back to article The new killer app is … MMS

Ditch the iPhone and forget about social media, the new killer app is actually MMS, claims tech author and 3G strategist Tomi Ahonen. Ahonen told an audience of digital and content executives at MipTV in Cannes that the humble mobile phone trumps iPhones, television and social media as the platform with greatest reach and …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anybody here actually using this MMS thing?

    I know I never do, but then again I also know I'm not really representative for the average mobile spender. Owned unlocked phone, prepaid SIMs costing maybe sixty pounds a year. Occasional calls and SMSes like when traveling. That in turn I don't all that often do.

    I also don't really see the point of MMS. SMS is possibly the most expensive way to send data (and that really ought to change), but it's useful for the service it offers; using it is cheaper than calling and delivering the same message. (For that reason I entirely abhor voicemail, especially since I get to pay to listen garbled mumblings with no way to ask to speak up louder.) MMS might be a good second in pricing, but its price per service delivered makes it something like a quicker picture post card without the writing. I might as well send that post card, having the post deliver something tangible.

    Is it just me or am I entirely misunderstanding the thing?

    1. MacroRodent
      Thumb Up

      Occasionally useful

      MMS is good for a quick way to send a photo or video clip (short and lo-res) to someone, of the "look how much fun we are having here" kind. And you can send accompanying text as well. You don't need to know the others email address (phone number wil do) and there is no need to mess with any apps. The only problem is the recipient's phone may not be compatible, MMS has more glitches than SMS here.

    2. xperroni
      Gates Horns

      Wrong demographic I guess?

      Sir, you need only ever date a teenage girl to learn by whom and for what is MMS used.

      Though there may be legal issues involved, depending on your age and country of residence... Nevertheless I highly recommend it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Now that'll be an interesting underage sex defence.

        "Was only dating her for the MMS experience, guv, honest!"

        But I take your point. I'm not in the habit of, nor do I particularly feel the urge to, not even illustrated by a freshly taken grainy picture, telling people not here how much fun I'm having. But then, my demographic probably says "doesn't ever have fun" anyway. It's in the job description.

    3. GrahamS
      Thumb Up

      Yeah I use it

      ...and I'm a 36yo software engineer, not a teenager.

      Sometimes a picture says a thousand words and all that. And sometimes it's just fun.

      Having said that, now that O2 have started charging me for MMS (when it used to just come out of my SMS allowance) I tend to use WhatsApp Messenger instead for free "pseudo-mms".

  2. Demosthenese


    If a media company sends me an mms I sure as hell will not buy their product. Even if it was formerly in the running for a slice of my cash, this is one sure way to piss off your market.

  3. Mark Simon

    Now multiply it against all mobile phones ... ?

    What the hell does that mean? Makes as much sense as, well, pushing MMS as an exciting new thing.

    1. Daniel B.

      Wrong operation

      I think the one who made that statement did a boo-boo ... he actually meant "DIVIDE against all mobile phones", which is the standard method to get the % of something.

      Bloke's got a point, going for iPhone apps is hitting at a veeery small market. But hitting for a generic Java app + specific Android and Blackberry apps will give you the same MMS-enabled ecosystem the author is talking about, without having to resort to "plain MMS".

      1. chr0m4t1c


        It may be a "small" market, but it's still 100,000,000 people who supposedly have more money than sense.

        I'd think that was *exactly* the people you'd want to advertise to, you're more likely to get them to part with their cash than those who either can't afford anything better than a dumbphone, or avoid feature phones in general because they only want a phone.

  4. Daniel Evans

    Once every 6 1/2 minutes?

    I'm impressed, especially as that's an average. Assuming 8 hours of sleep, that gets closer to every 4 minutes when awake - I think I would be hard pushed to scrape that, even when very bored. Isn't this why phones make a noise/vibrate when something happens?

    1. mamsey

      Taken into account

      I think the original math has already taken the sleeping hours into acount.

  5. Buzzword

    How much?!

    It costs between 25p and 40p to send a picture message in the UK. They aren't usually included in allowances either. I can send an email or a Facebook photo for free (using my monthly data allowance); but the 30p MMS charge is enough to put me off. Even if I personally don't care about the cost, the other party might not want to reply via MMS because of the cost.

    Besides, there's the argument that smartphone owners are (a) richer and (b) more likely to splash money on the latest shiny toys. That makes them a golden target for advertisers.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: How much?!

      Agreed 100%

      MMS is only a killer app in the UK from the network's point of view. The price per byte of sending that little picture makes international roaming charges seem reasonable!

      I've sent less than 5 of them in my entire life, and one of those was an accident when I hit reply to a received MMS and the s*dding phone decided that "thanks" should be sent back via the same messaging route... Grrrr!

