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AP users shun advanced mobile services

Service operators and mobile phone vendors have to do more to educate the market on the value proposition of such services, says IDC.
Written by Jeanne Lim, Contributor

The adoption of advanced services other than text messaging, such as mobile phone payment and mobile e-mail, have yet to reach noteworthy levels of usage in the Asia-Pacific region, said research company IDC.

This is despite the proliferation of content-rich mobile data service offerings in the region, according to IDC’s latest survey in 2005 to understand user perceptions and usage patterns in the wireless handheld market.

The survey covered 4,056 urban Internet users across seven key Asia-Pacific countries, namely in Australia, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Karen Rondon, senior analyst at IDC Asia-Pacific's telecommunications division, said in a statement Friday: "Improved adoption of different mobile data services will go hand-in-hand with the pervasiveness of mobile handsets capable of supporting such services as well as ease-of-use."

"The challenge therefore lies with service operators and mobile phone vendors to educate and accustom the market to the value proposition of such services, and mobile devices that come with affordable price tags," she added.

The study also noted that mobile phone penetration saw a dramatic growth across the Asia-Pacific region over the last few years. In 2005, 90.2 percent of respondents owned mobile phones, compared with 80.2 percent reported in the previous year.

In terms of mobile phone ownership, Australia and Singapore showed the highest growth rates growth at 11 percent, while growth rates in Hong Kong and Taiwan declined by three percentage points, reflecting the saturation of the mobile phone market.

According to IDC, Hong Kong and Taiwan registered the highest level of mobile penetration as of 2004, and it was not uncommon for users to own more than two mobile phones.

This year’s survey also saw a marked preference among users for mobile phones with color screens over those with black-and white displays. Korea recorded the highest penetration of color display phones, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong. China, Australia and Taiwan also recorded notable penetration of color display mobile phones.

Smartphones with PDA ownership remained minimal across all countries at less than 5 percent penetration.

"Operators, vendors and content providers will be heartened to learn that more than 50 percent of the users have a less-than-three-year phone replacement cycle. This augurs well for the progressive introduction of [more sophisticated] phones that offer more feature-rich services," said Rondon.

SMS still reigns
Meanwhile, short-message service (SMS) remained the most popular mobile data application, with 65 percent of the users sending text messages everyday. Applications such as handset personalization services, the playing of offline games on mobile phones, and the sending of camera-phone photos showed encouraging take-up.

Survey findings indicate that over 20 percent of users download content such as icons, screensavers, logos, and ringtones, send camera-phone taken photos, and play offline games, with their mobile phones at least once a month.

More than 10 percent of users utilize information services, instant messaging services, and participate in voting events, via their mobile phone.

IDC noted that the Asia-Pacific region’s mobile telecommunications market remains highly diverse in terms of pace and development, as reflected by the differences in mobile handset ownership and mobile data usage.

For example, premium SMS and multimedia messaging service (MMS) for all content types are most popular in Malaysia, Australia and Singapore, while China users are more selective, and are inclined to use SMS or MMS services to receive news and sports updates.

Sending photos taken by camera phones appeal most to Korean users while Australian respondents prefer downloading MP3 files and short video clips.

IDC expects a transition form 2G to 3G networks in the advanced markets in the Asia-Pacific region in the next few years. These high-speed networks, combined with the influx of handsets with color displays coming out of China and Taiwan, and a larger pool of content offerings will boost mobile data services adoption to the next level, said the research company.

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