PlentyOfFish in the WSJ

May 23, 2007

i couldn’t help but smile while reading Lee Gomes’s WSJ article about the article talks about how PlentyOfFish is run by one guy and generates revs of $5 – $10 million. way to go!

first, i have to admit that i had never heard of PlentyOfFish before today. but while the article points out how it’s easier today to start & run web-based businesses (lower cost servers, lower cost bandwidth, Google Ads, etc…), i found it ironic that it’s probably now going to make it even tougher for entrepreneurs to make a living with their “small” web startups – now everybody is going to want to start a web-based business! more businesses = more competition = lower chances of “making it” for most entrepreneurs…


ripple effect of iphone?

January 9, 2007

yeah, i’m writing about the iphone just like everybody else. i agree with most people that this is definitely a net positive for all of us in mobile…it can’t help but shine the spotlight more on mobile content & mobile data services.

i won’t discuss the iphone’s features b/c there are tons of people already doing that. i wonder, though, what impact this will have on mobile phone sales between now and june. i’d imagine some people are going to delay purchasing new phones and/or signing up for new contractual commitments until the iphone comes out in june…so look for some short-term softness in high-end mobile phone sales in the U.S.!

MMS usage taking off in US?

July 19, 2006

Via MobHappy, looks like MMS has been experiencing stronger-than-expected growth in the U.S. Mobile365 came out with a press release claiming 40% quarter-over-quarter MMS growth.

The reasons for the growth are unclear, but I like one of the hypotheses thrown out by MobHappy – most U.S. carriers recently changed MMS pricing so that SMS & MMS are bundled in one msg plan (as opposed to separate msg plans for SMS vs. MMS). Anecdotally, my friends’ have all started sending more camera phone pictures now that they know their messaging plans cover SMS and MMS. Now, how about coming up with simpler, easier-to-understand pricing for mobile Internet browsing?

Lots of new users won’t re-use mobile data

July 12, 2006

From 160 Characters, a study shows that “44% of UK mobile phone users who used a mobile data service for the first time during the 2006 Football World Cup will not use it again”. Why? Same old culprits: “Pricing was a big issue with only 49% of consumers satisfied with the cost of the mobile data service they used. On top of this 19% believe that if mobile data services were easier to set up and use they would have been encouraged to use the services on offer during 2006 football world cup.

I know I keep coming back to the same story, but what’s the most widely adopted mobile data service and is there a coincidence that it’s the easiest to use & priced reasonably? SMS!

When will consumers use more than SMS and MMS?

July 5, 2006

New survey from Jupiter Research (via MocoNews) shows that “the majority of European consumers – some 68 per cent – are not interested in paying for any data services outside text and picture messaging”…

Of course that means 32% may be interested in paying for more advanced data services. So then the million dollar question: when? Lots of companies are betting on the hype surrounding mobile video, mobile games, etc…If consumer adoption of these advanced mobile data services takes longer than expected (as I suspect it will), watch out for a shake-up…

NY Times article on Mobile LBS app

June 28, 2006

Article in the NY Times (reg. required) today about a mobile guide service launched in Japan through the collaboration of US & Japanese firms. The application combines GPS & an electronic “compass” to give users real-time location information about their surroundings (such as directions). As typical with many mobile services launched in Asia, don’t expect this type of service in the US anytime soon…

It sounds like a cool application, but we’re going to run into the old chicken-and-egg problem with these types of services: carriers are probably going to be hesitant to fast-track these services until they see evidence for large-scale user adoption, which makes it harder for LBS developers & vendors to develop services at a lower cost, which in turn makes it less likely consumers are going to adopt these services b/c of cost issues (i.e. people are cheap!), which means we’re going to have a lot of fits-and-starts in the US before GPS services gets any serious traction…

Who are “connected creators”?

June 19, 2006

A little late on posting this…but M:Metrics posted its latest monthly survey on mobile data adoption. This month’s topic: “connected creators” who are using mobile social networking-type apps.

Their press release defines these “connected creators” as users who have “uploaded photos or videos to the Web, used chat or used dating applications” on their cell phones. M:Metrics cites 6.7% of U.S. mobile subscribers as “connected creators”.

