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Brits left cold by mobile internet

Apart from iPhone owners

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Less than a quarter of Britons use their phones to access the internet, a study has found. Almost 40 per cent of smartphone owners - the very folk you'd expect would want to surf the web on the move - have never done so, or gave it a go once, but won't do so again.

So much or all the hype surrounding internet-enabled smartphones such as the iPhone and Google’s Nexus One, says Essential Research, the company that talked to 2000 mobile phone owners about their internet usage habits.

The study was carried out during the first six months of 2009. The Nexus One wasn't available then, of course, but plenty of similar devices were.

Even so, of the 60 per cent of UK mobile phone owners who claimed they don't own a handset capable of connecting to the net, less than a third said they were interesting in getting a device that does.

And 31 per cent of smartphone owners never used their phone to connect to the internet - eight per cent had tried but said they won't in future. Almost a quarter - 24 per cent - go online from their handsets less than once a week.

Cost and ease of use are key barriers. Plenty of respondents had tried and failed to use the internet on a phone, either because it was too difficult or because the experience was worse than browsing on a computer.

The 24 per cent of phone users who do access the internet from their devices - among them the 37 per cent of smartphone owners who do so regularly - typically use the connection for social networking and instant messaging.

And most regulars are using iPhones, according to the mobile advertising specialist AdMob. During December 2009, it measured requests from mobile-oriented web ites and apps to serve ads to each of the key platforms.

Apple accounted for 71.5 per cent of requests from UK-based devices, followed by HTC (5.9 per cent), Nokia (5.7 per cent), Sony Ericsson (4.6 per cent), Samsung (2.9 per cent) and RIM (2.2 per cent). Apple's share was boosted by the iPod Touch, which isn't a phone. But even dropping that from the tally leaves the iPhone well ahead of other devices.

[We note that the numbers are skewed in Apple's favour since AdMob serves adds to applications as well as web sites, and, of course, the application market is best established on the iPhone.]

While there are rather more iPhones in use than, say, HTC Android handsets - which together made up almost all of HTC's share of AdMob serves - there are way more devices out there from the other major handset makers. That imbalance lends weight to Essential Research's claim that so few of them are used for internet access. ®

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