O2 Launches UK i-mode Service

It's taken six years for i-mode to make its way from Japan to the UK - Riyad was at the O2 launch.

If you’re a regular reader of TrustedReviews you will have spotted the spy shots we ran of O2’s new i-mode phones last week. Always wanting to be the first to bring you the latest technology, we brought you those images before O2 had even announced the i-mode service. Following on from that scoop, I attended O2’s i-mode launch yesterday and had a chance to get up close and personal with the new handsets and many of the i-mode content providers.

What’s quite astonishing is that it has taken six years for i-mode to make it to the UK after its successful launch in Japan back in 1999. In fact, when the service was launched in Japan there wasn’t even GPRS support yet, let alone 3G, but it still proved to be incredibly popular, with i-mode now enjoying a user base of over 50m worldwide.

O2 was keen to describe i-mode as “Internet at the touch of a button”, with the button in question being the yellow i-mode button. Pressing the i-mode button brings up the default i-mode portal, from where you can select a multitude of services.

Talking of services, O2 is planning on having around 100 i-mode content providers at launch, giving the end user a variety of avenues in which to spend their money. However, anyone who signs up to i-mode early will have free data until the end of 2005 and be able to access up to 10 subscription sites for free.

That gives you an idea of the revenue model associated with i-mode, the end user pays for the amount of data that’s downloaded and has the option of paying a monthly subscription to access premium content on i-mode sites. O2 says that it has tried very hard to make the pricing structure simple – something that hasn’t been the case with previous mobile data services. The basic charge for i-mode content is £3 per megabyte, and O2 does not differentiate between pre-pay and contract customers. To make things even more simple, O2 will be telling customers that around 100 pages of i-mode content can be viewed per MB.

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