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SMS outsells Hollywood!

Had an interesting evening in town this week, a round table with some mobile phone industry execs from Nokia, Vodafone, O2 and content developers. Some fascinating facts came out of the discussion as well as a few encounters with some interesting products. Caveat: I haven’t been able to verify or cross check any of these facts as yet, so do bear that in mind.

Update: The very cool JBenchmark Java benchmarking site gives relative performance figures for mobile handsets. Thanks Radix!

Some industry Statistics:

* Vodafone Live has sold over 3 million downloadable games in 9 months of operation.
* They have also sold over 10 million ringtones.
* Nokia admits to 400,000 nGage units sold in the first 10 days, but that is into the channel rather than to end users. There have been a mere 5000 full sign-ups to the online game Arena service. Which suggests to me a pretty poor take up of the service so far.
* Nokia have seen 10 million Java software downloads this year, mostly games.

* In the UK alone (!) 58 million SMS message were sent every single day in September (yep that looks like over 1.7 billion for the month!). The industry is expecting something like 20 billion messages for the whole of 2003.
*Worldwide last year 400 billion messages were sent, which grossed more money for the industry than Hollywood generated.
* There are 30 million web page accesses now being done via mobile phones.
* This year ringtone downloads will exceed CD single sales for the first time in the UK.
* Western Europe is seeing 15% greater mobile data usage than the US.

What was even more interesting was that despite repeated questioning, the guy from the Mobile Standards Association refused to give figures for MMS messaging use. The figures are due to be released early next year, but judging by the continual evasion it looks as though MMS has turned out to be something of a damp squib all round. Doesn’t bode well for the future of revenue funded online mobile data services, does it?

Content development
* For content developers Java is apparently a great way to introduce games and software to users, however it seems that it’s not as good an application development environment for mobile content as Symbian. A typical 500k Java application is simply not as rich as a 500k Symbian application. No-one mentioned using Linux in phones, by the way, and there was lots of cagey ‘no comment’ type stuff about Microsoft..
* Series 60 phones have a significant performance advantage (in terms of playing games and things) over equivalent models from other manufacturers. For example, a Nokia 3650 handset is significantly faster (upwards of 10x faster?) than a T610 from Sony Ericsson.

* Nokia will be introducing its first push-to-talk phone handset in the first half of next year.
* The service providers are currently spending more on upgrading 2.5G GPRS and GSM systems, than on 3G. Really?
* This year, for the first time, camera phone sales exceeded the sale of standard digital cameras. 35 million camera phones were sold vs 20 million digicams. Within 2 years Nokia execs expect the majority of low end mass market digital cameras to be camera phones rather than standalone models. The implication was that these would be 2 megapixel and above models.

Some brief but close Encounters:

Nokia 7700. This was certainly hot off the press and very very pre-production. PR and Nokia bods could be seen all night opening up the back to remove batteries and re-boot as the little varmints crashed. Unfortunately my big scoop photo of a Nokia 7700 blue screen of death (actually the blue boot up screen) was thwarted by a lovely but implacable PR lady. Love ya!

The handset is smaller than it looks in the pictures, but again is a ‘side-talking’ model. More hilarity should ensue. I thought that it felt a bit plasticky to hold and a little flimsy, but maybe that’s just me. I really really don’t know where Nokia is heading with this type of design, but I suppose it has to be different because it’s a ‘Media Device’? Mmmmm…

Nokia 6600. Of much greater interest to me was the Nokia 6600. It’s much smaller – especially thinner – in real life than in the photos. Which was surprising. It’s actually truly pocket friendly, much more so than the SE P800/900. I liked it a lot. Nice and easy joystick navigation, a cracking UI as ever from Nokia and a very elegant style. This is a smartphone which should be popular with those who don’t really want to compromise on phone functionality. Oh and the screen is very very crisp too.

The only downside? Aaargh – the expansion SD, card nestles under the battery, which means that again, a la nGage, you have to remove the battery to change cards. This could be a real pain if you habitually want to swap between a photo card and a music card, say. Mr Nokia said that this was a deliberate design plan to ensure the safety/security of the card. Or something like that.

Nokia 7600. Yet another weirdly shaped handset. OK, so it’s tri-band plus 3G. So it’s got every tech spec under the sun, Bluetooth, media player etc etc. But the shape, man, the shape! It’s just not normal, so why would I want to buy this? How will it improve my life? More to the point, how will it improve my telephone calls? Mr Nokia said it was designed as a fashion statement. Or something.

Nokia 7200. It’s a phone. A clamshell. With some fancy fashionable looking patterns. Looks badged.

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