The MDA kindly organised a gathering at the Royal Statistical Society yesterday to discuss how the mobile internet can make money.

In keeping with the venue, here are a few stats – I’ll leave the comment for a later date:

  • Vodafone’s worldwide data revenue is up 43%  year on year, and is at the same level as SMS was in 2003 (Terence Eden, Vodafone)
  • 20% of UK mobile users are mobile internet users (Royal Statitics Socety)
  • Vodafone India acquire 1.6M customers per month (Terence Eden)
  • 50% of UK 9 year olds have a mobile (Alex Meisl, Sponge)
  • Autotrader’s mobile site for 6M impressions in March ’09 (Alex Meisl, Sponge)
  • Green Thing’s campaign on Blyk went from 5% WAP clickthrough to 11%-22% (Richard Warren, FirstPartner)
  • Mobile advertising spend in Europe is expected to grow to €950M by 2012 (Richard Warren, FirstPartner)
  • UK mobile advertising should go from €50M to €220M in 2013 (Richard Warren, FirstPartner)
  • A few iteresting figures from the delightful Mark Curtis from Flirtomatic:
    • Flirtomatic are now over 1.3M UK users
    • Revenues is over $10 per month per spending customer ($1.50 ARPU overall)
    • They achieve 160M pages per month on mobile (a lot more than Autotrader)
    • Users exchange 30M messages per month
    • In 2008 they earnt $2.6M from premium services
    • The Strongbow campaign on Flirtomatic, allowing users to send pints to each other for free, achieved a 10% clickthrough rate
    • On May 1st, when Vodafone allowed free data to pre-pay customers, Flirtomatc’s acquisitions went up x13
    • 2 years ago, Flirto got 3500 new users by advertising on the 3 portal for 3 hours (mirrored by similar experiences we had at Future Platforms)
  • 3 UK customers used 34M Skype minutes in Jan ’09 (Rory Maguire, 3)
  • 18% of Facebook’s mobile users are on Three (Rory Maguire, 3)
  • 21,557 Bebo mobile users are on 3 (Rory Maguire, 3)
  • 27% of 3 customers download content, 45% have used MMS (Rory Maguire, 3)

And here are a few interesting quotes:

 “As mobile internet grows, it will move off portal” – Richard Warren, FirstPartner [but will it just move to other portals like iTunes, Ovi, Google?]

 “mobile advertising takes you to a mobile site at best, it really needs transactions integrated at the end” – Richard Warren, FirstPartner [while we wait for mCommerce, mobile apps may be good candidates as mechanics for retaining a consumer’s attention]

“There is more VALUE in meeting new people then reconnecting with people you already know” – Mark Curtis, Flirtomatic [i.e. people are more likely to pay for Flirtomatic or LinkedIn than for Facebook or Bebo]

5K App

April 20, 2009

When developing mobile software at Future Platforms, one of our key objectives is always to keep the application as compact as possible.  This is important for a couple of reasons: firstly, it minimises cost to the user when downloading the application over the air, and secondly, some handsets impose an upper limit on the size of application they accept.

So when we heard about the Brighton £5 App event’s 5K App competition, we knew we had to give it a go!

The competition rules state that the total app size must be 5120 bytes or less.  For Java ME, this consists of a compressed, obfuscated JAR file.

My idea was one which I had wanted to do for a while: an application which lets you easily communicate your location to a friend using your phone’s GPS.  Myself and Thom have discussed on a couple of occasions how useful it would be to just zap your location to somebody when arranging a rendez-vous, and let them view it on a map: far better than providing lengthy directions over the phone.  I was sure this could be achieved in 5K.

I ended up with a reasonably full-featured application.  We make use of the Location API to access the handset’s GPS and landmarks store, the PIM API to access the contacts list, and the SMS API to access messaging functionality.  Additionally, we use the Push registry to automatically start the application when a relevant SMS is received.

Once the location is saved as a landmark, it is easy to use the phone’s mapping software to view the location on a map.  We even provide the facility to attach a short text message.  If the location is sent to a handset which doesn’t have the application installed, it is usually possible to view the location and message as a normal SMS (depending on the handset).

We are more used to making applications in the 300K region! So creating one with a 5K size constraint was good discipline.  The application consists of only two classes, with work being done in as few methods as possible, and variables being reused for several different purposes.  With some careful refactoring and a bit of experimentation, the size was brought down to exactly 5120 bytes.  This even includes code allowing the application to fail gracefully when installed on a handset without GPS.

The application should work on any handset with GPS available, however it has only been tested on Nokia Series 60 devices (N78, N82, N95, 6220 etc).

A few extra bits I would have liked to include are animation on the “Finding location” and “Sending message” screens, and the facility to manually enter a number to send the location to.

It was interesting and instructive to see how it’s possible to create a fairly complete and useful application in a small amount of code.

To try Where Are You on your phone, point your mobile browser to

Here are the main themes I picked up from the conference. I also presented case studies of how clients have achieved success in mobile and took part in a panel discussing the issues around mobile applications.


