Weekly Wrap: Cameraphone Sales Snapshot
By Carlo Longino, Fri Apr 02 09:45:00 GMT 2004

Cameraphone sales skyrocket, mobile video begins to evolve, carriers look to moblogs for revenues, and more...

Almost five times as many cameraphones were sold in 2003 as in the year before, solidifying anecdotal evidence that the devices are spreading like wildfire. Japan's NEC was the top global vendor, helped by strength in its home market, where nearly half the world's cameraphones were sold. But Nokia was the share leader in the fourth quarter, those numbers indicating the devices' popularity is spreading around the world.

As cameraphones spread, carriers are looking to monetize their popularity and turn customers into heavy, regular data users, and they're hoping moblogs can do that. US carriers are looking into how they can offer moblogs and make users comfortable with their use and pricing, while moblog provider TextAmerica says it's inked a deal to license its technology to a top-five US operator.

Speaking of US carriers, evidently AT&T Wireless is losing customers left and right. In the run-up to its buyout by Cingular, analysts estimate the operator may be losing as many as 750,000 subscribers each month, and that for the first time the company will post a quarterly net subscriber loss. Deutsche Telekom also noted this week that its T-Mobile USA unit may suffer because of consolidation in the US market.

Moving images were in the news this week, too, as mobile video begins to evolve past its initial offerings. Telefonica is offering streaming video over GPRS in Chile, while Telecom TV is pushing an SMS- and link-based solution to solve MMS interoperability woes. In a slightly different twist, Opera said this week they've developed an interface to allow mobile users to control their PVR with their handset, while DoCoMo plans to release a controller for FOMA handsets that will let users control home appliances, including the ability to record TV programs and stream them to the handset.

Elsewhere in Japan, Net giant Softbank said this week it will enter the already crowded mobile-phone business, while DoCoMo showed off its ideas for the future in an effort to confirm its position as market leader.

In the UK, carriers are trying to shift their strategy from a volume-based, low-cost approach, to offering plenty of value-added content and services at higher prices in order to boost customer spending and ARPU. But a recurring question has popped up again -- should carriers get into the content business, or should they simply focus on creating the best pipe for other people's content?

One feature carriers around the world are looking at to boost ARPU is push-to-talk. But at least one company is wondering if it's something people really want. A T-Mobile exec at a conference in London points out that Nextel, which carriers point to as an undeniable sign of PTT's potential, has likely done so well not because of PTT, but because of its successful penetration of the small and medium enterprise market).

Elsewhere on the site this week, more wondering about how Wi-Fi and cellular data will play together, fuel cell advances could see users stopping in bars to order shots for their phones, Justin Hall takes a look at a location-based game in Tokyo, Mark Frauenfelder tells us about a gaming pioneer's foray into mobile, and Kevin Werbach looks into the meshes wireless equipment vendors are trying to weave.