Owners of Wireless Devices Find Wireless Web ‘Appealing’

Few owners of wireless devices use the wireless Web, according to a study by Accenture, but that didn’t stop 40 percent of device owners from saying they found the wireless Web appealing.

The study was conducted online in the fourth quarter of 2000 among 3,189 residents age 18 or older who own a wireless device in the United States, Britain, Germany, Finland and Japan.

While use of the wireless Web varied widely among users surveyed among the nations — with the highest usage in Japan and the lowest in Finland and the United States — users in all five countries overwhelmingly view wired PC connections as the most viable option at present for accessing the Internet. In fact, the study found only 15 percent of the more than 3,100 respondents access the Internet through a wireless device, and on average, less than 1 percent use it to make purchases. On a country-by-country basis, the United States had the highest incidence of wireless purchasing, with 12 percent of wireless Web users actually making a purchase online compared to 9 percent in Germany, 7 percent in Japan, 6 percent in the Britain and 5 percent in Finland.

The vast majority of those surveyed are not using the wireless Web, because they believe it costs too much, screens are too difficult to read and the service is too slow. In the United States, Britain and Finland, more than 50 percent of the respondents reported the main reason for not accessing the Internet through their wireless devices was that they simply saw “no compelling reason to do so.”

Despite these limitations, however, the study showed roughly 40 percent of respondents in the United States and Europe still find the concept of the mobile Internet either “somewhat appealing” or “very appealing,” while fewer than 20 percent of the respondents considered it to be “unappealing.” And in Japan, where 81 percent of respondents said they access the Internet through a wireless device, fully two-thirds of respondents are attracted by the prospect of a mobile Internet.

Not surprisingly, the survey also found people who use the wireless Internet are more likely to use it for email, text messaging and receiving news headlines. When asked what types of location-specific services, products or information they would like to receive on their wireless devices, respondents across the five countries generally zeroed in on weather, restaurant, local community and travel information, as well as email and news headlines.

“This study shows that while people may not want to browse the Web extensively on their wireless device, they do want the ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to information and options for purchasing available through the mobile Internet,” said Richard Siber, partner, communications and high tech, Accenture. “And the booming growth rate of subscribers for Japan’s I-mode cellular service indicates there is a potentially huge market for mobile Internet access.”

The study also found that a surprisingly small percentage of wireless device users are concerned with privacy issues when using a wireless device to connect to the Internet. In the U.S and Japan, only 25 percent of respondents voiced concern about privacy when surfing the wireless Web, while fewer than 13 percent in each of the European countries had privacy concerns.

“Clearly, privacy is not a major impediment to development of the mobile Internet,” said John Beck, associate partner, Accenture’s Institute for Strategic Change. “The primary concerns we hear from users have to do with the technological limitations of the devices and services now on the market.”

According to eMarketer’s eWireless Report, which cites data from more than 100 research organizations and consultancies, the projections for wireless Internet subscribers and m-commerce revenues from various research firms are so disparate that it is virtually impossible to offer an informed projection for future usage.

The exact number of U.S. citizens using wireless Internet services is still very much an unknown, eMarketer found. Estimates also vary widely on the total value of wireless advertising spending in the United States.

What does seem to be agreed upon is that the basic use of wireless Internet services is similar across North American markets, with email and banking-related activities ranking among the services most used. In Europe, short messaging is sweeping the wireless Web by storm, with Germany leading the way and Italy right behind. In total, there were 15 billion short messages sent throughout the Continent during 2000.

The Japanese wireless data service known as I-Mode offers cheap Internet access with mobility: 42 percent of Japanese Internet users age 15 to 19 use I-Mode for email; 37 percent for voice mail; and 21 percent for Web access. Of Japanese users 40 to 44 years old, 44 percent use I-Mode for voice mail, 31 percent for email and 25 percent for Web access.

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