back to article Brits left cold by mobile internet

Less than a quarter of Britons use their phones to access the internet, a study has found. Almost 40 per cent of smartphone owners - the very folk you'd expect would want to surf the web on the move - have never done so, or gave it a go once, but won't do so again. So much or all the hype surrounding internet-enabled …


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  1. Reading Your E-mail

    Reliable data???


    Wow you can make some really reliable predictions based on such a piddling sample size. Were they bored one afternoon, grabbed a clipboard and went and stood in the centre of London? </sarcasm>

  2. Nick Kew

    Left cold by adware survey

    Those of us with Free Software/Developer-friendly platforms like maemo may be excluded from those numbers because we actively avoid adware, and draw on the same range of apps we'd use on a desktop *X box instead.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    two words

    too expensive

    1. DannyAston


      £5 a month? Can't even buy a baguette for that!

  4. Flenser


    That's quite surprising. I'm rarely off of the internet on my HTC HD2 coupled with Opera and Skyfire; but then I chose the phone to support my internet habit.

    1. ravenviz Silver badge

      Back in the day

      It is amazing how many older phones actually are internet capable. Until recently I would use my old Nokia 6310 for internet browsing while I was mobile, I was always pleasantly surprised at how many sites were formatted for phones.

      Bootnote: I actually tried to post this from my Blackberry but could not get the log in to work so I'm typing from my laptop! :-o

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        There's not an app for that

        PS when will there be a Register app for Blackberry?

  5. N2

    Screwed up

    By a greedy government and its 3G auctions, making 3G expensive if you go over your often fairly meagre allowance.

  6. Youngdog

    Funnily enough

    I just read this article on my iPhone

    Sad I know - but does the fact that I am next to the pool on a very hot country make it any better?

    Or does it just compound my original deep, deep sadness?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fashion statements

    Why would you expect a smartphone user to use it to surf the web? Surely they've been around long enough for everyone to know the days when us nerds bought them (and PDAs before them) to actually *use* has long gone and now people only buy them as status symbols.

    Who remembers the web browser, 'corporate' email client (for the time) and fax modem for the Psion Series 3 that had more features than most real fax machines, including queueing!

    Them was the days. Even the people I know who make good use of their iPhones now only use them to watch TV shows on public transport because they're too busy running around like headless chickens, working to afford iPhones, £5 burgers from posh fast food outlets and the Camden lifestyle. Not being seen with an iPhone is social suicide. It doesn't matter if you only use it for calls and to show your friends that your table in the Met Bar is actually spirit level. The same people will call anyone who uses a smartphone for something productive, "saaaaaad".

  8. Chika

    My own penny's worth (inflated to £1.75)...

    OK, my ancient Nokia 6610i is hardly built for surfing, but it can do it with a shove. The thing that put me off is the inflated prices coupled with the fact that I rarely want to use my phone for browsing anyway. But then I'm one of those that prefers to use my phone as...

    ...a PHONE!!!

    But that's probably just me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Making the most of what youv'e got?

      not you aparantly...

      do you think that multifunction devices are the work of satan?

      is the most evil device on the planet is the swiss army knife?

      unlike most people who have a phone that is also a media player and camera I rekon you have a utility belt, with your bigg button phone, sony walkman (cassette version) and polaroid camera.. how advanced you must be, actually a music player is probably too advanced, is it still knee cymbols drum on your back and mouth organ?

      why take two bottles into the shower.. when you can use three.

      I suppose its good for burglars to know that when they break into your house, that the cricket bat will not be used on them.... oh no thats just not proper usage.

  9. Dr Richard
    Thumb Up

    oh dear

    I've just added to the stats ... from an iPhone.

    As a long time Three dongle user I'm actually pleased with O2 on this paygo iPhone .. £10/month for 'unlimited' mobile Internet and free openzone/cloud wifi is good value.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean Im in a sad minority?

    I read and replied to this article with my Nokia E51. My ipod touch is flat.

    And for the facebook / twitter generation - I was on the bog!

  11. Individual #6/42


    Nokia's browsers have (until recently) been awful. I use Opera, but you have to know it's there and install and configure it. Hardly a job for the average omnibusian. Jobs may not have put the full 'net on a phone but it's good enough to use.

  12. gerryg

    Ask me another...

    Do I use my phone to access all the (legally) free wifi all over London? yes

    Have I been known to choose my coffee shop by wifi price? yes

    Does my phone include free GPS? yes

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or maybe we just don't feel the need to be in touch with everyone and everything all the time. It is actually nice not to be reached by the office when you step outside the doors.

    Guess I can understand some people think you they are important enough that they need to reply to an email within seconds of receiving it.

  14. smeddy

    Old study...

    But the samplw base was asked nearly a year ago... It's only been in the last six months that larger screen handsets have become more commonly used. I'm a techno geek and I've only had my Touch HD six months, and before that I would occasionally play with the net on my cramped Sony Ericcson, but I'd understand why people wouldn't. Only Google Maps would get any data use from me.

    I'd be interested in a study done in the last 3 to 6 months as I see a lot more people using their phones for 'net now.

    In such a fast moving industry, did it really take them six moths to collate and publish their data?

  15. Vision Aforethought
    Jobs Halo

    iPhone makes the process seamless

    As a recent iPhone user (and previous owner of an iPod Touch and many other phones from other vendors), it is clear that the fact most iPhone apps seamlessly access the Internet without requiring anything more than a one off login drives these statistics. As per the microwave oven and DVD player, if you make something easy (insert dish/disc, press start/play), it will succeed. People have short attention spans today and if they are made to go through hoops to achieve a task, whether for business or pleasure, they will abandon it and move on.

