We’ve been tracking a few emerging mobile-only social networks. All of these services are downloadable applications that run on your mobile phone.
Mobile social network Loopt’s deal with Sprint, however, has given it the distinction of being one of two with automated location updates and deep integration with a U.S. carrier (Helio is the other). This opens up a lot of possibilities for location based services. The deal gave them a lot of advantages over other networks. They could easily relay location information — what we call the “Holy Grail” — and came pre-installed on phones. But the deal also meant only your Sprint friends could join and you need a GPS enabled phone. However, Loopt’s exclusivity agreement is up and they’re looking to expand the service across more carriers and services (even Android).
As part of expanding their reach, Loopt has released a new version of their program that integrates with your address book (like Zyb) and sends status updates to your non-Sprint friends over SMS or AIM. The messages can also attach a link to a map online, so texting “let’s meet for coffee” can also say where you are. As before, it still has the geotagging, messaging, and privacy features we already reported on. I’m sure they’re learning a lot from services like Twitter and the recent Jaiku acquisition.
Loopt has remained tight lipped about who they’re talking to, but the pitch is pretty clear. Competition is driving down mobile voice revenues which Loopt says they can help offset by driving new profits in data plans people pay for to use the program. Currently they make money through $2.99/month subscription plans or by being bundled in with a phone data plan. Location based services and advertising are also other key revenue sources. Loopt says that 51% of all mobile application revenue already comes from location based services.
But it’s not all smooth sailing ahead. While Loopt owns its section of the network, other mobile networks with lower barriers to entry have gained a lot of traction. Twitter has kept a high profile (with funding) and Mig33 has claimed over 7 million registered users. Loopt could learn a great deal from following the lead of these lower friction services.