Questions and answers
Alongside the mobile phone’s core functions of voice and text, what applications (if any) have you seen recently that impressed you?
Heeran, Valista: The most impressive applications I have seen tend to be those that use the technology available to target a particular need in a local market.
In Japan, DoCoMo’s iChannel push service, iArea’s location service and the ever expanding Felica proximity payments services are great examples of advanced technology delivering applications focused on very specific market needs (personalised information updates and high throughput payments).
The P2P payment and topup services offered by Globe and Smart Telecom in the Philippines work within the confines of 2G and 2.5G technology to meet the demand for very small top-ups of pre-paid credit: These services enable people without a banking relationship to buy airtime with cash.
In Europe, I have always been a fan of Vodafone’s 3G sports video packages, which are a good example of professionally produced mobile content.
However, one of biggest potential growth areas is multiplayer mobile gaming. While still in its earliest stages, games such as Badlands have shown great potential. This should be an area of significant focus for operators as the compelling multiplayer angle allows mobile games to compensate for the relatively limited devices, whilst at the same time boosting data revenues.
Underwood, Research In Motion: As the handset market has developed, players throughout the mobile value chain have developed their products to provide customers with devices with better features and greater functionality. Mobile devices which support a more expansive selection of applications have evolved to prove that when it comes to mobility, convergence remains the buzz word.
In particular, I am impressed by mobile applications such as Yahoo! messenger and Google Talk. These services which were formerly tied to desktop PCs have now been extended to give customers on the move increased flexibility in terms of how, when and where they stay in touch.
Further evolution in mobile applications will come from listening to what the customer wants and shaping the devices to meet these needs. To stay ahead of competition, makers of mobile devices must have strong processes in place for customer feedback and must incorporate their comments into each product upgrade.
Exter, Mio Technology: Seeing as we have just launched the Mio A701, a Pocket PC phone with built-in sat nav, my answer to this question is obviously more than a little biased.
However I do believe we will see more devices with built in sat-nav in the near future, because at this stage sat nav can be integrated into a phone without a significant loss of functionality of the sat-nav feature compared to a stand-alone sat-nav device.
At the same time, even the more advanced photo phones or MP3 phones can’t really compete with the dedicated digital cameras or dedicated MP3 players.
As for the future, as end users encounter more and more of the sophisticated dedicated devices, they will learn to better use (and to better appreciate) the all-in-one devices.
It’s impossible to predict which application will follow mobile e-mail and sat-nav as the “killer app” for the next generation of the mobile devices. We can foresee, however, that the flexible platforms such as Windows Mobile 5 will result eventually in genuinely converged handsets, capable of delivering whatever the new “killer app” is going to be – whether watching live news, video conferencing or remotely letting your cat out for a walk.
VP Research & Development, O2
VP Product Management, Valista
Marketing & Communications Manager, Mio Technology
Commercial Relations Director
Research In Motion
Are mobile phone tariffs just too complex for the end user to make an informed choice? If yes, what’s the solution for the networks?
Heeran, Valista: I don’t think the operators are making it simple or clear enough for consumers to make choices. If anything, the recently launched tariffs by Orange and T-Mobile are making it more complicated as they show contrasting ways of packaging a tariff plan which make it difficult for consumers to compare the different options on offer. Add to this the other tariff types, such as 3’s “We Pay” where customers receive credit for incoming calls and texts and it is almost impossible for consumers to really know which option is best for them. I think European operators need to look to the US which traditionally has always offered better “unlimited/bulk plan packages”. Consumers like simplicity when it comes to paying for services and this has been proved in the US where, in many cases, consumers do not use their limits but still opt for the higher priced “all in” packages because they like the piece of mind of knowing that they do not have to worry about cost.
Short, O2: Having a wide range of tariffs often prompts the ‘choice’ versus ‘simplicity’ debate. Most mobile phone customers are savvy, they want choices and they look for a package that suits their individual needs.
Offering increasing choice however can put simplicity at risk. Our approach has always been to provide simple tariffs that are clear on the inclusive elements, such as texts and calls, with the option of additional extras like our bolt-ons.
Is the European Commission’s proposed limitation on roaming charges a good thing for the industry?
Short, O2: There are significant competitive pressures on roaming services in Europe which we believe will increasingly drive down retail prices this coming summer and throughout next year. Customers will benefit most from competition and commercial negotiation – not regulation. International wholesale roaming is already in the list of markets that regulators analyse to ensure competition is working. We see no reason to add another overlay of regulation on top of the existing regime.
The Mobile Business Industry Panel aims to get views from leading figures on key topics.
On the panel we have a selection of senior management from operators, distributors and retailers, plus a couple of industry observers and pundits. Each month we invite comment from some of them and we print the best/most interesting of their responses.
If there are any questions you think we should put to the panel just email them to us: panel@MBmagazine.co.uk
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