Ovum's wireless 'innovation' hall-of-shame

An HSPA-enabled digital photo frame and a sex toy controllable via the internet are among the top items in a recent list of the worst 'innovations' in wireless in 2008.

Topping the list, which was compiled by analyst firm Ovum, is the now-infamous 'I am Rich' iPhone app. The $999.99 application merely launches an animated, shining gem.

This ludicrously overpriced app was purchased eight times before it was pulled by Apple, according to Ovum analyst Steven Hartley, who believes the presence and subsequent removal of the app has damaged Apple's credibility and left iPhone app developers with some burning questions.

"Apple has gone to great lengths to promote its third-party developer community, but ultimately Apple is solely responsible for the quality of applications appearing on its store," he said.

On the other hand, he says, the removal of I Am Rich from the store has shown developers apps can be pulled at any time.

"Some developers are reluctant to invest to their full potential if the fruit of their labours could be stopped without explanation."
Second on the list was T-Mobile USA's HSPA-enabled digital photo frame, which Hartley says only made the list because of the practice of charging a $10-per-month subscription fee.

This decision was particularly unfortunate because there are already non-subscription based WiFi-enabled frames on the market, Hartley said. He believes the better alternative would have been to build subscription fees into the cost of the device, such as is the case with Amazon's Kindle eBook.

Third place goes to the Japanese SOM, a product from the emerging niche 'teledildonics' market. The SOM is a remote-controlled sex toy operated via the internet.

"Without wishing to go into too much detail, our panel was less than comfortable trying to understand either how the SOM from Japan worked or who would pay for it," Hartley said.

A similar product, the Sinulator, has received a more positive write-up from Wired commenter Regina Lynn, who believes that the device has the potential to revolutionise cybersex, particularly when partnered with a Fleshlight-style men's version capable of interacting with the device in real-time.

Nevertheless, Hartley believes telecom operators will be unlikely to rush to market the device for their customers.

"As with all these things, there is no doubt a market for this type of device and it is probably a lucrative sideline, but it's hard to see mobile operators seizing the opportunity, and certainly not without harming their brands."