMG900V) not a single one provides humidity or temperature APIs. Unless Samsung has included these sensors but made them invisible to developers – which would be perverse – these sensors are not present.

It’s highly unusual to see an OEM removing a sensor. We’d love to be proven wrong, if anyone knows different, get in touch.

UPDATE: A few people have pointed this out, I think Geetee on Hacker News was the first: “It’s most likely due to the water-proofing. The S4 rugged version has the same limitation.” Makes sense – air temperature and humidity sensors have to be exposed to the air, perhaps hard to square that with water-proofing.

UPDATE 2: After talking with Dominic Boeni of Sensirion, it seems that waterproofing is not the problem, indeed many Japanese phones with SHTC1 humidity/temperature sensors are waterproofed to IP68 standard – you can leave them an hour at a depth of 2m.

Posted in Sensors, WeatherSignal | 4 Comments

US LTE performance: T-Mobile fastest, Verizon best coverage

Yesterday we released a report into the state of LTE in the US, with a particular focus on how network performance changes over time. Mobile networks in the United States have been under particular scrutiny lately, with Verizon and T-Mobile publicly sparring over who has the best network and the way those tests were measured.

See the full report here.

One of the specific criticisms levelled at Verizon by T-Mobile was that the data used in their adverts was out of date – and so our report is averaged over the last 3 months.  What we see is that, for the US as a whole, T-Mobile have comfortably the fastest speeds with an average download speed of 11.5 Mbps.  Contrasting with this, we see that Verizon have the best LTE coverage – with the average Verizon LTE user spending 83.2% of the time with access to the network. Sprint come bottom for both metrics, showing how far their network lags behind their competitors but also the extent to which they committed to the slower HSPA+ technology (which we class as a form of 3G, even though it is often marketed as 4G).

Finally the report looks at how networks are changing over time, with the overall trend being that networks are improving for LTE coverage but that their speeds are generally getting slower. This is understandable, as more users slow down the network but operators continually roll out to new areas – providing better coverage for their subscribers.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 13.12.22

Posted in Mobile Trends, Reports | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

LTE Latency: How does it compare to other technologies?

We recently published a report onto the state of global LTE, which compared the performance of mobile networks using two chief metrics: ‘time on’ LTE and average download speed. One of the things we looked at was how LTE download speed performs in comparison to other kinds of wireless technology, which puts LTE performance in context with 3G, and 2G technologies worldwide, as well as average Wi-Fi speeds globally.

Of course, download speed does not tell the whole story for mobile network performance – but, because it is the headline stat that networks advertise, it is the one we decided to use as best representative of network performance. For mobile users, download speed, upload speed and latency are all important, with their relative importance determined by the specific use a subscriber puts the network to.

One of the graphs we put together for the LTE report was to compare the average latencies globally across various technologies. Owing to a lack of space, and the fact that we were focussing on download speed, it didn’t make it in. This graph shows comparative latency performance for the second of 2013, allowing for an easy overview of how the technologies differ – and, especially, the superiority of LTE for mobile users.

Latency comparison with other techs

Latency is especially important for VOIP and loading web pages, where the response time is especially important and overall download speed has less of an impact. So our data shows that LTE is a better bet for those VOIP calls than the average Wi-Fi network. To see how LTE latencies compare for the biggest US Networks, see our recent report with Fierce Wireless.

Posted in Mobile Trends | 1 Comment

The State of LTE – Q1 2014

Using data from LTE users of OpenSignal worldwide we’re happy to announce our most comprehensive study of LTE experience worldwide to date. It shows huge variation across two key metrics: download speed and the amount of time users have access to LTE.

Read the full report The State of LTE – Q1 2014

There is huge variation in LTE performance worldwide

There is vast variation in quality of LTE experienced worldwide.
For the graphic in its full interactive glory read the full LTE report

A new way of understanding coverage
Based exclusively on data contributed from users, we’re launching a new metric: the proportion of time users spend with access to LTE (4G). Perhaps surprisingly, we believe this is the first time that the level of access users get to LTE has been directly measured. Other methods of understanding coverage typically rely on mathematical models of cell tower propagation or on ‘drivetest’ reports (cars driving round the streets, generally during office hours). These metrics don’t reflect what happens across the full spectrum of times and places that people use their phones.

A few highlights: the USA performances second worst for speed; many networks are achieving very high speeds but are only available to users a low proportion of the time; South Korea, Hong Kong and Sweden are global leaders for LTE.

Thanks to the six million people who have downloaded OpenSignal, the contribution you make is what allows us do everything from these global reports down to the coverage maps for your local neighbourhood.

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MWC Parties Blog Post (aka ‘Where’s OpenSignal?’)

