What do mobile consumers really want?

What do mobile consumers really want? It’s a question that troubles me and, when I’m sat in interviews or conference calls with service providers, a question that I continually pose myself. Would someone use this? Can I see my normal mobile user (“normob”) friends using this? Could I see it gaining widespread adoption?

I regularly place myself in the middle of normobs from all walks of life. It’s a critical requirement, I think, when you’re looking at high tech, highly sexy mobile applications, devices and services on a daily basis. You can get carried away and end it’s far too easy to end up drinking the industry’s (or, indeed, your own kool-aid).

This week Jonathan Jensen is pondering the issue and focuses on cost — a massively overlooked and highly influential motivator when it comes to normobs with a pathological fear of bill shock.

Over to Jonathan:

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What does a typical mobile consumer really want from their service? We know what the mobile operators are offering but does that really hit the spot with the Normobs out there (yes, there’s a theme here!). I know what I want but I’m far from being a typical consumer!

To get some answers I sat down my favourite Normob, Jo, and asked her if she was happy with her mobile service. The answer – generally yes, but …

Jo’s biggest issue is around tariffs.

She pays a fixed fee for a minutes and texts bundle which seems fair value, except … lots of stuff isn’t included.

She needs to call a 0800 number to place an order – that’s free from a landline but from a mobile it’s a chargeable call and it’s outside the tariff bundle.

She wants to send me a photo of something she’s seen in a shop – that’ll be extra because picture messages aren’t included.

She’s going to update Twitter by SMS – they use a 07 ‘mobile’ number that her operator has deemed is not only excluded from her SMS bundle but is charged at a premium rate of 25p! Instead she could go to the Twitter website and update there but that’ll be a chargeable data call – no idea what that’s going to cost.

Still, she can call me on my Truphone number – hang on that’s apparently not a ‘real’ mobile number so that’s extra too. And so it goes on.

Suddenly her tariff bundle is looking a bit flaky! Lots of stuff is excluded and Jo’s got no idea what her monthly bill is going to look like.

What Jo wants is to pay a fixed fee that includes all her usage up to a given value. If she hits the limit she can stop spending that month or pay a bit extra. If the monthly fee isn’t enough for her regular monthly expenditure then she can opt to pay a higher monthly fee.

What would also help Jo here would be weekly SMS alerts summarising her expenditure by calls, SMS and data so she always knows where she is.

She could probably go to her operator’s website and dig out the information but why should she? Surely her mobile operator could push the information out to her handset.

And handset manufacturers should also take note. Jo’s big handset gripe is around the T9 predictive text dictionary.

Why, after about 10 years of T9, can a user still not edit the dictionary? I’ve shown Jo the hack to delete the dictionary folder (when you’ve installed a S60 file browser) but that’s definitely outside the Normob world.

And while we’re on the subject of T9, why doesn’t it present the most used word for any given combination of letters instead of coming up with that bizarre word you used once.

So, something for both operators and handset manufacturers to think about; this is what one customer would really like to see.

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Just one customer. That’s what just one customer would like to see. If you sit down any normob and get them into the correct mindset, you’ll get similar kinds of feedback that Jonathan got from his friend Jo. It doesn’t take much — just a few pointed questions — to set off a waves of niggly complaints and annoyances.

When I read the paragraph relating to ‘fixed fee that includes ‘all her bill usage up to a given value’ I immediately thought T-Mobile UK Flext. That’s exactly what that plan offers. Although there are tons of exclusions such as 0800 numbers and so on. In this area I think the industry is unlikely to give a monkeys. If anything, the industry are dependent on this kind of bill farming as it’s where they’re able to make sizable ARPU increases in the short term. Alas, the short term view totally winds up the consumer making them highly resistant to trying anything that costs money. The industry would be far better served with their customers paying money for something they really want to use and value, rather than being stung for silly prices to 0800 numbers.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day. Jonathan, thank you for that!

You can read more from Jonathan at his site,

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

7 replies on “What do mobile consumers really want?”

I think the big issue for some people is the extra cost each month for extra bundles. Like Unlimited Web browsing Bolt On is £7.50 (which I have added for thr 1st time this month.) And also Unlimited Data is just as much. For people like me. Voice calls, txt and MMS are just about enough but also enjoy downloading stuff which can certainly run up the bill!
0800 numbers are certainly over priced. Since moving to O2 in January they are now somewhere between 15 & 25p p/m. And 0845 numbers are more that double. So that will be the only time that i have to use my landline. Our Mobile Operators will certainlyfind a way to rake in the money on the extra llittle things that we like to use from time to time.

What do consumers really want from the mobile device? Easy – the same thing you do! They want to have solutions and conveniences. They are traveling, but want their daily coffee and just want to quickly find the closest store location. They are on the way to an appointment and want a map/directions to help them get there. They want to quickly get the weather or a sports score when they are not near a television or the Internet. They want store coupons on their way to shop. They are placing a quick order or reservation. These are quick answers to their needs that add convenience to everyday life. They do not want to shop for a pair of shoes on a mobile device, which requires browsing and takes more time. They want quick, short solutions and conveniences for their daily lives. They want this via SMS or the mobile web. Simple, quick, short searches.

All I want is four phones with unlimited calling and text on one plan. Most important- clear connection and a phone I can drop in the sink under water that still works. I got it.

When I leave my computer, I want to turn off technology and connect to people in person.

We probably all know we waste too much, plastic, chemical etc etc, manufacturing phones generates carbon.

I want a phone that will work and last for 5 years to cut down on waste and carbon (rather than a new one every 18 months).

The cell phone companies shouldn’t be trying to create one perfect phone that will suit everyone’s needs, that’s impossible. Instead they need to determine what each market group wants and create a customized product for each one. Customization is how all products must become.

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