Asia wants phones that do more

Vendors are heeding the call from users in the region who use their phones for more than just sending SMS messages and making calls.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

BARCELONA--A cross section of the Singapore-based vendors at the IDA booth reveals the lucrative market in the region for mobile services.

Bubble Motion CEO and president Thomas Clayton said new ways of appealing to the younger tech-savvy crowd is driving operators to capitalize on that wave.

The company's flagship product, BubbleTalk, provides a way to send "voice SMS". Clayton said it is different from voicemail, which is "incidental messaging"--something sent only because a call was missed--rather than the deliberate sending of a voice clip.

According to Clayton, voice calls are intrusive and increasingly unsuitable for the youth market which tends to shy away from directly engaging through such a medium for quick messages, preferring text. He hopes BubbleTalk will appeal as a sort of middle ground between voice calls and SMS, for occasions where an SMS message is too impersonal or inconvenient to type.

BubbleTalk has been launched with DiGi in Malaysia, Indosat in Indonesia and Airtel in India, and Bubble Motion is in talks with Singapore operators, said Clayton.

Another Singapore-based company is promoting a location-based SMS advertising service, while yet another firm offers something to help users to backup their phonebooks.

Low Kim Seng, managing director of Telogic said it is experiencing the most demand from its operator customers wanting to find new revenue streams. Its two services are expected to help operators find new ways to generate revenue in markets where mobile penetration has reached 100 percent.

Telogic receives most demand in the Southeast Asian region.

And the developed markets are not the only fields in which to play. Users in emerging markets also demand similar services as that in the developed markets, according to Jurong Technologies.

Its president and CEO Cheang Chee Ming told ZDNet Asia that its subsidiary, i-Sirius, recently launched "the world's lowest cost phone" with Web-based instant messaging functions and the ability to play MP3 music files.

The phone is expected to retail for less than US$25 and is targeted at the region's emerging markets.

Cheang said that while these functions normally appear on smartphones, there is huge demand from users in the region's emerging markets such as Bangladesh and Vietnam for such functionality from their devices, too.

Victoria Ho of ZDNet Asia reported from Mobile World Congress 2008 in Barcelona, Spain.

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