    I have not used an Android phone so cannot comment, but the Nokia E71 made email configuration a snap - and the iPhone is the same. Previous devices required complex technical information to be entered first. The same goes for other apps.

  16. Tony Paulazzo

    Traffic Info

    It's useful for updated motorway traffic info whilst in motion, other than that, my lappy is usually near a wifi with more screen estate and free, Virgin mobile-phone internet on the other hand, cost me 30p a day unlimited (limited to 25 MBs) and a tiny 3in. (or whatever) screen.

    Also, the iPhone is sold more as a consumer media device that can also be used as a phone, rather than just a phone with extras - so the demographic kind'a fits.

    Mobile Facebook - why? if someone wants to get hold of me in a hurry, they can phone,txt or let it ring once (I have some tight friends).


  17. SimonKendrick


    Hello, thank you for posting your thoughts on our research. One clarification is that the research was not conducted in the first half of 2009, but between June and December 2009. The quantitative survey - where our statistics originate - was conducted during the latter part of this period. So, while the Nexus One still wasn't available when we ran the survey, it is fairly recent data.

    For more info, please visit

    Best wishes,

    Simon Kendrick, Essential Research

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    By carrier?

    It would be interesting to see the break down by carrier rather than by phone type. Maybe there is a reason that people not using iPhones don't use the web as much.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    No surprises here

    I'd love an IPhone, but just can't justify the cost vs real need at the moment. Perhaps when my business grows at bit more. So the news here is that people buy phones packed with features they either cannot use because its such a pain or don't use anyway? So why are they buying them? Fashion? Keep with Chantele and Britany (Insert any Chav name) or just plain stupid sheeple, with more money than sense buying on spec and features rather than a real need. Sounds familiar? remember the state that VCR's got into? So many features that looked good, but most where used to tape TV programs whilst you where down the pub, so just a 24 hr timer then.

    No surprises that Apple makes a phone that almost everyone can use/operate thereby appealing to a larger market and making more wonga for Saint Steve. (Peace be upon him, blessed are his followers). It makes me laugh when some 16-35 year old brags that if they can't operate it they must be stupid and shouldn't have one. No not really. Stupid to design a device that is difficult for a large percentage of users to operate.

    Personally when I'm out and about I like to look about, talk to people I meet, but then again I'm from up North.

  20. Trevor Marron

    Probably the cost that puts them off

    Regular users are on an unlimited data tariff, as is compulsory on O2 if you have an O2 supplied iPhone.

    So it is hardly surprising the iPhone users use it, they HAVE to pay for it, they have no choice not to.

    Personally I use loads of data on my Touch HD as I have unlimited data included in my tariff.

    Fail, because it is blindingly obvious that iPhone users would use more data, no research would have been required.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is this news?

    I know I'm an old Fart but the purpose of mobile internet leaves me completely baffled. It may be a time consumer if you are stuck on a Bus or on a train. Unless it can be voice activated then it has no value for a single person in a car and even then its use by the driver would (probably) be illegal.

  22. Glesga Snapper

    Yes, too costly.

    Definitely too costly, unless you have either an iPhone, or a top-tier talk plan. Whilst everyone has been moaning about the supposed 750MB cap on Orange iPhone data (you don't get charged for going over it, by the way) it's a damn sight more generous than most other plans. Take a look at the cost of data bolt-ons, they're pretty pricy.

    It was this, coupled with rubbish speeds that kept me from using data much on previous phones, smart or otherwise.

  23. Nathan 13

    Two reasons

    Size of screen to small, and ripoff charges.

    Even on the Jesus phone browsing the web is a crap experience compared to a laptop or pc. And on normal everyday phone with a 2 inch screen its nigh impossible to read let alone use.

    As to costs they are way to expensive overall, vague t&cs, and penalty charges are horrific on most networks!!

  24. Chris Miller
    Thumb Down

    I don't get it

    Expensive, slow, erratic and a tiny screen - what's not to like?

    The Internet phone, brought to you by the people who massively overpaid for their 3G licences.

  25. Leo Maxwell

    hardly surprising

    Our company has around a dozen HTC devices, they are used by our engineers for an FTP link to our service database.

    Out of those, only 2 ever tried mobile internet for more than a day or two, even their traffic virtually disappeared after a month.

    But then, these are WM devices, and the WM interface is seriously pants.

    We just upgraded to the touch pro 2, and the best part of that is the HTC GUI.

    We also have had several Windows smartphones that were likewise never used for the Internet, and were heartily disliked by the staff that had them.

    The mobile internet experience is pretty poor in general, it is bad enough trying to view websites with a netbook, having to scroll down on every page in order to see more than the advertising.

  26. Tom 35
    Thumb Down


    The lowest cost for iPone data in Canada is $30 for 500MB (I pay $28 for unlimited ADSL at home). So I keep my dumb phone and bought a iPod touch.

  27. Andy Livingstone

    Chicken or Egg first?

    A prerequisite to use is a viable signal. I have the gear, but not the signal. OK, I'm a bit in the countryside, but the main North South railway line is only a couple of hundred yards away.

    An follow-up analysis by Essential Research on true signal availability, rather than promised, would be most useful.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    because (I'm on orange) the cost is too much...I got fed-up years ago from trolling through "bundles" to see the rates....

    Interestingly, the orange iphone contract is dramatically different from other handsets....maybe because they had to offer more to get the handset...

