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back to article Brits left cold by mobile internet

Less than a quarter of Britons use their phones to access the internet, a study has found. Almost 40 per cent of smartphone owners - the very folk you'd expect would want to surf the web on the move - have never done so, or gave it a go once, but won't do so again. So much or all the hype surrounding internet-enabled smartphones …

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Boffin

There's more than the web.

It sounds like there is a confusion here between the Internet and the WWW. Anyone who has used their smartphone for email has used the net. Smartphones are also used for Facebook, Twitter and many other things that do not involve trying to read websites on a 8CM screen.

Maybe it is just that iPhone users are more likely to know that.

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Anonymous Coward

sigh

...most of which is over http, nimrod. I was about to be impressed, if you started mentioning non-web internet services, like you actually knew what you were talking about.

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Bod
Bronze badge

@sigh

Point is that surveys like this likely consider "using the Internet" to be browser based surfing. Whilst the other apps may use HTTP, a lot of people still don't consider it to be the same thing.

P.S. Email isn't generally HTTP based, and that's a much greater share of Internet use on phones.

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Functionality

I've only had three internet enabled phones, one of which is my current phone - the iPhone. Of the three only the iPhone has actually worked. The others were a joke, tiny screens and hopelessly slow page load times.

Basically - Apple got it right, the rest added it as an after thought and didn't.

Simple.

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I'll give you the reasons

a) Battery

b) 250mb a month for £10

c) GPRS most of the time

d) Battery

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What a surprise...

* bloody expensive

* slow as hell unless your phone is touching the tower

* small screens

I'd love to be able to surf the web when I'm out and about (directions would be great) but it's still a premium service with a premium price tag. Maybe the prices will fall like with voice, but I won't hold my breath.

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Well..

I don't know about the UK situation, but here in New Zealand, it's the incredibility high data charges that keep people away.

Mobile operators are really shooting themselves in the foot with their ridiculous data rates.

Luckily at work & home I can connect over wifi...

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FAIL

Err..

I don't believe that. I for one use it every day, several times a day - and so does virtually everyone I know.

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WTF?

Err..

I do believe it. I for one don't use it ever, never in a day - and virtually nobody I know does.

However I understand that I am only one person and could easily be hidden in the figures they give. Just because you and your pals use it doesn't mean the whole UK does, you don't represent everyone.

Reasons I don't use it have been given over and over in this already, however I plan on using it more when I get a new contract, assuming I can get a decent data package.

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Black Helicopters

El'Reg office shocked by internat revelation.

Employees of IT News agency The Register, were shock this morning to find that they are amongst the only people in the country inseparable from the internet...

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Anonymous Coward

there

There seem to be two major problems with mobile internet adoption in the UK, the first is uncertinty over the cost (even if you get blah megabytes - what does that mean in actual usage - a single youtube video could easily smash some limits) and the second is flakey connections when moving, which lets face it is when you'd most like a functioning mobile connection to the internet (when you're mobile.)

It was always weird being underground in Japan and still having full signal.

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FAIL

Because it's crap and all hype that's why

What do people do most on the internet? Browse webpages. Most webpages do not translate well to mobile devices. The browser is rubbish on them. The pages dot not fit the screen or you have to zoom around to read them. It's difficult to navigate and difficult to enter new URL's.

Also mobile internet is SLOOOOOOW. The mobile devices are SLOOOOOOOW. it is generally not a pleasant experience and this coupled with the patchy network and exhobitant costs means that slowness and difficulty using translates to it being more expensive when you just want to load a single webpage that is choked with graphics and other bloatedness.

Mobile internet = phail.

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Paris Hilton

Can't blame them really

Of the previous mobiles/contracts I've had I always found their version of the web to be totally different from my version of the web and the tunnelling down one has to do to get any where meaningfully significant gave strong impression of: " yes! we want it ticked on the spec list but we don't really want anyone to use it of course"-isms.

On the other hand (or on the iPhone hand) it really is so easy. Click and go and go where you want to go without too much trundling about.

Conclude:

Can't blame them really if their phone UI is so counter intuitive and trundle intensive?

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Thumb Up

I barely used the internet...

on any of my old smartphones. The only time I did was when I was at the pub quiz and we needed an answer to one of the questions (cheating I know).

As everyone has mentioned previously, it was terribly slow, difficult to navigate on the page and drained the battery. The cost of the service never crossed my mind because I used it so rarely!

