• June 20, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

For Flyers 'It's Really About Data'

Travelers are more accepting of other passengers using their phones for data-related activities than for voice calls during airplane flights, according to a study released today. The research comes six months after the FCC proposed relaxing the ban on cell phone use while in the air. The FAA has yet to approve the proposal. "In-Flight Voice Phone Calls Grounded Before Takeoff?" was conducted by research firm IDC and its survey partner SMS.ac, a mobile-data communications company. Only 11 percent of 52,564 worldwide respondents say they are in favor of using cell phones for voice calls on airplanes, regardless of being in unlimited or designated calling areas. Sixty-four percent of respondents do, however, approve of passengers using their cell phones for other purposes outside of voice calls. "The respondents thought 'I'm going to have a person talking next to me for five hours [and] I don't want to listen to that," says Dana Thorat, research manager, mobile users, at IDC. The survey also gauges which wireless capabilities the respondents would use the most during flights. Of the 11 activities presented, messaging, which includes instant messaging and email, was the service of choice, receiving the largest amount of votes with 54 percent. When further segmented by gender the tally was virtually the same--49.7 percent of males selected messaging as their top option, while 50.3 percent of females found messaging most appealing. "This base of people we surveyed are a little bit more on the mobile-enthusiasts side, so they are fairly heavy cell phone users," Thorat says. She adds, though, the mobile phone users outside U.S. borders have been quicker to use their phones for nonvocal activities. "When you go outside the United States you find a lot of people use text messaging, and they know that their phones can be used for things other than voice calls. The U.S. is a little bit slower to learn that," Thorat says. Daniel Hong, CRM analyst at Datamonitor, sees a similar pattern of people wanting the ability to do more data-oriented activities, especially internationally. "With cell phones within the U.S., they're not mature enough for adoption for mobile Web," he says. "It's seems that...it's really about data, being able to provide the Web [during] the flight." More than 40 percentage points lower than messaging, playing multiplayer games with others passengers was the second most popular activity, receiving 11 percent. The male sect comprised 47.1 percent of the vote, while 52.9 percent of females selected playing multiplayer games. "When you're talking about playing multiplayer games with other people on the plane, you think about the age that probably would do that," Thorat says. "Data applications in general are used by people who are younger." The remaining specified services were all less than 10 percent:
  • meeting others on the flight (flirting or friendship): 9 percent (54.9 percent male, 45.1 percent female)
  • purchasing (e.g., items typically found in in-flight magazines): 7 percent (52.6 percent male, 47.4 percent female)
  • gambling: 6 percent (56.6 percent male, 43.4 percent female)
  • playing single-player mobile games: 4 percent (46.7 percent male, 53.5 percent female)
  • listening to CD-quality music or audio files: 4 percent (60.8 percent male, 39.2 percent female)
  • reading articles (news, sports, entertainment, etc.): 2 percent (52.5 percent male, 47.5 percent female)
  • watching TV, videos, or movies: 1 percent (67.2 percent male, 32.8 percent female)
  • flight information (such as current location, estimated arrival time, connecting-flight information): 1 percent (53.8 percent male, 46.2 percent female)
  • using your mobile phone as a modem for your laptop: 1 percent (44.9 percent male, 55.1 percent female) Overall, Thorat sees the proposed lifting of the cell phone ban as possibly fueling the market through different avenues, including providing branding opportunities for airlines and wireless carriers and stimulating development of new channels. "By comprehending the needs and criteria specific to the user segment and location, mobility companies can enhance their products to better serve and target the desired customers and market segments." Related articles: Weighing In On Wireless Telecom Customer Complaints Are Rising The Mobile Market Sidesteps Saturation
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