Mobiles increasingly used for non-phone calls

LONDON Tue Jul 29, 2008 11:30am BST

A woman uses her mobile phone as she sits outside a restaurant at Brick Lane Sunday Market in east London March 2, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

A woman uses her mobile phone as she sits outside a restaurant at Brick Lane Sunday Market in east London March 2, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britons no longer use their mobiles just to make phone calls on the hop, but increasingly use them to send text messages, take pictures and check the Internet, new figures released on Tuesday showed.

Nearly 1.5 billion (1,492,400,769) text messages (SMS) were sent per week between January and May, 2008, the Mobile Data Association (MDA) said.

The non-profit industry association said year-on-year growth for May 2007 to May 2008 was 30 percent.

"SMS has established itself as a true social connecting tool and continues to have mass consumer appeal," it said in a statement.

The MDA expects to see SMS growth continue to rise by about 30 percent in 2008, aided by the promotion of all-inclusive tariffs, new devices to promote messaging applications and lower roaming charges.

More than 10 million (10,734,555) pictures and video messaging (MMS) were sent per week -- a year on year growth of 30 percent.

"Picture and video messaging volumes are gathering real pace," said MDA Chairman Steve Reynolds.

"The proliferation of camera enabled devices has been key, but improved and automated settings around MMS set up have made the process simpler for the end user."

Mobile Internet (MI), which is still in its infancy, accounted for the smallest type of use for mobile phones, but it is expected to grow by 20 percent in 2009.

The number of MI users between May 2006 and May 2008 rose from about 13 million (13,140,000) to 16 million (16,425,000). It dipped slightly on last year (16,500,000), but the MDA predicted a great revolution in it use -- challenging the desktop PC.

"New operator pricing combined with new function-rich, Internet enabled devices such as the iPhone and Nokia N95 are key to driving adoption of mobile Internet access," it said.

"There are powerful signs all around that mobile Internet access will supersede traditional PC access. The MDA predicts that mobile Internet will become a true rival for traditional desktop Internet access."

Reynolds called for greater price transparency to help achieve this target.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by David Clarke)

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