      I can only assume that all these happy MMS users on the Asian subcontinent have far more competitive mobile networks than our 4.5 old school friends.

  6. Long Fei
    Thumb Down


    Whilst I can't argue with the numbers, the point is that SMS/MMS aren't exactly the same thing are they? Send a text to people without asking and they'll scream spam at you for a start.

  7. Ivan Headache

    The only MMS I get

    are adverts.

    I delete them without even opening them. - As I suspect many others do.

  8. Bill Coleman

    some context please

    1. Global statistics are meaningless to marketers who target specific geographic and demographic breakdowns

    2. SMS/MMS is a more intimate means of communication - spam will be met with unpleasant backlash

    3. MMS is very expensive and not a cost effective way to market

    4. Smartphone users represent a target niche that are often the intended audience for marketing

    5. Why is he confusing marketing with apps? there can be crossover, but they are not the same thing

    6. The marketing point to having an app is often not for people to use it to convert to sales, but rather so they can be seen as a progressive business - it is a value statement

    I get that this guy is being dramatic to make a point but come on... seriously?

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    We have MMS in our bundles...

    here in the states. But I still don't see the point. Text spam is illegal, and so is MMS spam. And I can and do track down any sender and make sure somebody is suing them (if not me, then my cell co does actively pursue and sue text spammers.) I honestly can't see a scenario where I'd want pictures coming into my phone.

    I subscribe to one text messaging service -- I get an alert if there is a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning (living in Iowa, we get disconcertingly severe weather.) It's a rare summer where we don't get at least one storm with 70-100MPH winds, at least golfball-sized hail, and flash flooding. Historically (last 15 years), we've had part of downtown levelled by a ~180MPH tornado, a second storm with grapefruit sized hail (the national weather service claims that size is impossible, with softball size being the upper limit, but I saw it), 100MPH straight line winds, flash flooding (like 3 or 4 inches in 15 minutes), and of course blizzards.. we got 14 inches of snow in one day last winter. A few of the local car dealers closed, after the grapefruit-sized hail, we had a second hailstorm about a month later (just enough time for the insurance co to clear the lot of those dented cars and bring in fresh ones) so THOSE cars got all dented up.

    I've texted to "46645" (GOOGL) once in a while, usually to translate a phrase of for unit conversion (liters per 100 km to MPG for instance.). But, I just can't see any service I'd care to use that'd involve sending pictures to me.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      gosh cell co does actively pursue and sue text spammers....

      Really? Wow! I am seriously impressed

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If I meet one of you guys from Iowa that didn't claim to have seen a grapefruit sized hail stone I'd buy him a John Webster cigar.

    3. Mike Flugennock

      text spam may be illegal in the States...

      ...but that message has apparently not gotten through to the bastards who've been hitting my phone at least once a week asking me if I need my house refinanced, or my credit repaired, or if I'm paying too much for gas. I've gotten to where I automatically delete anything not showing an ID from a name/number on my "contacts" list.

  10. Originone

    You might think its okay...

    “10% of youth think it’s okay to send text messages while having sex.”

    but there is a 90% chance the person your having sex with doesn't making this a bad idea if you want to keep having sex.

    Also I'd suggest that if you have the abilility and/or the desire to text during sex then you are doing it wrong anyway.

    1. Oz


      I assume that for the 10% they used the word "sex" as an alternative for the actual act of having a *cough* "hand shandy"!

    2. Mayhem

      Doing it wrong?

      Yeah, they're probably texting for advice on what to do next ...

  11. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Got news for you, Gen Y

    “10% of youth think it’s okay to send text messages while having sex.”

    You're doing it wrong.

    (BTW, what is the definition of "youth" in this survey?)

    Paris, doing it wrong wrong wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      What do you mean, "wrong"??

      I should use predictive text entry?

      Playmobil, or it didn't happen!

  12. Neil Hoskins

    And in other news... turns out the pope is catholic and white middle class people are only a small fraction of the world population.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MMS not necessarily Spam

    Why is everybody thinking that MMS could be used only as spam?

    How about using MMS only as a way to deliverd media content that the phone owner has requested and paid for ?

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Down

      MMS not _necessarily_ spam, but...

      an AC writes on 04.07.11 @ 08:50gmt:

      "Why is everybody thinking that MMS could be used only as spam?

      How about using MMS only as a way to deliverd media content that the phone owner has requested and paid for ?"