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Hardly surprising

    UK mobile operators are wretched for data use. They provide "unlimited" contracts for large prices which in some cases limit you to under 1GB/month before punitive surcharges. Don't even consider wanting to tether on your phone, be prepared to carry yet another device as an access point or similar.

    They block ports will-nilly which can break things like Opera turbo mode and retrieving your email with some clients etc.. Mandating which services people can and can't use is a pain in the arse and the wrong way to go about it- if you want to SSH, for example, you're screwed on many networks.

    Essentially, the mobile networks need to STFU, get out of the way and be a well-behaved set of dumb pipes, like a proper ISP/telco. Walled garden services weren't a good idea back in the days of compuserve/AOL- and they had to die out before fixed line data services were useable for the masses.

    They should not be waking you up in the middle of the night with texts trying to establish a "relationship" with the user, asking them which sort of animal they want to be, or anything else of the sort. "Keep it simple, stupid", and provide voice and data connectivity without a tonne of complexity.

    Of course, all of this is cloud cuckoo land, as most of them have completely inadequate backhaul to service their current horribly restricted use. Even people whose smartphones can run an adequate web browser (for example), will discover that pages arrive like trying to crap out a JCB, especially from outside the provider's own data network. Maybe the walled gardens and complex/punitive pricing serve only to conceal the fact that their adverts are writing cheques that their networks can't cash.

    End of rant.

  30. hitmouse

    It's worse for visitors to the UK

    If you come from outside the EU you can't top up online (phone or internet) because your Visa card won't be accepted. You could actually BUY a phone with it online, but you couldn't add ­twenty quid to top up your account.

    You'll also have to pay more for access to services like BT OpenZone than residents, but you will get a lower rate of service. I've not encountered this anywhere else in the world.

  31. cosymart

    No reason

    I use my computer and the internet hourly but I cannot think of any reason why I would want to do so via a mobile phone/device. If I did require internet access on the move on a regular basis say to access emails I suspect I would use a netbook or failing that a blackberry....

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Nasty Surprise from Orange

    Little wonder people don't use their phones for data after the nasty surprises people get from networks like Orange.

    I'd just started using my Orange contract SIM in a (jailbroken) 3G iPhone.

    Mobile email, mobile web, buy lottery tickets while on the train, check tv guide, read the news, EXCELLENT I thought, I really got into using this device. Im not an Apple fanboi by any means but I could now access https (ie my bank) for the first time in my life on my own phone

    My normal bills on a Nokia were about £20-£50 but my last bill from Orange is a few pence over £640, yes thats SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY GREAT BRITISH POUNDS.

    Thinking this was a billing mistake, "Oh No sir, I suggest you cut down you usage. You've used 150-something Megabytes" (@ 4 UKP a Meg)

    No wonder people are TOO SCARED to use Mobile Data.

    Now im junking Orange and going with ASDA Prepay (provided by Vodafones 3G) its 8p min for voice (per sec billing) and 20pence /Meg.

    Sorry Orange, you just lost a lifelong customer. I hope they are so proud of themselves. I fear I am not the only one who this has happened to.

    1. Bod

      Orange charges

      You should have got into the Orange daily capped rate. You'd only be charged £1 max a day (or is it £2 now). Though there is a usage limit, but you won't be overcharged.

      Problem is, Orange don't advertise this. It's on their online account page, and it's free, but you need to activate it (or you can call them to do so). By default they stick people on the most expensive rate and expect them to sort out a cheaper package.

      Similar with Vodafone (at least on PAYG), £1 daily cap.

      Be warned however. DON'T use your mobile overseas! Caps don't work overseas and the per Mb rates are frankly ludicrous. £8 per meg on Orange in the US and Canada!

      1. ravenviz Silver badge


        I worked out once* that roaming the same download as the 'deal' you get on Vodafone for £5 a month would cost over £5000! I could understand a 'deal' where you get some advantage due to getting the deal, of the order of 50%, or even a factor of two, but not three orders of magnitude. Something *definitely* is not right!

        *I went through my calculations with the woman at Vodafone and she was surprised as well, probably by the fact that I'd actually bothered to sit down and work it out

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Nasty Surprise

      Even at 20p/MB, that's still £30 for 150MB. An O2 iPhone contract with unlimited data is ~£35pcm. And you get a lot of free minutes and texts.

      Any reason other than reception that you don't go with O2?

  33. georgio

    Stupid or simplistic... or both.

    Talk about muddled thinking!! If you were to forge a policy on this survey, you would be almost 100% wrong. The survey actually begs the question, why is the majority of phone web access done by one phone?

    I think you could only draw the conclusion that 'The majority of internet able phones do not access the web on a regular basis' from this survey - and that's all.

    I think even a novice looking at the stats would rapidly see that the only regular web using phones are the new smart phones - not that Brits are left cold by mobile access. In fact, if you were to sample each and every iPhone user you would get a 100% web return and probably much the same for Android and Palm users which goes to show that if you make it easy to do something, people will do it. The opposite conclusion in fact.

    If I remember rightly, Steve Jobs said when introducing the iPhone, that accessing the web with existing phones "sucked" because it was slow, awkward and unreliable, so it wasn't happening. With the iPhone they made it a simple one touch option and guess what... everyone uses the feature and loves it. With this in mind, it's simple to rank the phones in order of how easy it is to get the 'full' web - which most of the phones out there can't do anyway.

    Now if they had asked each of the sample respondents which phone they were using, they would have exposed the poor web implementation of the majority of phones out there but that would be far too embarrassing for those manufacturers and given Apple a seal of approval. And how do you sell a report that simply states that Apple, plus a few others, are doing it right and the others are hopelessly wrong.

