Smartphone business believes its own hype

A study by a media research company, Essential Research, dispelled some widely held myths about smartphones and the mobile internet. The authors effectively accused the mobile industry of believing its own hype.

The study took place in the UK over the last six months of 2009 and a wide cross-section of adults were contacted. The overall conclusion is that ordinary people aren’t rushing to acquire smartphones and surf the mobile internet.

Take these stats as an illustration of the problem. “[Taking] upwardly mobile web users and owners of smartphones, one third (31 percent) have never used their phone to connect to the web; a quarter (24 percent) use it less than once a week and eight percent tried it but don’t intend to do so again.”

So despite the perception that the young and trendy are buying the likes of iPhones and Android handsets, even these people aren’t truly hooked on the mobile internet.

Techeye thought the most telling revelation came when Essential Research tried giving smartphones to ordinary people. The handsets appeared to include two iPhones; an HTC Hero; a Blackberry Bold and a Nokia E71.

Only one person wanted to hang onto the handset after the trial and even he appeared to be a previous iPhone users.

The impression given was that the latest smartphones – with their complex UIs – are far too daunting for the average person. Another strong message which came out of the research is that handset vendors and mobile operators are striving too hard to ‘own’ the mobile internet.

One young lass, queried why her Nokia’s browser came chokka-full of bookmarks for sites she’d never heard of and had no intention of ever visiting.

Essential Research’s advice was that the industry shouldn’t try to promote the mobile internet at all! Firstly, it is slower and unfriendly and secondly it costs money when people have already paid for their broadband.

The way forward, it seems is to promote services. Such as access to real-time travel updates or vouchers which saved money while people were out shopping.

As Alex Charlton, the lead author of the report, observed, “The Mobile Internet has bit of image problem.”