I missed the beginning of the conference, but the iPhone effect was still clear to see on day 3. Everyone in the industry accepts it as the standard everyone has to aim for. The problem is that it is different in so many ways that people end up cherry picking from it to support their own causes/interests.


What are going to be the dominant platforms in the next few years?
There was consensus over the fact that only 3-4 will survive. With Limo and Symbian reppresented, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they felt that mobile OS’s are going open. iPhone is however the notable exception.

Bondi amongst others also suggested that whatever happens in mobile OS, the browser is going to be the most viable runtime platform, with more standardised support and additional (and hopefully also standardised) APIs plugging into device functionality.

Mobile Operators

Mobile Interet 2009 saw a heavy reppresentation of mobile operators and releated service providers, so most of the discussions about revenue were focused on mobile operators.

The long term picture isn’t so rosy. In several countries, flat data tariffs are expected to become the norm and have been pushed to fairly low levels due to competition within the industry and with fixed line providers (with the broadband dongles). The operator’s concern is getting to the situation where 4% of users consume 75% of the network traffic and where they many not ultimately benefit from the expected growth in data traffic.

On reflection, flat tariffs may have a wider implication for the whole industry: operators have so far encouraged mobile internet development with the expectation of increasing revenues. Flat rate will put a cap on those expected revenues and will actually introduce an incentive to reducing/optimising network utilisation – unless network operators find alternative ways of generating revenue from the mobile internet. A few thoughts/models:
+ charge for different bandwidth levels (the problem being that people won’t necessarily appreciate how high the limit is and may therefore limit their behaviour)
+ charge for service packages, similar to digital TV broadcasters, where higher bandwidth services like video streaming are charged at a higher rate
+ control the advertising (more below)
+ establish themselves as the payment method of choice
+ sell value-added content and services


The general feeling is that mobile advertising is still in its infancy, but that it is bound to grow and become a significant source of revenue for the industry. UK mobile web advertising spend last year was less than £10M. Brands and agencies want to spend, but they need the right data to support mobile as the channel of choice (although they do not seem to need much data when commissioning iPhone apps).

TeliaSonera are experiementing with content transcoding as a way of adding advertising to off-portal sites. The PR spin on that is that it enhances the user experience by allowing access to sites that would otherwise be inaccessible and providing a control bar. The real reason is that off-portal content transcoding promises 5-6 times more inventory than on-portal.

Not so Fortunate

November 6, 2008

Hmm, so yesterday I experimented with something new in one of our fortnightly retrospectives. It didn’t quite work out as hoped.

The idea was that by using fortune cookies you could draw similarities between your experience of the iteration, and by generating them draw out suggestions and advice for the coming one.  It would have the benefit of being a bit of fun, something to get people talking and sharing.

(Photo by dougie)

(Photo by dougie)

Sadly, it seems that the quality of fortune cookies in Brighton is slightly different than I would have preferred.  While the more traditional ‘Confucius says’ style may have worked (for all the clichés would have generated humour), I had not counted on the slightly modernised ones that I purchased.

They ranged from the bizarre, to the slightly insulting, and then on to the strongly suggestive and slightly risqué.  Certainly not suitable topics for group discussion, although the humour involved almost made up for it.

Intriguingly, the ‘not so business-like’ style of discussion that this method engendered was really noticeable for strongly persisting during the following group lunch.  I hadn’t previously considered this effect, and this has certainly given me some really intriguing threads of thought to follow.

Advice: Check your expectations before you hand out fortune cookies.


* My sample two fortunes said “The colour blue will be lucky for you” (semi-appropriate for me, but not so useful for reflection) and “You are not a complete idiot, some parts of you are missing” (which was just charming really).

First post!

October 11, 2008

Welcome to Glider Gun. This is our weblog; there are many like it, but this one is ours.

We’re Future Platforms, a small software company which creates and launches lovely mobile software products; if you’d like to find out more about us you can visit our web site, but chances are it’s a little out of date. That’s one reason we set up this site.

We live and work in Brighton, a seaside city on the south coast of the UK, about 45 minutes from London. Brighton has a strong reputation in digital arts and software and a cosmopolitan culture. We love it here.

We’re a team of 12 designers, developers, QA and management types, and do a lot of very serious work, helping businesses understand and make money out of mobile (I won’t bore you with the case studies here). FP also has a penchant for the ludicrous: who else could build the worlds first ghost detector for mobile phones, use birdwatching to persuade Nokia customers to learn more about their phones, or harness GPS to get kids away from the TV and outdoors playing live-action arcade games?

Glider Gun is a place for everyone at FP to talk about what we do, how we do it, and what we think about the world around us. As such, sometimes you’ll read things here you disagree with; sometimes we’ll read things here *we* disagree with; and sometimes this site might veer towards being self-promotional.

I’ll make no apologies for this: we’re a diverse group of folks, and we’re proud of what we do.