The telecom industry consultants at Olista have found that 64% of mobile phone users give up on sexy services like picture messaging, web browsing, and ringtone downloads almost immediately after experiencing any form of difficulty.
While obviously these boys are trying to sell something, namely their "innovative solutions that enable mobile operators to differentiate themselves by delivering a better user experience and proactive customer care," the fact that this commissioned study came back with some interesting and comparatively significant information is important.
Services like picture messaging and mobile web, especially when they are not self-apparent, are almost impossible to sell to Americans. I suspect, and this is me suspecting, it's because we have too many distractions and we don't really expect our phones to be cool so we don't expect much from them. If I can't send my mom a picture message because she uses Verizon and I use T-Mobile, then screw it... nobody's getting a picture message. That little bump ruined the experience for me. I mean imagine if I tried to send an email and an error appeared 8 out of 10 times I pressed send, I sure as hell wouldn't bother with that email.
There are obviously exceptions to that rule, but not many. An anecdote—I was just over in Germany and was meeting with a bunch of guys who all had Blackberries. On the ground the US, the Blackberry was their lifeline. It, like OS X and porn, just worked. No setup issues, no concerns: they just pulled it out of their pockets and WOW! EMAIL!
So imagine their horror when because of a T-Mobile fuck-up they couldn't get their email. It took fifteen overseas calls to get things right. There is a fine line between clever and stupid, and all it takes is one bump in the road to make a beloved cellphone carrier your enemy.
So carriers (YEAH?) Carriers! (YEAH?) Do your customers not use your mobile services? (HELL YEAH!) It's because they don't work right right away. If I have to enter all my crazy addresses and GPRS crap into my Nokia, I don't want to even think about. Send us periodic updates, via SMS. Give us an immediate free trial and keep giving us a free trial every few months, just to remind us what's up, kind of like HBO used to do—one free week of Hard Bodies 2 over and over again probably turned a lot of people on to premium cable. Send us a little booklet that says "Hey, this December, send 50 free picture messages. Here's how. We'll tell you when you're over your limit and how to buy more access. If your phone doesn't appear in this book, visit YOURPHONEISCOOL.COM."
Consider my own experience, for example. I rarely use mobile services like web browsing or picture messaging. In fact, I NEVER use them. I can name maybe three times when I tried picture messaging or browsing and I've consistently been let down. And I'm the prime candidate for it. I need 24/7 web access, but I'm not going to use my cellie for it. I just know that I will have a better experience with a 12-inch Powerbook than I ever will having to navigate T-Zones and VCasts and WAP settings. It just never became compelling for me—and I'm a guy who gets a new phone every few months and has played with everything from the brick Nokia to a PEBL. It's just never been compelling and, after hearing all sorts of bad things about EVDO et al, nothing has compelled me to rethink my attitude.