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Free cell phone? No thanks

Google wants to give you free, ad-supported mobile phones (via). I think it’s a lousy idea.

A mobile phone is essentially an interrupt device, and not a leisure device. I use my phone either when I’m reminded that I need to call or SMS someone, or when I get an interrupt from the device itself that someone is calling or messaging me. Which means that my usage pattern is based on interrupting something I’m doing (which is presumably important / interesting), which means that the reason I’m interrupted had better be good. People I know calling to keep in touch, make plans or share information is fine. Strangers referred to me by people I know are fine. But nothing irritates me more than SMS ads or cold sales calls.

Showing ads while your surf or check email on your phone is still OK, but you can already do that since phones have web browsers and e-mail clients. I’m assuming any mobile service thats completely free will include interrupting ads, and thats simply not acceptable.

In general ads are acceptable under the following conditions: they should be a (preferably small) part of any activity that you’re engaged in (TV shows, surfing), not be hugely unobtrusive (I love text ads for this reason), but most importantly – I should not be forced to view them. I can mute the TV, and not look at ads while surfing on the web or reading a magazine. The usage of a phone, however is such that I have to process interrupts – I won’t be ignoring SMSes in case some genuine information is coming my way, which basically means every time the service owners wish, they can make me stop whatever I’m doing and force me to view an ad.

No thanks.


  1. Sherene wrote:

    I suppose they are planning to make up for the ‘interrupt factor’ by providing extremely targeted results. Mobile phone accounts come with a ton of information regarding the consumer preferences, usage patterns, etc. Considering I just spent half an hour of my “mugging time” surfing the net/blog-hopping on my mobile phone, I do not think of this idea as entirely unfeasible.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  2. shashwat wrote:

    I’d use it only if there was an unobstrusive way to advertise on the phone. In other words, no SMSes or calls allowed but if google has a java app. that runs as a screen saver on the phone and can throw advertisements or promotions on the screen – such that they do not interfere AT ALL with the phone’s working. As a result, I can browse through them at leisure, or NOT, then yes, it is worthwhile – ofcourse, they will also have to bear the cost of downloading the adverts onto the phone.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Anshul wrote:

    Sherene: I don’t browse my phone as much – but I do send and receive a lot of email. If they’re gmail ads are anything to go by, their “targetedness” is very very bad.

    shash: they can easily advertise if you browse the web on the phone or read email just by normal extensions but that won’t pay enough. As for a screensaver, nobody is going to look at a phone’s screensaver, ever, especially if its showing ads. they key to advertising is to have advertising next to interesting content so the ad catches the viewer’s attention.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  4. Sherene wrote:

    Really? That’s strange what I hear of Gmail ads. I’ve actually clicked on a few relevant links and proceeded to become a paying customer for some of them. But ya, some of the keyword matches are completely bizarre :D

    Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

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