Interview: Ben Levy of Vringo on video ringtones

August 31, 2007 at 3:50 pm 1 comment

inbabble-vringo.jpgBen Levy, vice-president of marketing for the video ringtone company Vringo, gave us his thoughts about the mobile industry and how his company fits into it. We previously spoke with Vringo’s CEO Jon Medved.

What distinguishes your services from your competitors?
Levy: Unlike traditional ringtones, which are selected and assigned by the owner of a phone, Vringos are video ringtones that a caller selects to play on a buddy’s phone.

Where did you come up with the idea of video ringtones? Why hadn’t it been done before?
Levy: Video ringtones were done before Vringo, just not very well. Not many phones can handle them, content was spotty and difficult to get, and video ringtones were pricey compared to audio ringtones. Vringo’s contribution to the space comes in letting people share the video ringtones, allow them to set their ringtone for each other and in making it easy to get the content on a mobile phone and a much cheaper price.

About how many customers are using Vringo right now?
Levy: Right now we have over 5000 people using it, just weeks after opening up our Beta.

How will Vringo make money?
Levy: Vringo will have various plans available for its members once the application is out of the Beta phase. With free plans, users will have access to only select clips and they will be exposed to advertising. Paid plans will allow users to have unlimited access to content with limited to no exposure to advertising. We are still developing the price structure.

What challenges are you seeing right now with mobile?
Levy: The platforms in the mobile world differ widely one from another, that means that getting Vringo to work on a wide set of handsets is quite a challenge. We recently announced our ability to work on Java phones and we’re constantly working to get it to work on more and more handsets.

Anything else?
The other challenge we are faced with are data charges. Data usage on mobile networks tends to be costly, something that can be detrimental to usage. The situation is certainly improving, but it is a challenge.

What are you seeing in mobile today that you didn’t expect five years ago?
Levy: Some things, like the mobile phone becoming an integral part of almost everyone’s life, we expected. It’s reassuring to see the state of things, but not really surprising. What is surprising is how slowly the usage of the mobile phone has evolved beyond voice and texting. Applications that allow for community, sharing, etc. have been slow in coming.

What do you see in the future for mobile? How will things be different for mobile consumers in five years?
Levy: The market in the mobile space will change dramatically in the next five years. Data charges will be simplified, data rates will improve and the remnants of the “walled garden” will go finally go away. In the next five years we will also collectively realize that applications and content for the mobile space have to be developed with the space in mind. That is, applications and content cannot be adaptations taken from the PC or from game consoles. The mobile world has its own characteristics that make it challenging but very rewarding at the same time.

If you could change the way mobile is done now, how would you change it?
Levy: I’d make it so that applications on the mobile phone can be powerful and can run on most every phone. The fragmentation that we see today is hindering development. The other thing that I would like to see is a widely accepted form of micro-payments that works on mobile.

Michael M.

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Entry filed under: ben levy, jon medved, mobile applications, mobile content, video ringtone, vringo.

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1 Comment

  • 1. Ben Levy  |  December 11, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Ben, congratulations on the success of your business. i was just doing the google thing and your name came up. i am from Adelaide in south australia and am sending you christmas cheers and a happy new year. great name by the way

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