Weekly Wrap: Mobile Content Comes Into Focus
By Carlo Longino, Fri Nov 14 09:00:00 GMT 2003

Camera phones are on everybody's mind, whether it's taking, printing, or banning photos, while handset makers juggle the future of phone features, and more...


As one observer is keen to say, an "ecosystem" is growing around camera phones. As the devices gain significant traction in the marketplace beyond early adopters, services will spring up to support them and to give users a reason to click away on their mobiles. Kodak this week announced Kodak Mobile, an online photo storage and printing service geared toward mobile devices, but more interestingly, said that it would add wireless capabilities to its photo-printing kiosks. The company says it will add Bluetooth and infrared links to the kiosks, and upgrade them to be able to print a picture in 5 seconds.

Handset makers are also pushing creative mobile content, like pictures and movies. Sony Ericsson is running a cool online magazine for camera phone users to share their snaps, while Nokia is, sort of, encouraging short films for mobiles. But while interest in camera phones is undoubtedly growing, so too is the backlash, as some look to ban the devices and limit their use.

But as this feature of mobile phones grows in popularity, device makers should be aware of changing consumer demands, says one survey, and how those demands differ from continent to continent. The AT Kearney report says that about two-thirds of people surveyed are most interested in manufacturers improving the basics of phones, while only 7 percent are looking for faster data speeds. The study also says Americans' top concerns for the mobile Internet are security, privacy, and simplicity, while Europeans worry about cost and technology, and the Japanese are concerned about keypads and content.

A feature that some reasearchers are investigating for future devices is the idea of context -- that your phone would be able to sense your location and environment, and react accordingly. It could shut itself off in a hospital, or go silent in a movie theater, or even perform relatively complex tasks, such as a hospital's network being able to locate and call the nearest doctor of a certain specialty. A similar concept, "Presence", will soon be included in some devices, allowing the user to set a status on their device for their contacts to see and determine how, and if, to communicate with them.

Another growing feature of phones is as navigation aids. Eric wrote this week about several applications available for Series 60 phones to help users find their way.

US carrier Sprint this week joined the growing rank of operators offering video services to mobiles, with a service from MobiTV shows live broadcasts of 13 US cable channels. The service delivers 1-2 frames per second, with full audio, for $10 per month.

Elsewhere on the site this week, Howard Rheingold takes a look at trusted mobile social networks, and we give a quick how-to on moblogging.