But why exclude the 35% of U.S. subscribers (and nearly 80% of U.S. college students) who text message from this list of potential mobile social networking users? As this Mercury News article points out, some of the decline in teen email use may be attributed to the growth in MySpace messaging. Messaging is an important part of any social community – and SMS will be particularly important for mobile social communities

A new Chaperone from Verizon

June 12, 2006

After the announcements from Sprint & Disney about their kid tracking services, it's not surprising to see Verizon come out with their own version. Verizon is calling their service "Chaperone" and you can check out this article to see more details, but the basics are the same as the others (i.e., subscribers pay a monthly fee to track the location of a handset). So far, it looks like the service only works with Verizon's LG Migo handset…

As I mentioned here & here, don't hold your breath for these services to kick-start LBS. Kids don't want to be tracked and as ABI analyst Ken Hyers stated, “vendors will need to set realistic expectations for their customers. In many cases, this will mean educating the public on the real-world availability and accuracy of cellular A-GPS.”

BW article on Mobile Social Networking

May 31, 2006

BusinessWeek is the latest to write about mobile social networking here. The article points to the same trends we've all heard about before: everybody has their mobile phone, younger users are earlier adopters of mobile data and carriers are motivated by the potential for higher data revenues.

One interesting tidbit was their comparison of the potential for mobile social networking vs. mobile games. As I wrote here, the opportunity to help people connect with friends (i.e., help them socialize) is what's missing from much of the focus around mobile games and mobile video. Here's the excerpt from the BW article:

"Already, 33.2% of 18- to 24-year-old Americans post photos to Web sites via mobile phones, according to mobile consultancy M:Metrics. By contrast, only 18.7% of these young adults play downloadable mobile games, one of the most successful forms of mobile content to date — and a $600 million market in the U.S. last year, according to consultancy IDC. 'This suggests to me there's absolutely interest in participating in mobile social networks,' says Mark Donovan, an analyst at M:Metrics."

The article also touches very briefly on the real differentiator for mobile social: location. Mobile social will really take off when companies figure out a user-friendly way to incorporate location into mobile social. When that happens, we'll hear less about how mobile social is an add-on to online social networking (ex., getting SMS alerts when somebody does something online) and more about how mobile social is driving social networking.

SMS is still the best

May 23, 2006

One of the dangers of working in mobile is that it's easy to get caught up in the hype. Throw in 3G, GPS, mobile video, mobile music, 2bn+ mobile subscribers worldwide, etc….and you can quickly see how a lot of smart people and well-run companies get mesmerized by the possibilities.

The danger, of course, is that these visions of the "mobile society" get too far ahead of the way normal, everyday people use their mobile phones. I'm a huge believer in the long-term potential for mobile (otherwise I wouldn't be working in mobile!), but I also think too many ignore some basic facts: voice still drives mobile phone usage / carrier selection and the only "universal" data service is SMS.

Take this recent study published in Newsday (via MobHappy) about US college students' mobile phone usage. A demographic that everybody expects to be among the heaviest users of mobile data – college students – emphasizes voice features as being most important and overwhelmingly uses SMS.

  • 85% of students sent or received a text message in the past month. Avg. number of messages exchanged per month was 115.
  • 60% of students are enrolled in a family plan
  • Three most important factors for selecting mobile carriers are all voice-related: cost of minutes (53%), free long distance (27%), and free mobile-to-mobile (25%).

A recent post by Danah Boyd on mobile social communities also points out the problems of building mobile communities that aren't universally accessible / used within social clusters (i.e., communities built around GPS, mobile clients that only work on specific handsets or only with specific carriers, etc.). As the 85% adoption of SMS by US college students shows, SMS is the only mobile data service that's used and accessible by almost everybody. Not GPS. Not some slick downloadable app. Not mobile video. Plain, old, simple, boring…SMS.

SMS is cheap, it's super easy to use, and it works with practically everybody else's mobile phone (hmm…could that be a reason SMS is so popular?). Even though the influential / early adopter youth crowd mostly have "shit plans" (as Danah Boyd calls them) because they can't afford expensive data plans, most of them can't go without one data service: SMS. Sounds like a winner to me.