July 17, 2012, 12:24 PM

Smartphone owners who’ve switched carriers care more about data than voice

And more than half of smartphone users watched a mobile video in May, Harris finds.

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The biggest reason U.S. smartphone owners change carriers is price: 49% have made a switch for a smaller bill, according to a new study by Harris Interactive. But of interest to retailers, travel companies and tickets sellers in mobile commerce, 40% also say they made a switch because they sought better data coverage and download speeds, compared with 25% who said they switched for better voice coverage.

This shows that more smartphone owners who’ve switched carriers are concerned with their experience browsing the mobile web and using web-connected apps than they are with making phone calls. And if close to half of all smartphone owners—who make up half of all mobile phone owners—are so concerned with download speeds that they switch carriers, then retailers and other companies need to pay heed to the speed with which their m-commerce sites and mobile apps perform, mobile experts say.

“We’re seeing a sea change in the way consumers are using and thinking about their mobile devices,” says Jeffrey Glueck, CEO of mobile technology provider Skyfire Inc., which commissioned Harris to perform the study. “Better data speeds now beat voice coverage and device selection as the most important factor when switching carriers. ‘Can you watch me now?’ is the new ‘Can you hear me now?’”

26% of U.S. smartphone owners cited device selection as a reason they switched carriers, the study finds.

The Harris Interactive study, which surveyed 941 U.S. smartphone owners, also examined consumer interest in mobile video. Nearly seven out of eight smartphone owners care more about smoothness and less buffering of a standard definition video over high definition pixel quality while watching mobile video over a poor connection, the study finds. This shows the importance of network data quality, speed of delivery and smooth multimedia playback for smartphone users, Skyfire says.

U.S. smartphone owners age 18-34 are most likely to have watched a mobile video in May 2012 (76%), compared with those age 35-44 (58%), those age 45-54 (52%) and those age 55 and older (24%), the study finds. U.S. men are significantly more likely than women to have watched a video on their smartphone: 62% of men versus 52% of women.

Young U.S. males, age 18-34, are most likely to have engaged with mobile video, with a whopping 84% having watched a video on their smartphone in May, the study says.

The popularity of mobile video could mean how-to, product, customer review, travel destination and other videos could be tools retailers, travel companies and ticket sellers could use to increase customer satisfaction with their m-commerce sites and apps, mobile experts say.

“The willingness of device owners to view mobile videos suggests an opportunity for marketers to enhance their m-commerce sites and apps,” says Pamela J. Goodfellow, consumer insights director at BIGinsight, a web analytics and research firm that studies consumer behavior on mobile devices. “Creating relevant content, such as product demonstrations, tutorials and even guided tours via video could help strengthen a company’s connection with its target market. Before making such an investment, though, marketers would be wise to investigate its worth to their client base. Knowing what your customers value—and what they will respond to—is imperative when adopting a successful mobile marketing strategy.”

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