    As always, the usefulness of a survey and the resultant stats, is totally dependent on asking the right questions.

  34. SirTainleyBarking

    Yes I surf on a mobile

    I use my Crackberry. Yes its handy , but god-danm it slow.

    Thats the major hassle. slower than I remember Dial up being.

    And thats the real reason I suspect most people don't surf beyond a very quick flip in / flip out

  35. Tom
    Jobs Horns

    I blame the websites

    The websites that people want to use are not really geared up for viewing over the mobile web. The only site I've ever used with any regularity on my phone is the PDA version of the National Rail site, because most websites force nearly a meg of pictures and "rich content" down your thin internet connection every time you click a link. It's chicken and egg with user experience and user usage, but when even seasoned geeks think your website looks rubbish over mobile internet, you've got problems.

    And as for the iphone, making a walled garden of internet for rich people may make you rich, but its not really progress.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Quite right

      It annoys me that my mail provider now wants to to look at 5Mb of pictures of californian celebreties before it draws the 'login' button. And that annoyance is on broadband. I wouldn't even dream of it on mobile internet.

      Supposing I could get mobile internet access. I live in Lincolnshire, hardly the outer skerries of dreams, but only 5% of the county is covered by 3's mobile internet access, and the service from the other suppliers is even worse.

  36. PaulCTayla


    Having read the article, I was suprised at the inaccuracies in the data. As of November 2009 there were just over 48 million mobiles in circulation, of these 8 million were used to access the phone's browser. Other data shows the phenomenal consumption of both Facebook and Google via the mobile. I suggest the report writers compare there data with other sources - Comscore, Forrester and Neilson. Also a sample size of only 2000 doesn't provide sufficiently robust data. The adoption of the mobile web is not simply an iPhone phenomemon - other smart phones are also being utilised for regular mobile web access. It's also not a London focused marketplace - many other UK regions are leading the adoption of the converging platforms. Posted on my Blackberry, you really need to make your site mob friendly!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising

    I was an occasional surfer on my Nokia E-71 but didn't enjoy the experience. Now I have an iPhone, I often surf my way to the office while on the bus in the morning. The Apple lesson is simple enough: Make it usable and they will come!

    Now that Nokia and the others have started to take usability seriously, I don't see Apple's lead as being insurmountable in this respect (and, as much as I like my iPhone, would gladly be shut of Apple's control freakery).

  38. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Do you need this?

    I wonder if they asked the question

    Do you honestly need this sort of connectivity?

    I have a phone that does all this stuff but I have made a concious decision NOT to use it.

    I'm connected enough as I work mainly from home.

    Then there is the problem of an increasing number of organisations won't let you take camera phones onot their premises if you are a visitor.

    You won't find many phones out there what does all this internet wizzadry that don't have a camera. My old Nokia E61 does this but none of the currently available phones have the internet but no camera.

    Mines the one with an old Nokia 3310 in the pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Do you honestly need this sort of connectivity?"

      Yes, some of us do.

      Sometimes you need the connectivity to grab patches/find clues because your kit has been broken in an enitrely new way by ingenious users- and you can't really trust their locked down yet virus-riddled Windows network (possibly with the USB ports locked, so it's a pain to get data off the machines).

      The standard need aside, came in bloody handy during the recent massive transport fail, too- the "customer information system" at the average railway station was giving no info, and being able to check the national rail website, and then compare the resulting info with colleagues was bloody brilliant..

      It allows you to do more, often. Access to information on the move is great- it's about a lot more than getting amusing cat videos on the move (though obviously that's entirely vital).

      It's a bit closed-minded to get all Monty Python's three old yorkshiremen about it and say "we didn't need none of this in my day". Change happens, and sometimes it's even useful.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    The thing is...

    Previously the iphone was only available on one network, in which a certain data tarrif was included, essentially as part of the bundle it was mandatory.

    So, yes, if you're paying so much money for a tariff in which a data allowance is mandatory, of course you'd be more inclined to use it!

    Data in the UK is far too expensive. Even something like o2's £1 a day max charge for data on some contracts is only useful if you want to regularly use the internet access throughout the day, what if you just want to check something quickly?

    Fair capped usage should be available for a minimal price, and I think it would definitely encourage take up of mobile email and internet use, especially on phones with bigger screens and opera mini now better than ever.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "Data in the UK is far too expensive."

      It's worse than that- most contracts that include a healthy allowance give you a tonne of texts and voice minutes, which accounts for most of the cost. I am a very minimal voice user, send a few texts a week, depending on what's going on. Most of my phone use is people phoning me, not I think of it.

      Anyway, if I could get a contract costing the same as an entry-level voice contract, but which gave me healthy amounts of data and the ability to tether, and virtually no "free" minutes (100 maybe? 50 would do it, and then charge at 15p/min), I'd be there like a shot, off my PAYG.

      However, it's just not doable, always with the massive talktime- which is why, where you get on a train, it's full of people talking about nothing on their phones. Get on the train, get comfy and then burn those excess minutes, and screw manners. I suspect that part of the pathological and rude mobile use is that people have more talk time foisted upon them than they actually need/want, and they feel obliged to burn it.

      A lower monthly cost and fewer minutes would work a lot better- though of course make the networks a lot less, if they were to allow people the option to buy service in sensible amounts.

  40. vegister

    make it cheaper, and they will come

    i am a tech literate IT bloke and would love a Nokia N900 and mobile internet, but the reality is, with wife and kid to support, i just can't justify an extra £30 a month for the luxury. nearly all iphone users i know are young free and single with no landlines, nappies to buy and mortgages fixed at 6%

    until then, in my opinion, it remains a luxury in the realm of those who have plenty of disposable income, or those who absolutely need it (far fewer than the first category)

  41. Spanners Silver badge

    There's more than the web.

