If you thought the iphone was a bit pricey …

… a guy called Stuart Hughes has designed an iphone that will sell for $3.2 million dollars. That’s enough to buy 30,000 plain old iphones – equivalent to Orange’s first day of iphone sales in the UK! Gold plated, and covered in top quality diamonds. It cleary begs the question, why? On the one hand it’s utterly pointless and completely cheesy (pics here). It’s still an iphone, afterall. Arguably, the idea of a phone costing that much is simply obscene. Should anyone be allowed to have so much money that they can waste it like that? I’m sure there’s a Russian oligarch or arabian prince happy to spend such a nutty amount on a present for the missus.
Here’s hoping they drop it down the toilet or leave it on a beach (as I managed to do with my Google phone)!

T-Mobile’s missing data

It looks like the data that was sold by a T-Mobile employee is out there! I got a call from someone asking about my T-Mobile contract and offering me a better one. It sounded like it was from India. On checking the number, 05603018128, it looks to be a virtual number used by a VOIP system. In otherwords, it is untracable. When I told them I was aware of the missing data, the caller hung up.

If you have received that call, I suggest comlaining to the following:
Information Commissioners Office – unfortunately they can’t do much unless you can identify them, but at least it will help if someone does.
T-Mobile– although they are not making the calls, it is worth telling them in case they are able to trace the data.

In the meantime, I have commented on the subject at Mobile Marketing Magazine.

Nat West iphone app

We live in interesting times!

It looks like mobile banking is coming of age, with the NatWest iphone app. As well as checking balances and viewing statements, it takes mobile banking a step further by also allowing transactions from within the app.

The UK bank has been using TV ads to promote it’s iphone app. This is interesting because the iphone is less than 3% of the total mobile handset market in the UK. Yet Nat West dedicated a TV ad to it. NatWest’s head of mobile, Tim France-Massey was quoted as saying ‘iPhone provides us with a really cutting edge technology platform to support our customers’ needs’.

I’ve not seen any reveiws of it, so I have no idea if it’s any good. I also have no idea if there is a Blackberry or Nokia/java version.

It is nice to see mobile banking move forward. It’s also another example of how the iphone is driving the apps market, with PR dis-proportionate to it’s market size.

Related Links
A guide to branded iphone apps
The iphone changing the face of Mobile Marketing

Brittney Spears iphone app … the point is what, exactly?

This seems to come under the heading ‘gratuitous apps with no obvious benefit’. Whilst I think that branded iphone apps have undoubted potential to enhance customer engagement and service, the Brittney Spears iphone app seems to serve little purpose.

Whilst the app itself is feature packed: photos, videos, apps, tickets, chat etc, it is the iphone demographic that I have a problem with. It’s only 3% of the US phone market (and probably the same or less in other territories where it is sold), users are over 18, usually over 24 years old. So who in this marketing would be interested in the activities of Ms Spears?

Top 10 Mobile Apps: is this really the future?

Gartner has produced a list of Top 10 Consumer Mobile applications for 2012. Unfortunately the list is extremely disapointing and fails to provide much insight.

Predicting the future is always difficult. One solution is to offer very vague predictions, which is how Gartner have approached it. Some of their list represents services rather than applications as such. Take location based services (LBS). They are rarely an end in themselves but a service within applications. What’s more, I don’t see how that is the future … LBS is already here and widely used with apps.

Another questionable prediction is the increase in mobile music. The iphone was launched very much with music in mind, as were various Sony Ericsson’s and Nokia phones. Yet it hasn’t taken off. Gartner suggest that the payment model is part of the reason, and that with changes in the way music is sold, the market will take off. That simply doesn’t make sense to me. Music downloads took off with itunes. Paid music. Since then other download brands, such as Spotify have re-defined the way that music downloads are purchased. So, there have been plenty of opportunities to shift this into the mobile channel. Yet this hasn’t happened. The reason, I believe is simple. We are generally happy with downloading through our PCs and we will only switch to mobile if there is a sufficient benefit in doing so.
If I look at my own music habits for example, I use itunes on my PC as the central music manager. Some of it is purchased through online stores (including itunes), but much of it is ripped from CDs. Once in itunes I can do many things with it: burn it to CD to play in the car, put it on my iphone and put it on my (old) ipod which is now linked to a set of speakers and my alarm clock. Downloading through my iphone is a pain. For starters my PC has a fast, reliable internet connection – something I cannot get with a mobile data connection. After that I have to get the track back into itunes and on to CDs, the ipod etc. In short, I am happy with my current music management arrangements and don’t see any reason to change.

So, when it comes to Gartner’s predicitions I am very dubious about a number of them. I would agree with them on the payments and NFC side of things however. That is an area to watch out for.

From online fraud to mobile fraud

A study of US phone users has predicted an increase in mobile fraud as a result of the increased smartphone market and mobile transactions. It mirrors the growth of online fraud which accompanied the growth of the internet.
The study was carried out by fraud detection technology company 41st Parameter … so I suppose you could argue that they would say it was increasing. However the study does raise some important points:

With the growth of the smartphone market, the online fraud prevention methods are less effective
The multiplicity of mobile operating systems makes fraud prevention more difficult
The growth of dedicated mobile sites, especially in the banking sector, has seen a similar growth in phishing sites. These are less obvious to users than the more familiar web sites, where people tend to be naturally suspicious of phishing

Although mobile presents new problems for fraud management, it also gives some specific solutions. Additional forms of verification are available on the mobile through the phone number and geo location.

A copy of the report can be ordered through the 41st Parameter website.

