Nokia World: Hands On Mobile talks football, mobile advertising and its Mobizines rival

Mobile phones

handson-erichobson.jpgI wrote about Refresh Mobile and its award-winning Mobizines mobile application yesterday, but it looks like it’s got competition. Another company exhibiting at the Nokia World conference is Hands On Mobile, which you might know from mobile games like Call Of Duty 3 and Spider-Man, but which has moved into other areas of mobile content.

This includes HOMBRE, which might sound like a Mexican condom brand, but actually stands for Hands On Mobile Run-time Environment. And it sounds quite like Mobizines, in that it’s a Java application for your phone which serves up stories, information and other content, and updates regularly using your mobile’s connection to get new stuff.

“If someone’s already got a website, this is an easy way of mobilising that,” says Eric Hobson, president and general manager of Hands On EMEA & SE Asia. “We can take a feed off a website, suck that up into a Java application, and have it dynamically updating, with a lot of the graphics stored in the application itself, so it loads up quite fast.”

He showed me a demo of a surfing version, which provides news and weather conditions for surfers. Apparently this sort of mobile application is perfect for advertisers too, who are looking for a good way into mobile. Another demo is for a version of HOMBRE customised for a shampoo brand, which has info, daily quizzes and dating stuff, alongside some more traditional ads on what shampoo is best for your hair.

“Clearly nobody’s going to download an application just to find out what shampoo they should be using,” he says. “You need the other stuff around that. For users, the trade-off is ‘you entertain me, and I’ll listen to your message. But if you just try to give me the hard sell, I probably won’t.”

HOMBRE isn’t just about advertainment though. Hands On is also talking to the Learning Skills Council here in the UK about how the technology could be used, for example to serve up job vacancies or training courses for young people.

“The government has a real problem engaging with disaffected youths,” says Eric. “They aren’t in jobs or training, and probably don’t have PCs. We can put the relevant information – say jobs or training in Nottingham – into an application like this, sucking it up from a database so it’s current, and then showing it in an environment that’s useful to them.”

Hands On has also gleefully leapt onto the mobile user-generated content bandwagon, with an application called Phame that lets users post video and music clips and images, then pay to download other people’s and vote on the best ones. It’s the same model as 3 UK’s SeeMeTV, which seems to have inspired a lot of mobile firms with its success, judging by this conference.

The company has also been working on a mobile dating application based on the My Single Friend website, although Eric reckons that’s still six months away from actually launching.

Meanwhile, the company also has a nifty football application called Match Centre Live, which is another connected Java application that serves up information – in this case, news, results and latest scores. Again, advertisers could get involved by sponsoring the application, which means the likes of us users will hopefuly get it for free.

“Operators have been reticient to put it on their portals,” says Eric. “I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s because it could kill their premium SMS football alert business! So we’re looking at going the advertising sponsor route, and have been talking to beer brands. They could use it as part of their whole promotion of football, so you might log on at 4.45pm to check the result, and they could say ‘Ah well, you’ve lost, why not have a few beers to console yourself?!’”

2007 seems set to be the year when we see more advertising on mobile, which Eric says is due to the fact that the technology is a lot richer than it has been in the past, when the best an advertiser could hope for was to send out text messages to bought-in lists of mobile numbers.

“A lot of advertising agencies saw mobile SMS alerts as a spammy type environment,” he says. “They’ve been awakened to the whole thing now though, particularly if we go to them with something like HOMBRE, or a sponsorable application like Match Centre Live, or even the opportunity to wrap adverts around a mobile game. And of course, they see mobile as a way to target the 18-35 audience, which is bloody hard and very expensive to reach on TV.”

Refresh Mobile talk about their award-winning Mobizines
Fancy a 100GB mobile phone with a built-in projector?
Next-gen N-Gage to work on 5-7 phones from Day One
Nokia declares war on the iPod!
Ruud Gullit on gadgets and marriage: “It’s like warfare…”
Two mobile phones and one DJ Slow…
Nokia promises WiMAX handsets in 2008
Tech Digest goes to Nokia World

Stuart Dredge
For latest tech stories go to