Liveblog: T-Mobile UK talks Android at developer event

Richard Warmsley on the impact of the G1 and Google's OS

Liveblog: T-Mobile UK talks Android at developer event
T-Mobile is holding an Android event in London this morning to talk about Android and what it means for the mobile industry, with several developers in attendance.

Richard Warmsley is kicking it off. He's head of internet and entertainment at T-Mobile UK. We're sat here, bleary-eyed after a morning trying to get Michael Jackson tickets, liveblogging what he has to say - it follows below.

He's covering off what T-Mobile thinks is different about Android, based on the G1 and how customers are using it. "We think of these phones as being nearly naked," he says. "They really like the nakedness of it, they can really make their own device and build it into what they want it to be."

So customers are customising the G1 to their usage by downloading apps, in short. Which, it has to be said, is exactly the same on iPhone and will be on BlackBerry, Nokia, WinMo etc when their app stores get going.

"People love being able to slickly move between the different ways of communicating with their different social groups," he says - the switching between apps quickly is apparently much loved.

And third, T-Mob customers apparently love the "playful" nature of Android apps, particularly games.

"Also the global nature of Android," he says, citing markets where fixed broadband isn't so popular. "From a developer's point of view, this is really exciting - the next big application could come from literally anywhere in the world."

But then he comes back to the local stuff - "It's very early days for location-based services," says Warmsley. Finding the nearest coffee shop is a bit old, but finding where your friends are is "more exciting".

What's become more apparent to T-Mobile, he says, is that applications are relevant in different ways to different people. "Instead of the internet being the point [of these handsets], it just becomes the infrastructure in the background," says Warmsley.

So T-Mobile launched Web'n'Walk in 2005, offering unlimited access to the open internet - and that was the selling point. But now Android is making it much more about the apps that use that capability.

This is a general overview, you'll have realised by now, rather than games-specific.

"It was a natural step to launch the G1 last year," says Warmsley. "Our philosophy had very much been 'open is better'. You might lose something in the short term in terms of control... but you get more people interested, there's more innovation. Mobile network operators are not the only people with good ideas..."

Some stats on what customers are doing would be nice. Oh, Warmsley is about to give them, seemingly.

"Where is an interesting one, if you look at the top places - the first one is office, college and school, the second one is public transport, and the third one is in front of the TV, which surprises a lot of people," he says.

"It's something about the very personal nature of a mobile, and the immediate nature of it being by your side."

And yes, 15 per cent of T-Mobile customers use their handset in the bathroom. "Probably best not to go into that..." says Warmsley.

The top 10 Android apps: first is The Weather Channel, then MySpace Mobile, then ShopSavvy, Daily Horoscope, Free Dictionary, RingDroid, BarScanner, SaveMMS and CompareEverywhere. And one that I missed. But no games, interestingly.

20 per cent of new T-Mobile customers at the moment are choosing a G1, and it's hitting 70 per cent of the iPhone sales in the UK, says Warmsley.

O2 UK recently announced it had sold a million iPhones, although Warmsley won't be drawn on saying that means 700,000 G1s (the 70 per cent figure presumably relates to current sales rates, rather than total sales so far).

"There is a male bias, the average age is 32, they are likely to be living in Greater London and the South East, and they are in a few key T-Mobile locations, often near our call centres, and the East Midlands, for some reason."

Many G1 buyers have owned a Nokia N95 or T-Mobile Vario 2 before, and "their data revenue is typically five times higher than our other data customers, and their average revenue per user is more than double those other customers," says Warmsley.

So what next - future trends. "Definitely on-demand short entertainment media, whether it be TV, video clips for mobile," says Warmsley.

"WE see some emerging micro-local communities," he continues. "People choosing to become part of communities rooted in real places."

Rich location and travel guides too, and "geo-social tools" to help people meet up with friends and share content.

Local business networking hubs, live banking and payment services, and "probably the emergence of some retail stores on mobile".

Also T-Mobile sees the emergence of different sizes of screen - "you've got the emergence of tablets and UMPCs" says Warmsley, and confirms that T-Mobile WILL be launching these kinds of devices in the future, based on Android.

Do customers think the G1 is a great big fat chunker? (I paraphrase) "Customers actually like the functional nature of it," says Warmsley, straight-faced. Apparently they love the keyboard.

"They recognise that to get that keyboard, they actually need a slightly bigger device, and they're comfortable with that... They're almost proud about not caring about it."

In response to a question, Warmsley says T-Mobile's figures don't indicate a significant market share for BlackBerry's Storm in comparison to iPhone and the G1 - wonder if Vodafone will have something to say about that.

But the N95 thing comes back - a lot of customers who chose the N95 before did it through T-Mobile, because the operator ran a big Web'n'Walk TV campaign promoting it. And they're now being migrated to G1 - interesting implications for N-Gage there...

How many Android devices in the market? No news on T-Mobile's plans, but "we expect generally it to ramp up in Q4" says Warmsley.

"We're looking at what comes next for T-Mobile with Android," he says. "We're certainly not in the range of having a tight number of exclusive devices and locking everything else out. We want a range."

How easy is it to work with Google? Warmsley goes very quiet.

"I don't really know how to answer that," he says. "Not because they're particularly difficult or easy to work with... We have a longstanding relationship with Google, it's a good working relationship."

How would they contrast the relationship with Google to that with Apple? Warmsley bats it back - he's UK so hasn't worked with Apple.

Why no games in the Android Top 10 chart for G1? It's early days says Warmsley, but T-Mobile is promoting Guitar Hero World Tour at the moment.

So are paid apps launching on Android Market? It's tomorrow. "From tomorrow, UK customers will have paid apps on the phone, and there'll be a wide selection of paid apps on the market," says Warmsley's colleague Regan Whitehead.

And on that bombshell, the session ends.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)


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