HELSINKI - Consumers are struggling to find an easy way to get files like photographs out of their phones to share with friends and family.
Microsoft Corp's upcoming MyPhone service seems to solve the mobile industry's eternal challenge: how to make a wireless service easy to use. It may not have as much storage or as many features as the equivalent from Nokia but an early version of the service is easier to use.
Sales of cameraphones have already passed those of digital cameras, and last year alone some 700 million cameraphones were sold. But sharing the pictures requires cables (or shaky wireless connections), time and nerves.
Microsoft's MyPhone is the solution: at least for users of Windows phones. It is a simple back-up service, still in limited testing, that uploads pictures and any other data from a phone to a Microsoft data center via the Internet.
Users can then log on to myphone.microsoft.com and tweak or download the pictures and data.
Usage is as simple as it gets: the service works on its own, quietly downloading files when the phone is not in use.
To someone who has used Nokia's comparable Share on Ovi service since it was launched in early 2008 for storing and sharing photos, MyPhone is shocking at first: it offers total storage of just 200 megabytes. That's enough for only a few rolls of pictures with a good quality camera.
A Microsoft official plays this down, saying 200 megabytes should be enough for most users, and if demand shows more is needed, the company is flexible.
MyPhone will be made open to everyone in the second half of this year when the first phones using the new version of Windows Mobile reach the market.
Also, once the back-up service is up and running, Microsoft will explore linking it to other Microsoft services.
Nokia's Share has more features than MyPhone, like links to other services and sharing options. It has no data limits apart from one that stops people downloading single files larger than 100 megabytes, big enough for a decent video recording.
But flashier outlook comes at a price. It is much more difficult to use, and it takes time.
OUT OF SERVICE
Starting to use MyPhone is pretty much pain free. It takes a couple of minutes to download the file to the cell phone. Then you restart the phone, and the service is up and running.
It works, and you don't have to do anything.
By contrast, although logging on to Nokia's Share on Ovi site on the Internet surprises positively with an attractive new design, using the service can present problems.
To make usage from a cell phone easier, Nokia has linked a small upload icon to every picture on the phone -- but leaves the uploading work to the user.
Once you click on the icon and choose the access point to the Internet, the phone starts to send the file into the Nokia cloud.
But if you choose the next picture and click on upload, you get an error message -- the service declines to send it as the other file transfer is still ongoing.
On the next try, the phone says service not responding.
Back-up and restore services are important to users, but they must be simple and intuitive to use. Such services deliver loyalty from users and allow providers to understand more about their customers, says analyst Paolo Pescatore from research firm CCS Insight.
Some 95 percent of consumers in Britain and the United States would use more mobile services if they were easier to use, a recent survey from researchers Mformation showed.