Sunday, May 09, 2010

Americans falling behind in world's mobile calling curve?

Since I've been in the market for a new cell phone (especially a Blackberry) this article caught my interest. It was found via Newsalert:
Despite our noisy fascination with iPhones and iPads, it turns out the United States is one of the least advanced places in the world when it comes to the way we use mobile devices. That is the conclusion of a new study by Sybase 365, which provides services for mobile messaging and mobile commerce.

In fact, when it comes to using mobile devices for things like text messaging and instant messaging, the survey indicates we’re getting blown away. Only 31.5 percent of people in the United States use a mobile device for text messaging and sending IMs—while in China 90 percent of people surveyed use mobile devices for those things.
Only 12.9 percent of users in the U.S. said they make use of mobile commerce services. In China the figure was almost four times that amount, at 49.2 percent. Across all of Asia, 34 percent of people surveyed said they use mobile devices for banking, versus only 13 percent in the United States. Asian customers are also more likely to make payments with their mobile phones than are Americans.
Why are we lagging behind? One reason, simply put, is that here in the United States we’re stuck with a legacy infrastructure, and in the developing world they’re starting from scratch. “They didn’t have the broadband infrastructure that we do, and didn’t have the PCs,” Beard says. Ironically, this has enabled them to roll out new systems that leapfrog over what ours can do.

There’s also the issue of habit. People in the United States have grown accustomed to doing banking online via the personal computer. In the developing world people are less likely to have PCs, so they’ve gone straight to the mobile phone as their platform of choice.

Beard expects the United States will catch up over time, as banks adopt the technology needed to deliver mobile commerce services, and people shift from PCs to mobile devices as their primary computer platform. The survey also indicated high interest in mobile commerce services in the United States.
Well sometimes I'm annoyed with people and their cellphones. People like to argue over their phones. They talk on the phone or they text while driving.

At the same time I think it's neat to check my banking account information over my cell phone.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the costs are for mobile data plans in China or other countries. However, I can tell you with a dead certainty that I will never use mobile web services such as tele commerce as long as they try to gouge me for $30 a month for each phone for a data plan. There's precisely nothing so important that I can't wait till I get home to do. Certainly there's nothing that would cause me to overpay that much for such a limited medium. Not even for an iPhone.

DOuglas2 said...

I just want to note as a former resident of Europe that "falling" does not appear anywhere in the linked article.
I'm not aware that the US was ever in any position other than the current one.
That said, the article does read a bit like "Even though most US homeowners possess at least one shovel, they are much less likely to use shovels for major groundwork such as water-line repair than homeowners in developing countries, preferring to rely on more costly implements instead."

Anonymous said...

i wonder what percentage of Chinese have cell phones and what the age group breakdown is. my guess is that mostly younger, urban people in China have cell phones and probably are very comparable to younger, urban Americans.

Anonymous said...

Well, a different way to frame this is that some parts of the world are still behind the US in internet access, and evolved other communication habits. In the 90s in the US, you could connect to the internet for a monthly ISP fee over flat-rate local lines - it was cheap, and moving towards ubiquitous. My understanding was that in Europe, home internet access didn't catch on in the same way, because access was metered - the longer you stay online the more you pay. SMS picked up the slack.

There are other places around the world that went straight to cell service because people would steal landlines for the value of the copper. I imagine people use these mobile services because unlike Americans, they have no other ways to use them - most of them aren't sitting at desks with internet-connected PCs.

The linked article seems mostly to be stupid and shallow spin to me, rather than informative. Newsweek's on the chopping block now, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

America has long been behind in this way. I think it's largely due to how good our phone system is. In most of the rest of the world plain old telephone service has always sucked. So mobile phones rushed into that vacuum, and people got used to them.

Ken Mitchell said...

The US was the ultimate "early adopter" for wired communications; every house has a phone. In other countries? Not so much! When I was in the military in the Philippines, the average VILLAGE had maybe two phones; it makes perfect sense that they'd skip laying copper and just jump right to cellular when the opportunity came along. Same thing in Africa, where NOBODY had wired phones; now with a few central towers, everybody is on wireless.

Same with PCs. I have four full PCs on my study table here; the average Chinese doesn't have ANY PCs, but DOES have a smartphone - and he can do as much with his handheld as I can do with my 4 (mostly antique!) computers. But why do I need a smartphone? I've got four computers here, PLUS my laptop that I take to work. AND a Crackberry, if I need a digital fix between here and there.

So no, it isn't surprising that "third-world" countries are so far ahead of us in smartphone usage; but add our first-word PCs to our first-world WIRED networks, and it doesn't take a whole lot of simple phone tech to make things work out even in the long run.

jayemarr said...

I have an iphone that I've used for banking -- and I don't like using it for that. I have a very nice PC (I'm sitting in front of it right now), so why would I use my phone for that?

The author seems to assume that everything we currently do on home computers will be done on hand-held devices in the future. That's an interesting idea, but not one that he's supported with any evidence.

Tom said...

China good. America bad.

blogbudsman said...

So in China, the government can track 90% of their people at any given moment. Cool.

Rich said...

In general - IM and texting in Europe and Asia is much cheaper than in the US. Also as has been mentioned they went from no phones, no internet connections to cell phones/ smart phones because the infrastructure was easier to put up. AS with our steel industry after WWII it is often easier to take advantage of current technology when you have nothing in place than when you have to replace everything.

kcom said...

The argument can be easily made that our usage patterns are different. That's a matter of objective facts.

As to whether we are "behind", that's a whole lot trickier, as others above have pointed out. It's a matter of judgment, and not just facts. There's an old saying about using the right tool for the right job. (Not to mention the one about when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) It seems we have more access options (not just hammers) and more choice on how to connect and take care of business. If I have a choice of doing banking on my PC and think it's easier and more practical on the PC because of the bigger screen and easier access to my local information, I'm going to do it that way. Does that mean I've lost in the competition to do banking with a phone? Perhaps, but it's a rather meaningless comparison.

Anonymous said...

Also, i'd note that we in the US use our cell phones for making phone calls far more than anywhere else in the world - in other parts of the world, it is cheaper to send a text rather than make a call - here, people are more likely to just make a call.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much housing and transportation choices factor into different cell phone usage patterns in the US. I'm a fairly typical American with a house in the suburbs who commutes to work by car. I can talk on a cell phone while driving, but can't do any task that would take my eyes off the road and/or both hands off the steering wheel. I have cable based broadband at home, gigabit ethernet at work, and complimentary Wi-Fi at many destinations, so paying for broadband on my cell phone adds little extra utility at a high cost.

Anonymous said...

For those who asked, most Chinese mobile phones are pre-paid, and mobile data is available pre-paid for soemthing like a penny a kilobyte. Adjusting into terms of prevailing wages, it would be something like 5c a kilobyte and 20c a minute voice, comparable to things in the US 10 years ago. No-one but no-one under age 40 doesn't have a cellphone, though the low-end of the market is filled by second-hand, re-furbs and fixer-uppers. For long-duration phone calls it is cheaper to go to any old hole-in-the wall δΈ² "sundry" shop for a land line.

It should be obvious to anyone who has spent time abroad why the US lags in mobile gadgets. The heavy hand of AT&T/Verizon/etc cripples the phones with software restrictions.

Post a Comment

Comments are now moderated because one random commenter chose to get comment happy. What doesn't get published is up to my discretion. Of course moderating policy is subject to change. Thanks!