Mobiles Are Failing to Connect with the Online Revolution; Screen Test: We Are Not All Googling Away on Our Phones on the Train to Work and the Networks Are Being Partly Held to Blame

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Byline: GIDEON SPANIER

HOW many mobile phones will Santa Claus be bringing down the chimneytonight? With global sales running at 100 million a month, it's fair to say hissack will be full of them. There are now about three billion phones globally,three times the number of personal computers and laptops. That would suggestthat the mobile has triumphed as the ultimate communication device.

The problem for the telecoms industry is that the triumph has not happened, atleast not yet. The broadband revolution of the past 18 months has transformedinternet usage on PCs.

But where is the mobile revolution in internet and TV, much heralded since theauction of the 3G phone licences way back in 2000? We've all got the hang oftext messaging, but why are we not all Googling away on the train to work everymorning, or watching the news on our way home? In tech-savvy Japan, it is adifferent story. As many as 70% of phone users are now online there. Contrastthat with the 15% in western Europe and North America.

By now, we were all expected to be watching videos and buying things with ourphones. "Two years ago, this Christmas was meant to be the mobile TV revolutionfor handsets," recalls Dave Moreau, chief executive of FoneStarz, one ofBritain's biggest suppliers of mobile shortclip videos and animation. "Weexpected that the number of people using it would have another zero on by nowand it hasn't." Sceptics might start by asking how many people really want towatch video on a tiny screen. But experts dismiss that. After all, the qualityon YouTube on a PC isn't always great.

Once users start enjoying the internet on a mobile, their usage jumps andcontinues to grow, says Richard Blades, commercial director at mobile softwarefirm Novarra, pointing to a video service it introduced in Hong Kong in thepast month.

But enjoyment is the key. Poor user experience has been a problem, deterringusers and advertisers. As Moreau says: "If you are trying to download somethingand it doesn't work, then you are going to give up." Novarra, whichcollaborates with Vodafone in the UK, is among the firms trying to change that. …