Consumer interest in personalization is one of the key drivers of sales of ring tones, wallpaper, icons, etc. These categories are growing with combined revenues already in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the US alone.
This year's CTIA also had Fashion Accessories for the phone - another form of personalization. A company called Fun Friends (http://www.funfriends.com/) is making plush stuffed animal cell phone covers. This is one of my favorites from the show. They gave me a stuffed moose for my cell phone. I wore the phone/moose around my neck for a day or so - a dozen or more people must have asked where they could buy one. Answer is online.
I spoke to the head of SMS.ac today. I complained about the Spam and Premium SMS charges. He seemed genuinely surprised that I was being charged for Premium SMS. He suggested that I change my profile to block incoming messages. I dutifully logged on to the site and checked every possible box that I could find to block people from sending messages to me. I'll see how it goes.
I can imagine why carriers love the service. The largest community on SMS.ac has 28,000 members. No cost for a single member to send a message, but each of the 28,000 members would pay to receive a single message sent/delivered to the group.
I recently signed up with Verizon Wireless when I purchased an LG 8000. Phone is great. Video great. Games great. Etc.
Use of the phone, however, has highlighted the many difficulties in bringing a new phone and applications to market.
1) Content distribution. I've anxiously been awaiting the release of Sorrent's Zuma. I became addicted while I had use of a demo phone. (Great "easy to learn/hard to master" puzzle game) Verizon and Sorrent had a joint announcement earlier this week re the release. I tried to log on to the games catalogue about 19 times to find it before defaulting to the web site to learn that it is not yet available for my phone model. I'm somewhat concerned since one of my other favorites Bejeweled is also not available and it's been out a lot longer.
2) Customer Support. I had a lot of difficulty logging into to the network to access the catalogue. I finally called customer service. Very friendly customer service. Apologized repeatedly for my wait. They had to elevate me from person to person (I'm on my fourth as I write this blog) because the customer service team was not familiar with the phone. I'm currently on hold while a "ticket" is created.
I had a number of people write in after I blogged about spam SMS. Most were asking if these are really Premium SMS'.
I can now confirm that yes, they are. I have indeed been charged for each of the spam SMS' I received. I found the charges on page eight out of nine pages of my mobile phone bill. There is also no doubt that the charges are for SMS.ac messages - they are itemized on my bill.
I will now be looking for a way to kill my SMS.ac account. There must be better ways to build mobile ad networks.
I sat in on a panel discussion today. The presenter said "mobile marketing has arrived." I have no idea what he meant - "it has arrived" - it is not as though it is a piece of mail delivered to my home. There are folks experimenting with it, but it is certainly still in the experimental stages. I am very optimistic about mobile marketing, but I don't believe it's here today.
I facilitated a panel on mobile video on Sunday night at the Mobile Entertainment Forum. Lots of optimism coming from the panel including predictions of up to 20 percent consumer adoption by the end of 2005.
I'm very optimistic about this market (and it's also a space that I will be researching a lot this year - we've already collected a lot of data), but I don't think the numbers will be anywhere near this high at least in 2005.
The best demo of mobile video that I've seen at the show so far is one done by my colleague Michael Gartenberg. (It's also one that he has blogged about if you look back to early 2005). He's using Orb to watch live TV streamed from his media center back in NJ. He's using a smart phone on Verizon's EV-DO service. It's really, really good. It brings up the question of whether consumers will make content purchases directly from the carriers or if they will pay for a service that allows them to access content that they already own. We'll be writing more about this later this year.
Haven't been able to get Vcast to work on my phone yet, but stay tuned.
I heard through the grapevine that there was an SMS campaign going on at McDonald's. I'm doing some research now on mobile marketing so I took a quick field trip to my local McDonald's to check it out.
First, I looked around for in-store promotions. None. I began to wonder if this was "one of participating restaurants." I also began to wonder if it was some sort of secret that there was a sweepstakes going on - if you had to be "in the know" to know, you know? I risked it and purchased a quarter pounder with cheese. (I was a bit annoyed that the quarter pounder cost $3.26 and the double cheeseburger was on the "dollar" menu.)
I got my little yellow cardboard box. The top of it said "Take a Shot! You could Win a Trip to the Finals (NBA) 2005." I was at first happy that I'd "Found" the secret short code. I text'ed in my birthdate to short code 49421. Nothing happened. I tried it again. Still, nothing happened.
I flipped the box over - read the fine print. There was a lot of fine print about drawings, dates, prizes, etc. It also said that only up to 300,000 text messages would be accepted. The campaign started on 5/03/05 and is expected to run through 5/26/05.
Nextel announced partnerships with Boingo and Wayport today that will give their wireless data subscribers access to Wi-Fi footprints nationwide. See release. For their customers accustomed to mid-range double digit Kbps, this is probably great news though I can't quite reconcile the Wi-Fi footprint with their target customer base. Overall, I think it falls short on a number of points. With a Sprint merger looming, I'm surprised they don't immediately latch on to Sprint's higher speed network.
Wireless broadband services for those on the road still leaves consumers in the position of evaluating the quality of networks and services when they are making purchasing decisions. Not really where the carriers want to be, but announcements like these are certainly steps forward. When consumers are evaluating their options, a complex set of factors STILL must be taken into consideration - and that's just around connectivity - not including security, device, etc. And, the carriers are not announcing in advance where they will be deploying 3G services ... still waiting on EVDO in SF. It's still a complex purchasing decision. The consumers still don't know where they'll have what coverage.
A briefing with SMS.ac a few weeks ago initiated my interest in the concept of building mobile communities and/or ad networks. I created a profile to test it out. Before sending my first SMS or even joining my first group, I started receiving dating requests or SPAM.
They show up in my work email account. They arrive as SMS's. (Can't wait to see my cell phone bill).
This is an example of one to my email. Sayyaf, a 22-year-old male living in San Francisco sent this one to me. He sent me his photo along with an invitation to chat.
Others arrived via SMS. One came from TonyBaloney01. (I guess this network is so big that there could be more than one TonyBaloney.) No picture, but I received the message "Tonybaloney01 wants 2B UR friend."
In responding to feedback from my readers, I've attached a photo of Tony Bolony. He's 27 and lives in southern California.
To be fair, I spoke to a mobile blogging company, Intercasting, yesterday. They did focus groups for their product in San Diego at San Diego State U. Students there thought mobile blogging would be a great dating application.
To be fair to Tony, our data show that SMS has much higher usage among teens and 18 to 24 year olds than folks my age. How could Tony know that someone my age could be signed up on a community site that uses SMS to communicate among members? It was fair for Tony to assume that I'm young and adept at using SMS.