By now, you would have probably lost count of the number of mobile applications that allow you to update your status on social networks. At VASAsia, Anuj Kumar, Executive Director (South Asia), Affle to me to what appears to be an upgrade to their widely distributed SMS 2.0 application – called SMS Live. Affle’s plans to launch two new apps had previously been reported by Telecom Yatra. Now, a couple of things that are noteworthy about the SMS Live application:
Replaces host SMS application: Affle’s SMS Live, much like it’s previous avatar SMS 2.0, replaces the host SMS application on the handset, making it the default app. Users can update Facebook and Twitter directly from the same SMS like interface. Being the default application has ensured that people use the application, unlike most other apps that are tried and often forgotten.
Same Message, Different Networks: Facebook and Twitter are integrated with the mobile phonebook (something which Android users are used to by now). SMS Live allows you to send the same text message to some contacts via SMS, others on Facebook or Twitter via data. Doesn’t this eat into telecom operator SMS revenues (high margins than data)? Kumar is of the opinion that telecom operators in India, at present, want users to consume more data.
Smoother interface: I found the interface for SMS Live much smoother than SMS 2.0 and the host SMS application on the N95.
Scheduling Messages: the application allows you to schedule a message, say a birthday message, for a particular date.
Additionally, this has all the features that SMS 2.0 had – you can change font size, colors, smileys etc, though rich text obviously isn’t updated on Facebook and Twitter. Affle has 2.7 million application users in India, so depending on whether they choose to upgrade or not, Affle has a user base that can be tapped for its applications. Affle claims to add 100-120,000 (net) users a month. So far Affle has focused on distribution through telecom operators (much of their scale is down to backing from Airtel), but now they’re looking to go beyond telcos as well for subscriber growth. The drawback of SMS Live and SMS 2.0 is that they aren’t yet available for smart phones. We expect the Android ecosystem to gradually replace Symbian in India over the next couple of years, and perhaps its time Affle launched smart-phone versions as well.
The application is monetized using advertisements at the bottom of the Java phone screen, and once the message is sent, the sent message screen displays an advertisement or a news update. The news update can also now be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Affle claims that it has around 50-60 of India’s top 100 advertisers. It also powers sells advertising beyond its own product: having partnered for advertising sales on Airtel, Tata, Mobile ESPN. On Airtel, they’re powering advertising on voice services, SMS services, and even bills, everything outside of Airtel Live (which is managed by Nokia/NAVTEQ Media Solutions).
Affle is currently focusing on India, China and Indonesia as its markets: the company opened offices in Bangalore and Mumbai in India, and more recently, an office in Beijing (China) and Sydney (Australia) recently. In China, Affle as per Chinese regulations, Affle would have to partner with a local partner. In Australia, they have tied up with 9MSN. Remember that Microsoft has invested in Affle.
Affle’s Own Social Network?
Has Affle thought of connecting their own social network, perhaps connecting SMS Live users? After all, your largest social network is your phone book. Kumar says that SMS Live will be the starting point of that, and will flow into another product they will launch soon, called Pinch. Kumar declined to share more details related to Pinch.