|Santa sends out greetings by mobile(12/22/01)|
For many local residents, traditional Christmas greetings will be replaced by "Merry X-mas 2 U" this year thanks to the growing popularity of short messaging on mobile phones.
"I used to send and receive e-greetings, but I am afraid of computer viruses, so I don't dare to open messages from strangers," said Wang Haodong with Hua Zhi Ying Electronic Co.
Instead of sending Christmas cards by e-mail, Wang will use his cell phone to send friends short messages.
Holiday well-wishers can create their own messages, or they can download pre-written messages, pictures, and songs from a variety of local Websites.
"About 3,000 customers in Shanghai downloaded short messages every day last week from the special Christmas packet we have set up," said Shen Qiong, of Linktone, which offers mobile digital services across China.
For Christmas greetings, the company charges 0.2 yuan (US$2 cents) for basic messages, and 2 yuan (US$0.24) for pictures and songs.
"The promotion of the special Christmas packet has greatly increased the number of other short messages downloaded from our Website," said Shen.
The last few weeks have seen about 300,000 short messages downloaded from the site (www.linktone.com) every day in Shanghai, five times more than during last Spring Festival, and Shen estimates the number will still increase by 20 percent right before Christmas and New Year's Day.
More than 20 million of the 150 million to 200 million short messages sent every month in Shanghai are downloaded from various Websites, said Zhang Jie of China Mobile Shanghai branch.
Zhang expects those numbers to increase significantly over the holidays.
Shao Guoqiang with China Unicom's local branch said, "It is certain that Christmas will see an increasing number of short messages sent, and one of the main reasons is that our registered mobile users will be able to send downloaded Christmas pictures or songs during the holiday seasons."
The boom in short messaging is bad news for retailers of traditional Christmas cards.
Ji Hong, an employee in charge of the greeting cards for Shanghai Book Traders, expects this year's sales to be about the same as last year, but the price for the cheapest cards will drop by about 30 percent from last Christmas to 2 yuan each.
"People are more interested in small decorations including Christmas stockings and caps as the price has decreased from more than 50 yuan (US$6.05) to approximately 20 yuan (US$2.42) for stockings and 8 yuan (US$0.97) to 3 yuan (US$0.36) for caps this year," said Ji.
(eastday.com December 22, 2001)