Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Getting Easier to Access E-Mail on your Mobile Phone

Consumers' obsession with sending and receiving e-mail is quickly migrating onto mobile phones.

Numerous companies are making it easier for anyone to send and receive e-mail on their cell phones without splurging on a high-end device or a premium data plan. While the services are generally less sophisticated than the wireless e-mail services offered by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd., Microsoft Corp. and other wireless e-mail providers, they are starting to appeal to those who use e-mail more for fun than business.

Consilient Technologies Corp. has begun selling mobile software that allows users to send and receive mail from multiple personal e-mail accounts on some 400 different cell phones. The software communicates with the Consilient server, which is checking a user's e-mail account for them. When it receives notice that users have received mail at their personal account, it pulls the messages and delivers them to the user's phone.

Emoze Ltd., owned by Emblaze Ltd., launched an e-mail service that will configure a user's phone to receive mail it routes from personal and work e-mail accounts. The software, which can be downloaded to most cell phones, is currently free and will deliver e-mails to the inbox built in on the device, eliminating the need for users to open a separate application every time they want to check e-mail.

Teleflip Inc. is taking a different approach with its flipMail service, which allows cell-phone users to read and reply to e-mails they receive from users they have in their address book. The service reformats users' e-mails so they can be sent over the operator's text-messaging channel but show up on the device resembling regular mail. FlipMail is now free but will soon begin to include advertisements in addition to offering a premium version for a few dollars a month.

The services are starting to catch on among users interested in staying on top of their e-mail on the go. While checking his e-mail via Teleflip on his phone, Paul Brown, a 34-year-old software engineer, received a message from a friend telling him that NBA playoff tickets had just gone on sale. He called to purchase some instantly.

"It's nice to get your e-mails right when they come up," says Brown, of Austin, Texas. He says he doesn't want to pay for an additional data plan since he is usually near his computer.

Others have begun using them in lieu of higher-priced services geared toward professionals. Paul Adams, a 35-year-old manager for a rock band who lives in New York City, recently bought a BlackJack smart phone from AT&T but chose not to pay for the wireless e-mail service that would have cost him an additional $60 a month. Instead he uses Consilient for $60 a year along with a data plan that's about $30 a month. He says the service stalls every few months or so and forces him to reboot, but he doesn't mind the glitch.

"That probably doesn't happen with a BlackBerry," says Adams. "But I don't care."

Leading Web-mail companies are also improving the mobile mail experience. Yahoo Inc. has been expanding the availability of its Yahoo Go mobile service that allows users to receive Yahoo mail in real time on their phones instead of logging into a mobile Web site. Late last year, Google Inc. launched a mobile Gmail application that is faster and easier to use than logging into its mobile Web site, and it says it might develop technology that would tell users they have received mail without having to refresh their inbox.

The new services are aiming for a piece of the mobile e-mail market that is dominated by corporate users. But that is forecast to change as handsets improve, the price of data plans drops and younger consumers rely on their phones as multipurpose communications hubs. The number of U.S. consumers who access personal e-mail accounts on a mobile device is forecast to rise 55 percent to 17.4 million in 2007, up from 11.2 million in 2006, according to Strategy Analytics Inc., a market-research firm.

"There is some latent demand on the part of consumers to get e-mail on their phones," says Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research, whose surveys show that only 11 percent of adults with cell phones use mobile e-mail. "There is room for more players."

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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