Skip to main content

High-End Features Don’t Sell Cell Phones

A new survey from J.D. Power and Associates suggests that the stereotype of U.S. cell phone users as most concerned with voice service and low prices may be pretty accurate: of over 18,000 cell phone users surveyed, price and design were the biggest reasons consumers gave for buying a particular mobile handset.

J.D. Power surveyed 18,740 cell phone users in two stages, one in October 2005 and another in February 2006, asking each group why they purchased particular phones and allowing them to provide multiple reasons, if applicable. A mere 12 percent of the users cited a built-in camera, a color screen, or a speakerphone as a reason for buying a particular phone (and only 26 percent of speakerphone owners said they used that feature three to five times a week).

Conversely, some 39 percent of cell phone users pointed to a phone’s style as a factor in their purchase decision, making it the single most-cited factor. “The physical size and look of handsets is evolving to a smaller, more compact design that’s more pleasing to the eye,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. “In the mind of the consumer, these changes are for the better, as satisfaction among owners of clamshell-design phones is significantly higher than of those who own a candy bar-shaped cell phone.”

Nonetheless, 29 percent said they chose their phone simply because it was free, 20 percent said they chose their phones because of price reductions, and 16 percent said they were swayed by rebates. Another 16 percent they chose on the basis of calling plans rather than phones: the phone they wound up with was the only unit offered with the calling plan they wanted.

The study also shows that U.S. cell phone users are gradually warming up to advanced features and data services long-embraced by European and Asian markets. Speakerphones have jumped in popularity since J.D. Powers’ previous survey in early-to-mid 2005, and sharing of photos and vide via MMS messaging has increased 20 percent over the same period, although still only 6 percent of respondents use MMS messaging. Some 22 percent of users reported using SMS text messaging.

Editors' Recommendations