The fight for attention

01 Apr 2008

Despite manufacturers and operators packing ever more functions and features into mobile phones, the majority of consumers continue to stick with the basic phone functions.

According to a study conducted by TNS Global, Asia-Pacific mobile phone consumers use on average 4.4 phone features - slight lower than the global average of 4.6.

The TNS Global Telecoms Insight (GTI) study, which interviewed almost 16,000 respondents across 29 countries, found that Hong Kong consumers were the most sophisticated, using an average of 7.3 phone features, followed by Australians with 5.8. The average for mainland Chinese consumers was 4.5 features, just below the level in developed markets such as Korea, Taiwan and Japan (4.8-4.7). Indian consumers said they use just 3.1 features.

'Consumers across the region are not exploiting the full functionality of their mobile devices,' said TNS regional director for technology Evette Cordy. 'This could be a result of user-interface issues, lack of perceived need, or they simply are not aware of the features built into their handset. The imperative for the industry is to guide consumers toward these features, articulate the benefits and make them easy to use.'

The top four features in Asia Pacific are no surprise: SMS (used by 88% of respondents), games (71%), cameras (61%) and MMS (48%). Globally just 6% of those with cameras reported they don't use them, but 38% of phones still don't have cameras. In Asia Pacific the number of respondents using digital music players jumped from 36% in 2006 to 43% last year. The number of users saying they access their internet on their handsets dropped 8 percentage points to 34% from the year earlier, suggesting there are still major barriers to adoption, such as high costs and speed issues.

Of users accessing the mobile internet, the average number of minutes used per week varied greatly across the region. While the usage per week was similar for emerging Asia (169 minutes) and developed Asia (158 minutes), China users were second with 453 minutes of usage per week only to Italy (768 minutes). Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan were near the developed Asia average, but Korea lagged with an average of 109 minutes per week.

Usage of TV/video content increased across most of Asia, with the exception of Hong Kong, where just 20% of respondents reported using the services compared to 24% in 2006. The number of users in Australia and Korea almost doubled to 20% - more than twice the global average of 8%.

Downloading or viewing real-time TV services appear to have strong potential as 60% of non-users said that they are interested to try out these services in the future. However, evidence shows that lapsed users account for more than 50% of those who have tried the service, suggesting that a poor customer experience has disillusioned consumers. 'The high rate of lapsed usage of TV and video mobile services indicates that the industry has not yet succeeded in delivering a satisfactory service that offers incremental benefits compared with desktop or TV options,' explained Cordy.

Although mobile IM has only an 11% adoption rate in Asia Pacific, the application has the highest potential for growth of all functions offered, with 55% of those surveyed saying they will likely use it more in the future.

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