Reporo Revisited

reporo.jpgThis time last year, I reviewed a¬†mobile based shopping application – Reporo. On a visit to London last week, it was interesting to catch up with the company and see how they’d fared in the last year.

In my original review, my main concern was how much of a demand there was for mobile-based shopping right now. Indeed, is the whole concept of a virtual mobile shopping mall flawed - counter-intuitive though that might be?

One year on and the team have come to pretty much the same conclusion. While shopping is certainly still an important part of the proposition (and rightly so), this isn’t what’s driving the initial downloads and subsequent volume usage – it’s messaging.

Reporo now offers free text and picture messaging, as well as free IM from within its free downloadable Java application. Users still have to pay data charges from their operator – though I hope that phrase will seem quaintly old fashioned, as surely we must see fixed priced plans taking off soon. The example on their website is that a bundle of 500 texts normally costs $10 – $30, but with Reporo costs about $2. Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have a fixed data plan, but let’s not bang on about it shall we?

This focus on messaging puts Report into Hotxt territory (or vice versa), who I wrote about last week¬†and it’s clearly a fast-growth area right now, with other players starting to emerge too. The key difference between the services currently is that Reporo is taking more of a portal strategy, bundling other services along with the messaging, such as the original shopping idea and news, sports and information.

At this stage, it’s hard to tell if the focused approach, like Hotxt, is the right strategy, or Reporo’s more “all things to all men” execution will win out. What normally works in these types of uncharted waters is constant and determined experimentation, with the best ideas incorporated and the worst ruthlessly dumped overboard. The downside of this approach though is that users get confused with exactly what you do and stand for, so it’s a fine line to tread.

Being a downloadable Java application, Reporo is blisteringly fast to use and navigate, putting 3G speeds to shame. It’s much more akin to using a broadband connection on your phone, from a user experience point of view and the navigation is well thought out and intuitive.

As connection speeds improve, we’ll see if this Java strategy is an interim one, or if services like Reporo would do better to move on to the mobile web. But for now, it feels much better as a download.

The downside of Java, as we’ve noted bitterly many times before, is all the work required porting it across all makes and models of handsets. This makes it an expensive and frustrating¬†application to run, or forces you to be very selective about which models of handsets you support. Reporo have started off with MIDP 2.0 Nokia and Sony Ericsson and plan to launch others in due course, as they ramp up.

So, go on, give Reporo a try if you’re following mobile apps (and you’re in the wrong place if you’re not). Register here¬†and download wherever you are. It’s a nice example of a clean, well-executed Java portal, albeit focused around a service offering, rather than the more common content proposition.



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