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SMS Among Desired Features for Phone Upgraders

If the latest results from a new survey by wireless-industry researcher Telephia Inc. are any indicator, consumers want to do much more than talk on their wireless phones.

San Francisco-based Telephia, in conjunction with Harris Interactive , said its latest survey of consumers found a strong interest in a variety of features and services that go beyond just placing calls. The study found that about one third (31%) of current wireless subscribers ages 18 and older plan to acquire a new handset within a year. Despite current economic conditions, this shows essentially no drop off from reported plans to upgrade six months ago (32%) and is up notably from one year ago (27%).

Nearly one in five current subscribers, or 18%, intends to upgrade for advanced functionality, including services supported by next-generation data networks, up from about one in ten (11%) in 2001's fourth quarter.

Wireless Service Already Using Don't Use/Want
Send/rec. SMS messages 27.2% 39.9%
Address book apps. 40.4% 39.8%
Alarm clock 32% 33.5%
Downloadable ringtones 15.7% 49.4%
Send/rec. e-mail 15.3% 47.7%
Surf the Web/Net access 13.3% 38.5%
Receive text alerts 18.5% 30%
Those looking to upgrade have moved beyond viewing their phones simply as a device for making voice calls. Wireless users also view handsets as information management devices and as desirable tools supporting data applications. Those services desired by the greatest percentage of prospective phone upgraders are address book applications (80% either already using or don't currently have but want), voice recognition for dialing (74%), SMS (67%), alarm clock functionality (66%), and downloadable ring tones (65%).

Data services that show the most room for growth in adoption in the coming year include camera capabilities (1% currently use; 26% desire for new phone), photo viewing and multimedia functions (2% use; 30% desire), PDA functionality (3% use; 37% desire), music listening capabilities (3% use; 29% desire) and the ability to share information via an infrared port (4% use; 37% desire). Those carriers looking to upgrade to MMS and Java- or BREW-based services can especially benefit from consumers' desires to use those kinds of services.

To improve revenue streams, and to pay for network upgrades that will support such advanced services, wireless carriers need to target key customer segments with the services that will drive handset upgrades.

The biannual Telephia/Harris Interactive National Handset Report is based on an online study of more than 51,000 wireless subscribers and non-subscribers nationwide. Telephia and Harris Interactive conducted their most recent wave of the study in May 2002.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.