    It sounds like there is a confusion here between the Internet and the WWW. Anyone who has used their smartphone for email has used the net. Smartphones are also used for Facebook, Twitter and many other things that do not involve trying to read websites on a 8CM screen.

    Maybe it is just that iPhone users are more likely to know that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...most of which is over http, nimrod. I was about to be impressed, if you started mentioning non-web internet services, like you actually knew what you were talking about.

      1. Bod


        Point is that surveys like this likely consider "using the Internet" to be browser based surfing. Whilst the other apps may use HTTP, a lot of people still don't consider it to be the same thing.

        P.S. Email isn't generally HTTP based, and that's a much greater share of Internet use on phones.

  42. dave hands


    I've only had three internet enabled phones, one of which is my current phone - the iPhone. Of the three only the iPhone has actually worked. The others were a joke, tiny screens and hopelessly slow page load times.

    Basically - Apple got it right, the rest added it as an after thought and didn't.


  43. michael bolland

    I'll give you the reasons

    a) Battery

    b) 250mb a month for £10

    c) GPRS most of the time

    d) Battery

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What a surprise...

    * bloody expensive

    * slow as hell unless your phone is touching the tower

    * small screens

    I'd love to be able to surf the web when I'm out and about (directions would be great) but it's still a premium service with a premium price tag. Maybe the prices will fall like with voice, but I won't hold my breath.

  45. Matthew 4
    Thumb Down


    I don't know about the UK situation, but here in New Zealand, it's the incredibility high data charges that keep people away.

    Mobile operators are really shooting themselves in the foot with their ridiculous data rates.

    Luckily at work & home I can connect over wifi...

  46. Andy 4


    I don't believe that. I for one use it every day, several times a day - and so does virtually everyone I know.

    1. Mojo2904


      I do believe it. I for one don't use it ever, never in a day - and virtually nobody I know does.

      However I understand that I am only one person and could easily be hidden in the figures they give. Just because you and your pals use it doesn't mean the whole UK does, you don't represent everyone.

      Reasons I don't use it have been given over and over in this already, however I plan on using it more when I get a new contract, assuming I can get a decent data package.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    El'Reg office shocked by internat revelation.

    Employees of IT News agency The Register, were shock this morning to find that they are amongst the only people in the country inseparable from the internet...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There seem to be two major problems with mobile internet adoption in the UK, the first is uncertinty over the cost (even if you get blah megabytes - what does that mean in actual usage - a single youtube video could easily smash some limits) and the second is flakey connections when moving, which lets face it is when you'd most like a functioning mobile connection to the internet (when you're mobile.)

    It was always weird being underground in Japan and still having full signal.

  49. Dick Emery

    Because it's crap and all hype that's why

    What do people do most on the internet? Browse webpages. Most webpages do not translate well to mobile devices. The browser is rubbish on them. The pages dot not fit the screen or you have to zoom around to read them. It's difficult to navigate and difficult to enter new URL's.

    Also mobile internet is SLOOOOOOW. The mobile devices are SLOOOOOOOW. it is generally not a pleasant experience and this coupled with the patchy network and exhobitant costs means that slowness and difficulty using translates to it being more expensive when you just want to load a single webpage that is choked with graphics and other bloatedness.

    Mobile internet = phail.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Can't blame them really

    Of the previous mobiles/contracts I've had I always found their version of the web to be totally different from my version of the web and the tunnelling down one has to do to get any where meaningfully significant gave strong impression of: " yes! we want it ticked on the spec list but we don't really want anyone to use it of course"-isms.

    On the other hand (or on the iPhone hand) it really is so easy. Click and go and go where you want to go without too much trundling about.


    Can't blame them really if their phone UI is so counter intuitive and trundle intensive?

    1. Gary 23
      Thumb Up

      I barely used the internet...

      on any of my old smartphones. The only time I did was when I was at the pub quiz and we needed an answer to one of the questions (cheating I know).

      As everyone has mentioned previously, it was terribly slow, difficult to navigate on the page and drained the battery. The cost of the service never crossed my mind because I used it so rarely!

      I got an iPhone about 2 weeks ago and presently it is glued to my hand. I once did wonder why I would ever need constant access to the internet but it's surprising when you have the option how often you do just go online to check facebook/email/football scores etc.

      The best bit is, my gf doesn't have an internet connection at home (and no PC to warrant one), but the neighbours have WiFi and it's insecure. My little iPhone connects everytime!

  51. Argh


    That'll probably be partly related to the best data contracts generally being available bundled with iPhone.

    I know that the business contract that I'm on has limited data provision, so tend to avoid heavy data usage except when within reach of wifi.

    In addition, depending on how they're tracking the devices, quite a few tech people with smartphones have browsers which reports themselves as desktop level browsers to avoid seeing mobile sites, or alternatively have modified the user agent to report itself as an iPhone to get the nice iPhone designed sites rather than the basic non-smartphone mobile sites.

  52. Russ Tarbox

    "To connect to the Internet"?

    To me this sounds more like "browse the web". A large number of Blackberry owners I know regularly receive their e-mail (which last time I checked arrives "over the Internet") but never bother to "surf the web" as we said back in the nineties. OK maybe I'm being pedantic (fine I definitely am) but from a technology site like The Register I expect a little better use of terminology...

