Archive for August, 2007

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August 24th, 2007

Cell Phone Sanity Check

I field a lot of questions from folks around why there are so few 3G subscribers in the States, why the carriers “took so long” to build out 3G networks, etc. I think people forget sometimes that most people have pretty basic phones and 30-40 percent of people just talk on them.

Here are a few comments/questions from people here in SF from just the last 24 hours. They are a range of ages.

(Was out with friends celebrating a 40th birthday party so there were a lot of digital cameras in the bar). I was showing someone photos on my N95. The woman (Dominique – in her late thirties, I think) said:

“Wow, you have a really nice camera. That display is amazing. I need to get a camera like that.” Of course, my reply was, “oh, this isn’t my camera (well I use it as a camera also), this is my phone.” At that point, her jaw dropped and she was speechless. Of course, everyone wanted to check out the iPhone next – the display blew them away along with many other features, but it didn’t look and act like a camera so much so the “wow” effect of “that’s a phone?” … it was there, but in a different way.”

A friend of mine in her mid-thirties (Maricel) was visiting last weekend. She had a three-year old phone that no longer held a charge for more than five minutes so she had to keep turning if off and on to make calls. [She works in high tech, by the way] She informed me that she had just signed on for an additional two years with a carrier (the same one she’d been with for three years already). I asked, “Well, why did you sign up for a new plan without getting a new phone? This one has clearly seen better days.” She replied, “I didn’t know I could. Can I keep the same phone number if I do. I don’t want to lose my number.”

Was driving with a early forty something woman (Gwen). I was asking her how she uses her cell phone. She has two children around the ages of ten and twelve years. “I only turn it on when I need to call someone. I don’t even know the number.” I later asked her if she had broadband at home and she asked me, “What’s a broadband?”

I was helping a woman in her early sixties (Susan) learn how to use her cell phone. I began talking to her, and I realized very quickly that I wasn’t using many English words and it’s really confusing.

Here are a few of her comments:

“I can’t read what’s on the screen.”

“What are all these buttons for?”

“Where is the battery and how do I get it out to charge it?”

“What is the menu button for?”

“Do I have to pay if people call me, too?”

“What do these buttons (volume up/down) do?”

“What is walkie-talkie?”

“Do you have to pay for service on these things?”

“I can store phone numbers in here?”

I’m already getting thank you notes from her friends because she’ll no longer keep asking to borrow their cell phones.

Anyway, you get the idea. Cell phones are still pretty complicated devices to a lot of people. There is still a lot of basic customer acquisition to be done among younger children and older adults. There is a lot of money to be made with getting them signed on to basic voice plans plus a few extras – like a text messaging plan, or international calling. Not everyone is watching video on their phones yet.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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August 16th, 2007

Mobile Meets Social Marketing

Here’s the link to an article I wrote up for RCR Wireless.

My colleague Emily Riley co-authored the article with me.

We put our heads together to offer up some advice on how to leverage cell phones to capture user-generated content for social marketing campaigns.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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August 8th, 2007

Mobile Ad Network Milestone

AdMob announced today that they have reached the milestone of serving more than one billion ads per month. Wow! Over 500 million of these ads alone are served up in the US.

Granted, those are not any near our online numbers, but it’s an impressive milestone. By our estimates, only a minority of cell phone owners browse the web on their phone (though certainly more will do so with handsets like the iPhone and the N95 from Nokia), and a small percentage of those do so frequently (i.e., daily/weekly). Monthly per user page views on cell phones don’t add up to daily numbers for most of us.

It’s an impressive number. It’s also impressive to see the growth that ad networks like Admob and Third Screen are experiencing. I think lack of inventory has been one of the primary inhibitors to growth of mobile display ads. This will continue to be an exciting space to watch.

For more on mobile ad networks, see this report from my colleague Neil Strother.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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August 2nd, 2007

SF Muni Wi-Fi – The Mayor Got it Right

With Earthlink’s recent earnings call, they announced that there could be some forthcoming changes with their Muni Wi-Fi strategy – and spending. They are expected to pull back on announcing new projects. (see Fierce post)

This leaves open the question of what will happen to the proposed project in SF. (see Fierce post)

The project was proposed close to two years ago with the city choosing to move forward (evaluate closely) with a joint proposal from Earthlink and Google. The City Supervisors have been fighting the proposal as it was originally put forth because, among other reasons, the speeds at the free service level aren’t fast enough. They basically want better terms.

Earthlink made a very generous offer a couple of years ago when they were looking for high profile trial sites. At the time, they were (and could still be, but this in doubt) to make investments for reasons that went beyond the pure ROI of SF alone. SF offered marketing, buzz, and proof of concept.

The situation is different now. Gavin Newsom warned the city that the opportunity might evaporate if they didn’t take it. He was right – the city may lose this opportunity all together.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless
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August 2nd, 2007

Mobile Ad Networks Get Boost with CBS Signing

CBS signed with a handful of the leading mobile ad networks today. Perhaps more upfront work in terms of integration, but a good strategy that will allow them to leverage the strengths of each player. With such a young industry, it’s difficult for one player to do everything.

My colleague Neil Strother wrote a great piece on mobile ad networks that outlines both the opportunities and challenges. I also had a piece in RCR earlier this year.

One of the interesting aspects of mobile advertising not discussed is that of the DRM issues with mobile video. It’s interesting times with content rights these days.

We often think of actors in movies and TV shows needed to sign away rights for mobile, but I hadn’t thought of that for the mobile environment until recently.

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CATEGORIES: Wireless