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Mobile phones, features, uses proliferate

Apr 20, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Mobile phones will displace PCs as the top Internet access platform, connect increasingly with home networks, and within five years, serve as electronic wallets, according to recent reports from several market research firms. Additionally, phone shipments continue to grow fast, fueled by both replacement business and developing markets.

Phones as top Internet access devices

In its annual study of Internet trends, global market research firm Ipsos Insight says PCs are still the top Internet client. However, the near ubiquity of mobile phones, combined with their growing Internet capabilities, means that soon, more globally surveyed respondents are likely to report having used a phone to browse the Internet, at least once, than a PC.

Ipsos reports that 95 percent of respondents surveyed in Japan have mobile phones, followed by South Korea (94 percent), China (93 percent), France (85 percent), Germany (83 percent), the U.K. (79 percent), Mexico (78 percent), the U.S. (75 percent), Brazil (73 percent), India (67 percent), Russia (63 percent), and Canada (62 percent). Only urban residents were surveyed in Mexico, China, Brazil, and Russia.

Overall, 28 percent of mobile phone owners surveyed globally reported browsing the Internet with a “wireless device.” This figure was up from 24 percent last year, with growth driven by respondents over the age of 35. Text messaging and email use were also up, with 52 percent reporting sending text messages and 37 percent reporting sending or receiving email with their phones.

Ipsos's survey suggests that Internet browsing with wireless devices is most popular in Japan, where 40 percent of respondents report having done it. The U.K. ranked second, at 29 percent, followed by the U.S. and South Korea with 26 percent. Next came Canada (19 percent), Germany and France (18 percent), Mexico (16 percent), China (10 percent,), Brazil (8 percent), Russia (7 percent), and India (5 percent).

Growth in mobile device browsing was led by France, the U.K., and Japan. Japan's survey-leading 40 percent affirmative rate doubled that from 2003 results, Ipsos says.

Brian Cruikshank, SVP of Ipsos Insight's technology and communications practice, commented that “Accessing the Internet on a wireless handheld device is no longer a novelty.”

Additional details are available in the Ipsos report, The Face of the Web.

Replacement and adoption driving mobile market growth

More than 900 million mobile phones will ship in 2006, according to ABI Research's Mobile Devices Research Service. Growth will be fueled by a healthy replacement market, as well as ongoing net subscriber contributions from developing markets. ABI earlier reported that the mobile phone industry recorded its two billionth subscriber in September of 2005.

ABI says replacement rates are rising, as a result of new product segments that target affluent buyers. For example, a relatively new “slim phone” segment is expected to account for some 200 million shipments.

Stuart Carlaw, a principal analyst at ABI, said, “The success of Motorola's RAZR has spurred a whole new segment aimed at high fashion and slim design.”

Other emerging segments include dedicated music and camera-centric devices, as well as “operator branded handsets,” according to ABI.

Meanwhile, developing markets will also contribute to growth, ABI added, although it suggested that “net additions-related handset shipment contributions are starting to slow.”

Jake Saunders, director of global forecasting, stated, “The market in 2006 will be fuelled by 3G and low cost handsets, and manufacturers addressing both of these segments look set to gain share.”

This likely includes marketshare leader Nokia, Saunders notes — although ABI earlier reported Nokia's share of the smartphone market to be eroding.

Additional details are available in ABI's report, Handset Market Segmentation — The Rise of the Slimphone.

Mobile phones connect to homes

Converged mobile and home network products represent a “key frontier” in the “connected home” market, and one that could be “disruptive” to carriers, according to another ABI market research finding.

Examples of converged mobile/home products include dual-radio routers that connect WiFi-enabled home PCs to the Internet, via high-speed mobile Internet services such as Sprint's EV-DO Power Vision Network. Linksys already offers such a device, ABI says.

Converged mobile/home products also include a variety of products aimed at enabling mobile users to access home-based computing and content resources, such as premium video content. These systems, ultimately, could prove especially disruptive to carriers, ABI says, by enabling people to access cable and satellite TV content on the go, rather than paying carriers directly for similar content.

Michael Wolf, principal analyst of broadband and multimedia at ABI, stated, “In recent months we have seen a number of announcements and proof of concept demonstrations from major players in the mobile and consumer electronics markets that tie the consumer's mobile devices to the home network. Whether they are more basic 'cache and carry' solutions such as Motorola's Follow Me TV, or more evolved products such as systems from Sling Media and Orb Networks for transferring live TV, cached video, and music content to mobile phones, mobile devices are fast becoming critical emerging clients on the media network in the home.”

Wolf added, “The media network has evolved because consumers want to be able to connect to all the devices in their lives and access all their content. The merging of home and wide area wireless networks is the next natural step in this evolution.”

More details are available in the latest update to ABI Research's subscription-based Home Networking Research.

Forget M-commerce; put your money on phone-wallets

M-commerce, a mobile transaction concept touted in the 90s, failed to catch on. However, by 2011, up to 25 million subscribers in North America could be using their phones as mobile wallets, reports high-tech market research firm In-Stat.

Compared with m-commerce, the mobile wallet is more versatile, In-Stat says. In addition to mobile transactions, it can be used for membership cards, loyalty cards, identification cards, and other items commonly carried in wallets.

An In-Stat survey of U.S. consumers found one-third to be interested in the concept of phone-wallets, while another third were indifferent, and the remaining third uninterested. Some 72 percent expressed concerns about additional fees, while others expressed concerns about security and privacy, and lost phones.

Phone-wallets are already common in Japan, where Berg Insight reported last summer that 30 million handsets with contactless chips have been used to pay for items in seven million shops.

In the U.S., adoption of the technology rests not only on consumer interest, but on choosing a wireless technology. In-Stat Analyst David Chamberlain states, “There are several technologies that could enable mobile wallet operations of handsets, including Near Field Communications (NFC), Radio Frequency (RFID), bar codes, and visual recognition. Standardization efforts around NFC may give that system the edge.”

Additional details are available in In-Stat's report, Mobile Wallet: More than M-Commerce.

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