Mobile phone loving Brits have yet to embrace the multimedia messaging revolution, according to a poll conducted by NOP which is bound to strike fear and terror into the hearts of mobile operators.
So far, 80 per cent of us have studiously avoided the new technology. There is a real mismatch between availability of technology and uptake across Europe too: the German-owned operator, T-Mobile, says 39 per cent of new phones sold last year were MMS enabled, but users send a thousand times more SMS messages than MMS.
This pattern is borne out across UK operators: NOP found that just over half of us (55 per cent) have handsets capable of sending MMS messages. However, T-Mobile says that its network carried 4.39m MMS messages in the UK in 2003, against 2.98bn simple text messages. Yes, that was millions vs. billions.
There can be no blaming technophobia either. NOP reveals just 17 per cent of phone users didn't know how how to send an MMS message. That means there are a lot of people out there who know how to send pictures, but are not using the services.
Of those who have indulged in MMS, most (78 per cent) use it to send pictures to friends and family. But MMS is not just about photography: it is music and video too. These applications are much less used: only 27 per cent of users had used MMS to send music, for example.
So what is holding us back? Jerome Meniere, founder of digital image enhancement firm, DO Labs, says the main driver behind photography has always been image quality. Mobile phones need to offer a credible alternative to entry level cameras before picture messaging will be more than a fad, he argues.
Big sporting events could yet save the day. In Asia, MMS use rose dramatically during the World Cup in 2002. NOP points to the next Olympic Games and Euro 2004 football tournaments as potential drivers for the European market: T-Mobile plans to flog video goals and other highlights from Euro 2004 next month to its T-Zones users. ®