Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

New phone features 'baffle users'

Children using mobile phones, BBC
Setting up a new mobile phone is no longer child's play.

The complexity of modern mobile phones is leaving users frustrated and angry, research suggests.

Some 61% of those interviewed in the UK and US said setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts.

Compiled by mobile firm Mformation, the survey found 85% of users reporting they were frustrated by the difficulty of getting a new phone up and working.

Of the 4,000 people questioned, 95% said they would try more new services if phones were easier to set up.

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Mformation spokesman Matthew Bancroft said users were frustrated by having to call an operator or look online for help.

"There is an enormous range of things modern phones are capable of doing but the paradox is that many people are not using these capabilities," he said.

Mr Bancroft said bad experiences turned people off trying to get more from their phone.

"If an application does not work once or twice, they just will not use it or try again," he said.

Some 61% of those questioned said they stopped using an application if they could not get it working straight away.

Mr Bancroft said setting up a new phone should take only 15 minutes but many people were spending an hour or more to get the handset to do what they wanted.

He added that most people wanted to do such tasks as browsing the web, reading e-mail, or sending picture messages, but the complexity of modern handsets was leaving them foxed.

Industry work on standards for basic handset operations could help the situation, said Mr Bancroft.

As phones packed in more processing power, he said, that computational ability could be used to anticipate what users were doing and help them find their way around the handset.

Geoff Blaber, director of devices, software and platforms at mobile analysts CCS Insight, said the problem of phone configuration was one operators were trying to tackle.

Many, he said, had invested in staff training and in-store help desks to get customers using more of the features on their phones.

Touch screen interfaces as seen on Apple's iPhone were showing how this could be done, he said.

Having icons for all a phone's available services at hand was better than burying them in a sub-menu, said Mr Blaber.

Some operators were also working hard to ensure that phones were configured before purchase so services switched on with the phone.

There were good business reasons for helping phone owners do more with their handset, he said.

"Operators are trying to move revenues away from a reliance on voice and text which are declining," he said.

"To make that transition they need to be sure that the services are identifiable and easy to configure and use," he added.

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