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Monday, November 28, 2005

killing time?

I'm in Korea for a conference at the moment, and spent a few days in Seoul before coming down to the island of Jeju for the event. I've been keeping an eye on the way the Koreans buy and use their cellphones and other bits of technology.

One of the things that I've noticed is just how much "personal technology" there is around. Not just cellphones, but also huge numbers of MP3 players (but few iPods), and also "proper" digital cameras. It's also telling that this is a very low-crime society, so nobody worries about the risks of wearing a few hundred dollars-worth of gizmos on a lanyard around their necks or in their handbags.

Also, as is well-documented elsewhere, there are hundreds of PC gaming / Internet shops known as PC-Bangs (as well as DVD-Bangs and other "outside of home" pay-per-hour technology locations that would normally be covered by home consumer electronics usage in Europe or North America)

Koreans use their phones a lot. Sit (or more likely stand) on the Seoul subway, and there is a large percentage of people pecking away at keys (mostly games or SMS), and a substantially smaller number actually talking (there's decent cellular coverage in the metro). Interestingly, there are far fewer people actually talking on their phones on the streets & other locations as well.

This has got me thinking about the way some of the much-vaunted new applications like mobile-TV and gaming are being pitched in Europe. Quite often, I've heard terms like "ways of killing time", "info-snacking", "mobisodes" and so on. The idea being that when people have a couple of spare minutes, they could use these new mobile apps rather than perhaps read a newspaper.

But in the UK certainly, and probably elsewhere in "chatty" countries with few taboos about talking on the phone in public (Italy, for example), I'm wondering if larger bundles of voice minutes & better in-building coverage would just make people use more voice instead. If you've got a few minutes free - why not call your friends or family? why bother trying to download music onto your phone (and paying through the nose for it), when you could have a good gossip instead "for free"?

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