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Download 'junkies' boost UK mobile content market

Research suggests GBP 740 million spent this year alone

A new report from consumer intelligence company Mintel labels UK mobile phone users as download junkies, as spending for 2005 soars to three quarters of a billion pounds.

According to the report, spending has increased dramatically since 2002, which saw download sales at just GBP 40 million. The volume sales have shown an even greater increase, from 30 million downloads in 2002, to 760 million so far this year. The report suggests that volume growth has exceeded value growth due to the average cost of downloads falling from GBP 1.30 in 2002 to just under a pound in 2005 (excluding the cost of sending by SMS).

Ringtones account for the largest percentage of downloads with 33 percent of volume sales. Games account for a substantial share at 26 percent, with wallpapers and screensavers taking 13 percent and the remainder split between music, gambling and news, sports and special interest updates.

Jenny Catlin, consumer analyst at Mintel commented: "This is the first Mintel report into the fast-emerging mobile phone downloads market and there is no denying that this sector has mushroomed."

Catlin attributes a large percentage of the increase in download activity to a cultural change, as people adapt to the mobile phone technology as part of their daily lives. She adds: "The rapid rise in sales of downloads has a lot to do with the public's acceptance of new technological solutions, such as DVDs, Internet and other devices that have become integral parts of modern life. The user-friendly nature of downloading, which is really no more difficult or unfamiliar than texting, has also helped foster a sense that receiving downloads are fun diversions."

Mintel's report indicates that the majority of downloads are from younger mobile phone users, with 40 percent of people over 35 years of age considering downloads "a waste of money". There is also some uncertainty about the process of downloading mobile content, with a third of those aged over 55 admitting to not knowing how to go about it.

"It is possible that these people associate downloading with youth culture, a logical conclusion given the amount of advertising for ringtones, wallpapers and games which appeal to teenagers in particular. The challenge facing the industry is to produce more substantial products that will attract older people, supplying products that can compete with other sophisticated leisure activities," Catlin commented.

The value of the mobile handset market this year is forecast to breach the GBP 1 billion mark, with sales of an estimated 20 million handsets during the year. Mintel suggests that the two are intrinsically linked, as Catlin commented: "The increasing number of 3G mobile phone handsets being sold and the raft of new and increasingly higher-quality forms of handsets and downloads have played their part, as has the popularity of ringtones, boosted by their integration with music singles in the UK charts.

Full details on the report can be found by visiting the company website at www.mintel.com

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