Next-Gen SMS

Source: Information Technology Magazine Feb 08 issue | View Print Article

Touted as the world’s first upgrade of SMS, SMS 2.0 is all set to add a lot of zing to mobile users’ lives, and may prove to be an interesting substitute for the erstwhile plain text exchanges. We tried to sneak a peek into this latest content delivery platform that claims to have converged messaging, content, search and marketing into one seamless application.

Pierre Omidyar once said, “We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history, allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people.”

How well these words sing the praises of the technology that has given us the Internet, and also devices that let us stay connected, even when we are on the move. Besides, there are innovations evolving every now and then that add yet newer functions to these technologies, thereby making communication a far richer experience.

One such development that has evoked a lot of interest amid mobile enthusiasts. telecom service providers, and mobile application developers alike, is the launch of SMS 2.0 by Airtel, in association with Affle.

What is SMS2.0? Anuj Kumar, founder and executive director (South Asia), Affle, explains. SMS 2.0 is an upgrade to SMS. The key value proposition is the personalization experience of SMS. The SMS 2.0 upgrade gives users access to information of interest – movies, cricket, etc, for free, on their mobile phone, and is delivered in a non-intrusive fashion. Users of SMS 2.0 can jazz up their SMS by using background and text colours, expressive emoticons, customizable signatures, send SMSs to e-mail, do Internet searches, and get updates on discounts and promotions.”

The application runs on the Symbian operating system, and is currently available only on Nokia handsets, but Kumar affirms that it will soon be available on other handsets. He adds, “In fact, those who have GPRS enables handsets can access the service by sending a message ‘SMS2’ to 543210, and upgrade to a new user experience. Having Airtel Live activated on your phone, however, is a pre-requisite for using this service. This applicaton is completely free of cost.”

A wide, flexible platform

Kumar sees wide acceptance, as well as the possibility of various application woven around the platform.

“Knowing about this platform is a must for anyone in the telecom domain, so that they can benefit from its potential.”

” SMS 2.0 has evoked keen interest among operators, marketers, handset manufacturers and content developers. We largely feel, and positive that, as SMS 2.0 gains mass acceptance, there would be several other players in the ecosystem who would look forward to exploring this world-class application.”

“SMS 2.0 is a platform developed on the mobile phone, creating the largest inventory of a space that has assured user eyeballs. many applications can be integrated into this platform, and this has the potential to become the access point for all mobile application on the user’s handset. Knowing about this platform is a must for anyone in the telecom domain, so that they can benefit from its potential,” says Kumar.

And here lies the catch!

Kumar feels that mobile phones will leapfrog personal computers, with the explosive growth in India. He also makes an interesting points, ” Mobile marketing or advertising too is taking off in a big way, as marketers and mobile operators are looking for new ways to monetize services and develop new sources of revenue, SMS 2.0 will also enable fhem to formulate highly-targeted campaigns to reach out to specific interest groups. This will be further accelerated by high-speed access over 3G, and high-end mobile handsets, expanding the mobile base in India.”

Mobile phones are already fueling the growth of the World Wide Web, with millions of handsets added every month. Kumar feels that the mobile phone is bridging the digital divide by enabling the mobile Web to go where users go, as opposed to the traditional ‘on-a-PC’ Web. He explains, “Users can enjoy the ease of not going to the computer to check something on the Web. They can do as they please, anywhere, anytime, ‘immediately’. Powered with mobile devices, the Web can reach a wider audience compared to any other medium. ‘This is one reason why we have developed a platform that is language-independent, and can be used to display content in any language to users.”

As regards the usability aspect of the application, Kumar says, “There is no additional training required to use the seervice. The user follow the usual steps to download and launch the application on the mobile.” (Please refer to the box for more on the application functionality.)

In the future, Affle plans to consistently update the application. Kumar reveals. “There is a comprehensive product roadmap in place to add numerous features to this platform.” So prepare to say goodbye to the humble plain-text SMS soon!