Mobile World Congress inches ever closer – in many ways the highpoint of the year for companies in the Telecoms space. If you want to come join us, we’re giving away three tickets to Mobile World Congress (worth €700 each). However, whether you’re going to MWC already or have won one of our tickets, you’re going to need a guide to find us.

MWC is huge, it’s busy, it’s full of exciting distractions (last year’s best was the HTC Juice bar) – and it can be easy to get lost and overwhelmed. One of the potentially tragic side effects of this is that you might not be able to find us, ending up playing a sad game of Where’s OpenSignal?.  Despite James’ similarity to the Wizard in Where’s Wally, you don’t want to be wasting precious time hunting for him.

So here’s the lowdown: During the day we’ll be at the OpenSignal booth in hall 7 (number 7B15). For the Monday only we’ll also be making a bonus appearance at the Qualcomm booth in Hall 3 (number 3E10) . During the evening we’ll be at a series of the best parties MWC has to offer. Many of these parties still have free tickets available – so if you fancy joining us for a beer that’s where we’ll be!

The OpenSignal Party List

Sunday

We’ll be presenting at the UKTI ‘Best of British Mobile Start-ups’ event. In addition there’s the great Mobile Sunday, allowing everyone to kick off MWC week with a bang. We’ll be there – getting warmed up for the main event!

Monday

The team is divided between the Silicon Valley Bank/Intel Capital party (invite only) and Hot Topics, the plan is then to all meet up at the Millenial Media party (which still has tickets available).

Tuesday 

The Mobile Marketing Mixer Party (sold out but @Mmmagtweets may still be giving some away). A great event at the Cerveceria Moritz, which goes on until late.

Wednesday

From 7pm We’ll be at Swedish Beers which is a great free event, but get there early to ensure entry! After that we’ll be heading to the Qualcomm party, as guests of one of our investor, Qualcomm Ventures.

Thursday

The final day of the conference. Everyone’s exhausted, partied out and ready to just collapse into bed and hibernate until summer. So, obviously, that means we’re going to the M-Love after-party in the Placa Reial. To get your ticket simply click attending on the facebook event.

So that rounds up our week – we hope you’ll be able to find us either at the conference or for a drink after at one of the parties above. Definitely get in touch either way – we’d love to meet you!

And in case you were wondering which Where’s Wally character I am (you probably weren’t)… the answer’s Odlaw – mysterious and moustachioed.

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MWC Ticket Giveaway Take II: The Re-ticketing

After the success of our last competition (congratulations to Kass Schmitt and Elina Hedman who won tickets) we thought we’d go a step further and give out even more MWC tickets. With Mobile World Congress just 10 days away we’re giving out three more developer tickets (worth €700 each) to the best three people who can give us a good reason for why they should be the one to go! (bonus points for indie app developers, weather geeks, crowdsourcing fans, passionate academics or just anyone who intrigues us).

1) Follow us on twitter and tweet us the reason why you should be the one to go.

or

2) Like us on Facebook and post the reason you should go on our wall in under 40 words.

We’ll announce the winners over Twitter and Facebook over the next few days, at latest Monday 17th February, and send the winners the code they need to claim their ticket.

Just to be clear: this competition is for two tickets to Mobile World Congress only, participants are required to make their own way to Barcelona and sort out their own accommodation.

Posted in Competition | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“All units are ridiculous” – how to understand scale

I am occasionally and gratifyingly asked what I study – perhaps because I’ve never learnt to dress or shave properly despite having left university over 6 years ago. I say that I build apps to measure the world through mobile phones sensors, sometimes this leaves people with the misapprehension that I studied something useful for app building and distribution – like programming, computer science or even marketing. But I didn’t, I studied Physics and Philosophy. Indeed all of the founders of OpenSignal are equally ill-qualified to build and market apps: we all studied Physics at Oxford.

While at university I didn’t write a single line of code and I don’t think I once heard the word “startup”, yet I realise that the things we learnt have played a strong role in defining the products we have built. While the route from computer science into startups is well established, I’d like to argue that Physics is, or at least should be, a fertile ground for the skills needed to hack & disrupt.

While there are many different lessons that have helped us, to save redistributing too many electrons I’m going to pick up on one:

“All units are ridiculous”

This statement was attributed by one of my Philosophy lecturers (Harvey Brown) to one of my Physics lecturers (James Binney), it’s a beguilingly simple summary of several different ideas.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a choice between SI (like kg) and Imperial units (like lb), this is a statement about scale and the difficulty in creating a full and cohesive description of the universe. To understand it think of a unit as a physical thing – think of a metre as block of metal in Paris, think of an Astronomical Unit (AU) as the distance between the sun and the Earth, think of a light year as the distance light travels in a year, think of the Planck length as the minimum size of an atom before it falls in on itself. We can argue over how arbitrary these units are, but what should be accepted is that all are ridiculous when applied in the wrong circumstances. A Planck length is a dumb choice for talking about your height, but equally an AU is laughable when thinking about things on atomic scale. Nonetheless each of these units has a domain of utility.

