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LBS & tourism through the eyes of a postgrad marketing student in New Zealand.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Vodafone + 3G + New Zealand

I suppose it'd be pretty common knowledge by now, especially for everyone in the mobile industry, but Vodafone launched 3G in New Zealand today! First off, here's the official press release from Vodafone. I won't get into the technical aspects too much because it's not really my specialty, but I will comment on a few things from a marketing perspective...

Re: The Vodafone live! MusicStore
Will this kill the iPod & iTunes? That's pretty much a moot point in New Zealand, where there is no iTunes, but it certainly pushes the whole 'cellphone-as-your-mobile-music-device' concept a lot further! I think it's fantastic to give users an opportunity to download tracks straight to their mobile - the fact that you can play it immediately on the same device is something that the iPod simply cannot beat. Sure, there's iTunes phone rumours, and the iTunes brand is very widely recognised and would be hugely valuable in that respect, but when your device is not an iPod, it just doesn't make sense to use iTunes at all. Also, the operators won't get nearly as much out of an iTunes-tied solution - which is why the Vodafone live! MusicStore is so logical; it's sort of like Progressive (i.e. Foodtown Woolworths) pushing Signature Range, or Dick Smith pushing their DSE-branded consumer electronics. So this mobile music store is certainly a step in the right direction! However. I have one major problem with this whole concept:
"Note: Full Music Tracks can only be downloaded to your 3G Mobile and cannot be transferred to other Music devices. This is to protect the music industry & our customers from illegally sharing music."
Right... Say if I really like the latest Pluto single (wicked band, by the way) and I wanted to listen to it on my mobile, I could download it from the V live! MusicStore for $3.50, but then if I also want to listen to it on my computer or my Creative MuVo2, I have to go and buy it again from digiRAMA for $1.69? Okay, maybe Pluto is a bad example because I can't even find them on digiRAMA, but basically, DRM and other such restrictions on digital content is just not the way to go. Please go and read Umair's insightful post about why DRM is flawed, as well as his articles on The New Economics of Music (part 2).

I just don't see how, as a consumer, I need to be 'protected' from 'illegally' sharing music... People have always freely shared music, whether it be taping songs off the radio, making mix tapes for your friends, or lending friends your CDs. A friend once sent me an MP3 of Muscle Museum, by Muse, and I loved it so much that I went out and bought all their albums from the CD store, ended up going to their concert, and generally spent a lot of money on them - all because of that MP3 that my friend 'illegally' shared with me. I'm not saying that piracy is totally okay, but I'm just saying that the music industry needs to wake up and realise that, whether they like it or not, people are going to share music, and they should at least try to understand it and work with their customers to make everyone's lives easier, instead of blindly suing them... But! I should really save that spiel for another day... (not that I haven't already talked about it heaps!)

Anyway, going back to my original example, at the moment it seems that the only way I can be sure I don't have to double pay for songs is to go and buy the actual Pluto CD, rip the tracks onto my computer, and then upload the mp3s onto my MuVo and my mobile. I guess it takes away from the immediacy of being able to get that song immediately on your mobile, but I'm certainly not going to pay $3.50 for a song that's only going to work on my phone... Why not just sell non-DRMed songs? I guess operators and music labels just haven't really 'seen the light' yet - do go and read Umair's articles, he puts it much better than I ever could. =)

Re: The Vodafone 3G Mobile TV
It's really good to see that they understand the sorts of clips that people will want to see on their phones - music videos, short clips from shows like South Park, sports highlights, news, etc... I guess I can't really comment too much here, except to just wait and see what the uptake is like for those services!

Re: Video calling
I got an SMS from Vodafone today saying:
"We wanted u 2 be first 2 know Vodafone has launched Video Calling. Visit Vodafone.co.nz/win & b in 2 WIN a pair of Video Calling handsets! Call 255 for info"
I like the fact that Vodafone don't txt me very often, and when they do, it's usually because there's something in it for me, like with the prepay double up deal or free weekend txting... Anyway, it's great to see that this is priced the same as voice calling - obviously they've done their homework and realised that cost is a huge issue for most mobile end-users (particularly in the younger market segments). However, it's going to take a long time before video calls on mobiles are a common occurrence, probably mainly due to the fact that most people don't have handsets with that capability right now, and they can't really afford to upgrade immediately... The prices of 3G phones will have to drop quite a lot before everyone latches onto the idea, but then again I think the operators already know that... From personal experience amongst my friends, I'd say that the 'sweet spot' for people my age (I'm 21, so late teens/early twenties) is usually around the $199 mark - most people won't hesitate to buy a phone under $200 - of course everyone wouldn't mind having a really nice, flashy handset, but it becomes harder and harder to justify spending that much money on a phone.

Anyway, I guess I have written a pretty long entry, and it's not even a review of the services or anything! Personally, I am definitely going to wait a little while before I invest in a 3G handset; I've only had my MPx220 for half a year, and none of the 3G applications are compelling enough to get me to upgrade prematurely, for the reasons I discussed above. Now, if they brought out some proper LBS apps on the other hand... =P

[LATER: The Herald has a review of Vodafone's 3G service up, and they don't seem too impressed with it, expressing similar concerns as those I raised above, such as the problems with the song download feature. Looks like they have a lot of work ahead of them...]

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