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 dot life Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 11:59 GMT
Is this the start of the photo msg boom?
Camera-phone montage, BBC
Nice phone: Now you can do more with it

When camera-equipped mobiles first hit the shops, the phones could only send photos to similar models on the same network. All that is about to change.
The first people to buy mobile phones with built-in cameras knew these were very hi-tech because the gadget was effectively useless.

This was because the vast majority of phones in use at present can only handle text messages.

Thus attempts to send pictures or audio files largely failed. Attempts to send such messages to regular mobiles resulted in a text directing the receiver to a webpage with the missing greeting.

Even sending a multi-media message to a similar phone on a different network meant a decidedly old-school weblink popping up on screen.

Sound and vision

While sales of multi-media phones are on the up, little has changed because the phone firms have not agreed on how to swap messages between rival networks.

But help is at hand for those who want to swap messages with friends on rival networks.

T68 camera phone, SonyEricsson
Cameras and colour screens are on the up
Companies such as NowMMS, Telecom One and many others are setting up independent gateways that route sound and picture messages to any phone on any network.

Text phones still get a weblink but multi-media phones get the message in its full glory. Most of these gateways are free to use too.

Keith Norris, spokesman for NowMMS, says 2,000 people had signed up for its cross-network service in the past six weeks.

The NowMMS service is funded by adverts and anyone that signs up might occasionally get a multimedia ad sent to them.

Users will still have to pay a small charge to send an MMS via the service's gateway because by signing up, they change the way a message travels.

Free to view

Currently multi-media messages are free to send on most UK networks as the phone companies are keen to boost sales of these flash new toys. When charges do come in, mobile customers will be expected to pay about 40p a message.

By switching to a MMS gateway service, users will no longer be charged on a per-message basis. Instead, because the message is going off the host network, they have to pay a charge to move the raw data.

A text message arrives, BBC
Text could give way to sounds and pictures
Most networks levy a small charge for data bundles when someone signs up, so chances that new users will already have paid the fee.

Anyone signing up to the MMS gateway services will also have to change the settings on their phone to ensure messages can get through.

But given that most early buyers are probably gadget lovers and keen tinkerers, this is unlikely to be a problem.

Mr Norris says that operators have yet to sign deals to swap multi-media messages across networks because the protocol to handle the delivery is still being finalised. The delay has left an opening for firms such as NowMMS and Telecom One.

New toys

Andrew Bud, managing director of text message specialist MBlox, says firms can set up swapping services because of the way multi-media messages work.

While text-only messages require specialist - and very expensive - technology, few firms outside the network operators bother.

By contrast, multi-media messages are downloaded via Wap servers which sit off the mobile networks. Because these are cheap to set up and run, almost anyone can become a multi-media message swapper.

And therefore gadget lovers can get much more out of their shiny new phones.


If you have any photos taken on your phone, e-mail them as an attachment to talkingpoint@bbc.co.uk.

Hi my name is Simon Chan, and I'm 17 and from East London. I took this pic on my sony ericsson t68i: The quality isn't that bad. It's resolution is 640x480, and format is jpeg. This is me, next to a Lamborghini Murcielago outside selfridges, taken by my other friend Simon.
Simon Chan

Hi, I took this picture with my Nokia 7650 whilst on a work trip to the US. It's a view from the jetty at Semiahmoo Resort. The 7650 provides poor quality compared to even the most basic of dedicated digital cameras, mainly due to the fish eye distortion of the lens. But as someone who couldn't see the point in dedicated digital cameras, having a multipurpose camera/phone with me all the time is surprisingly useful and fun.
Dinan

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See also:

01 Jan 03 | Technology
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03 Jan 03 | Technology
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