Cool Toy - The Barclaycard-Cellnet phone.

Putting product information and a transactional facility in your customer's pocket is one thing - getting them to use it is another. Marketers hoping to sell to customers via the Nokia Communicator (Cool Toy, October) or personal digital assistants (PDAs) plugged into mobile phones, should reflect on how convenient such gadgets are to carry and use. How many of your customers carry their PDA and their mobile all the time? And will the Nokia's price tag, and bulk, make it only suitable for reaching a small demographic of high-earners or gadget freaks?

Barclays Bank and Cellnet think they have eliminated such questions, with their co-branded mobile phone. First launched in 1995 simply as a cheap way for Barclaycard customers to go mobile, the service is being gradually expanded to include banking services, and ultimately will offer "travel, ticketing and information services".

Of the 2.4 million Cellnet clients in the UK, 150,000 use the Barclays-branded unit. They have additional incentive to annoy people on trains or in the street with their loud conversation and wild gesticulating as the Barclays phone comes with a 20-per cent discount on the normal Cellnet call charges.

Technologically, the service is no ground-breaker, but integrating online information, banking services and instant transaction facilities is key - even if it is a little slow in coming.

Current users are limited to accessing account or credit-card information, and receiving the equivalent of a mini-statement displayed on the unit's screen. Facilities for paying bills and moving funds between accounts are still being trialled.

A traffic update service is due to be launched by the end of this year, and 'lifestyle services' ranging from football scores to share updates are mooted for early 1998. Cellnet is itself already offering such services, albeit with the necessary aid of a web site, as part of its new 'Genie' service (Revolution, October).

The elegance of the system is that it relies on a technology already familiar to consumers - a mobile handset - which was, according to Barclays, described by 97 per cent of customers as "easy to use". The screen is icon-based, and a joystick-style button makes navigation simple.

Barclays says it is also closely following a new Visa Cash trial in Leeds, to see if it can incorporate wireless e-cash downloads into the service.

Customers will see their funds moving in circles as they pay off their credit card, download some cash and then have their call charges billed direct to their Barclaycard account. Fortunately for anyone selling the products that will be bought via this phone, the circle isn't perfect - money still has to leak out somewhere.



Product: Barclaycard-Cellnet phone

Available: through Barclays

Handset price: œ29.90.

Putting product information and a transactional facility in your customer's pocket is one thing - getting them to use it is another. Marketers hoping to sell to customers via the Nokia Communicator (Cool Toy, October) or personal digital assistants (PDAs) plugged into mobile phones, should reflect on how convenient such gadgets are to carry and use. How many of your customers carry their PDA and their mobile all the time? And will the Nokia's price tag, and bulk, make it only suitable for reaching a small demographic of high-earners or gadget freaks?

Barclays Bank and Cellnet think they have eliminated such questions, with their co-branded mobile phone. First launched in 1995 simply as a cheap way for Barclaycard customers to go mobile, the service is being gradually expanded to include banking services, and ultimately will offer "travel, ticketing and information services".

Of the 2.4 million Cellnet clients in the UK, 150,000 use the Barclays-branded unit. They have additional incentive to annoy people on trains or in the street with their loud conversation and wild gesticulating as the Barclays phone comes with a 20-per cent discount on the normal Cellnet call charges.

Technologically, the service is no ground-breaker, but integrating online information, banking services and instant transaction facilities is key - even if it is a little slow in coming.

Current users are limited to accessing account or credit-card information, and receiving the equivalent of a mini-statement displayed on the unit's screen. Facilities for paying bills and moving funds between accounts are still being trialled.

A traffic update service is due to be launched by the end of this year, and 'lifestyle services' ranging from football scores to share updates are mooted for early 1998. Cellnet is itself already offering such services, albeit with the necessary aid of a web site, as part of its new 'Genie' service (Revolution, October).

The elegance of the system is that it relies on a technology already familiar to consumers - a mobile handset - which was, according to Barclays, described by 97 per cent of customers as "easy to use". The screen is icon-based, and a joystick-style button makes navigation simple.

Barclays says it is also closely following a new Visa Cash trial in Leeds, to see if it can incorporate wireless e-cash downloads into the service.

Customers will see their funds moving in circles as they pay off their credit card, download some cash and then have their call charges billed direct to their Barclaycard account. Fortunately for anyone selling the products that will be bought via this phone, the circle isn't perfect - money still has to leak out somewhere.



Product: Barclaycard-Cellnet phone

Available: through Barclays

Handset price: œ29.90.



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