How Not To Do Mobile Chat
By Mike Masnick, Wed Mar 30 03:15:00 GMT 2005

Cingular is trumpeting its new mobile chat room offering for fans of American Idol. Of course, it's not actually a chat room and it will cost you dearly to discover that. It's really just a case study in how not to do mobile chat.

It seems that mobile operators still have trouble understanding that mobile phones are a communications platform where communications should be encouraged, not discouraged. Instead, they continue to view it as a delivery platform where they want to charge for everything.

With American Idol SMS voting being the regular case study for teaching American kids how to use SMS, it appears that Cingular is trying to take the concept further -- but in a way that hardly seems compelling. The company has added what it calls a mobile chat service for American Idol. Most people, of course, would assume that such a mobile chat would be similar to a regular online chatroom, where lots of people can discuss any particular subject -- in this case, the TV show American Idol.

However, the details reveal a very different offering. Every message sent into the chat room is first reviewed by a moderator who decides whether or not to pass it on. That's not quite like the normal chatrooms most people are used to. However, users might be glad to know that these moderators are likely weeding out most of the messages after realizing that they've agreed to pay $0.30 for each message received in the chat room. As you might imagine, that can add up pretty fast.

Again, clearly, this is not about encouraging "mobile chat." It is, at least, a recognition that user created content will rule -- but not if Cingular is charging everyone so much to get it. Meanwhile, other services like UPOC show why the mobile operators don't seem to get it. Every time operators come up with poorly thought out, high priced services, it just encourages other companies to offer users what they really want.