i-mode in the UK?

by on March 5, 2006

I suddenly recalled some billboard ads for O2’s i-mode launch last year and wondered: where’s the beef? I’ve been shopping around for a new handset and contract recently and don’t recall a single mention of i-mode on any of the spec sheets I’ve been reading. Maybe I’m not looking in the right price-bracket?

i-mode has been massive in Japan, thanks largely to the near monopoly that NTT DoCoMo enjoys out there. Coincidentally, as I write this I read that Vodafone has decided to pull out of Japan completely – although it’s no surprise after reports of them apparently just importing their European approach unmodified.

i-mode has also been a flexible enough platform to accomodate some pretty amazing social trends in mobile comms use out there. Examples of this being nearly ubiquitous email and personal i-Mode sites, the latter next to impossible here with WAP and most networks’ stupid walled garden policies. The former is crippled by per-kilobyte charging. So it’s not surprising that somebody has tried to push i-mode here in little ol’ Europe. But you’d think they would have tried a little harder. A prize to the first person to spot significant upsell on i-Mode in a CarPhone Warehouse near you.


I have noticed
there’s been another flurry if iMode posters appearing this last week… This time they’re actually promoting functionality (eBay on your mobile, etc, etc) rather than a wobbly yellow logo.

What I don’t understand about the mobile telcos is that they spend more money on 3G than anyone has ever spent on anything ever, yet fail to back that up with even an ounce of vision.

i-mode is surely the screamingly obvious example. It’s not JUST that DoCoMo have a monopoly in Japan that’s made it the engine of success. The fact that providers in that country are not obsessed with walled gardens; that i-mode does not need to adopt a gateway model as WAP does; that most of the protocol stack is open; that CHTML is similar enough to HTML for highschool students to create their own pages and have them (shock horror!) actually show up on their friends’ handsets in the way they originally intended. It just oozes “network effect” all over.

When the history of early mobile telecomms is written, the irony of network providers failing to understand the social implications of the very networks they provide is surely something that will not go un-mentioned.

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