Users want mobile video, for free

Freely available video is among the top three applications desired by mobile phone users, reveals Ovum survey.

While mobile video is among the most commonly consumed applications, mobile phone users are still hesitant when it comes to paying for such content, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

Conducted by research firm Ovum, the study focused on consumer trends regarding wireless multimedia, broadband access, consumer devices and social networking, and compared end-user patterns in the Asia-Pacific region against those from the United States and Europe. Over 1,000 consumers each in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States were polled, as well as 500 respondents each from China, Japan and Singapore.

Because the survey was conducted online, Ovum highlighted that respondents in some of the countries were likely early adopters of new technologies. For example, China's mobile penetration--at 40 percent--is low compared to Western markets, but mobile phone ownership among the survey's Chinese respondents was high at 98 percent.

Video and TV came in only third, after music and games, as the most commonly used content, which Ovum said was "disappointing" given that video has been available for some years, while mobile TV has been available for a couple of years.

"Significant sums of money have been invested to develop services, but there are no real signs yet that users want to watch video and TV on their phones," Ovum said in a press statement. "This will be one to watch in future surveys."

Not willing to pay
Few respondents also indicated a willingness to pay for mobile TV or blockbuster films, though some said they would receive advertisements in exchange for free content.

Ovum analyst Nathan Burley said while increasing mobile video and TV usage provided significant benefits to operators and others along the value chain, there is no "silver bullet" to increase revenues in this space.

"Some obvious ways to improve usage include better content availability, more video-friendly devices--for example, larger screens--better user experience such as channel changing, program guides and searchable content, more viewing options like live streaming, video-on-demand and podcasts, lower pricing or free content based on advertising, and integration with other TV platforms," Burley told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

The survey also found that respondents in China, Singapore and Korea frequently used their phones to listen to music and play games. But while these mobile devices were less likely to become substitutes for MP3 players in China, the truth was the opposite for Singapore, which Burley suggested was "likely due to the high proportion of high-end mobile devices in the Singapore market".

In Japan, the second-most frequently used application on the mobile phone was e-mail, with 77 percent of respondents using it on a weekly basis. "This does not really come as a surprise, given that e-mail is [preferred] instead of SMS in Japan," Ovum said.

In all other markets surveyed, the number of mobile consumers using e-mail on a weekly basis was comparatively lower: 22 percent in China, 14 percent in Singapore, 11 percent in the United States, and less than 10 percent in all other markets.

"However, we would expect this to grow significantly as more and more people want to access their e-mail messages while on the move," Ovum said.