A recent survey conducted by uSamp shows an unexpectedly mixed picture when it comes to the use of smartphone hotspots in the U.S. While they're being used with increasing regularity, there are still several key concerns in the overall picture that not only keep users from using hotspots to the fullest, but are also impacting mobile providers.
The survey, conducted among over 700 mobile consumers in the U.S., points to increases in the number of users using their smartphones as mobile hotspots. There's been a nine percent increase in users who use their smartphones' mobile hotspot capabilities since May 2012, and fully 71 percent of respondents have used a dedicated hotspot device, smartphone hotspot, or both to get Wi-Fi capable devices on the mobile Internet. Over a quarter of them don't pay for hotspot service, instead using over-the-top applications to get access, while nearly half of the total aren't frequent users.
The survey also found that most hotspot users are heavy data users, but for the data users better described as light-to-moderate, over two thirds of those users would use a pay-as-you-go pricing plan for personal hotspot services. There are also some significant differences in terms of professional and recreational users' concerns. In terms of hotspot performance, 16 percent of recreational users called that a concern, while for professionals, the number skyrocketed to 59 percent. But, as two thirds of professional users also use hotspots for recreation, better management features and the rises in mobile data pricing are also concerns.
Those users who don't use any kind of personal hotspot, however, abstain for a variety of reasons. 27 percent stayed out for the sake of privacy concerns, and 21 percent stayed out to avoid having another wireless contract to deal with. Since one third of respondents reported no hotspot use at all, that's another major portion of the market that could be accessed, but isn't.
Given the massive number of Wi-Fi only tablets in the United States--over 90 percent of all tablets sold, according to the vice president of product management for Smith Micro, Sunil Marolia--that represents some significant opportunity for retailers. Making contracts simpler and improving privacy go a long way toward getting users into the fold, not to mention getting light-to-moderate users more interested than they currently are. That's a lot of possible revenue growth for mobile operators to consider, and missing out on mobile revenue is a terrible idea, especially in a slow economy.
While some may have issues with the sample size involved in uSamp's survey--700 users is a bit light on the statistical validity side of the equation--the principles put forth by it are certainly cause for greater consideration. A few simple changes might mean big revenue growth for mobile companies, and that's hard to pass up. Only time will tell if the mobile industry acts on these projections, but we may well be seeing some changes made in the field soon.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli