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Limitations Inhibit Multimedia Handset Apps

One of the latest generation of online social networking categories is called moblogs -- a combination of the words mobile and blog. In-Stat recently performed their market assessment of this emerging mobile value-added service (VAS) application.

The abundance of Websites dedicated to moblogging and photoblogging indicates there is increasing consumer interest in combining social networking with camera phone technology, the high-tech market research firm says.

"This growing focus provides financial opportunities for mobile device networks, social networking site operators, and software developers," says Jill Meyers, In-Stat analyst. "Mobile device networks can benefit through traditional methods of data plans, as well as per-message and per-photo charges."

My own observation in the North American market is that this phenomenon is still limited to the early-adopter mobile phone service subscriber. Mainstream users are confronted with physical restrictions and expensive pricing plans that inhibit them from actively using the photos that are otherwise trapped within their mobile phones.

A relatively small percentage of enabled camera phone users in America chose to activate the required VAS features to allow them to upload photos to websites via the carrier's network.

U.S. mobile service providers had a history of intentionally restricting the utility of the multimedia-capable handsets that they sell to their subscribers. As an example, most phones do not include a USB cable -- it must be purchased separately, and only as part of an expensive kit.

Also, the software used to sideload multimedia content was rarely included on the in-box CD-ROM provided with the new mobile handset -- it must be downloaded from the carrier's website, assuming that a subscriber can find the download webpage.

Variations of these inhibiting factors have thus far contributed to the current lackluster adoption of mobile phone VAS. That said, the upside growth potential for service providers is huge, once these basic product marketing issues are overcome.

In-Stat's market study found the following:

- Software developers have a unique opportunity to focus on developing a series of mobile Internet applications for a greatly desired market segment.

- More than 60 percent of U.S. mobile phone users have camera functionality in their phones this year, up from about 40 percent in 2006.

- In-Stat predicts more than one billion camera phones will be in use by year-end 2007.

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