Global revenue from music, games, gambling and adult content over mobile phones is set to hit $42.8bn (£23.6bn) by 2010, with emerging markets such as graphic personalisation expanding rapidly, according to forecasts from market research company Informa Telecoms & Media.
It seems that the term mobile phone is becoming something of a misnomer for the functionality of these pocket-sized devices. Informa’s report shows that consumers are continuing to broaden the range of activities they undertake on their phones, turning to services such as multiplayer video gaming, mobile TV, and graphics and visual themes.
New markets, such as mobile TV, user-generated services and personalisation, are predicted to contribute a further $11bn (£6bn) in revenue by 2010. Multiplayer gaming and on-line community features are expected to encourage further uptake and provide an additional revenue boost for operators.
Graphic design luminaries Malcolm Garrett and Peter Saville have already seen the potential of the mobile channel. The pair collaborated on the launch of Candyspace, an on-line gallery of design content created specifically for download to mobile phones (DW 6 January). While revenue from creative content remains tiny as a percentage of the mass market, the company is experiencing a ‘curve of interest and sales’, according to managing director Tom Thorne. However, he claims that there is a ‘colossal lack of funding’ for designers to develop mobile-specific work.
‘I think that the only route for visual and audio designers in the mobile area is through people like ourselves, because they will never get to talk to anybody at any of the large mobile companies. The creative industries haven’t got any representation in the mobile sector,’ says Thorne.
Handset designs are adapting to the popularity of additional functions, particularly in the area of music, according to Informa. It says that manufacturers are ‘devoting significant energy’ to creating sophisticated music devices, for a market that is expected to double in revenue by 2010 to more than $11bn (£6bn) globally.
But the limitations of the mobile unit appear to remain. According to Thorne, handsets are designed for communication, but not necessarily to render images. ‘It is about working to the medium; we ask people to design specifically for handsets. Like any emerging medium, people don’t know a lot about it. When TV began, no one knew about developing screen idents,’ he says.
However, Nicolas Roope, creative director of Poke and founder of Hulger, the producer of a retro handset for mobiles, questions the accuracy of content revenue forecasts, which he says are often derived from the TV industry model.
‘Assumptions about mobile media consumption are more often than not based on the TV model, which is undoubtedly wrong for the context,’ he says. ‘I am very dubious about the future of mobile content as a massive revenue earner in its current state. Video calling has been a flop. We were supposed to lap it up like hungry cats at the milk bowl, but we haven’t.’
Roope believes that greater revenue will be associated with the social applications developed for mobiles: those which ‘create, enhance or stimulate relationships’ in the manner seen with the development of the Internet.