Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mobile data charges - the second coming of the frog?

I know the title of this entry seems a little random, but bear with me!

First lets look back a little at the crazy frog subscriptions debacle in 2005. The basic problem was that Jamba's ads used didn't make it clear that it was a subscription service as opposed to a one off purchase of the single ringtone - and end users felt they were being ripped off. The net result was a distrust in mobile subscriptions that is felt up to the present day - though PayForIt is now making the first tentative steps to making subscriptions acceptable again.

Stepping back slightly the issue was one of transparency of pricing. Users became worried that they would be overcharged for using PSMS services and that dented their confidence to spend.

We are now seeing the same problem again in the area of mobile data charges. End users (who typically won't understand every dot and comma of their price plan) are getting nice shiny new video etc capable phones and heading off enthusiastically to download rich media like videos from the BBC site and things like that. At the end of the first month they are shocked to find their phone bill has increased by a factor of 10 due to the data used.

Again, other folks hear the horror stories (via tabloids, word of mouth etc) and choose not to use data services on their phones. Their confidence to spend has been dented which is bad for everybody.

This general problem isn't just affecting non-technical etc users as illustrated by Mike Rowhel over at This is Mobility.

This whole area is a major bee in my bonnet so I suspect I will be writing more on this over the next while!

One Web or Mobile Web?

Managed to sneak away from the stand for a couple of interestingly different presentations at 3GSM the other week.

The first was part of the .mobi thread in the wireless developers forum. Stayed for the first few items until they started to talk about the value of the .mobi domain for email addresses (and if anybody can explain the sense of that to me I would be grateful) and I gave up in disgust! As I am sure most folks know the underlying premise is that sites for mobile devices need to be built for mobile devices and the .mobi domain is intended (and restricted) to contain such sites.

The day after I attended the first few talks in Ajit Jaokar's technology breakout on mobile web 2.0 and listened to Jon von Tetzchner of Opera Software tell us at great length how it was "one web" and that all devices, from mobile phones through consumer electronics up to desktop PCs should be able to browse the same material, handling it in a way appropriate to the device in question.

These are at first glance two fundamentally opposed views, of which I would say the former is a useful and pragmatic approach for the short term with a healthy emphasis on supporting end-user confidence, while the latter is a nice long term ideal.