  53. Adam Williamson 1
    Thumb Up

    all the time

    I use mobile data all the time. Came to the UK for a month around Xmas without a data connection and found myself constantly thinking 'hmm, I'll just check tha - shit'. 'Hmm, I'll just figure out how to get to - shit'. Just yesterday I left my apartment, used Google Maps with GPS and transit integration to find the quickest route to the hairdressers, came out of there, quickly looked up the prices for SD cards at a couple of stores in the area and bought one from the cheapest one, routed my way to the other side of town to go pick up my tennis racket. Synchronizing calendar and contacts with my computers means I can edit them from a more convenient interface and I get my alarms no matter what I'm sitting in front of. Hell, I just bought a new $400 phone so I'll actually have a decent data connection when I next come to the UK. Really wouldn't want to live without it. As others said, web browsing really isn't the point of mobile data (though if you've got a good connection, good browser and a big enough screen it's pretty decent - I often catch up with a few news sites on the bus).

  54. Charles Smith

    Ole Fogie

    Since starting in Computing (IT) in 1970 many things have improved access to IT facilities. Mobile IP using the iPhone is one of those things. Sadly my eyesight has failed to keep up with this progress. I'd use the internet on the iPhone if I could reasonable see the screen without having to read a character at a time.

    Now if only I could work out where to plug in a proper IBM 3270 keyboard.

  55. Mage Silver badge

    Screen Size

    There is nothing really wrong or difficult about the Nokia Browser. The problem is a that 320x240 screen is just too small.

    The other issue is cost. The iPhone often has a special data plan.

    I can get loads of Data for only €20 a month, but my phone bill is €15 a month and I already have Broadband at home.

    The Survey is comparing Apples with Oranges.

  56. geeky_poor_musician

    Cost vs Speed

    Does this data include using your phone with WiFi?

    I use my phone a lot to browse the net when there's WiFi, but rarely on 3G, because:

    a) it's horrendously expensive (unless you have an iPhone on O2's unlimited) and

    b) 3G sucks (3 certainly does; Vodafone seems to be best here, but VERY expensive)

  57. heyrick Silver badge

    Tried it, won't try again.

    Nokia 6230i with Virgin (repackaged Orange) pay-as-you-go. In France, I might add.

    The Nokia built-in web browser was so lame I can't even think of a suitable adjective. The email is so lame it crashes with "Record store full" trying to cope with more than two emails at a time. The piece of crap will hold you on GPRS as you like, then disconnect you for a call or SMS, then auto-reconnect you afterwards. While no data was transferred (this was deliberate to test the theory), the disconnect/reconnect established a new "window" for the billing. So in the course of a GPRS session interrupted by a text, I used 2 10Kib allocations and was charged accordingly despite ZERO bytes actually moving.

    The internet looked SO much better using OperaMini. A slight hassle entering URLs using the keypad, and the annoying "security" tat won't let you save anything. But, hey, looked pretty good. I was impressed.

    The page load never finished, mind you. It burned up the remaining credit on my mobile. Something like three-five euros. To download ONE web page.

    Actual PAYG tariff - 15c/10KiB. That's ridiculous.

    And that, my friends, is why I will never use a mobile phone to be online. Not absolute never, but until I can pay centimes per megabyte, it's an absolute no-no. I won't bother to hold my breath...

  58. Anonymous Coward

    So what?

    I still remember the stir my old Motorola Star-Tac caused in the pub, so I can only assume that the latest generation of techno-sheep is no different from my own.

    Today the mobile market is more mature - how many people's patents had mobiles in the 80s?

    I would guess that most people don't give a s*** about what other people think of their mobile, probably wouldn't read this article, and unless they spend a lot of time on public transport, would consider surfing the internet on a mobile pretty unimportant.

    That said, I quite like the look of the latest phones, but they really wouldn't add anything to my life. So I'll continue to change my phone when the old one is knackered (just like my dishwasher or DVD player).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ....My eyes are dim... Yadda, Yadda...

      IGMC squared unfortunately.

      If I can't even manage to type accurately on a full size keyboard what hope have I got of ever using one of those fiddley little pocket size gizmos?

      I meant "how many people's parents"

      Footnote: True to the first corollary to Sod's Law the speakers on my N95 8Gb have just gone t*** up...So tell me about these iPhoNexu thingys again. My kids tell me they can watch Sponge Bob Squarepants on them. Is this true?

  59. Bod

    No surprise

    Not really all that surprised. I don't think it's even down to limitations of the device and services, but more that people have the Internet at home, the office, and they're buying netbooks now which serve as great surfing devices on the sofa, in coffee shops, on the train etc. Why do you need yet another device to surf on? Not to mention most people really are just after a phone. Smartphones are just a bit of bling to them. Must have gadgets but really they still just use them as a phone.

    I can understand the iPhone use as probably the buyers of this don't have a netbook (Jobs hasn't released one... yet), and it's a reasonable size screen for basic use (though in my opinion it's still a little small for anything productive). However, is it real Internet use or just a lot of surfing the app store for fart apps?

    I prefer the E71, E72 kind of devices. I have a netbook so I'm not going to spend a fortune on something like an iPhone, or even an N97, for something that's more limited than a cheaper netbook for surfing. E series devices, and I guess similar with Blackberry though I've never used them, do what I really want. Make calls, fetch my email, maps, a bunch of office app and maybe a bit of twitter/IM stuff. I rarely need to delve into the Internet browser.

    However, does this survey include email use as Internet use? I'd think with the amount of emailer devices out there, especially with the popularity of the Blackberry in the US, that would dent the iPhone figures. If they just mean surfing on a browser, then I'm not surprised at all.

