O2 and News Group Step up Mobile Couponing in the U.K.

Using the Instant Voucher Systems (IVS) from 2nDimension, British wireless carrier O2 is working with News Group, publisher of The Sun and News of the World, to roll out a service that enables local retailers to scan coupons using a mobile phone.

This marks the end of an eight month trial involving 160 retailers in Kent, involving other News Group properties, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Guardian. Retailers use Nokia E50 camera phones to scan vouchers (coupons) and query a centralized database.

In a move that has implications for local mobile commerce, the same infrastructure can be deployed in retail settings, enabling phones to scan barcodes on food packages or enabling brand advertisers to transmit coupon information directly to handsets.

MetroPCS Joins 700MHz Race

MetroPCS, the number seven U.S. carrier, has joined the ranks of those seeking to bid in next month's auction. It now will be competing with Google, Cox Cable, EchoStar, Frontier Wireless, Cablevision, Leap Wireless, AT&T and Verizon in bidding for the spectrum licenses.

NearbyNow's Mobile Platform Attractive to Users, Advertisers

I caught up with NearbyNow CEO Scott Dunlap today and learned some interesting things about user behavior and the potential future direction of the company. First the most obvious: at some point in 2008 the company will establish a consumer shopping portal that offers a single entry point for local inventory search. Dunlap said this was a direct response to retailers who have store locations in more places than just malls and want those locations and that data reflected online.

Another thing we discussed is mobile usage among NearbyNow consumers.

Dunlap said that most of the company's mobile usage comes from in-mall signage prompts to text to short code "nearby." He said that in these texts people are either looking for very specific products or for sale information. But he also said that about "one in four" mobile NearbyNow consumers are using their mobile phones to show claim check numbers. If they reserve online for in-store pickup they get a confirmation code and can have that sent to their mobile phones (via text message). Typically 25% of those users show up in the store and show those codes to store clerks to claim their merchandise.

The rest of this post is on Screenwerk.

Ads on Google Maps for Mobile Coming Next Year

At the Google Local Markets Symposium yesterday, Google AdWords Product Manager Richard Holden discussed a range of changes and improvements that have been recently introduced to location targeting on AdWords. He also briefly discussed mobile. Here's a quick summary of his remarks on that subject:

  • Performance of mobile ads "is excellent"
  • Google has discussed ads on Goog411 and will likely add them but not before the company feels comfortable with the user experience
  • The response to MyLocation has been very strong
  • Google will likely be introducing local business ads (which currently appear on Google Maps) on Google Maps for Mobile (the application) in the first half next year. MyLocation will enable them to be much more targeted than currently can be accomplished on the desktop.

The overall philosophy he articulated about AdWords was: create one campaign with multiple distribution points.

Starting Young with Texting

The Nielsen Company just released the result of a poll of "tweens" (defined as 8-12 year olds). The data show that only 35% of tweens own mobile phones, which I suppose "own" in this context means "possess." Like older counterparts, tweens are texters (20%) and they have personalized their phones with downloaded ringtones and wallpaper (21%). They are *not* big browsers, with only 5% claiming to access the Internet through their phones. My belief is that pricing for data plans and the clumsiness of navigational tools through inexpensive telephones are the double whammy that daunts even obstreperous youngsters from checking out what's available through mobile Web sites.

Google's New iPhone App/Interface

Last night Google upgraded and changed its iPhone application/interface. TechCrunch and Search Engine Land have some images. The range of Google services, including GOOG411, are accessible from a horizontal menu at the top of the screen.

There's additional discussion at Techmeme and CNET.

iPhone Sales in France

French carrier Orange reported to the BBC that 20% of the iPhones being sold in the country are unlocked. The contract phones sell for 399 euros, while the unlocked phones reportedly sell for 749 euros, almost twice as much. The latter translates to $1,098 at today's exchange rate!

According to Reuters, Orange sold 30,000 iPhones in the first weekend, which is .0006% of the market of 51 million. That compares with initial weekend sales in the US equivalent to .001% of the market (243 million).