I got an iPhone about 2 weeks ago and presently it is glued to my hand. I once did wonder why I would ever need constant access to the internet but it's surprising when you have the option how often you do just go online to check facebook/email/football scores etc.

The best bit is, my gf doesn't have an internet connection at home (and no PC to warrant one), but the neighbours have WiFi and it's insecure. My little iPhone connects everytime!

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Contracts

That'll probably be partly related to the best data contracts generally being available bundled with iPhone.

I know that the business contract that I'm on has limited data provision, so tend to avoid heavy data usage except when within reach of wifi.

In addition, depending on how they're tracking the devices, quite a few tech people with smartphones have browsers which reports themselves as desktop level browsers to avoid seeing mobile sites, or alternatively have modified the user agent to report itself as an iPhone to get the nice iPhone designed sites rather than the basic non-smartphone mobile sites.

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"To connect to the Internet"?

To me this sounds more like "browse the web". A large number of Blackberry owners I know regularly receive their e-mail (which last time I checked arrives "over the Internet") but never bother to "surf the web" as we said back in the nineties. OK maybe I'm being pedantic (fine I definitely am) but from a technology site like The Register I expect a little better use of terminology...

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all the time

I use mobile data all the time. Came to the UK for a month around Xmas without a data connection and found myself constantly thinking 'hmm, I'll just check tha - shit'. 'Hmm, I'll just figure out how to get to - shit'. Just yesterday I left my apartment, used Google Maps with GPS and transit integration to find the quickest route to the hairdressers, came out of there, quickly looked up the prices for SD cards at a couple of stores in the area and bought one from the cheapest one, routed my way to the other side of town to go pick up my tennis racket. Synchronizing calendar and contacts with my computers means I can edit them from a more convenient interface and I get my alarms no matter what I'm sitting in front of. Hell, I just bought a new $400 phone so I'll actually have a decent data connection when I next come to the UK. Really wouldn't want to live without it. As others said, web browsing really isn't the point of mobile data (though if you've got a good connection, good browser and a big enough screen it's pretty decent - I often catch up with a few news sites on the bus).

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Pint

Ole Fogie

Since starting in Computing (IT) in 1970 many things have improved access to IT facilities. Mobile IP using the iPhone is one of those things. Sadly my eyesight has failed to keep up with this progress. I'd use the internet on the iPhone if I could reasonable see the screen without having to read a character at a time.

Now if only I could work out where to plug in a proper IBM 3270 keyboard.

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Silver badge

Screen Size

There is nothing really wrong or difficult about the Nokia Browser. The problem is a that 320x240 screen is just too small.

The other issue is cost. The iPhone often has a special data plan.

I can get loads of Data for only €20 a month, but my phone bill is €15 a month and I already have Broadband at home.

The Survey is comparing Apples with Oranges.

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Linux

Cost vs Speed

Does this data include using your phone with WiFi?

I use my phone a lot to browse the net when there's WiFi, but rarely on 3G, because:

a) it's horrendously expensive (unless you have an iPhone on O2's unlimited) and

b) 3G sucks (3 certainly does; Vodafone seems to be best here, but VERY expensive)

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Unhappy

Tried it, won't try again.

Nokia 6230i with Virgin (repackaged Orange) pay-as-you-go. In France, I might add.

The Nokia built-in web browser was so lame I can't even think of a suitable adjective. The email is so lame it crashes with "Record store full" trying to cope with more than two emails at a time. The piece of crap will hold you on GPRS as you like, then disconnect you for a call or SMS, then auto-reconnect you afterwards. While no data was transferred (this was deliberate to test the theory), the disconnect/reconnect established a new "window" for the billing. So in the course of a GPRS session interrupted by a text, I used 2 10Kib allocations and was charged accordingly despite ZERO bytes actually moving.

The internet looked SO much better using OperaMini. A slight hassle entering URLs using the keypad, and the annoying "security" tat won't let you save anything. But, hey, news.bbc.co.uk looked pretty good. I was impressed.

The page load never finished, mind you. It burned up the remaining credit on my mobile. Something like three-five euros. To download ONE web page.

Actual PAYG tariff - 15c/10KiB. That's ridiculous.

And that, my friends, is why I will never use a mobile phone to be online. Not absolute never, but until I can pay centimes per megabyte, it's an absolute no-no. I won't bother to hold my breath...

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Coat

So what?