      Yeah, how about that? I suppose that on some far-flung corner of the Earth, there's someone who explicitly requested/paid for an MMS to be sent to their phone, but most of us regular folks with a well-developed sense of skepticism and experience with SMS spam will immediately see the potential in MMS for relentlessly bashing our brains out with mass quantities of cost-shifted advertising. It's kinda like Flash -- when it first came out, all the tech-rag pundits were shouting about all the wonderful uses it would have, by my first thought was "oh, holy shit, here come the Banner Ads From Hell".

      I put my mobile on the FTC Do-Not-Call List when it first came out -- not to mention that telemarketing/SMS spamming mobiles is flat-out illegal -- but that hasn't stopped hucksters from hitting my phone at least once a week with "special offers", mortgage-refinancing and credit-repair spam.

      Technically, MMS can be used for something else besides spam -- and Flash can be used as something besides an advertising delivery system -- but my experience with SMS spam shows me otherwise.

  14. dotdavid


    I wouldn't say MMS is an ideal medium for communication with dumbphone owners either. The implementations of it vary wildly from device to device; the more incapable ones actually ask the recipient to visit a website and log in to view their message. Uh... no thanks. And that's not even mentioning the cost.

    Personally, I've always seen it as a poor cousin of email - a way that operators tried to emulate the success they had with SMS but with "rich" media. Of course they priced it as if it was "SMS+", not "Email-" and so of course failed miserably.

    As the author says, I wouldn't be including MMS in any future marketing plans. But then I wouldn't necessarily focus on an iPhone app either - loads of companies seem to concentrate solely on JesusPhone offerings and forget that most smartphone users aren't on Steve Job's platform.

    1. GrahamS


      > "loads of companies seem to concentrate solely on JesusPhone offerings and forget that most smartphone users aren't on Steve Job's platform."

      Delete as appropriate to your allegiance:

      - It makes sense to target consumers who clearly have too much money which they are happy to spend on overpriced gadgets when cheaper alternative are available.

      - It makes sense to target consumers with good taste that recognise a quality product.


  15. Lamont Cranston

    Is he advocating MMS spam

    as an advertising strategy?

    It's bad enough when network operators do it (yes, I mean you, Orange), so I can't imagine a company is going to win many friends/customers with this. SMS adverts already reek of "I have your mobile numbers and am trying to steal all your personal information".

  16. Tim Walker

    One good use for MMS: sending text/multimedia from abroad

    In 2008, I visited South Korea, where I found the mobile data/messaging roaming charges via the local 3G networks were comparable to countries in Europe - along the lines of £1.50/Mb for 3G data. I can't remember the exact charges for SMS and MMS at the time, but I seem to recall that sending an MMS cost about half as much as an SMS (something like (equivalent of) 20p for MMS, and 40p for SMS).

    Bottom line: if you're abroad, want/need to send a quick message to someone from your mobile, and a WiFi hotspot isn't an option at that point (so you HAVE to use the local network), then MMS is a more cost-effective service than SMS (and possibly email over 3G, if you're sending attachments), whether you want to send text, multimedia or both.

    That said, I don't recall actually USING it, but it felt good to know it was an option...

  17. GrahamS

    It's all about consent and control

    The difference that Tomi Ahonen seems to be miss is consent from the user.

    If a user looks at your Facebook page, follows you on Twitter, downloads your iPhone/Droid/mobile app or whatever then THEY are in control. They have an active interest in your product/service and are explicitly asking you to tell them more about it.

    If instead you spam users with MMS without their consent then they are just as likely to avoid your product/service at all cost.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be using a different MMS to the rest of you

    I'm always getting the bloody things. Usually involving someone's brat. But the image quality is always fine for watching someone small take a dive off a slide. And there's a load bundled with my contract.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Killer App?

    He actually said "Killer App?". I hope he's wearing his lawyer proof pants 'cos Apple are probably going to try to sue them off him. That's their word, they invented it (using their iTARDIS, presumably) and nobody else can use it but them.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      He actually said "Killer App"?

      P'wah ha ha ha ha. Hey, man, 1994 called, they want their cheesy hackneyed expression back.

  20. Daniel Snowden

    MMS? Wassat?

    I use facebook, twitter and email all the time. I don't think I've ever used MMS before. With my data plan I don't think I'd ever need to anyway.

  21. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Down

    push media messages on my mobile?

    I've used a good old Samsung "flip-up" dumbphone for about five years now; my Verizon plan includes SMS, and pretty much the only SMS messages I ever get are spam (I'd sure love to know how the hell these people got my number as I only give it out personally to people I know) (oh, wait, never mind). I've basically gone to a policy of summarily shit-canning SMS messages which don't show a "from" name/number of anyone in my phone's contact list.

    Now this snake-oil huckster wants to push "rich" media message at me? Cripes. Am I ever glad I own a dumbphone.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like