Right now the iPhone is the biggest selling smartphone in the US. However, Nokia is a much more formidable competitor in Europe and has many smartphones that aim to compete with the iPhone.

More on Google for iPhone

That Google has tailored its suite of services for a specific device - albeit it's the iPhone - is tremendously noteworthy for members of the Local Mobile Search community. The trend recently has been for content providers to treat the mobile Web as one of the emerging mass media. It's an approach that puts emphasis on audience size, "impressions", CPM, click-through's and the like. The mission is to choose a distribution mechanism that reaches the largest footprint possible which, in the mobile world, has kept SMS and voice-based services in the mix.

You don't see TV production houses tailoring their offerings for specific brands of television based on the quality of the tuner, even in this age of home theater and HD TV. By contrast, iPhone and its non-conversational iTouch counterpart offer a user experience that is so different from other products in their category that search leader Google found sufficient cause to tailor its suite of services "for iPhone only."

The salient differences are summed up as "speed" and "ease-of-use." It is the visual analog to 1-800-GOOG411, the automated, enhanced directory assistance service that keeps its prompts brief and response times short. The iPhone-optimized greeting screen includes very prominent presentation of the search box, but features a banner across the top that includes buttons that provide single-touch access to popular Google services like Gmail, Calendar and the RSS "Reader". A button that simply reads "More" adds quick access to Goog411, Blogger (for sharing) and other services. As for the ever-popular GoogleMaps, the original iPhone already featured an optimized version of the map-based service. The next phase in its evolution will be the addition of location-awareness through GPS.

Google for iPhone is a great example of addition by subtraction. While it appeals to a smaller audience, it shows how an improved user interface will spur innovation both by service providers and mobile subscribers. In the coming year a flurry of iPhone clones and imitators will hit the market and service providers will be well advised to go to school on the preferences of iPhone users. Keep the display clean, interactions speedy and sessions short.

Mobile Phones to Become Boarding Passes Too

In addition to your mobile wallet and general, everything device, wireless phones may soon double as airline boarding passes. As USAToday reports:

Continental Airlines passengers in Houston will be able to board flights using just a cellphone or personal-digital assistant instead of a regular boarding pass in a three-month test program launched Tuesday at Bush Intercontinental Airport. The program could expand to airlines and airports nationwide.

Instead of a paper pass, Continental Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration will let passengers show a code the airline has sent to their cellphone or PDA.

Nokia's Ovi Seeks to Integrate PC and Mobile

Nokia has launched Ovi.com, a desktop site where users can access general Internet content, share photos and purchase music. It's a kind of personal "dashboard" and somewhat out of character for the Finland-based mobile OEM, which is the largest in the world. Whether or not the Ovi site becomes an Internet destination is in a way immaterial. Rather it's important in a larger sense for what it suggests about the increasingly integrated relationship of the two screens: PC and mobile.

Medio Systems takes the position that mobile is an entirely separate animal and the leaders in mobile will be different than those who are winning on the desktop. That's both partly true and not entirely correct. The potential is certainly there for new companies and brands to emerge in mobile content and search -- and undoubtedly they will. However we believe that existing Internet sites (if they're smart) will leverage the desktop to enable users to manage content and deliver a customized mobile experience (think MyYahoo) that minimizes keystrokes and permits easier mobile content access.

Right now Yahoo! itself is missing the boat on this strategy big-time. But Nokia is quickly recognizing the strategic importance of the desktop to its future as a mobile content provider. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia's CEO, was quoted by IDG News as saying "Ovi will enable people to access social networks, communities and content. It's the foundation from which we'll expand Nokia in new directions." Nokia has been particularly aggressive in expanding beyond its status as a mobile OEM, buying Navteq and Enpocket this past year.

With this desktop site Nokia will seek to compete more directly with Apple and Google, among others, as they expand their mobile domains.

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Related: Nokia rolls out "green" phone. Everybody's doing it.