I still remember the stir my old Motorola Star-Tac caused in the pub, so I can only assume that the latest generation of techno-sheep is no different from my own.

Today the mobile market is more mature - how many people's patents had mobiles in the 80s?

I would guess that most people don't give a s*** about what other people think of their mobile, probably wouldn't read this article, and unless they spend a lot of time on public transport, would consider surfing the internet on a mobile pretty unimportant.

That said, I quite like the look of the latest phones, but they really wouldn't add anything to my life. So I'll continue to change my phone when the old one is knackered (just like my dishwasher or DVD player).

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Coat

....My eyes are dim... Yadda, Yadda...

IGMC squared unfortunately.

If I can't even manage to type accurately on a full size keyboard what hope have I got of ever using one of those fiddley little pocket size gizmos?

I meant "how many people's parents"

Footnote: True to the first corollary to Sod's Law the speakers on my N95 8Gb have just gone t*** up...So tell me about these iPhoNexu thingys again. My kids tell me they can watch Sponge Bob Squarepants on them. Is this true?

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Bod
Bronze badge

No surprise

Not really all that surprised. I don't think it's even down to limitations of the device and services, but more that people have the Internet at home, the office, and they're buying netbooks now which serve as great surfing devices on the sofa, in coffee shops, on the train etc. Why do you need yet another device to surf on? Not to mention most people really are just after a phone. Smartphones are just a bit of bling to them. Must have gadgets but really they still just use them as a phone.

I can understand the iPhone use as probably the buyers of this don't have a netbook (Jobs hasn't released one... yet), and it's a reasonable size screen for basic use (though in my opinion it's still a little small for anything productive). However, is it real Internet use or just a lot of surfing the app store for fart apps?

I prefer the E71, E72 kind of devices. I have a netbook so I'm not going to spend a fortune on something like an iPhone, or even an N97, for something that's more limited than a cheaper netbook for surfing. E series devices, and I guess similar with Blackberry though I've never used them, do what I really want. Make calls, fetch my email, maps, a bunch of office app and maybe a bit of twitter/IM stuff. I rarely need to delve into the Internet browser.

However, does this survey include email use as Internet use? I'd think with the amount of emailer devices out there, especially with the popularity of the Blackberry in the US, that would dent the iPhone figures. If they just mean surfing on a browser, then I'm not surprised at all.

Once the Church of Jobs releases a netbook (or the overpriced tablet), then it will be interesting to see how much surfing still goes on with the iPhone.

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Troll

Prices...

I've got a fairly cheap tariff with O2 - about £34 per month that gives me unlimited usage. In the 2.5 years I've been with them, I've never been charged for any excess. Only time you get stuffed for excessive usage is if you use phone as modem - hence why I got 3G card for tablet.

There are a plethora of sites that are mobile friendly, so I can happily check news, travel, weather and tides - very useful for me. I live in the North East and rarely get a GPRS only connection, so happily browse on 3G.

As with Bracken Dawson, I use it all the time as do many friends and colleagues. I dont use Facebook or Twitter as I don't feel the need to see constant updates from people informing me of the colour of their toast or the shape of a particularly "funny" cloud. Pointless, IMHO.

I use 4 email accounts and can happily get all emails, work and social, pushed to me. As a climber/hiker/sailor, having stuff like Googlemaps with aerial photos/maps as well as real-(ish)-time weather has been invaluable a few times for planning/decision making.

Far from being a Jesus Phone type, I feel this sort of technology is complimentary to my lifestyle and is certainly useful, just like my SwissTool or a Maglite, but not the focus of my life.

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Wam

Not so pricey?

I'm one of the small percentage on a SE phone (W995). I get 500Mb a month for £5 on Orange - not such a bad deal, so that takes me up to £20 a month on contract. The screen's fine for headlines etc., and the rest of the traffic's mainly email and Google map downloads.

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Silver badge

@spanners: dead right WWW!=Internet

Use an Android phone and by default it will sync your calendar,contacts and email on the internet. Want the weather widget on the home page - its dialing out. Google Maps - should be obvious though I'm sure some don't realise it. Half the market apps probably are. Browsing is often a disappointing experience anyway, however high end the phone.

Its probably a good thing most Android owners are on unlimited data contracts, with the outrageous price of data on most contracts and PAYG they would be getting nasty surprises from all that background use, without ever firing up the browser. As Spanners said: a lot of them just don't know they're using the internet.

