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It's time for a close-up look at mobile porn

What's that on your iPhone?

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Column Apparently, someone has discovered that you can watch videos on the iPhone, and that "videos" includes "porn." Mobile porn... wow. So I asked a purveyor of photo-porn on the web what made the iPhone special for his customers.

"No idea, but we think it's the zoom," he said. "You can get to see the detail, you know?"

What we actually know about the typical iPhone user appears to be, well, probably very little. According to the excited report in Time Magazine: "About a third of iPhone users watch video on their phone, according to Nielsen Mobile; which is nearly 10 times the number that watch video on other cell phones," said Time's reporters, laying bare all the secrets of the demographic.

If you take this at face value, the "mobile internet" is here.

"Three out of four iPhone users are men with above-average incomes, and iPhone users spend heavily on entertainment. More than a third of iPhone users shell out more than $100 on phone and data charges every month, as compared with just one-fifth of other cell-phone users."

Before we run screaming into the streets, maybe we should ask some more detailed questions. Like: "How many people actually do that?" and "Do iPhone users watch more porn than Nokia phone owners?" and "Actually, how 'mobile' is this, in any sense that would concern mobile operators?" In short, do people download videos onto their PCs and Macs and then sync to the iPhone? or do they do anything other than surf the web over the air?

Umang Gupta, founder of Keynote Systems, thinks the hype is justified; but speaking as an expert in web performance measurement, he also thinks there's a lot we don't know, and need to know.

"If you look at the so-called mobile internet," he told The Register. "There are three questions which need to be solved. First, whether the wireless spectrum is able to carry all the data; next, whether we can do it at a price which people are prepared to pay; and finally whether the advertising industry can provide enough revenue to support it."

To find out the answers, you'd need a pretty good survey done of iPhone users vs desktop users vs Nokia users - and not just in America but worldwide. And to do that you'd need someone who has monitoring stations in most cities around the world where they could see exactly what individual users do with their equipment.

This is meat and drink to Keynote Systems, which meets these requirements nicely, and to Umang Gupta, long-term Silicon Valley visionary and serial entrepreneur, who thinks it's a great project. Gupta's company has "monitoring stations" in most major cities around the globe, where they do web site assessments: trying to see what locals actually see when they visit sites belonging to their clients. And they can sign up volunteers who will then allow Keynote to monitor exactly what they do online.

But the fact that Gupta thinks its a great project just goes to show how little we really know about advertising, mobile data and the Web "on the move" - because if Keynote hasn't yet done a project about some web niche then it's a pretty good giveaway that nobody has been making real money out of it... yet.

"You don't spend a lot of money, testing stuff that makes no much money for you," was Gupta's succinct analysis of whether the big players in the so-called Mobile 100 have a good grasp of market trends. And it takes a lot of money to get real information, he points out.

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