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Smartphone Wi-Fi Demand Growing

Nearly half of Wi-Fi capable smartphone owners use the service daily to improve access speeds.

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U.S. consumers' appetite for Wi-Fi capabilities on their smartphones is growing, according to mobile wireless software provider Kineto Wireless. The study of 330 smartphone users found that 78% are interested in "five bars of coverage in the home or in the office," and would use a Wi-Fi application that would deliver the better service, according to the April 2010 survey.

Eighty-eight percent said they would be interested in a discounted calling plan from their mobile operator when the phone is connected to Wi-Fi, the survey found. Of people who own smartphones with Wi-Fi capabilities, 43% use the service daily, according to the survey, and 45% of respondents said it is because Wi-Fi provides easy Internet access, while 43% said it is faster than cellular network service. Wi-Fi on smartphones was "annoying" to 24% percent of respondents since it only works in certain locations, which Kineto attributed to "a desire to use Wi-Fi more broadly."

Among the respondents, 30% were Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry smartphone users and 27% said they owned an Apple iPhone. AT&T was the carrier for 48% and 11% were T-Mobile customers, Milpitas, Calif.-based Kineto said.

"Consumers in the U.S. are clearly interested in taking more advantage of the Wi-Fi on their smartphones in order to improve mobile service and save them money," said Mark Powell, VP and general manager of Kineto's client business unit, in a statement. "Mobile operators have distinct market opportunities to reduce churn, improve service quality, and keep customers satisfied by enhancing their use of Wi-Fi."

A separate study conducted in June 2010 examined Wi-Fi interest in the United Kingdom, and found that 74% of Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone users wanted improved indoor 3G coverage at home or in the office. In addition, 80% of those owners said they would be interested in having their mobile operator offer a discounted calling plan when the phone is connected to Wi-Fi.

Half of the 2,200 U.K. respondents said they use their Wi-Fi daily, with 40% indicating it is because Wi-Fi provides faster Internet access and half responding that it is easier. The iPhone is the most widely owned smartphone -- with or without Wi-Fi -- in the U.K., used by 33% of the respondents, followed by 20% who said they own Nokia devices.

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