Choosing the right units to use in tackling a Physics problem is a big step to solving it since a unit choice tacitly carries various assumptions – choose the speed of light as your speed unit and you’re likely to be working in the relativistic domain (the realm of very fast or high energy stuff), choose m/s (or mph) and you’re probably going to assume that Classical (aka Newtonian) Mechanics applies, which simplifies the equations a lot.

So here are three key lessons this statement contains and how they map to startup skills:

1. Most systems work on different levels. At one end of what we do is a codebase and design choices, at the other end are app users, mobile network Operators, banks, consultancies and telecoms regulators. There’s no single aspect that’s best for understanding what we do: it’s important to keep switching perspective. While team members will specialise, understanding how different parts of the chain couple with each other will produce stronger individual links.

2. Understand orders of magnitude. While physics can be extremely exact, in most practical problems you won’t know enough about all the input variables to get anywhere precise, and to have even a hope of arriving at a solution you generally need to make a lot of approximation. Being confident of an answer within an order of magnitude is often pretty good going and doesn’t necessarily reflect laziness, but rather realism as to the quality of result you can get given the complexity of the problem.
Startups are generally innovative – this means the products and strategies they adopt have not been tested – so attempting to precisely forecast growth, for example, is futile. What is worthwhile is understanding the order of magnitude and the scaling laws that apply to what you are doing: is this a product that could reach millions, 10s of millions, 100s millions; how important are network effects to your product’s growth, are you seeing linear growth, exponential growth or a series of step changes?

A related skill: learn to sense check. Physics tends to deal with problems that can be quite abstract (like the expansion of galaxies invisible to the eye) or things that never really happen in your life (like trains going into tunnels at ten million kilometers per hour). The maths to tackle these problems can be involved and it’s easy to end up as if one were drifting at sea. You need to hang onto any things you can be sure of: is the sign correct? are the dimensions correct? (were you supposed to calculate a quantity of energy but ended up with a length – these sort of errors are surprisingly common), there are many tricks that can keep you from losing sight of land. Clearly the precise types of sense-checking you need for building products is quite different, but the aim is to have a variety of quick and simple techniques for understanding whether your product is on track at each stage of iteration – here’s one good technique: would that feature you’re planning on building make sense to a first time app user who came across your product by mistake?

3.This does not change everything. Even if your products reach a billion users, the universe is much more awesome at its grand scale and at its small scale it’s weird beyond our powers of invention. You might be CEO of the whole damn world b**** but your kingdom lies in a comparatively mundane middle-ground between the vastness of space and the freakiness of quanta.

 
Discuss on HN

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Win 2 tickets to Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress is coming. On February 22nd, in defiance of all aeronautical progress from the Wright brothers up, the OpenSignal team will board the train in London and wind up in Barcelona some 10 hours later. For four days we will be embedded in our booth in Hall 7 (B15) and are excited to talk to as many people as possible – to tell them about what we do, talk through our newest reports or generally just chatter about Barcelona. We especially love it when we meet app users, as getting in-person feedback is always really rewarding (last year a guy I’d been speaking to came running back waving his phone to show he had it installed). In order to make sure there are  a few more friendly faces around in MWC – we’re giving away two tickets to the conference, with the rules on how to win one (or both) listed at the end of the post!

So please enter our competition – it would be great to see you at MWC and even better to talk to as many people as possible. We’ll have a new report on the global state of LTE out (you can see last year’s one here) and would love to talk about the progress we’ve made this year, as well as about our side project WeatherSignal. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, here’s what our booth will look like! (competition details under our beautiful booth).

Man in trendy cardigan possibly included

Man in trendy cardigan possibly included

We have two MWC developer tickets to give away (worth €1400) and if you’d like to win one (or both) then you have two ways of doing so.

1) Follow us on twitter and tweet us the reason why you should be the one to go.

or

2) Like us on Facebook and post the reason you should go on our wall in under 40 words.

On Monday the 11th of February we’ll announce the winner(s) over Twitter and Facebook, and send the winner(s) the code they need to claim their ticket.

Just to be clear: this competition is for two tickets to Mobile World Congress only, participants are required to make their own way to Barcelona and sort out their own accommodation.

Good luck! And anyone who’s reading this and will be in Barcelona, get in touch – we’ll go for a Cerveza!

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