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Mobile Marketing Mishaps: Overestimating Your Customers' Smartphone Smarts

Last week eBay acquired RedLaser, a mobile application that lets customers scan bar codes in order to list items faster on the auction site or just compare prices. It is easy to see why eBay acquired the application - goods sold through mobile applications will more than double, to $1.5 billion of eBay's revenue this year, from $600 million in 2009, BusinessWeek reported. In general, mobile commerce is estimated to reach $119 billion in sales by 2015, from $18.3 billion in 2009, according to ABI Research.  The RedLaser deal, eBay clearly hopes, will help the site ride this trend.

That is, if its users can follow along.

To be sure, much of the smartphone user base is incredibly tech savvy. Also, app developers and smartphone manufacturers have a vested interest in making sure their products are intuitive and easy to use - and in most cases admirably succeed. Every now and then, though, a study or new statistic pops up that suggests not all smartphone users are with the program - or that vendors and manufacturers are educating their customers well enough.

The latest comes from the 2010 Digital Influence Index, released by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications and Harris Interactive.  Now in its second year, the Index has expanded to include 48 percent of the global online population, spanning France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Japan and the United States.

Mobility Gap

One finding in this year's report: As apps multiply and speeds increase, mobile users are snapping up smartphones - but realizing only a fraction of their potential. Although mobile Internet use is growing, a significant gap exists between the capabilities available to mobile phone users and the number of individuals who actually take advantage of them, the report said.

Misunderstood 4G

A separate report by Compete released earlier this year found that most US smartphone owners do not understand the current state of 4G (fourth generation) mobile phone technology.  Except for Sprint's HTC EVO, currently no US smartphone provider offers 4G technology. The only 4G technology of any kind available in the US is the Sprint WiMax service for laptop and PC internet access, which is limited to certain cities, MarketingCharts recently reported. Nevertheless, 59% of US smartphone owners believe 4G is currently available on some smartphones and 16% think their carrier offers 4G.

Interestingly, 69% of US smartphone owners know that 4G allows for faster data downloads than 3G. Since a majority of US smartphone owners know this fact and also believe 4G smartphones are available, Compete analysts suggest it could indicate that people are not basing Smartphone purchase decisions on data service speeds.

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