Meta: Corporate WAP users abandon data

Corporate users of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) phones use these data-transferring, Web-browsing devices just like an ordinary mobile phone -- for talking.

Market-research and consulting company Meta Group conducted 15 informal surveys of between 50 and 100 users of WAP-enabled phones, discovering that 80 percent to 90 percent of corporate users surveyed quit using the data capabilities, and use the phones for voice communications only.

Analysts from the research firm said users find it too difficult to get information from a cell phone -- that the effort of punching phone keys outweighed the threshold for perceived value.

"If it takes you five minutes to get a stock quote on the (WAP) phone, why not just call the broker," said Jack Gold, a vice president of Web and collaboration strategies at the Meta Group.

The novelty has worn off, agreed one user -- Niall McCann, a Belfast-based Web developer and user of a WAP-enabled phone. "It's OK, it's nothing special," said McCann, who was not involved in the Meta survey. He estimated he has cut his use of WAP services by about 50 percent since he acquired his Nokia 7110 last year.

"I wouldn't say I've stopped using it ... there's plenty of sites out there. You'll be sitting in a queue somewhere in an airport, and you can look for the weather or the news. It's a good reference tool, but you can't do any serious work on it," McCann said.

Many factors have contributed to the rate of abandonment, Meta's Gold said. WAP services like financial transactions and travel services are difficult to access, have limited content, slow networks, high latency times (delays) and generally poor design.

"It's not a question of 3G," Gold said, referring to plans for the third-generation wireless networks capable of higher data transmission speeds. "It's better devices, better architecture ... a whole lot of things need to get better before this will take off."

Until ergonomic and other issues are solved, WAP won't meet hyped-up expectations, Gold noted. "There were promises made and promises unfulfilled by the phone companies," he said.

Sucessful wireless devices will conform to individual needs, rather than attempt for the all-in-one answer, Gold said. Heavy data users will opt for handheld devices with a wireless modem, while users whose focus is on communication rather than data will buy tiny smart phones with data services as an added function.

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