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Great Expectations: Would You Look for a Touchscreen on a $50 Mobile Phone?

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An ABI Research survey on mobile phone users' age related feature and price assumptions found nearly half of the respondents in the 40 59 age bracket expected a touchscreen on a US$50 mobile device. That survey, conducted in February, 2009, aimed to discover what features people have on their phones, which are actually being used, and what features people of different ages expect to find on cellular handsets at various price points.

The top features, present on over half of all respondents' phones, were a camera, Internet access, the ability to play music, to record video, to send and receive email, and to do instant messaging. A significantly higher proportion of those aged 18-29 had these features, and some of a dozen others, in their phones. According to research practice director Kevin Burden, "We found the classic 80/20 usage pattern: about 80% of those surveyed used only 20% of the available functions."

The survey also queried users about what they'd expect to find in phones costing $50, $100, and $150. Users of every age assumed that they would find Internet access, email, and music in phones at all price points.

But, says Burden, some interesting patterns emerged. "The older the respondents, the lower their expectations. We were explicit in our question: not what you want in a phone, but what you expect to find in it. And as age rises, almost every feature is less expected, at every price point. The only exception is older respondents' expecting touchscreens in low-end models."

Do older people expect advanced features to cost even more than $150? "Very likely, it's inexperience," Burden believes. "Simplicity has been more important than functionality in older age groups. They tend not to have highly functional phones, so they're not clear on what they should receive at any given price point. Whatever the reason, such information will help handset manufacturers design age-appropriate devices."

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