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An ABI Research survey on mobile phone users’ age-related feature and price assumptions found nearly half of the respondents in the 40-59 age bracket expected a touchscreen on a $50 mobile device. In addition, many want to have camera, music player and other advanced features on their phones. However, only 20% of those capabilities are actually used by owners of mobile phones.

“We found the classic 80/20 usage pattern: about 80% of those surveyed used only 20% of the available functions, said research practice director Kevin Burden.

The survey was conducted in February, 2009, and was aimed to discover what features people have on their phones, which are actually being used, and what features people of different ages expect to find on cellular handsets at various price-points.

The top features, present on over half of all respondents’ phones, were a camera, Internet access, the ability to play music, to record video, to send and receive email, and to do instant messaging. A significantly higher proportion of those aged 18-29 had these features, and some of a dozen others, in their phones.

The survey also queried users about what they would expect to find in phones costing $50, $100, and $150. Users of every age assumed that they would find Internet access, email, and music in phones at all price points.

“The older the respondents, the lower their expectations. We were explicit in our question: not what you want in a phone, but what you expect to find in it. And as age rises, almost every feature is less expected, at every price point. The only exception is older respondents’ expecting touchscreens in low-end models,” said Mr. Burden.

Do older people expect advanced features to cost even more than $150?

“Very likely, it’s inexperience. Simplicity has been more important than functionality in older age groups. They tend not to have highly functional phones, so they’re not clear on what they should receive at any given price point. Whatever the reason, such information will help handset manufacturers design age-appropriate devices,” the research director said.

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