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eBay 'sniping' tool: an i-mode mobile phone from O2

But what does O2 get out of it?

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Email and eBay are the top attractions for mobile phone users, according to UK network operator O2, after monitoring the first seven months of i-mode operation.

"We found that eBay's i-mode site is one of the top attractions on i-mode, letting people track the progress of their bids and make new bids on the move – removing the need for people to stay at home in front of their PCs in the vital closing minutes of auctions," O2 head of content marketing Grahame Riddell said.

Content partners "are reaping the rewards too", the carrier said, "both in terms of new customers for their new services and in terms of actual returns too".

Many of O2's i-mode content partners saw their set-up costs returned within the first month, it claims. "In addition, Kelkoo's shopping comparison site is very popular, letting people find the best prices for goods wherever they are."

The O2 announcement is full of fascinating insights into how people might use mobile internet; what it doesn't reveal is what O2 gets out of it.

When an announcement doesn't mention the bottom line gains, it's probably not because the news is too good to share.

In this case, you don't need to be a cynic to see this as a loyalty operation. Features like i-mode don't make much difference to the average revenue earned per user (ARPU) but that's not a problem, if you get new customers joining your network from your rivals, or (even more important) prevent people leaving your network to join rivals.

In that respect, O2 (and its new parent, Telefonica) will be pleased. "The success of these applications represents a shift in the application of mobile technology," the official announcement said.

"Aside from successful i-mode content, O2 will also announce a raft of new handsets over the coming weeks and months," the company added. "This will bring a number of additional major handset manufacturers into the i-mode ecosystem."

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