Free Content On Mobile Phones

We’ve been saying this for years, but it looks like others are beginning to realize what’s happening. For all the talk about charging for ringtones and other wireless content, the carriers are going to have to realize that they’re increasingly going to face a Napster-style issue where free (often unauthorized) content is all around, competing with the stuff they’re trying to charge for. Users are saying that they’ve already paid for a phone and are paying expensive service fees – so why should they pay for content as well. Of course, the companies offering content don’t want to lose out on any nickle or dime they can charge – but that might be taking the short term view. If they’re really trying to get people to move up to more advanced phones and to use them more, then they should be giving this stuff away for free. It acts as a promotion and will generate loyalty while cutting down churn. If someone with a phone has all the content and applications they want (for free!) they’re much less likely to switch. More importantly, the folks hoping to charge for this have to face the reality that they’re always going to be competing with free. People will break any copy protection, and it’s only a matter of time before the Napster-for-phones becomes a reality.

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