This week the BFI Southbank in London played host to the first ever Heroes of the Mobile Screen, a one-day conference organised by the guys behind Mobile Monday London, Swedish Beers and various other events. The format was pretty straight forward, short keynote speeches mixed with panel discussions and most of the time people people reigned in the urge to just pitch their own products.
The day kicked off with Kei Shimada from Infinita giving a run down on the Japanese mobile market. Some interesting stats: with a population of 128 million Japan has 109 million mobile subscriptions and 9/10 of those have 3G. He described the operators as “benevolent dictators’94 sitting in the middle of the ecosystem, essentially dictating handset features and then working with content providers to ensure quality content for when the devices launch. Due to the power of the operators there is no device fragmentation so content providers are providing content for the whole ecosystem – not just for certain devices.
The dream of device fragmentation was made even more poignant with the next panel entitled ‘Who’s Making Money?’ which essentially turned into a platform for RIM, Google, Microsoft and Symbian to pimp upcoming products. Yawn.
Context is King
A panel about VC investment in Mobile kicked off with Doug Richards from School for Startups admitting how he was thinking of giving up his iPhone because he had to carry 2 spare ‘a390 batteries around with him. The funny/sad thing about this was that many people actually had to stop tweeting in the afternoon as their iPhones had run out of batteries! The panel mostly agreed that the future was in services not apps.
Next up were a couple of panels about the impact of context on the user experience and managing contextual data. Location and privacy featured heavily. JP Rangaswami made a great point to illustrate how a teenager’s idea of privacy differs from ours by saying they don’t think a CD is ‘a310 but they would happily pay ‘a34 for a ringtone. In the following panel Vikki Chowney echoed this sentiment by saying that teenagers ‘don’t mind if they over-share’. Not everyone on the panel agreed.
The Kids are Alright
Graham Brown from Mobile Youth delivered a 15 minute keynote, at breakneck speed,’a0 essentially breaking down how kids are using phones and what for. The presentation would surely have put the Statistical Society to shame so rather than reel off a bunch of statistics you can check out their presentations here.
The next panel was perhaps the most entertaining, unique and insightful of the day. 6 teenagers acting as a kind of Mobile Teenage Dragons Den with companies pitching their ideas in the hope of receiving some youthful direction. Whilst soliciting feedback from your target audience is key the panel seemed more to be proving a point than providing anything useful to the companies involved. That said when it came to questions from the audience everyone was dying to ask them about privacy and what sort of phones they used. To everyone’s surprise 4 of the 6 kids had feature phones, Nokia or Sony Ericsson, whereas the 2 private school kids both had Blackberry Bolds. The next surprise came when they all said that privacy was a massive issue for them and they’re very aware of the content they share publicly and amongst friends.
All in all Heroes of the Mobile Screen was a great conference, a bit like a blueberry – small but packed full of goodness. The panels where short but to the point which is all you can really ask for at a conference so let’s hope they sold enough tickets so we can all go back next year. For a blow by blow account of the day Mobile Entertainment live blogged the whole event here.