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And yada yada yada…

A new wireless service should take a cue from its ‘Seinfeld’-inspired moniker and revel in the details. Mobile Office hed: And yada yada yada… dek: A new wireless service should take a cue from its ‘Seinfeld’-inspired moniker and revel in the details.

YadaYada is still a new name in wireless services. When I tested it in March and April, it was barely more than two months old. The company’s distinguishing feature is enabling a PDA user to surf nearly any Web site–not just ones optimized for PDAs. This it does quite well–rendering graphics and photos so that you really are viewing the entire site, not just its text. YadaYada also offers a decent variety of choices (news sites, maps, etc.) for its customization features, and its e-mail is a joy to use–send and receive e-mail instantly, on the go. In short, it has nailed its biggest goals. So now it’s time for YadaYada to turn its attention to the details. Once it can work out a few glitches, I can recommend the service wholeheartedly. Based on my experience, I give YadaYada, overall, a B- (See feature breakdown below).

Let’s start with the Web site. First, I recommend an easy customer service improvement: Post support hours and system requirements prominently. I somehow missed the system requirements in the manual and was more than halfway through the installation process before discovering that YadaYada doesn’t support Macintosh. Since potential customers will be checking out the Web site before they ever see a manual, that information belongs there. YadaYada also should beef up its far-too-skimpy online help FAQ and e-mail support.

Next, YadaYada needs to improve the functionality of its Web-site customization features. When you set up your My YadaYada account, you choose which news, sports, etc., will appear on your PDA. This is smart, since it makes sense to cram as much content as possible under one URL when users are surfing with a 19.2Kbps connection. But the nifty Layout customization section in My YadaYada was a bust: It’s set up so that you can move unwanted content into a “do not display” box for the PDA, but this function just gave me error messages.

There were other glitches with personalized content on the handheld as well. When accessing My YadaYada from my PDA, I was confused: It had none of the content settings I’d specified except for my horoscope. Instead of the news I’d chosen, I was confronted with rows of stock quotes, sports scores, and a New York City weather forecast (I live in Minneapolis). According to the handbook and to contacts at customer support, I was supposed to see my customized page. Only when I clicked the login link at the top left corner of my PDA did I see the correct customized information. I can only conclude that either the service didn’t work correctly, or the company needs to change its PDA interface so that the My YadaYada icon leads directly to a login screen.

QuickSnaps were also a disappointment. QuickSnaps are “snapshots” of Web sites–in other words, static content that updates when you sync your PDA to your desktop computer. (If you’re familiar with AvantGo, QuickSnaps are YadaYada’s version of channels.) At first, a firewall port problem at my company prevented QuickSnaps from working. But even after we fixed that, I found QuickSnaps wildly undependable. Also, picking QuickSnaps on YadaYada’s Web site is slow and awkward–the checkbox doesn’t show a checkmark until after it reloads, which may cause you to click a box more than once before you figure out what it’s doing.

Calling YadaYada’s help desk provided a clear “snapshot” of the company as a whole. During regular business hours, I found it easy to reach staff who were friendly, eager, and competent. But calling after 5 p.m. CST on a couple of occasions, I got only strange, warped hold music that quickly sputtered out, then silence.

The problems I experienced, while not insignificant, are mostly rough edges that this company should be able to polish. YadaYada’s core services are strong, and I look forward to seeing them improve with age.

YadaYada wireless service was tested in Minneapolis from March 8 to April 10 on a Handspring Visor Platinum PDA. YadaYada uses a Novatel-manufactured Minstrel modem, which employs Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) technology for a data speed of 19.2Kbps.

Feature breakdown:
Wireless surfing = A
E-mail = A
My YadaYada = C
QuickSnaps = D
Online FAQ = D
Phone support = B
Overall use = B-

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