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Good cellphones make good delegates

Democratic National Convention

It must be tough to be a delegate at the Democratic National Convention –- you have to know when to scream for Hillary, when to scream for Obama and when not to scream at all. And then you have to learn the art of shaking hands and networking while listening for really important announcements such as someone somewhere is offering free pizza.

Life may be easier if you have a swanky cellphone. At least, that’s what a bunch of companies are trying to convince you as they push their mobile-related products in Denver. There's the service that allows you to text questions and get answers from real live people. The one that allows you to watch MSNBC and other political TV shows on your phone. The service that lets you listen to L.A. radio show host Stephanie Miller and other pundits on your phone.

But wait a minute. Political conventions are where people go wave signs and yell themselves silly. Are they really a place to try to push new technology on people who are probably, let’s face it, not early adopters? Well, yes.

"Political conventions are the hotbed of people with passionate opinions," said Erik Schwartz, chief executive of Foneshow, a year-old service that lets people listen to radio shows on their cellphones. People with passionate opinions like to be well-connected to other people with passionate opinions, he said. That's why his service launched a PR blitz for the convention, pushing the fact that Miller's show is available on Foneshow. Just sign up for the texts and listen to the radio on your phone -- while still listening for announcements about free pizza.

Delegates can watch TV if they’re bored during the convention too. MediaFLO, the wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm that provides mobile TV to AT&T and Verizon Wireless subscribers, just added ...

... CNBC, MSNBC and Fox News to the FLO TV platform -- "just in time for the conventions," as one of its spokesmen said.

Delegates also apparently like to be easily connected to the Internet so they can prove themselves right. That's the idea behind ChaCha, a service that provides answers when people text in questions.

"We've had a huge uptick in the number of people calling and texting about the convention," said Susan Marshall, the company’s vice president of marketing. During Hillary Clinton's speech, the site received three times as many questions as usual, including ones about how many pairs of pants she owns. Other popular questions during the convention: Why isn't Al Gore at the Democratic Convention; how do you get to attend the Democratic National Convention; and what race is Barack Obama? Delegates probably know the answer to the second one.

Answers by text, radio, TV -- what more could a busy delegate want on her cellphone? Accessories, of course! Don't worry, there's a company doing that too. First Data is unveiling stickers and tags that can be posted on phones and serve as a "payment solution."

The Colorado company says the Pepsi Center "will serve not only as a focal point of American politics, but also as an arena for the future of how people will pay for goods and services."

People with the tags can buy refreshments with the tags. Just make sure you don’t spill that Coke on your cellphone.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

 
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