MobiK: Free ad-based SMS service, plus rewards, goes live (UPDATE: SHONK FACTOR 5)

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A new ad-based free messaging service has just gone live here in Australia (ie, at 10am today), called MobiK. Two big features: 1) free text messaging through a web interface and 2) a rewards program based on participating in research, activities and getting friends to join (y'know, like Amway!)

One thing is clear, you're going to need a critical mass of friends on board to make it worth the effort, but once you do you could score everything from easier to reach rewards like recharge cards and ringtones, up to iPods and consoles.

Of course, there are many pros and cons...

UPDATE (17-09-07): After a weird outage and then a reader complaint about unfulfilled reward claims, we've done some checking and it seems mobiK has recently gone what could be best described as 'pear-shaped'. If you can still use this at time of reading, best to only use as a free SMS source -- don't do it for the 'K'. We'll have more news in a new post when we can confirm exactly what is going down. The blessing / curse of the service is it is a member-to-member system, which stops anyone from spamming you, but it also means you really do need your crew on board if you are to get good value from the service. But again, it's free, so 'value' is pretty solid.

You also want to have a web-enabled phone to get the best value, so you can access the mobile version of the site to send outbound messages. Messages are limited to 120 characters, with a 40 character ad appended to it.

The good idea part of the ad system is that it is intended to be very targeted, so you'll see stuff you are actually interested in and that suits your age and lifestyle. The guys behind it all have already been running something similar in Asia (but they are actually Aussies - though at a briefing last week I found the CEO sounds JUST like Tarantino!) and they're confident they can get a good range of ads running.

How do you earn points? They'll invite customers that fit certain profiles to take part in surveys and market research, which will reward you with 'K', the reward currency. MobiK reckons savvy members could end up being able to cover their phone costs by redeeming for recharge cards, or just score some ringtone / wallpapers if they aren't too fussy, but for long-term savers you can go for big stuff like handsets, consoles, and iPods.

It's pretty clear too that 1K is worth 1c, with stuff like the PS3 listed at 99,900K.

I think this is one of the better free services I've seen, and unlike your average online reward program you're actually getting a good free service whether you earn many rewards or not. So what do you think?