LONDON — Developers are feverishly pitching mobile operators on next-generation smartphone applications at the recent Symbian Expo. However, according to research released at the conference, users would gladly trade in advanced features for simpler devices and easier payment options.

While operators

consider video, picture messaging and other data services their primary means of competing in the market, 73 per cent of users don’t consider those options important, Cap Gemini vice-president Kieren Sheedy told a conference session audience. In fact, many users said they would accept fewer data services in favour of a cheaper phone or more convenient purchasing plan. Some 40 per cent, for example, said they would be satisfied if they were only able to pay their bills with their phone, and 36 per cent said they would be happy if their only data feature was online purchasing.

Monitoring costs

The main concern for most users is being able to monitor their mobile phone costs, Sheedy said. “”Customers aren’t satisfied with (the ease of paying) and operators don’t care,”” he said. “”Not a good place to be if you’re an operator.””

While operators sort out their payment methods and pricing models, several application developers said they feel confident they can generate demand for their mobile data services. Purple Ace, for example, is exhibiting Ripple Premium Client, a way to publish or manage content through their cellphones.

John Ilott, a Purple Ace Consultant, said subscribers would use Ripple Publish, for example, to transfer photos or videos they take on their cellphones to a network store provided by an operator. They pay a fee to send the content, but Ripple Publish allows the subscriber to charge those who view their content.

“”You create a community,”” Ilott said. “”The operators have been trying to figure out how to make money with all this, but the subscribers will want to use the services if they think they can make money themselves.””

Cognima, meanwhile, is offering a similar service where photos or videos can be uploaded to a media album or mobile blog. The London-based firm has so far sold the service to Fuji and has interest from others, according to software engineer Hassan Ali.

“”You don’t have to have a network operator to launch a mobile service,”” he said.

Cap Gemini’s survey showed concerns over the growing complexity of many devices. Sheedy said 35 per cent of the 25 to 34 age group would prefer a simpler phone, as would 60 per cent of the 35 to 44 age group. While it might be expected that those over 40 would shy away from advanced handsets, Sheedy was surprised by the responses the younger group.

Though Cap Gemini conducted most of its research among consumers, Sheedy said the concerns mirror those of enterprise purchasers, who still see voice as their primary application.

“”If you have an application that makes up 75 per cent of your revenue, you know you should have your best product marketing manager on voice, but that’s not what’s happening,”” he said. Cost concerns remain high among corporate buyers, he said.

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