T-Mobile data sold by employee: what is the real problem?

Yesterday’s announcement that a T-mobile employee sold data, including phone numbers, names and addresses, raises some important issues for the sector.

The fact that it has been so widely reported shows that privacy is a major issue for people, especially when it comes to their mobile phones. Marketers need to understand the issue of privacy.

The response from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is interesting. The commissioner, Christopher Graham said:
“If public trust and confidence in the proper handling of personal information, whether by government or by others, is to be maintained effective sanctions are essential.” In saying that he was pushing for greater penalties, suggesting that the individual should be jailed.

Fair enough. But there are greater issues than simply the bad behaviour of one individual.
Firstly, where is the corporate responsibility? T-mobile state that the employee was sacked and that systems have been put in place to prevent it happening again. But why did it happen in the first place? And why should the blame go solely on one person? I believe that the operators have a responsibility to protect their data better. That isn’t just my view, you’ll also find that the Data Protection Act also agrees with me!

The fact is that data leakages have been commonplace from the mobile operators for years. I know of one contractor who was working short term for an operator. He could see all of the data and SMS content from the operator’s users. His girlfriend was on the particular network, so for a bit of fun he decided to see if he could see her text messages. He could. And it turned out she was having an affair with someone else!

On a further issue of corporate responsibility for data, who was buying it? Again, the telco’s or service providers who were intending to market to the T-Mobile customers should be carrying out the necessary due diligence to ensure the numbers were ligitimately obtained.

The second issue is that of the ICO, and their response. Christopher Graham was asking for tougher penalties. Looking at the $5m plus fines raised against spammers in Australia, I would agree, however, as I have already said, it should also apply at a corporate level, not simply ‘rogue’ individuals. However, in my experience the problem with the ICO is not simply the penalties, but actually enforcing the regulations in the first place. I blogged about tracking some spammers a few months ago. However, the net result is that it seems the ICO are not sufficiently resourced to trace them in the first place. When they are given information on spammers, they do not seem to be sufficiently resourced to make a prosecution.

So, perhaps the lessons to be learnt from this are:
The operators should do more to prevent data losses in the first place
The ICO should be given more resources to investigate and make prosecutions

It’s nearly an iphone, but not quite!

Can’t afford an iphone? Don’t want to be stuck in the world of Apple? If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the the Pinphone 3GS (not the similarity of name) is very flatter. The Chinese developed handset looks like an iphone, from the case to the user interface, but it isn’t. Exactly what the OS is remains to be seen, but if you want to impress your mates with something very similar to an iphone (at a much cheaper price, I suspect), then the Pinphone 3GS is the answer! See pictues here: Shanzai.com.

SMS Spam: taking it personally

We have just release a survey and white paper into mobile user’s attitude towards spam messages. It revealed some interesting results – one of them was that people take SMS spam very personally.

68% of our respondents had received some kind of SMS spam.

If you’ve received a spam SMS, do you remember what it was? Chances are you do. How many spam messages have you ever received? One or two? I suspect it’s a handful at most.

Now compare that with email. Do you know the last spam message you got? Quite unlikely. Do you know how many you have ever had? Or how many in the last week? Or last day? I doubt that many people know the answer to this.

So why do we remember mobile spam so clearly? Naturally there are relatively few spam text messages, so that is part of the reason. But the other part is that most of us take it very personally. When you think about it, that’s hardly surprising. Most of us are just a few feet away from our mobile phone at all times. If we forget it when we leave the house most of us feel lost without it. It’s the device that we text our loves on. We customise them with backgrounds and ringtones. Increasingly it’s also the place where we store our personal photos. How many other technology devices do we have that kind of relationship with?

So, the mobile phone IS personal. If you are marketing to phones, you need to understand that it is the case, and be very mindful of the relationship through the phone.

That’s not to say that we don’t want marketing messages on our phone. We do. The study also showed that 55% are happy to receive offers and promotions from brands that they have selected. The point is that mobile users want CONTROL. And lots of it.

The other day I received messages from two restaurants. I had given them my mobile number as part of a booking over a year a go. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to receive these messages. They just assumed that I did. It was quite within the regulations to send such messages as a soft opt-in, but I was understandably put out. I complained to both restaurants.

The study also showed that we want to choose the time of day and frequency of the messages we receive. So, if brands want to market to mobile phones, there are plenty of people happy to receive that information. But they shouldn’t assume that we all automatically want to be told about everything. Brands need to seek permission and give users control over what and when they receive their messages.

Please click the following link if you would like to read the Mobile Spam Survey in full.

Samsung bada operating system: do we really need another one?

Eariler this week, Samsung anounced that they were creating their own mobile operating system called bada. The company made a commitment to Android earlier this year and already has phone running Symbian and Windows Mobile.

Samsung’s reasoning behind creating yet another mobile os was that it ofered ‘an easy-to-integrate platform…so that mobile operators can provide unique and differentiated services to their customers’. But in terms of developers, surely they have a problem? First Apple rolled out the app store, followed by Android Market, Blackberry and most others. So in business terms it would seem sensible to open up your OS to allow developers to create their own apps.

Unfortunately, it is only a sensible if you assume an unlimited supply of developers willing to create across every platform. And when it comes to branded apps, will companies and agencies be willing to spend on development for an additional platform? I very much doubt it.

From Samsung’s perspective, they have plenty of low-cost developers for many different platforms (LCD TVs to fridges). In their key markets in Asia, they almost rival Nokia and they have had a tradition of developing for most mobile OSs.

Whilst competition can be good, fragmentation in the mobile market is generally not very good.