Mobile Phone Users: It’s All About Text Appeal

In an age where mobile phones sport ever-faster Web access, support for downloadable music and add-on applications, phone features like text messaging might seem downright old-fashioned.

That’s why it all the more surprising that it’s text messaging that remains users’ must-have feature, according to a study released this week from Amplitude Research.

In a survey of mobile phone buyers about their most-desired device features, text messaging landed at No. 1, with 73 percent of the vote.

Still, a number of more recent phone enhancements fared well enough to give text messaging something of a run for its money, suggesting that efforts by carriers and handset makers to push advanced features may pay off before too long.

Built-in cameras held the second-place spot in most-desired features, with 67 percent of the vote. E-mail came in third, with 63 percent, followed by Internet access at 61 percent. Music capabilities were the most-wanted feature for 34 percent of respondents, while video received 33 percent.

Better battery life, often thought to be a major consideration in mobile device purchases, was cited by only 0.5 percent as the key deciding factor.

The results suggest that while text messaging currently trumps the advanced features found in mobile phones like the Apple 3G iPhone, Google’s upcoming Android devices and the Blackberry Bold, demand for features like e-mail and Web access are robust among consumers.

In addition to being a sought-after feature, accessing e-mail also proved to be a regular activity for users. Forty-one percent of respondents send or check e-mail at least once to five times daily. Almost 16 percent use e-mail between six and 10 times a day and 14 percent do e-mail more often still. About a third, 28 percent, said they never use mobile e-mail.

Other types of mobile applications are also seeing surging popularity among consumers, Amplitude found.

A good portion of respondents said they are comfortable customizing their mobile phones with new applications and services, with 39 percent having downloaded games, online photo tools, stock tickers and business applications onto devices. Just over 21 percent have added at least six or more applications.

When asked to pick their favorite applications, 42 percent opted for stock tracker software, while 36.6 percent wanted sport tickers. Less popular downloads were business software, at 10.3 percent, productivity apps, with just 7.5 percent of the vote, and utilities, at 4.8 percent.

The growing prominence of e-mail and Web access features could be good news for handset makers heavily focused
on developing advanced applications, and wireless carriers investing in 4G technologies to deliver better and faster mobile connectivity.

The survey’s results also bode well for the mobile browser market, which is predicted to grow to 1.5 billion units by 2013.

Vendors are also gambling that interest in mobile media continues to strengthen, with handset players like Nokia addingnew video-related capabilities to their mobile devices.

Another feature that continues to gain popularity is Bluetooth, which is the technology most-used by consumers for hands-free control their mobile devices while driving.

The decade-old wireless networking topped the list, with 62 percent of respondents saying they preferred to use Bluetooth accessories for hands-free operation, versus 51 percent who opt instead for a standard hands-free microphone.

Only about 12 percent said they would use voice recognition software while driving, and 18.5 percent have no desire to talk, text or cruise the Web while driving.

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