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Cellphone vendors look to catch 'em young

Last updated on: May 27, 2010 10:28 IST

Cellphone vendors look to catch 'em young

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Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai

Mobile phones, which provide access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter with the press of a button, seem to have struck a chord with young Indians.

Figures suggest this too. A study by market research firm Informate, for instance, reveals that four out of 10 smartphone users in India visit social networking sites using their mobile phones and 10 per cent of the total page views are attributed to these sites.

Not ones to ignore a business cue, phone vendors are planning to take advantage of the social networking phenomenon with customised social networking sites and messaging to appeal to the youth market.

Consider this. Social networking handset vendors INQ Mobile, an offshoot of Hutchison Whampoa, has launched three handsets targeted at youth. Jeff Taylor, co-founder, INQ Mobiles notes, "Many Indian consumers are leapfrogging stages of communications. They are jumping straight to a specially-built Facebook app on their own phone to get their first experience of internet communication."

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Photographs: Courtesy, slashphone.com
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Last month, Sony Ericsson too unveiled Zylo and Spiro, which combine the music features of its Walkman brand with native Facebook and Twitter applications.

Alcatel, too, launched social networking handset called Ice that enables multi-chat messengers and social networking sites.

More recently, Microsoft unveiled the Kin One and Kin Two while Nokia announced three new devices optimised for messaging and social networking.

Samsung, too, had launched 45 handsets last year and is confident that 3G handsets across various categories would be a big market in India. Ranjit Yadav, director (Mobile and IT), Samsung India believes his company recreated "social networking handsets with its Corby series".

"We have seen that people are beginning to change handsets within 18 months and they are looking for newer features. The popularity of social networking phones seems to be coming from this huge handset upgrade market," he adds.

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Cellphone vendors look to catch 'em young

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Security concerns

As social networking applications become critical for mobile phone users, hackers and malware writers, too, have begun to focus on mobiles.

With mobile security software not yet a commonplace thing, every time users log on to social networking websites from their handheld devices, they lay themselves prone to security threats.

Web applications frequently redirect and forward users to other pages and websites. This action is well-protected on PCs (due to security tools) but on mobile devices attackers could redirect victims to malicious sites.

Downloading or accepting files, messages or links from friends while browsing social networking sites can lead to malicious data or security hazards on users' handset.

Analysts, however, caution that handset vendors must also seek to improve the user experience of other features,like music playback, web browsing and gaming.

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Cellphone vendors look to catch 'em young

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Analysts like Chris Jones, VP and principal analyst at Canalys advise: "Vendors that intend to target this demographic must note that interests among young people are varied and go beyond social networks and other features.

Functionalities must be provided in addition to integrated social networking site clients, possibly through the availability of an application store."

Canalys expects to see more such social networking-focused phones in future but also warns that only those vendors who can balance the right set of functions with competitive pricing will appeal to budget-conscious young people.

According to Informate's mobile tracker, mobile internet browsing commands highest share of time spent - more than calls and messaging put together - in India.

There are, of course, vendors like Spice Mobiles who are going beyond just social networking to include video capabilities.

Spice S7000, for instance, packs in features like one-click access to Wapedia to read more than 10 million articles on various topics and Vuclip to watch online videos along with pre-loaded social networking applications like Facebook and Nimbuzz.

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What is a social networking phone

Social networking phones are handsets designed to be used easily with most social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

They are easy to connect with widgets (icons on mobile phone's user interface) cutting through the hassle of locating mobile phone's browser to surf these sites.

Some of the most popular social networking things to do on the mobile phone include posting comments, connecting with friends, sharing content with others and sharing photos.

These handsets also enable users to include their exact location and send out a tweet version on Twitter (a function that many PCs cannot emulate).

Prices of social networking phones start at about Rs 5,000 and go up to Rs 12,000.



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