updated 10:55 am EST, Fri February 13, 2009
ABI on iPhone Wi-Fi
A new study from ABI Research today notes that iPhone users are much more likely to actually use their Wi-Fi than on rival devices. About 75 percent of all those who have one of Apple's phones are using their Wi-Fi "regularly," while only about 10 percent of those with HTC phones are using theirs. This comes despite 80 percent of HTC's devices having 802.11b or g built-in.
Analyst Michael Morgan believes the gap is a direct reflection of the ease of use of devices, which encourages more iPhone users to rely on Wi-Fi for Internet access. Most HTC phones run the older Windows Mobile platform, which has a less touch-friendly interface and a web browser incapable of drawing most modern websites correctly.
Separately, many handset makers take different approaches to exposing Wi-Fi: although Apple leaves Wi-Fi turned on by default and automatically switches between this and the cellular link, competitors often either leave Wi-Fi off by default or else force users to manually switch between network types.
The presence of Wi-Fi throughout the range also plays a small role. Every iPhone made to date currently has Wi-Fi. While Nokia has more Wi-Fi devices both in terms of model ranges and sheer shipment numbers, these make up only a small fraction of Nokia's total phone range, according to ABI. As such, users can't take Wi-Fi for granted in most cases.
Carriers and standards groups have also contributed to reduced use of Wi-Fi. Many carriers are looking to use femtocells to extend calling and 3G data into the home rather than use Wi-Fi calling features like T-Mobile's HotSpot Calling or Rogers' TalkSpot, which are cheaper to run. The IEEE has been slow to formalize standards for VoIP calling, while many carriers often try to block or discourage Internet calls.
Wi-Fi is still seen as a potential help for carriers, which can use it as a way to soften the impact of smartphone data on the cellular network or to give users at least data access in buildings where cellular reception is poor.