Aussie mobile users finally embracing rich phone content

The use of mobile applications and rich content is on the rise in Australia according to recent research.
The use of mobile applications and rich content is on the rise in Australia according to recent research.

The use of mobile applications and rich content is on the rise in Australia according to recent research.

The use of mobile applications and rich content is on the rise in Australia according to recent research. The latest report from the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA) on mobile phone usage shows that consumers increasingly use their handsets to take pictures and make videos, as well as share them with other people.

“We are witnessing the growth of the mobile phone in people’s lives as it starts to pack more ‘smarts’ and deliver on the promise of vibrant, on-demand information and entertainment”, says John Butterworth, CEO of the AIMIA.

Mobile phone users have come a long way since Martin Cooper made the first ever call on a 1kg portable phone in 1973. More than 35 years later, Australian mobile phone users are not only making voice calls and sending text messages, but also creating and sharing content, accessing news, weather, sports information and maps, buying games and downloading music.

“People are looking for a gamut of services much like we do on the PC”, said Dr Marisa Maio Mackay, the report’s author.

More than half of the AIMIA’s 2097 survey respondents had used their phones in the last 12 months to access photos, music, videos or blogs created by others. A third of the respondents said they had created content such as photos, music or videos to share with others.

“One of the more striking findings of the report”, said Maio Mackay, “is that a lot of people do not actually know if they have a 3G phone or not. This is a reflection that carriers are shifting their communication focus away from the 3G technology towards the types of services that the technology offers.

“The technology doesn’t mean anything to mobile phone users, rather it is what the technology can do and deliver which matters to them.”

The survey also revealed a huge increase in mobile phone users accessing maps and restaurant and cafe reviews from their handsets, with demand for location services and reviews increasing by 347 per cent and 174 per cent, respectively, over the last 12 months.

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Demand for location services has gone through the roof because Australians like practical applications, according to Maio Mackay.

While primarily using their mobiles to access news, weather and sports information, Australians were also found to be using their handset to increasingly access every type of information — from TV listings to comedy, adult entertainment, transport information and dating services.

The most popular items bought to use on mobiles this year were games and true tones; the least purchased were screensavers, logos, monotones, greeting cards, sound effects and videos.

According to Matthew Whittingham, Vodafone’s head of content and mobile Internet, the rise in content sharing and content creation and the use of more sophisticated mobile services stems from several factors. These include better handsets and operators investing in their networks, increasing their coverage and “demystifying data on the handset”. “We are getting to a tipping point”, said Whittingham. “A sea of change is going to happen in the next year.”

When AIMIA survey participants were asked about the kind of mobile content they wanted to see more of in the future, digital music and games were the most popular choices.

“Where people are heading is the idea of unlimited access, where they pay a flat fee for all services. People want more of everything rather than just specific services”, said Maio Mackay.

According to Gartner research director Nick Ingelbrecht, mobile games, mobile search, mobile TV and mobile news are all niche applications that while profitable may never reach mass adoption.

Gartner’s 2008 consumer mobile application survey found that 22.5 per cent of Australians used mobile news, sports and weather at least once a month, but outside those services, demand dropped quite a bit.

“We are looking at a segment of the user population rather than mass adoption of mobile applications and rich content”, says Ingelbrecht.