    Once the Church of Jobs releases a netbook (or the overpriced tablet), then it will be interesting to see how much surfing still goes on with the iPhone.

  60. Capt John Yossarian


    I've got a fairly cheap tariff with O2 - about £34 per month that gives me unlimited usage. In the 2.5 years I've been with them, I've never been charged for any excess. Only time you get stuffed for excessive usage is if you use phone as modem - hence why I got 3G card for tablet.

    There are a plethora of sites that are mobile friendly, so I can happily check news, travel, weather and tides - very useful for me. I live in the North East and rarely get a GPRS only connection, so happily browse on 3G.

    As with Bracken Dawson, I use it all the time as do many friends and colleagues. I dont use Facebook or Twitter as I don't feel the need to see constant updates from people informing me of the colour of their toast or the shape of a particularly "funny" cloud. Pointless, IMHO.

    I use 4 email accounts and can happily get all emails, work and social, pushed to me. As a climber/hiker/sailor, having stuff like Googlemaps with aerial photos/maps as well as real-(ish)-time weather has been invaluable a few times for planning/decision making.

    Far from being a Jesus Phone type, I feel this sort of technology is complimentary to my lifestyle and is certainly useful, just like my SwissTool or a Maglite, but not the focus of my life.

  61. Wam

    Not so pricey?

    I'm one of the small percentage on a SE phone (W995). I get 500Mb a month for £5 on Orange - not such a bad deal, so that takes me up to £20 a month on contract. The screen's fine for headlines etc., and the rest of the traffic's mainly email and Google map downloads.

  62. Paul Shirley

    @spanners: dead right WWW!=Internet

    Use an Android phone and by default it will sync your calendar,contacts and email on the internet. Want the weather widget on the home page - its dialing out. Google Maps - should be obvious though I'm sure some don't realise it. Half the market apps probably are. Browsing is often a disappointing experience anyway, however high end the phone.

    Its probably a good thing most Android owners are on unlimited data contracts, with the outrageous price of data on most contracts and PAYG they would be getting nasty surprises from all that background use, without ever firing up the browser. As Spanners said: a lot of them just don't know they're using the internet.

    And yes, its the price of data that's frightening everyone off. Still looking for a true PAYG data tariff that doesn't feel like they're picking my pocket. I can have far more data than my phone can consume at a really good price, presumably because they know I won't be using much of it. Or I can get ripped off on smaller chunks.

    Hopefully the ongoing 'how much should we charge for data' discussion over at GiffGaff will lead somewhere closer to dump pipe pricing. Or probably not when O2 get wind of it ;(

  63. Anonymous Coward

    no envelope to push

    in the summer there are pretty girls to look at outside. in the winter i stay inside.

  64. Paul Horstink

    Getting connected

    I have always used internet from my phone. Problem is to set it up. On WinMo there's about 4-5 screens to go through, but I can get it to work. On the iPhone (my current) just enter the APN and it works (great!).

    I tried to set it up for a friend on his Nokia N97 last week, I gave up...

  65. Tom Jasper

    Sadly not a surprise.

    I can't imagine not using the interweb on my phone... O2 have a unlimited (i.e. more that 500Mb) as a free or £5 per month `bolt-on` with certain contracts - that was the decider for my O2 XDA Orbit 2 and for the HTC HD2 I have now. Prior to that, accessing the interweb through my O2 XDA Orbit via wi-fi when at home or where ever I could legitimately find a signal.

    However, with ludicrous data charges coupled with pretend-to-be unlimited (I was shocked to see Phones4U reducing the 500Mb Vodaphone `unlimited` to 120Mb when researching for last months contract renewal) + horror stories like the poor person who picked up the £640 , it's not a surprise that the masses shy away from the converged world I and many friends live in.

  66. Steve 114
    Thumb Down


    I've got an excellent HTC smartphone thingy, but I wouldn't let it go online for fear of what that might cost. All my daughters have Blackberrys, which they use from various continents. I think they are taking a risk, but they keep proving me wrong. Except... with the men they choose - then, I'm right about the risk.

  67. alex dekker 1

    Too expensive? Shop around!

    If you think mobile data costs too much, then you haven't shopped around enough.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    browser user agents or whatever they are called

    Surely the high levels of traffic which appears to be Iphone is not all actual Iphone. I can think of several third party mobile browsers which claim to present themsleves as iphone browsers and on plenty of sites for mobiles im sure your see how to hack mod your phone to trick a website into thinking your using a iphone..


  69. alex dekker 1

    Sample size

    This survey may or may not be bollocks, but to those who whine about the sample size [2000] being too small, it's impossible to say whether or not it's appropriate without accompanying confidence limits. Taking massive samples when trying to analyse a problem is also known as 'counting'.

  70. Dale Morgan

    I try to use the internet but...

    Vodafone has such shit signal its almost impossible

  71. flatline2000

    just sitting here with nothing to do

    Thats cause 75% of the public toilets in britain don't have good 3G coverage....

  72. Richie 1

    Read this using my LG Arena

    Go figure...

  73. Nic 3
    Thumb Up

    In my day...

    When it were nought but fields....

    I may or may not want to browse the net on my phone, that's my choice. A number are asking why would I want to? Surely I can use a computer. Surely I don't need to be THAT connected?

    Well I do. Or rather I want to use the web when/how I fancy it not when technology permits. I happen to own a phone that lets me do just that. Does that make me a slave to consumerism? No.

    Owning a phone that gives you decent web access changed my concept of net usage. If I don't know an answer to something I reach for the phone and look it up. I often do this even if the laptop is in the room and just needs firing up.

