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November 07, 2006

In-Stat: Consumers Still Carrying Around Multiple Wireless Devices

In the wireless industry today, there often is a philosophy that, if you build an all-in-one mobile device, the masses will flock to it. But it turns out that may be wishful thinking rather than the reality of what consumers are seeking.
A new study out today by In-Stat find that most wireless users carry redundant devices. When it comes to mobile phones, for example, 15 percent of consumers have two.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of respondents to In-Stat’s (News - Alert) survey said they regularly carry around both a digital camera and a camera phone. And, more than 50 percent of respondents who own multimedia phones lug around MP3 players, too.
Apparently, when it comes to the various functions that mobile devices can perform—voice communications, e-mail, texting, digital photography, playing music, etc.—consumers are voting with their wallets by choosing the best device for each task rather than one that does everything.
“It is important to understand this customer behavior if the wireless industry is to offer commercially successful solutions,” In-Stat analyst Bill Hughes said in a statement.
When it comes to advanced mobile phone features, In-Stat also found that business users (representing 43 percent of all respondents) were the ones interested in the increased productivity that SmartPhones can provide.
The question begs to be asked: are consumers carrying around multiple devices because it’s inherently easier to use one device for one function only, or because the all-in-one devices available don’t meet their needs?
In-Stat’s research offers some insight into this topic. In the survey discussed here, many of the wireless users queried said they consider additional capabilities to be a perk rather than a tool that provides enhanced, real-time data.
While almost half of the respondents said they believe that a SmartPhone could cut down on the number of devices they carry, but indicated they end up carrying a PDA regardless.
It could be that SmartPhones and other enhanced wireless devices should be marketed to business users rather than the average consumer. In a recent, related report In-Stat found that SmartPhones are most popular in the U.S. among business travelers who spend at least $300 per month on wireless services and are on the road at least 30 percent of the time.
It also could be, as suggested above, that the services provided with enhanced wireless devices simply aren’t robust enough to make their cost worthwhile. For example, ABI Research recently reported that only of late are vendors of applications for navigational devices wising up to the types of services people truly find useful.
The primary challenges faced by wireless service providers and vendors in the navigation sector, ABI said, include poorly defined business models, lack of standardized data, and a dearth of handset-based devices that work in and out of vehicles.
All of this seems to indicate that if consumers are going to be enticed with SmartPhones and other all-in-one devices, manufacturers and service providers need to re-evaluate both their offerings and their marketing techniques.
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.


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