Mobile phones ring up the downloads
Mobile phone downloads have hit their stride, with declining prices fuelling a massive growth.
Research firm Mintel predicts that this year, mobile phone downloads will number 760m in the UK alone, some 25 times the figure for 2002. This will create a market worth some three-quarters of a billion pounds.
However, the research shows that operators are missing out on a potentially lucrative demographic by focussing all their efforts on marketing the latest ringtones and games.
With a huge range of content available for and marketed to the youth market, older generations have not been courted with downloads that appeal to their sensibilities. Yet the report’s figures suggest tapping into the more doddery downloaders will pay off.
The first clue is that the market is substantially larger. Just 61 per cent of the youth market owns a mobile phone, compared with 82 per cent of adults. Not only do more adults own phones, there are more of them: the over-65s now account for 16 per cent of the population, more than double that of all UK citizens aged 15-24. And not only are there more of them, but they will also have more money to spend on downloads than teenagers.
But they are currently sceptical of the benefits of downloading. Forty per cent of those 35 and over believe downloading is a waste of time. So little interest do they express that nearly a fifth admit to not knowing how to go about downloading a file to their phone. This figure rises to a third for those aged 55 and over.
Another factor is the controlling influence parents can have over their children’s use of mobile phones. And 19 per cent of parents are concerned that their children will end up with high additional charges because of downloading, potentially causing them to prohibit it.
‘It is possible that these people associate downloading with youth culture, a logical conclusion given the amount of advertising for ringtones, wallpapers and games which appeal to teenagers in particular. The challenge facing the industry is to produce more substantial products that will attract older people, supplying products that can compete with other sophisticated leisure activities,’ said Jenny Catlin, consumer analyst at Mintel.
The biggest beneficiary of cross-generation downloads looks to be the gambling industry. Gambling currently accounts for 9 per cent of the mobile download market. Yet according to Mintel, this is on course for a ballistic jump of 367 per cent in volumes this year.
Music downloads also look set to double their volumes, currently worth an 8 per cent market share. But given the launch of a range music-centric handsets, such as the Sony ‘Walkman’ W800 and Motorola’s ROKR iTunes-ready phone, it seems a relatively small harvest.
The lion’s share of the downloads market rests still with ringtones and games, with 33 and 26 per cent of the market in terms of volumes respectively.