And yes, its the price of data that's frightening everyone off. Still looking for a true PAYG data tariff that doesn't feel like they're picking my pocket. I can have far more data than my phone can consume at a really good price, presumably because they know I won't be using much of it. Or I can get ripped off on smaller chunks.

Hopefully the ongoing 'how much should we charge for data' discussion over at GiffGaff will lead somewhere closer to dump pipe pricing. Or probably not when O2 get wind of it ;(

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Welcome

no envelope to push

in the summer there are pretty girls to look at outside. in the winter i stay inside.

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Getting connected

I have always used internet from my phone. Problem is to set it up. On WinMo there's about 4-5 screens to go through, but I can get it to work. On the iPhone (my current) just enter the APN and it works (great!).

I tried to set it up for a friend on his Nokia N97 last week, I gave up...

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Sadly not a surprise.

I can't imagine not using the interweb on my phone... O2 have a unlimited (i.e. more that 500Mb) as a free or £5 per month `bolt-on` with certain contracts - that was the decider for my O2 XDA Orbit 2 and for the HTC HD2 I have now. Prior to that, accessing the interweb through my O2 XDA Orbit via wi-fi when at home or where ever I could legitimately find a signal.

However, with ludicrous data charges coupled with pretend-to-be unlimited (I was shocked to see Phones4U reducing the 500Mb Vodaphone `unlimited` to 120Mb when researching for last months contract renewal) + horror stories like the poor person who picked up the £640 , it's not a surprise that the masses shy away from the converged world I and many friends live in.

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Perceptions

I've got an excellent HTC smartphone thingy, but I wouldn't let it go online for fear of what that might cost. All my daughters have Blackberrys, which they use from various continents. I think they are taking a risk, but they keep proving me wrong. Except... with the men they choose - then, I'm right about the risk.

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Too expensive? Shop around!

If you think mobile data costs too much, then you haven't shopped around enough.

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Anonymous Coward

browser user agents or whatever they are called

Surely the high levels of traffic which appears to be Iphone is not all actual Iphone. I can think of several third party mobile browsers which claim to present themsleves as iphone browsers and on plenty of sites for mobiles im sure your see how to hack mod your phone to trick a website into thinking your using a iphone..

I

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Sample size

This survey may or may not be bollocks, but to those who whine about the sample size [2000] being too small, it's impossible to say whether or not it's appropriate without accompanying confidence limits. Taking massive samples when trying to analyse a problem is also known as 'counting'.

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I try to use the internet but...

Vodafone has such shit signal its almost impossible

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Troll

just sitting here with nothing to do

Thats cause 75% of the public toilets in britain don't have good 3G coverage....

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Read this using my LG Arena

Go figure...

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Thumb Up

In my day...

When it were nought but fields....

I may or may not want to browse the net on my phone, that's my choice. A number are asking why would I want to? Surely I can use a computer. Surely I don't need to be THAT connected?

Well I do. Or rather I want to use the web when/how I fancy it not when technology permits. I happen to own a phone that lets me do just that. Does that make me a slave to consumerism? No.

Owning a phone that gives you decent web access changed my concept of net usage. If I don't know an answer to something I reach for the phone and look it up. I often do this even if the laptop is in the room and just needs firing up.

I don't see why this could be considered a bad thing. I have a radio at home too. Do I really need to see the people talking on a TV? Surely that is just too connected??? ;-)

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Badgers

Speed Issues..

its quicker to walk to a proper computer than it is to use a phone...

Slow slow slow slow connections and slow slow slow browsers and slow slow processors results in any mobile experiance turning into a farce.

Yes I do use mobile web, it doesn't cost much - I get free web data in my £15 pcm package - but it is a very poor experiance. I regularly use Google maps but this often is not a mobile experiance as i have to stand still to get a good data rate and sat fix. then wait about 2 minutes for it to load up. (that's if the phone doesn't crash - I thought sony were bad! but samsung NEVER release updates..)

I think my next phone might - if the new version has a camera that works - be an iphone..

failing that the nexus looks good value for money. waiting for reviews!

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FAIL

Murderous data charges in Ireland ...

... are the reason I only do it in the house via the wireless router. And even then I don't download files as the damn thing (Nokia E63) insists on using the Vodafone ISP GRPS connection to do that, even if the internet is coming in via your house broadband.

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Silver badge

If Only...

