Airtel has raced past Tata DoCoMo to launch comics on its Mobile Internet portal Airtel Live – with over 300 international and local comic strips. Tata DoCoMo was to launch mobile comics last week, but ‘Comix On the Go’ appears to be delayed.
On accessing Airtel’s Mobile Comics, we noticed that the page is titled “ROK Comics SF”. Airtel has an old partnership with the ROK Entertainment Group, of which ROK Comics is a part. You can also read the same comics online at Wap.rokcomics.com for free, though GPRS charges will apply in case of ROK Comics. Note that there are no data charges for accessing and using the Airtel Live site. The ROK Comics portal looks exactly the same as that on Airtel.
Content available at Airtel/ROK Comics includes Alpha gods, Animal crackers, Crazy Mary, Crumb, El Profe, Ex Astris, Hanuman, Krishan Aur Jarashand, Love Is, Madd Science, Mandy, Mangal Pande, Millenium Bug, Nagraj: Teen Sikke, The Family Stone, The Perishers, Vasudev Krishna by Raj Comics, Popeye, Dick Tracey, Wacky World of Animals, Wet Paint, Doga, Akbar, Birbal, Tenaliraman, Jataka tales and comics by publisher Amar Chitra Katha (ACK Media).
Reading A Comic, User Experience
On a basic phone model, reading a comic strip on the Internet browser is arduous – the loading time stretches out, the images are too blurry and one cant zoom in to read the speech balloons: it’s an experience that might put off the user. Might have been a better idea to offer an application with a UI more suited for comics, the way Tata DoCoMo has planned. It is unfortunate that the comics can be read only on mobiles with GPRS connectivity and can not be downloaded. According to Airtel’s new head of m-entertainment, Saleem Mobhani, “More than a third of Airtel customers in India have GPRS enabled handsets.” But how many of Airtel’s customers (110 million mobile connections as of September 2009), use GPRS anyway?
There seems to be lack of clarity in the pricing – the company communique said it is a subscription based model: Rs. 10 for a week, allowing the user to read 10 comics. However, the Comics portal divvies up the comics into 2 types – premium and non-premium. Premium comics cost Rs. 10 per strip while one can read two non-premium comic strips for the same price. We have requested Airtel to clarify the pricing structure and list out which are the premium comics.
Update: The pricing is Rs. 10 per week for 10 comics and there is no distinction between premium or non-premium.
Compared to pricing offered in UK and USA by ROK comics, the weekly rate may seem economical. They have a monthly subscription costing $4 (Rs.180) in the US and £3 (Rs. 210) in the UK.