Photo Messages on The Rise

Wireless research firm M:Metrics reports that mobile photo messaging continued to grow while most other mobile content areas declined.

According to M:Metrics’ Benchmark Report for March 2005, 7.3 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers sent a photo message to another cell phone or e-mail account at some point over the last three months. For the period ending Feb. 28, this represents a 4.8 percent growth rate over M:Metrics’ previous report.

The continued popularity of mobile photo messaging is due to recent interoperability agreements between a number of major wireless carriers including T-Mobile, Cingular and Verizon, according to M:Metrics. Photo messaging has been a growing concern since M:Metrics began tracking the market in November.

Mark Donovan, senior analyst and vice president of products at M:Metrics, told that in November 2004 9.4 million mobile subscribers sent a photo to another phone or an e-mail address as compared to the 12.8 million we reported for the month of March.

“This is a solid trend, and we expect that the adoption curve for photo messaging will [increase] with the advent of carrier interoperability,” Donovan said. “As we’ve seen with SMS adoption, when users can reliably send messages to friends, families and colleagues without pausing to consider whether the other person can receive a message–in other words, when the technology fades into the background and the application just works–adoption a networked technology goes up dramatically.”

The nascent video messaging market is not included in M:Metrics’ photo messaging data, though it is also a growing area of mobile content usage.

“As video-enabled handsets have proliferated, we’ve seen a steady and continuous rise in the number of subscribers taking videos with their phone,” Donovan said. “It is still early days for mobile multimedia, but the data suggests this is an important category to watch.”

Among the content categories measured in the report, only ring tones (at 0.4 percent) experienced growth during the same period. Text messaging dropped 2.5 percent, though it remained the most actively used type of online content overall with a U.S. mobile subscriber reach of 36.4 percent or approximately 64 million users. Mobile gaming and mobile IM usage were also down.

U.S. mobile subscribers also accessed news and information via a browser 4.8 percent less during the period. Despite negative growth in the period, though, mobile news viewing still remains a popular activity with a 12.2 percent usage share of mobile subscribers.

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