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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Cost 'barrier' to future phones
The social context in which mobiles are used will have to be taken into account if future phones are to succeed.

Man on mobile phone
What do we really think of our mobile phones?
This is the conclusion of a report from think-tank The Work Foundation's i-society project, which looks at how technologies such as broadband and mobile usage impact people's everyday lives.

Authors of the report spent time with four families to find out how real people interact with their mobiles.

The results will make sobering reading for phone companies on the verge of launching expensive, data-rich mobile services.

Slow take-up

"There is a myth that talk is cheap. In fact, for most people, talk remains an expensive worry that needs to be kept under control," said Max Nathan, co-author of the MobileUK report.

"Our research suggests that the mobile industry must remember how important cost is to most people who buy and use mobile phones," he added.

Co-author James Crabtree thinks that impending third generation phone services will be taken up slowly.

"Explosive growth of 3G is extremely unlikely," he said.

"It will be steady at best and more like the take-up of broadband services which happened gradually," he added.

The study also found that families came up with informal rules about when it was acceptable to use mobile phones.

Often the amount of money spent on mobile calls was the source of family arguments and phones were given to children as a way of introducing them to controlling their finances.

It was also found that families tended to share mobile phones, especially to use up free talk time.

Damage done by Wap

The report concluded that, rather than becoming enthusiasts in the way early adopters tend to be, most people were pragmatic about the technology in their lives.

"MobileUK is a reality check for the industry - new technology only changes lives when people find it useful and cost-effective," commented Neil Holloway, Managing Director of Microsoft UK.

John Fletcher, a senior consultant at telecoms analyst firm Analysys believes the experience of Wap has been particularly damaging for third generation phones.

"Wap was foisted upon consumers with promises that left people cynical and sceptical," he said.

And firms will have an uphill struggle convincing people to spend more money on services such as picture and video messaging.

"Firms will not get people spending four or five times what they do now on simple telephony services. There will have to be something much more interesting," he said.

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