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Mobile Internet Not Enough For U.S. Cell Phone Users

The wish list includes longer battery life, larger screen size, more memory, and improved data input, a Nielsen survey found.
U.S. cell phone subscribers are the most active users of the mobile Web, but they yearn for unlimited data packages and longer battery life for their devices, according to a report issued Wednesday from the Nielsen Company.

The market research firm's mobile division survey found 15.6% of U.S. mobile phone subscribers access the Internet on their phones. U.K. subscribers followed with 12.9% and Italian users with an 11.9% penetration rate.

The survey of 16 nations turned up some surprising results and insights. Nokia, the world's mobile phone volume champion supplying 40% of the world's mobile phones, took a back seat in Internet access to Motorola's RAZR family of phones, which account for 10% of U.S. mobile phones used to access the Web. Moreover, that figure was more than twice the percentage chalked up by Apple's iPhone, which recorded 4%.

The RAZR and the RAZR2 represented the heaviest Web access percentage worldwide -- 11%. However, Motorola has been searching in vain in recent months for a worthy successor to the RAZR and so problem-riddled is Motorola's mobile devices unit that the company has been trying to unload the entire operation.

The iPhone showed up in second place among U.S. users in the Nielsen report and the survey revealed that a whopping 82% of iPhone users access the Web, representing five times the percentage of average mobile subscribers. "We believe the device's impact is amplified by the increased awareness its marketing campaign and buzz has driven," the report said of the iPhone. "As a result, demand for advanced data services and more robust mobile media-focused handsets has increased."

New iPhone models are slated to become available Friday and the early reviews note that the iPhone batteries -- which are sealed and can't be easily swapped with replacement batteries -- don't supply enough power for extended use on AT&T's new 3G network. In that sense, the iPhone batteries underline the findings of the Nielsen Mobile report, which said 38% of mobile Internet users cited battery life as their most desired enhancement.

Two BlackBerry models, the 8100 series, and the 8800 series, also accounted for a total of 4% of the Internet access devices that were shipped.

"What more do mobile Internet users want from their devices," the Nielsen researchers, led by Nicholas Covey, asked rhetorically? "Mostly longer battery life." After that, the surveyed audience device wish list was: larger screen size (22%), more memory (21%), and improved data input (20%).

The researchers also found that most wireless subscribers -- numbering about 95 million in the U.S. -- who have been paying for Internet access don't use the feature. While calling the non-use of the Web access feature "alarming," Nielsen said many users may simply be unaware they have Internet access included in their monthly package. Nielsen said year-over-year Web access growth was 28% with average subscribers paying $11 a month for their Web access service -- up nearly 20% from the previous year's first quarter of $9.22.

The Web channels used most were led by Internet browsing and searching followed by mobile e-mail. Yahoo Mail was the leading Mobile Web channel use followed by Google searches.

"Mobile Internet is today at a point of sufficient mass to sustain a chain reaction of rapid growth in consumer adoption and, in turn, mobile Internet marketing," according to the report. "Mobile Internet adoption reached critical mass through a confluence of device availability, network speeds, content availability and, most importantly, consumer interest."

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