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A new study has found several barriers to mainstream adoption of mobile internet, finding that 76% of UK mobile users don't access the internet through their phones.

This is the finding of the six month Brandheld study by Essential Research. Barriers to adoption include handset limitations, perceived costs of mobile internet use, and the complexity of the technology.

Stats from the study

  • 60% of UK mobile users said they don't even own a mobile with internet access, while just 30% of this group are interested in getting one. 31% of smartphone owners have never used their phone to connect to the web, while 24% use it less than once a week and 8% tried but don’t intend to do so again.

  • More positively, 86% of current mobile internet users and 56% of non-mobile internet users report they would be willing to use services via their mobile phone. However, 57% who have tried to get online with a mobile and failed found the experience disappointing. 
  • Social networks are driving mobile internet usage, with 70% using social media services, including Facebook and Twitter, on their phones, compared to 79% who do so on their computers.
  • Checking real-time travel updates (33%) and tracking in-store offers (31%) were the most appealing features for those that don’t currently use their mobiles for internet access. 30% said that they would like their favourite supermarket to offer grocery services via mobile, while 29% are interested in accessing banking information from their handsets.

  • 47% of daily mobile internet users live in urban areas, while 42% of mobile internet users earn over £40,000 a year (household income) compared to 31% of non users. These daily mobile internet users are also more likely to spend more on their monthly mobile bills, 55% pay over £30 a month compared to 10% of non users.

Barriers to adoption of mobile internet services

There are a number of factors holding back mainstream adoption of mobile internet. As the stat above shoes, many have simply found the experience of accessing the internet via mobile phones underwhelming.

Alex Charlton of Essential picks out a few issues, including the often complicated portal homepages such as Orange World and Vodafone 360, that come with, mobile operators' mobile internet access:

A number of people are put off by portals, that are looking to sell to them, and just want to get out onto the general internet. These portals make it more difficult for people less familiar with the territory to understand. There is a general problem with proprietary interfaces and devices which make mobile internet access harder than it should be

The technology, diversity of handsets, and the terminology around mobile internet use, apps, wi-fi, 3G etc can be offputting for people who aren't tech-savvy.

Others simply don't see the need for mobile internet services, as they already have access to the internet on their computers. 62% said they didn't need mobile internet access for this reason, which suggests that the benefits and differences of using the internet on their mobiles (in store comparison shopping, searching for local services etc) need to be made clearer to consumers.

According to Alex Charlton, the way mobiles are sold to consumers is a big part of the problem:

For less knowledgeable consumers, the sales driven approach in mobile phone stores can be a hostile experience, a more consultative sales process is required which seeks to educate customers about the mobile internet features on their phones, and help them to understand the technology.

Graham Charlton

Published 22 January, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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