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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 12:31 GMT
Living life by txt msg
Text message mobile games
Think you send a lot of text messages already? Well, watch this space. Not for the first time, the UK could be following the Finns, writes Timo Kamarainen in Helsinki.

Picture this: A Finn is walking down the street in central Helsinki when he receives a text message. His favourite café, located nearby, has invited him in for an espresso at a discount price.

While sipping his coffee, he suddenly remembers that his wife wants to go to a film that evening. He picks up his mobile phone and text messages the cinema's booking line.

X-Men Wolverine v Mysterique
"Call that a phone?"
On his way to the bus stop to head home, his mobile beeps as another piece of information arrives. His bus is running 20 minutes late.

To kill time, he issues a challenge in a mobile game that he started a few days earlier.

Although such a scenario is a good year or two off, Finns are testing new ways to use text messages.

For instance, those in the market for a second-hand car can contact the Ministry of Transport for information on whether an odometer has been tampered with.

And Finnish company Riot-E has launched mobile games based on the X-Men - the film and the Marvel comic series - in which players issue text message commands in a fight between the mutant factions.

Jan Wellmann, the chief executive of Riot-E, says wireless entertainment gives people an excuse to contact one another.

"Of course, it's also about killing time. But content must be planned so that people are in contact with each other - and a [games] challenge is a way to create a relationship," Mr Wellmann says.

Txt msg nation

Mobiles have transformed the communications culture in Finland, Nokia's home, as they have in Ericsson's home Sweden, and all across Europe.

This year, Finns are estimated to send a total of nearly one billion text messages - quite an achievement for a nation of five million people who are said to be shy.

Snowboarders can sign up for ads and info
Even young boys are using text messages to open up about their emotions, according to research.

Advertisers are also looking to mobiles to expand their markets.

The Finnish company, Add2Phone, develops mobile advertising for companies keen to stay in touch with their customers.

"Mobile advertising must be based on an existing customer relationship," says Esa Saukkonen, vice president of Add2Phone.

"Precisely profiled advertising gives the customer information that he or she desires. We don't believe in exhaustive profiling."

Add2Phone already provides a text message service for snowboarders, paid for by advertisers. Those signing up receive ads and information such as weather conditions.

Promoters for the German dance artist Sash allow fans to download a new ringing tone and logo for their mobiles, as well as sign up for text message bulletins on future releases.

All talk

It remains to be seen when location sensitive advertising will be a success. Esa Saukkonen says the boom may well start in 2002.

mobile user
"Two adult tickets, front row centre, tonight"
But the mobile revolution has not proceeded as rapidly as predicted. Wireless Application Protocol has yet to match the hype.

Although sales of Wap phones are rising in Finland, few buyers fully utilise the service. While mobile users wait for cheaper and easier services, the networks are holding out for more customers.

But as the boom in text messaging shows, consumers can speed up the process.

Text messages had been initially been developed for operators to distribute technical information to mobile phones, but the service quickly caught on with users.

Now text messages are here to stay.

Weely guide to getting buttoned up

See also:

09 Sep 00 | UK
15 Aug 00 | Science/Nature
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