    I don't see why this could be considered a bad thing. I have a radio at home too. Do I really need to see the people talking on a TV? Surely that is just too connected??? ;-)

  74. Anonymous Coward

    Speed Issues..

    its quicker to walk to a proper computer than it is to use a phone...

    Slow slow slow slow connections and slow slow slow browsers and slow slow processors results in any mobile experiance turning into a farce.

    Yes I do use mobile web, it doesn't cost much - I get free web data in my £15 pcm package - but it is a very poor experiance. I regularly use Google maps but this often is not a mobile experiance as i have to stand still to get a good data rate and sat fix. then wait about 2 minutes for it to load up. (that's if the phone doesn't crash - I thought sony were bad! but samsung NEVER release updates..)

    I think my next phone might - if the new version has a camera that works - be an iphone..

    failing that the nexus looks good value for money. waiting for reviews!

  75. Alan Bourke

    Murderous data charges in Ireland ...

    ... are the reason I only do it in the house via the wireless router. And even then I don't download files as the damn thing (Nokia E63) insists on using the Vodafone ISP GRPS connection to do that, even if the internet is coming in via your house broadband.

  76. Number6

    If Only...

    ...I had a decent 3G connection. In places where there is 3G then it's not too bad, but in most of the places I frequent, it's GPRS so I don't bother. I use the phone with WiFi, that works at a decent speed.

    I've got a Nokia E71 (flashed to the generic SW instead of the T-Mobile bastardised offering) so I can use IMs and internet phone when in a WiFi area. I rarely use it as a phone, based on the miniscule nibbles I make in my monthly data allowance. If I had coverage at home (where none of the networks are much good) then I might use it more in place of the landline.

  77. Danny 14

    crap survey

    2000 people? Of what age demographic? I dont expect my grandma to surf the web but in my office of 20 people *all* of us surf the web. I get 1gb of traffic 300 mins and 300 txts for £29.50 on TMobile. I can even internet share (as I have done) with my netbook (it will act as an access point too if I trust the people around me - wep only) I can generally get a decent HSDPA signal on my omnia, 3G isnt too backbreaking when it needs to.

    do they class Email as internet use? Weather updates? Twitter plugins?

    I see countless people using various cheap qwerty phones, my wife picked up a cheap Samsung B3310 to go online with (virgin mobile again with 1gb monthly).

    crap survey really.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yes for data

    Wife has an Android Pulse and in a couple of months has hardly actually used it as a phone, only used it for internet connection!

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I surf alot with an N97

    Although being a tight fisted git I prefer to save it for when there is some free wifi in the area.

    I tend not to use 3G because its slow, costs money and not available in most of the places I surf from (that don't have wifi).

  80. Alan 43

    HTC Hero

    Have to say that until I got my HTC Hero 4 months ago I didn`t bother with mobile internet as my previous phones were not up to the job, lower resolution, no touch screen interfece etc..Android and iphone makes all the difference and makes using the internet on a phone pleasurably although there are still speed issues and receptions issues.

  81. Anonymous Coward

    the reg quoted in "leading" (cough) dutch newspaper

    since journalism means going out and chaise and investigate stories i can't really call this tabloid a newspaper but still

    those who read dutch cas see the guy just translated this article in dutch.,1

    If you guys have any copyright lawers you should go after them ;)

  82. Ant Evans

    Paper serviettes

    Mobile internet access is like the plasticky serviettes you get at fast food places - better than a mayonnaise beard.

    Those moaning about prices are behind the curve. Like paper serviettes, internet access is effectively 'free' on 3 payg for one. European roaming rates have been capped and are now almost reasonable.

    If your browser is crashing, that may be because your browser is no good. If your battery dies every day, you may find you have chosen your phone on fashion principles - an easy mistake to make. Have a look at a Nokia E7x.

    The backhaul IP networks are still awful and 3G can't really cope with buildings, distance, rain, metal, or meat, but if you need to know urgently when the last train is, or where the Austro-Hungarian empire was, with a little bit of faffing, you can make it so.

  83. Andy Hards

    I've been using the internet on my phone

    regularly since 1995. I agree that the phone's browser was pretty poor but once I discovered Opera Mini my experience was transformed. I have shown many people how to download and use Opera on their phones and once they do they realise that it is very easy, not expensive and almost as good as being on your desktop. For a long time I only had a mobile dongle for my desktop so my phone was my main connection to the interwebs. Got a nice fat broadband now but still use my phone many times a day to surf, read the Reg, do my banking, check when the bus is going to arrive in real time, upload photos, read and send emails etc etc etc. Using Opera Mini is not slow, pages are rendered in such a way as to make reading them very easy and to be honest I think that more people would use it if they knew how easy it was. Data tariffs are an issue. I am with 3 and pay £5 per month for 1Gb and have only gone over this once or twice but even then wasn't charged, and that is with heavy use.

    Once all the operators have reasonable data packages I'm sure everyone who has a phone that can access the web will do so.

    It's not just iPhone users, as I say I've been doing it with Nokia phones and Opera Mini for 5 years.

  84. MEI7
    Thumb Up

    Year of internet for £40

    I was somewhat surpised to find you can get 6 months for just £20 on T mobile.

  85. ledru

    but it's growing

    This article is based on a report from the first half of 2009. What was the growth in the second half? What were the figures for 2008. Forrester expects mobile internet usage to be more than pc internet usage by 2013. Agreed that there a lot's of pains from current mobile internet users as described above - but even with these pains 25% of users are using mobile internet. Imagine the usage when these pains are gone.

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