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Kids demand ‘do-it-all’ mobiles

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Under-18s expect mobiles to be ‘remote control of life’

Children as young as eight already use mobile devices in more sophisticated ways than their parents and their vision for the future is one where multi-functional mobiles will operate as ‘a remote control of life’, according to Intersperience’s new Digital Futures study.

The ground-breaking research project asked 1,000 young people in the UK between the ages of eight and eighteen their views on mobiles, how they use them now and how they would like to use them in future. The results delivered compelling evidence that the mobile or M-Age has well and truly arrived in the UK.

The over-arching conclusion was that for young people, mobility is the key feature for a device, defining its role and importance in their lives. Mobiles are already central to British children’s lives, permeating every aspect, from social to transactional.

It is clear that mobiles will become even more important to under-18s who emerge as a demanding new breed of consumers who want and expect far greater functionality from mobiles in future. A key finding from the study was that 42% of under-18s want to use a mobile to control other things in future, compared to just 24% of adults.

It offers a fascinating glimpse of the future from a child’s perspective where the internet is the conduit through which connectivity between devices can be achieved on an unprecedented scale. Their view of the future is defined by far greater inter-connectivity between devices than that of their parents. Suppliers must think innovatively about how to deliver services in future in a way that fits with the lifestyle of ‘connected customers’.

The findings imply that software developers, phone companies and service providers in general need to accelerate efforts in this area if they are to satisfy the demands of the next generation of consumers for whom greater inter-connectivity, versatility and functionality are important factors.

Under-18s regard mobile devices in a wholly different way than the older generation who regard even the most advanced smartphones as primarily a phone that can also do other things like access the internet or take pictures.

Digital Natives’ use of mobiles, however, is focused on the device’s additional features. A mobile is prized as a means to access the internet, which is their natural habitat and they relish the freedom it gives them to communicate, have fun, experience new things and to have 24/7 connectivity, which they regard as the norm.

Greater affordability of smartphones has put them within the reach of teenagers whose parents are generally willing to pay around £20 a month for bills, according to research we carried out among families with children ranging from age 2 to 18.

Children and teenagers emerge as skillful multi-taskers who currently place a high value on mobiles for entertainment but the study showed that they want mobiles to deliver even greater functionality in future including payment facilities as well as an ability to control other devices.

Eight to 11 year olds have the highest expectations from mobiles in future. They are particularly keen on entertainment features with 39% saying they want to watch movies via mobile, although playing games was the top future activity for 75% of that age group.

The study indicated that mobile commerce, which has been slow to take off in the UK, may accelerate as Digital Natives become economically active. One third of under-18s said they would expect to use their phone to buy something in future, compared to just 21% of adults. Children are also keen on using a mobile to check prices, an activity which emerged as an important feature across the age spectrum, with half of 15 to 17 year olds keen on this and one-third of 8 to 11 year olds.

There was encouraging news for businesses, including Google, which are rolling out new ‘mobile wallet’ systems as under-18s are less nervous about using a phone as a wallet than adults, with 25% expecting to do so in future compared to just 17% of over-18s.

Digital Natives are conscious of security issues regarding mobile payment but expect and will demand that these issues are addressed to enable them to make purchases safely. This expectation underlies the fact that under-18s are four times as likely as older people to want to use their phones to store personal information in future.

Children show a strong preference for mobiles for entertainment and leisure activities - almost three times as many under-18s as adults would choose a mobile over a PC for downloading photos and music or to buy something online, underlining the declining importance of PCs to this generation.

Mobiles are very important to Digital Natives for communication via social networking sites as they want to have 24/7 connectivity with their peers. More than half of young people aged from 12 to 17 want to use a mobile in future to update their profile on social networking sites (SNS).

The study, which also involved questioning 15 families with children ranging from 2 to 18, uncovered parental angst over the appropriate age to give a child a phone, with age 11 or when a child goes to secondary school emerging as the age at which most children receive one.

   
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