...I had a decent 3G connection. In places where there is 3G then it's not too bad, but in most of the places I frequent, it's GPRS so I don't bother. I use the phone with WiFi, that works at a decent speed.

I've got a Nokia E71 (flashed to the generic SW instead of the T-Mobile bastardised offering) so I can use IMs and internet phone when in a WiFi area. I rarely use it as a phone, based on the miniscule nibbles I make in my monthly data allowance. If I had coverage at home (where none of the networks are much good) then I might use it more in place of the landline.

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Silver badge
FAIL

crap survey

2000 people? Of what age demographic? I dont expect my grandma to surf the web but in my office of 20 people *all* of us surf the web. I get 1gb of traffic 300 mins and 300 txts for £29.50 on TMobile. I can even internet share (as I have done) with my netbook (it will act as an access point too if I trust the people around me - wep only) I can generally get a decent HSDPA signal on my omnia, 3G isnt too backbreaking when it needs to.

do they class Email as internet use? Weather updates? Twitter plugins?

I see countless people using various cheap qwerty phones, my wife picked up a cheap Samsung B3310 to go online with (virgin mobile again with 1gb monthly).

crap survey really.

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Anonymous Coward

yes for data

Wife has an Android Pulse and in a couple of months has hardly actually used it as a phone, only used it for internet connection!

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Anonymous Coward

I surf alot with an N97

Although being a tight fisted git I prefer to save it for when there is some free wifi in the area.

I tend not to use 3G because its slow, costs money and not available in most of the places I surf from (that don't have wifi).

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HTC Hero

Have to say that until I got my HTC Hero 4 months ago I didn`t bother with mobile internet as my previous phones were not up to the job, lower resolution, no touch screen interfece etc..Android and iphone makes all the difference and makes using the internet on a phone pleasurably although there are still speed issues and receptions issues.

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WTF?

the reg quoted in "leading" (cough) dutch newspaper

since journalism means going out and chaise and investigate stories i can't really call this tabloid a newspaper but still

those who read dutch cas see the guy just translated this article in dutch.

http://www.telegraaf.nl/digitaal/mobiel/5874016/__Britten_lopen_niet_warm_voor_mobiel_internet__.html?p=8,1

If you guys have any copyright lawers you should go after them ;)

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WTF?

Paper serviettes

Mobile internet access is like the plasticky serviettes you get at fast food places - better than a mayonnaise beard.

Those moaning about prices are behind the curve. Like paper serviettes, internet access is effectively 'free' on 3 payg for one. European roaming rates have been capped and are now almost reasonable.

If your browser is crashing, that may be because your browser is no good. If your battery dies every day, you may find you have chosen your phone on fashion principles - an easy mistake to make. Have a look at a Nokia E7x.

The backhaul IP networks are still awful and 3G can't really cope with buildings, distance, rain, metal, or meat, but if you need to know urgently when the last train is, or where the Austro-Hungarian empire was, with a little bit of faffing, you can make it so.

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WTF?

I've been using the internet on my phone

regularly since 1995. I agree that the phone's browser was pretty poor but once I discovered Opera Mini my experience was transformed. I have shown many people how to download and use Opera on their phones and once they do they realise that it is very easy, not expensive and almost as good as being on your desktop. For a long time I only had a mobile dongle for my desktop so my phone was my main connection to the interwebs. Got a nice fat broadband now but still use my phone many times a day to surf, read the Reg, do my banking, check when the bus is going to arrive in real time, upload photos, read and send emails etc etc etc. Using Opera Mini is not slow, pages are rendered in such a way as to make reading them very easy and to be honest I think that more people would use it if they knew how easy it was. Data tariffs are an issue. I am with 3 and pay £5 per month for 1Gb and have only gone over this once or twice but even then wasn't charged, and that is with heavy use.

Once all the operators have reasonable data packages I'm sure everyone who has a phone that can access the web will do so.

It's not just iPhone users, as I say I've been doing it with Nokia phones and Opera Mini for 5 years.

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Year of internet for £40

I was somewhat surpised to find you can get 6 months for just £20 on T mobile.

http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/services/payg/boosters/#6-month-internet

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Happy

but it's growing

This article is based on a report from the first half of 2009. What was the growth in the second half? What were the figures for 2008. Forrester expects mobile internet usage to be more than pc internet usage by 2013. Agreed that there a lot's of pains from current mobile internet users as described above - but even with these pains 25% of users are using mobile internet. Imagine the usage when these pains are gone.

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